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26 Feb 2003 : Column 333—continued

4.58 pm

Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): We are now in a phoney peace. War drums are rolling, and I approach the next few weeks with a deep sense of foreboding, but

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also with a great deal of respect for those in my party and in the House generally—experts, former diplomats—who come to a different conclusion, including even my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway), who made a passionate speech but offered not a scintilla of criticism of Saddam Hussein.

It is clear to me that the threat of force has indeed produced some results. The concessions made by Saddam Hussein just before the publication of Dr. Blix's report were predictable and, indeed, predicted. The fear is that a series of future benchmarks would equally lead to some grudging and minimal concessions, just before such reports were made. It is clear that force is the only language that Saddam Hussein understands, but there are many uncertainties. Different judgments will be made about the very grave cost-benefit analysis that has been made. I therefore view with respect those who take a different view. I am much less happy with those on either side of the argument who have absolutist convictions.

How did we get to this point? First, the pressure on Saddam Hussein did not begin on 8 November last year. He was defeated after he invaded Kuwait. There was a ceasefire resolution. He remains in breach of that resolution. Over the period of the 1990s, Saddam Hussein prevaricated, concealed, lied and obstructed the work of the inspectors.

I pose two critical questions. Why not give Saddam Hussein more time? Why act now?

The obvious retort to the first question is, time for what? If Dr. Blix asks for more time when he appears before the Security Council, in my judgment he should be given it. However, inspections will have limited relevance without proactive co-operation from the regime.

This is not a treasure hunt. The test is whether the Saddam Hussein regime is co-operating with the weapons inspectors. Resolution 1441 was wholly unambiguous. It required a complete declaration. Clearly, there were major gaps in the dossier produced on 8 December. Failure to comply and co-operate fully would be a further material breach.

There have been 12 years of diplomacy. It is 12 years to the day since Saddam Hussein ordered his troops to retreat from Kuwait. There have been years of inspection and sanctions. How long can that go on? Resolution 1441 talked of

Do any colleagues in the House believe that what has happened over the four months since 1441 was passed amounts to

The second question that I posed was, why now? Clearly there is valid concern about extending the doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence. Its implications for international law are potentially very dangerous indeed. The US has been only too ready to push the doctrine to the limits. There has not been sufficient debate on the subject, but we have to accept that weapons of mass destruction pose new challenges that current international law does not meet.

Mr. Salmond: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Donald Anderson: No.

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If Saddam Hussein were to obtain nuclear capacity—and he came fairly close to doing so—and then invaded Kuwait, he could, from an almost impregnable position, challenge the international community to dislodge him. North Korea is relatively invulnerable now, for similar reasons. Equally, Saddam Hussein's hostility to the west means that there is a very serious danger that, at some time, he could pass chemical and biological weapons to terrorist networks.

Would any war be a just war? As a Christian, I welcome the contributions from the archbishops. It is right that they should draw our attention to just war principles, but that invites questions about their role. Those principles are there to make us think morally, but they have certain ambiguities. The archbishops acknowledge that those who must make the decisions have access to information that better enables them to answer questions such as, "Have all other options been exhausted? Will a war be effective?" In the final analysis, we are dealing not with absolutes but with judgments, based on the available facts, including intelligence facts.

Is war inevitable in the next few weeks? We have left Saddam Hussein a number of exit doors, and thus far he has refused to use them. The tempo of Dr. Blix is increasing. He has demanded that the missiles be destroyed. How will Saddam Hussein respond to that test? What has happened to the 1.5 tonnes of VX agents, the 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals and the more than 30,000 special munitions? We know that the Iraqis are normally punctilious in their record keeping. If they have destroyed those munitions, fine, there must be records and evidence, but none has been produced in the past four months.

As for the scientists, the human factor is the weak link. Of course there is an aura of extreme intimidation of those scientists. If there is nothing to hide, why has Saddam Hussein gone to such trouble to prevent the scientists from being interviewed openly?

How should we operate in the next few weeks? We have to realise what is at stake: of course, it is the credibility of the UN, which has given a final opportunity. There can be no debate about the word "final". What should happen? Clearly, we have to focus on disarmament, not on regime change. We have to maintain maximum pressure, and not be forced by a military timetable.

