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25 Nov 2002 : Column 103—continued

Mr. George Howarth: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Wareing: I respect my hon. Friend, but I am sure that he understands that I have only a short time in which to speak.

Al-Qaeda must be gloating. The leaders of Arab countries may support President Bush in his aggressive war, but we can rest assured that, when photographs of civilians being torn to pieces by American bombs are shown in, for example, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman, the masses of Arab people will stir. The genuine threat to the middle east is not the madman in Baghdad—perhaps he is not so mad, since he wants to survive—but President Bush and the hawks around him. I call them the Cheney gang and I fear them most. Most people in the middle east do not like Saddam Hussein, but they will stand by the civilians who will suffer if Bush and his hawks get their way.

The hawks are still there. Richard Perle has been in London. Heaven knows how anyone could describe him as sophisticated. If he is sophisticated, the word applies

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to many other people who would not normally register in that category. Genghis Khan was probably sophisticated, but I do not believe that we would want him for an ally.

The Foreign Secretary and his colleagues should consider carefully before they appease the United States Administration under President Bush. I am against that because, as Nelson Mandela said, that Government are as dangerous as any other Administration in the world. The sooner the decent people of America, of whom there are so many, are able to elect a President who is not a Xmoron"—as one Canadian Minister has called Bush—who knows where Iraq is, and who has some ideas behind him, the better it will be for all of us and for the people of Iraq.

8.24 pm

Patrick Mercer (Newark): It is a pleasure to follow the trenchant views of the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing), who brings a refreshing reality to the Chamber in the context of the realities of war. Although I cannot agree with all his views on the American presidency, I am fascinated to hear his insight into what war actually does to people. I am grateful to him for teeing me up for what I am about to say.

I rise to support UN resolution 1441, and I would like to pay tribute to the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff), who talked about preparation for war. That will be the only way to make deterrence work, and to avoid violence. I believe that we can avoid violence, as long as we are realistic about the dangers that lie ahead.

I entirely agree with comments made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby about the enemy being not only Iraq but international terrorism. The Government must take a firm grip of the preparations for the attacks that are bound to fall on this country as the path to war becomes more tortuous and peace becomes more difficult to preserve. The Government's cack-handed handling of the recent threats from al-Qaeda illustrate this point well. Since the start of Ramadan, there have been more than 30 attacks world wide, and this weekend saw a pulse of activity across the world in which several people died. Yet, until recently, the Government have been happy, like an ostrich, to keep their head firmly in the sand.

Dr. Palmer: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Patrick Mercer: I would rather not, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind.

The population is not stupid. I shall quote Xsuperwoman" Nicola Horlick in this morning's Financial Times:

People are expecting this sort of trouble, and these kinds of difficulties. We must, however, be realistic, and the Government must prepare us. An apposite point at the moment is that we live with the possibility of fire every day. Fire is a reality of life, and we prepare for it. Just outside the Chamber there are fire extinguishers; we know what to do in the event of a fire. Furthermore, we have lived with terrorism for 30 years in Northern Ireland, and we have

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come to terms with it. I say to the Government that, if we are to deter Saddam Hussein, and to deter violence, and if peace is to have a chance, we must be effectively prepared for the worst eventuality.

I want to concentrate on the forces that are available to achieve that deterrence. I disagree with the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), who talked about the nasty shooting war—I hope he will forgive my paraphrasing him—that is likely to happen in Iraq should war break out. I do not believe that that is the Government's intention at all. I believe that they intend to do what was done in Afghanistan and in Kosovo, which is to fight the opening phases of the war with a small number of special forces, aircraft and submarines, and to avoid a shooting war if at all possible. I believe that they intend to commit British troops only when a shooting war has finished.

I would like to remind the Government of a couple of quotes from the Prime Minister. He said that he would be willing to pay a Xblood price", and that we would be alongside the United States Xwhen the shooting starts". He also said:

the United States

This comes from a man who has never seen war or heard a shot fired in anger, yet is about to commit young men and young women into harm's way, without understanding the full implications. He does not understand that the Xblood price" will not be paid by him. If the Government mean to stand shoulder to shoulder with their ally, and to be there when a shooting war breaks out, they must honour those words and not be hypocritical.

Like everybody else who has been there, I do not want a war. There could be no better news for this country's soldiers, sailors and airmen than the fact that war will not start, but the sure and certain way to undermine the coalition's credibility is to ensure that British forces are not there when the shooting war starts and that they have nothing but hollow rhetoric to back up those phrases about the blood price.

In 1939 and 1940, Britain was fighting a phoney war and our enemies took the propaganda advantage of describing the Government as fighting to the last Frenchman. I hope that, this time, Mr. Blair understands what the commitment must be.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman should know by now that he has to refer to Members not by name, but by constituency.

