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18 Mar 2003 : Column 792—continued

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: Is the right hon. Gentleman's point that the United States is inevitably correct in every action it takes? Does he think that the then UK Government should have supported America in its invasion of Grenada, and that the then Labour Government should have supported the American action in Vietnam?

Mr. Hague: No, I do not think that we should have supported the invasion of Grenada. The hon. Gentleman will remember the sharp differences between the Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher, and the US Administration. That shows that it is possible to have a firm alliance with the United States while differing with it from time to time. That is exactly the policy of the Government. Of course, there will be differences from time to time, but when major issues of the stability of the world and the future conduct of world diplomacy are at issue, it will generally be in the interests of the United Kingdom to act in concert with the United States of America.

We should remember that whenever we really need help, we turn to the United States of America, and Europe turns to the United States. Without America, France would have lived under dictatorship for decades. Without America, the Germans would not have rescued themselves from a racist ideology. Without America, Europe would have exchanged Nazi tyranny for communist tyranny in the 1940s. We turned to America, and our alliance with the United States is a fundamental attribute of the foreign policy of this nation when it is correctly conducted. For all our many differences with the Prime Minister, I believe that he has understood that from the beginning.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire): Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that those of us who now differ with American policy do so because terrorism is fuelled not

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by resources and equipment, but by motivation? We feel that the motivation for terrorism has been provided by the very act of attack.

Mr. Hague: Relieved of my responsibilities of a while ago, I have been lucky enough to travel a great deal in the past year. I have travelled to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, and I have spoken to many people. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that they do not care what happens to Saddam Hussein. They have no time for Saddam Hussein. They care passionately about Palestine and Israel, which is why it is so important that the so-called road map is put forward. They will not shed a single tear for Saddam Hussein, because they know many of the things that have been done to the people of Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein. So if the hon. Gentleman believes that it is a recruiting sergeant for terrorism to rid the world of that despotic dictatorship, he is making a serious mistake. We would be setting a new standard of deterrence—a new type of deterrence, which is necessary in a changed world.

We all grew up in the cold war. We are familiar with the cold war and the balance of terror, when it was always necessary to be ready for action, but always necessary to take minimal action so as not to disturb the balance of power in the world. But now the world has changed. Now there is no balance of power and the dangers to world peace are not from all-out nuclear confrontation between superpowers, but from the development of new weapons by rogue states and terrorist organisations.

Deterrence therefore takes on a new character. It is not a matter of being ready for action. It is occasionally and it will occasionally be necessary to take action to make sure that those who aspire to be rogue states or sponsors of terrorism know what happens and know how the western alliance responds to such a threat. That is why it is so important in this case to take action and to set the standard for the future. Those who say that action is not necessary now must remember that we have passed so many deadlines, so many ultimatums, that not to take action now is to reduce the credibility of any action being taken. The time has come for a decision. The Prime Minister has put before the House the right decision. He deserves the support of hon. Members in all parts of the House.

2.33 pm

David Winnick (Walsall, North): I regret that my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) has resigned. I considered him a very good Foreign Secretary and an excellent Leader of the House, and it is regrettable that he has resigned. Although I understand the reasons, I disagree with them. We shall miss him in government.

While I am on the subject of resignations, I regret the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) has also decided to resign, but I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development will be staying on.

The present situation reminds me of the time after Kuwait was invaded in August 1990. The United Nations Security Council gave the regime four months

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to leave Kuwait. Saddam Hussein refused to do so. There are those present today who opposed the liberation of Kuwait, as they had every right to do, and who oppose the motion today. That does not include all the critics, by any means. Quite a number took a different line, if they were in the House, but some, including the Father of the House, argued strongly that we should not take military action to liberate Kuwait. What would have been the position had we not done so? Saddam Hussein would have been strengthened and would have realised that he could commit aggression with no response whatever.

Some of today's critics were no less opposed to action that was taken over Kosovo and Afghanistan. They argued—as I said, they had every right to do so—that we should not take such action. When we are accused of being anti-Muslim, when that vile accusation is directed at us, I would ask the House: why did we go into Kosovo? Was it to help the Christians, the Jews, the Sikhs, or the Hindus? The only reason that we intervened in Kosovo was to help the ethnic Albanians, who happen, as we all know, to be Muslims. That was the only reason and the only justification.