Finally, my view is that the Prime Minister took a strategic decision to stand alongside President Bush, and that has had positive effects. It was a courageous decision. It has given my right hon. Friend unique leverage, which should now be used to ensure that diplomatic options are pursued to an end. War is truly the last resort, but after 12 years, that "final opportunity" cannot go on indefinitely.

5.6 pm

Patrick Mercer (Newark): I should like to pay tribute not only to the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) whom I follow in the debate, but to the enormously powerful speech made by the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), who is sadly no longer with us. [Interruption.] Anyone who could doubt the

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moral elements of those remarks would clearly be challenged to make a more arresting or clearer case for what has been going on in Iraq at the moment.

During the last Gulf war, I, as usual, was stuck in Northern Ireland, but I saw many of my colleagues disappear to fight in the Gulf, with a spring in their step and with a light heart. They felt that they were going to be involved in a cause that was supported by the nation and a war that was justified and had moral, religious and political backing. Most of them, of course, had not seen battle before, but when they came back they were a different generation. Very few of them were killed in action. Some were killed, sadly, by the American air force, and a very few were killed by the enemy.

I am conscious of the fact that I am in the company of my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson), who was actually there, but I do not think that any of them who had killed a fellow man approached life in the same way again. [Interruption.] I hear the word "good" coming from the Labour Benches—quite right. Any hon. Member who has seen the pictures that have been shown recently of the killing on the Basra road cannot doubt what the consequences of war are.

I can clearly recall teaching a young naval officer at the staff college who had had the miserable opportunity of firing eight missiles into Iraqi gunboats. He freely admitted that the first one was challenging. There was a sense of elation when his missile struck home, and every member of the crew was killed. When he got back to his ship, the reaction began to set in. By the time that he was flying against his sixth, seventh and even eighth target, he was heartily sick of the whole prospect.

No hon. Member wants war, and the House needs to remember that, if we go to war, some of our young men and women will not come back, and probably tens of thousands of our enemies—I use the term advisedly—will die in this war. Some of them will be guilty, some innocent.

To that end, after much thought and much soul searching, despite the Government's wholly inconsistent arguments, I have come to believe that war has got to be credibly threatened, that the forces have got to be put in place, and that nothing except a cohesive and unified approach to war may allow peace to prevail.

I referred to the inconsistent arguments. Where has the argument about terrorism gone? Until a few weeks ago, it was one of the linchpins of the Government's case. Today, interestingly, no Front-Bench Member mentioned it. One or two speeches have referred to terrorism, and it is interesting to note that, without doubt, the events of 11 September have caused America to think in the way she is thinking at the moment. Let us think about this: although Australia helped in the campaign in Afghanistan, what really impelled that country to stand firmly behind the United Kingdom and the United States were the events in Bali.

So far this country has remained relatively untouched by such terrorism. I ask the House to remember exactly what happened 10 days or so ago. There was a major alert. For the first time in 10 years, light tanks were seen at Heathrow airport, troops were patrolling fly lines, and it was clear that there was a severe threat. Let us bear in mind the fact that, so far, in this country, only one policeman has been killed in the war on terrorism.

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The House is naive, however, if it does not remember that our intelligence agencies cannot give us the clear and unequivocal evidence necessary.

I do not believe that Saddam Hussein poses an imminent threat to his neighbours, to surrounding countries or to British possessions overseas. I am convinced, however—I may be alone in saying this—that he is behind much of the terrorist activity that goes on throughout the world. I believe, as I have said previously, that the House is unnecessarily hung up on the name bin Laden. I would not for one moment try to suggest that there is a direct connection between 11 September and Baghdad. Let us look again, however, at the evidence that Mr. Powell produced of the link between Baghdad and other terrorist groups that are active inside this country. Let us read between the lines and see exactly what the intention of this tyrant with his weapons of mass destruction is. It cannot be stated openly, and I have challenged the Government on several occasions to prove the link. They have so far been unsuccessful, but I beg the House to understand that this threat is imminent and it is one that we have not yet experienced, despite this nation's understanding of the campaigns of the IRA and other terrorist organisations.

I end on this note: if we are to avoid war, we must try to be unified in our credible threat of force. The regime with which we are dealing is an evil one, which is bent on destruction. I fear that we must accept that, as we pursue this course, we will be more and more vulnerable to the sort of terrorism that I have mentioned. We must not be cowed or bullied, however, and we must stand up to terrorists as well as tyrants; only by being unified can we succeed.

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