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26 Feb 2003 : Column 323—continued

4.15 pm

Mr. Roger Godsiff (Birmingham, Sparkbrook and Small Heath): All hon. Members know that Saddam Hussein is an evil man. He is a brutal dictator who has committed genocide and used poison gas against his people. He launched a war against Iran that resulted in more than 1 million people being killed. He invaded Kuwait and, when he left, caused an environmental disaster by torching the oilfields. I have no doubt that he has weapons of mass destruction and I fully accept that he has not complied with United Nations resolutions. With the rest of the civilised world, I believe that the Iraqi people would be well rid of such a person.

However, do my comments explain the reasons for America and the United Kingdom making a pre-emptive strike? I regret to say that I am not convinced. I fully support working through the UN, although I can envisage circumstances in which the USA, the United Kingdom or any other country took unilateral action, for example, if they perceived their national interest to be under threat. After 9/11, the civilised world united in its determination to combat and root out international terrorism. We rightly identified al-Qaeda as the main proponent and rightly took action against the Taliban in Afghanistan because they were harbouring that organisation.

Since our action in Afghanistan, we have realised that we failed to obliterate al-Qaeda, and America appears to have lost the plot. Instead of pursuing terrorists, who live in the shadows and kill indiscriminately in the shopping malls of Tel Aviv and the bars of Bali, we are seeking a change of Government in Iraq on the basis that Saddam Hussein is an evil man who will not comply fully with UN resolutions. That is an unconvincing justification for a dangerous course of action.

President Bush referred to Iraq, North Korea and Iran as the axis of evil. What will we do about North Korea, which is ruled by an equally ruthless dictator and also has weapons of mass destruction? Everybody knows that the Chinese will not allow the Americans to interfere in North Korea's affairs. What will we do about Iran?

As I have said previously, 50 per cent. of the electorate in my constituency are Muslims. My support for the American ethos and my belief that, overall, America has been more a force for good than evil in the world does not always win me great support among my Muslim constituents. However, I must tell my many friends in

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America that I believe that they are about to make a disastrous mistake. With great respect to them, I do not believe that they understand the Islamic world. The current American Administration does not appreciate the consequences in the Muslim world of a pre-emptive strike on Iraq. If America, supported by the United Kingdom, launches a pre-emptive strike against Iraq, Saddam Hussein will overnight become a hero—a martyr—of the Muslim world despite the fact that he is not a hero now because he runs a secularist rather than a fundamentalist regime.

What will be the consequences in adjoining countries? We need to remember that bin Laden comes from the Saudi royal family. He left Saudi Arabia to form the al-Qaeda organisation because he believed that the house of Saud was giving America too much support by allowing it to have bases in a country that is home to the great places of worship for all Muslims. What will happen if a regime change takes place in Iraq and the house of Saud comes under attack from within its own country? Will America commit itself to stationing a large number of troops, for however many years, in Iraq and Saudi Arabia? If so, what will that do to opinion in the Muslim world? What will happen to the Mubarak regime in Egypt? I accept that it is not a pleasant regime, but it is pro-western and greatly vulnerable to attack from within. What will happen to that country?

I strongly support the war against international terrorism, but America, Britain and the rest of the western world would be well advised to give more attention to why international terrorists emerge. They do not suddenly come out of the sky. International terrorists are born in the squalid, teeming refugee camps of Gaza, the west bank and along the Azad-Kashmir border. Young people living in those camps are without a country, a job, a future or any hope. They are vulnerable recruits for those people who say, "You will get your reward in the next world. Just join us in the jihad against America and the west." They will join having been told that America pursues double standards and that, when convenient, will use UN resolutions to justify a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. They will also be told that when, I regret to say, it suits America and other countries in the west, a blind eye is turned to UN resolutions on the building of settlements by the Israeli Government all over the west bank and on India not carrying out a plebiscite to allow the people of Kashmir to determine their own future.

I am not by nature a rebel. It gives me no pleasure to say that I cannot support my Government in the Lobby tonight. I am proud of the enormous amount that they have achieved since coming to power. I do not support or have any love for Saddam Hussein. I want the man to go and to go soon. But—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman's time is up.