Patrick Mercer: I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that, this time, the Prime Minister understands that when he says something, he has to back it up and that the coalition must not be undermined by allowing our enemies the opportunity to say that the Prime Minister will fight to the last American.

8.31 pm

Mr. Shaun Woodward (St. Helens, South): The aim of the resolution is perfectly clear and unequivocal, and it gives Saddam Hussein every opportunity for peace and

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to avoid military intervention. It is not about President Bush or the Prime Minister, and the comments of the hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) do the debate a great disservice. By and large, it has been excellently conducted.

The only obstacle to a peaceful resolution is Saddam Hussein, through obfuscation and deliberately misleading the weapons inspectors. It has taken most of the past 14 months to get to this position—one that many thought we could not reach. It took 11 September to stir the international community into facing the dangers of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

I beg to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby, (Mr. Wareing), as I do not believe that we face a choice between a hierarchy of dangers—either winning the war against terrorism or dealing with Saddam Hussein. Those are part of the same strategy for security, which, to be successful, requires not unilateral action, but a global coalition against the prospect of catastrophic terror. That is why Iraq is central to the strategy for security and dealing with global terrorism.

The problem that Saddam Hussein represents is not any form of conventional military threat—by all estimates, he is a great deal weaker than in 1991—but the danger he poses both to his own people and through the laboratories that are working to produce chemical and biological weapons. They are probably working to produce nuclear weapons, if they have any weapons grade plutonium. We know that not only from our own intelligence, but from people who have defected and from what he has done to his own people. We shall soon know from the weapons inspectors more of what they believe.

We should be confident and optimistic that resolution 1441 represents a huge step forward in the international community's work. It recognises the genuine threat posed by weapons of mass destruction and the need to fight that with multilateral, not unilateral, work. Multilateralism has emerged over unilateral action. My right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) referred to the UN's moral authority and he was right to refer to the importance of Saddam being cowed by military threat, but who the military threat is is even more significant. Who provides that military threat against him is most important—more important than even the threat itself.

The UN today looks much stronger than it did six months ago, when it very nearly resembled a beleaguered League of Nations. As we sit here, most of us feel content with the progress we have made; but there is a terrible irony in this position. It is the irony that if Saddam complies, the UN, through its resolution, may well have become his protector. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes) raised some interesting questions in that regard. Saddam's regime will be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction one way or another; the question is, will he continue?

The Iraqi people, not only witnesses but victims, silenced and butchered by this tyrant, will continue to live in terror indefinitely as helpless prisoners and victims of the tyranny. There is no military power in the Gulf region that can overthrow Saddam, as Vietnam did in ousting Pol Pot. If Saddam remains, complying with the resolution, our victory may be more Pyrrhic than we think.

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We may criticise Bush for turning his attention on Saddam only because of 11 September. We may say that the President always intended to intervene, but has used those events as an excuse. As my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Gerrard) made clear, of course the President is no supporter of Saddam. The problem is that no action, of sorts, constitutes support for him. We should also be careful in criticising misguided actions by past western Administrations, including our deliberate dealings with Iraq along with the United States. We should not let those become justification for taking no action. We must distinguish between the faults of liberal democracies, of which we are one, and the incurable evil of tyrants like Saddam.

The Opposition have asked a number of questions about the resolution. They have asked what would constitute material breaches. I think that that is pretty clear in the resolution. We have critical dates before us. Only if Saddam tells the truth will the regime remain a tyranny unchanged. If he is lying, the material regime will be changed. It will be disarmed, and Saddam may well go too. In truth, who will mourn his departure? The consequences, however, will reveal whether our global coalition acts only out of united self-interest, or works genuinely towards a greater humanitarian goal.

Military intervention would certainly lead to the disarming of Saddam, but it would also lead to a series of consequences for the people of Iraq, both during and after the intervention. Our last engagement in the Gulf was hardly covered in moral glory, given our hasty withdrawal from the battlefield, leaving hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq to endure a continuing axis of despair. There is a huge difference between our motivation now and our motivation then, but the contrast between the despair and poverty that people endure and what they see here contributes to a deep distrust of our actions now. In the huge contrast between those lives reside the roots of a clash of civilisations.

As President Clinton recently observed, we cannot seriously build the world that we want with a security-only strategy. XPrevent and punish" is not enough. We need a world with more partners and fewer terrorists. As General Marshall said at the end of the second world war,

Let us bear in mind the humanitarian crisis that may follow our actions. Turkey is already saying things that should worry us about what may happen on its borders. The regional governor of south-eastern Turkey said today

I ask the Foreign Secretary what steps will be taken to prevent refugees from flowing on to the Turkish borders and being deprived of humanitarian aid in the event of military intervention.

This is a crucial debate. I support the Government—

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