The way to demonstrate again our commitment in respect of the position of Muslims is for the international community, and not least the United States, to bring about a settlement in the middle east. I make no apology for the fact that I have supported the state of Israel from the very beginning, and for all the obvious reasons—what happened to Jews, not only in the holocaust but over 2,000 years—but I support an Israel within the 1967 borders. If the Jews are justified in having a state for all the reasons that I have just explained, the Palestinians are also justified in having a state of their own—not a sort of statelet, but a sovereign state, no less sovereign than Israel itself. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will make sure that the United States pursues that policy in practice, and does not just say certain words at this particular time.

Mr. Dalyell: My hon. Friend rebukes me for Afghanistan. Were we so wrong to have doubts? Was not the object to apprehend Osama bin Laden? That has not happened. The production of opium, which three years ago was 185 tonnes, is now 2,700 tonnes. When my hon. Friends visit Kabul, apparently they are not allowed out of the city because of the dangers of the warlords. Is that success?

David Winnick: My hon. Friend has demonstrated again that he was wrong, as he has been on virtually every military intervention, from the Falklands to Afghanistan. The Taliban, who gave room to the terrorists, were defeated, and in my view the action taken was right. I am sorry that my hon. Friend disagrees.

As I said in an intervention on my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the Security Council has been at fault. It should have been far tougher over the past 12 years. We have reached the present position because some Security Council members took the view that after Kuwait there should be a less tough response to Saddam Hussein, and he has played around. Such a tyrant has exploited every disunity, as he is doing now, on the eve of military action, for his own advantage. It is unfortunate that no tougher action was taken.

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In previous debates, I listened to some of my hon. Friends criticising the United States. As I want my own Government to be more radical, I am hardly likely to be a fan of the United States President, but when I listened to some of that criticism made by hon. Members who said not a single word of criticism about the murderous tyrant in Baghdad, I thought that there was a lack of logic somewhere along the line. Surely our criticism should first and foremost be directed at the dictator.

I have always taken the view that if war can be avoided, it should be avoided, because of the casualties. It is no use those of us who support the Government line kidding ourselves. Innocent people will be killed. In the next few weeks, men, women and children—people who should never be killed—will be put to death, but we know that that is the result of war and military intervention. Unlike the critics, I believe that if Saddam is destroyed, it will be a significant victory not only for the international community, but first and foremost for the people of Iraq.

We have been told that there are many dictators in this world. Unfortunately, that is so and I wish it were otherwise, but I do not understand the logic of those who say, "There are many dictators, so why pick on this one?" If, as a result of the regime's refusal to get rid of weapons of mass destruction, one of the most murderous tyrannies is destroyed, surely that is a positive gain. Surely the fact that we cannot take on every dictator or many other dictators is not a reason or justification for not seeing the end of the regime in Iraq. Of course, not a single critic has, on other occasions or today, given any indication of how Saddam Hussein could be got rid of except by military action. No one here today will argue that it is up to the people of Iraq. How can it be? It is only by military action that this tyranny can be destroyed.

I make no apology for saying that the international community as such has on many occasions turned a blind eye to tyrannies. However, I was very pleased in 1979, for example, when Tanzania liberated Uganda from the Amin regime. Was that wrong? When Pol Pot was destroyed by Vietnam, also in 1979, was that wrong? Would anyone here argue along different lines?

In conclusion, I want simply to say that this crisis has been brought about not by the British or American Governments, but by the murderous dictator in Baghdad. If military action is taken, as we all know it will be, I wish the British and allied troops every possible success. I do not believe that we can be neutral in judging between a murderous tyranny and the democracies that will be engaged in fighting it. I believe that right is on our side and that the overwhelming majority of people in Iraq will take the view that the allied armies are liberators, as they will be getting rid of a tyrant that those people themselves cannot get rid of.

For all those reasons, I shall take much pride tonight in voting for the Government motion.

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