4.23 pm

John Barrett (Edinburgh, West): Politicians are often accused of being out of touch with the electorate, but I have never felt so much at one with the ordinary man and woman on the street as I felt when we marched together as part of the 1 million who took to the streets on 15 February. Many had been moved to participate in

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a march for the first time in their lives. Others, like myself, who had been on many marches for a variety of reasons over many years, noticed something very different with that march. It was not only the sheer volume of people who took to the streets or the fact they came from all walks of life, but the strength of their plea to be heard. They wanted the Government to listen to their views. To see a young mother from my constituency with her young child summed up for me how the protest had moved individuals in a way that I had never witnessed before.

This House must show that it is listening to the people of Britain: listening to their concerns, their fears and their hope that a peaceful solution can be found rather than our engaging in war. A war with Iraq could well escalate into a much wider regional conflict, and will surely result in increased terrorist activities in this country, in the United States and elsewhere in the world.

Many who were on the march, and many in the House, believe that the case for war has not yet been proved, that the inspectors should be given more time, and that all other options have not been exhausted. War must always be a last resort. Today's debate may be our last chance to register our concerns in the House before military action starts, and I want to record my view that the Prime Minister and George Bush are wrong. The Prime Minister may well believe absolutely in what he says, but he has not convinced me, he has not convinced many other Members of Parliament, and he has not convinced the vast majority of people out there in the country.

I have been contacted by hundreds of constituents by post, e-mail and telephone. To a man and to a woman, they say that they do not believe a case has been made for going to war. I have no doubt that Saddam Hussein must be disarmed and I would not absolutely rule out the use of force, but, after four years without weapons inspectors, to say that after 11 weeks we must call it a day and go to war is wrong. Hans Blix and the inspectors should have all the time they need. The UN Security Council is not united. One reason is that the pace is being forced by the British and American Governments. Strong-arm tactics and financial inducements will not strengthen any second resolution; they will weaken it.

George Bush has made clear that if there is no second resolution, he will take action anyway. That has left many feeling that the decision has already been made, and that what is happening now is just covering up for the fact that the final troop deployments are not yet in place. Negotiations with Turkey are in their final stages, and today we have heard of RAF jets stuck in Cyprus. The final pieces of the military jigsaw are not yet in place, but they will be in a few weeks, and that is when many expect military action to start.

While other nations are pushing for peace and putting their energy into trying to make the inspections work, what we are seeing from our Government is a push for war, not a push for peace. Recently we have heard much about the moral case for war and the suffering of the Iraqi people—the number who have died over the years during which Saddam has been in power—but the moral case is seriously weakened by the fact that Iraq has obtained deadly pathogens from France, the United States and Germany, including anthrax, gas gangrene and west Nile fever.

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What happens when the war is over? Who is in the frame for any future administration? Included in the list of potential leading lights in the regime to follow the toppling of Saddam Hussein are people who would make the Butcher of Baghdad look good. According to an article in the Sunday Herald, they include General Nizar Al-Khazraji, who is suspected of leading the chemical attack that killed 5,000 Kurds in Halabja in 1988, and who is alleged by some eyewitnesses to have kicked a Kurdish child to death during the height of Iraqi repression in that year.

The danger of any military action spreading throughout the region is another reason to avoid all-out war if at all possible. If Saddam can involve other countries in any conflict, he will; and the double standards that have been applied to Israel will become even more obvious as the Israeli Government continue actions that, were they taking place in Iraq, would have justified military action for many.

There has been talk of Saddam Hussein's going into exile, but if he went into exile in, say, Sudan, would that not be used as a legitimate reason to take action against that country for harbouring him and, possibly, terrorists? The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) made a very emotional speech. I agree that if Saddam is toppled he should go on trial, not into a life of luxury.

Saddam's past history has been cited as a reason for taking action now, but many countries—some of which are now our strongest allies—have been at war with us in the past. While a recent past record is important, it is not reason enough to go to war. The war on Iraq is also constantly linked to the war on terrorism. I ask, where is the link? Where is the evidence?

Before we go to war, any Government should have the support of the people and the support of their representatives. Today they will see what their representatives think, but tomorrow we should be aware that the people outside are still not convinced.

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