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18 Mar 2003 : Column 831—continued

5.6 pm

Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale): We could be at war in days, if not hours, and in meeting here today, we have perhaps one last chance to reflect on that fact. The Prime Minister has set out a powerful case. We can all understand his commitment and applaud his efforts; unfortunately, we cannot support his conclusions. Many of today's contributions have reflected the passions and concerns surrounding this issue. The House will, of course, unite on one key issue: that Saddam Hussein is an evil tyrant who should not be in possession of weapons of mass destruction; he must be disarmed. The fault line in the debate is about how we do that. We take him on because he ignores international law, and in so doing we must respect the principles of international law, in whose name we act. War must be a last resort.

We believe that the military build-up was the right thing to do. Saddam and his regime have undoubtedly had their minds focused, but an important distinction surely exists between a credible threat of force, and the certain use of force. We must not go to war simply because the forces have turned up and are ready to roll. Resolution 1441 contained no automaticity. It was, of course, a significant achievement, and all the more powerful because it was unanimous. It did indeed talk about a "further material breach", a "final opportunity", and "serious consequences". We are all familiar with the litany; indeed, the Foreign Secretary can quote it unsighted, and has firm views on its meaning.

However, there is one part of resolution 1441, in paragraph 12, that often gets overlooked. It states that the Security Council

In weighing up the best way to tackle Saddam, it is the Security Council as a whole that must judge the course of action to take. The Government's efforts in recent days to persuade Security Council members about their course of action shows that they recognise this truth; however, their arguments have not prevailed. The core of 1441 is about the weapons inspectors. Doctors Blix and el-Baradei have made progress. The US and UK Governments may not be persuaded, but that does not alter the position. Dr. Blix said recently that the time allowed "is a little short". He also said that he needed

The process set out in 1441 is not exhausted; alternatives to war have barely been explored. In the past few days, we have seen diplomacy laid bare, considered discussion subverted by shouting matches, and force of argument now replaced by force of arms. It has been ugly, but the downward spiral of international debate must not distract us from the underlying truths of the situation. The Governments of the USA and the UK have not won the arguments; not simply because a majority in the international community believe that the weapons inspectors should continue their work but, just as significantly, because there is disagreement about the war objectives—disarmament only, or regime change. There is also concern about the consequences of action, which could be horrific and extremely serious, whether in humanitarian terms in the middle east region or

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through a spur to international terrorism. All those issues weigh heavily on us and they should tip the argument towards continuing with the UN route.

We are not yet at war, but in all likelihood our armed forces will be engaged in military conflict in the next few days. Our thoughts are with them and their families. As the cross-party amendment notes, in the event that hostilities commence, we pledge total support for the British forces. We express admiration for their courage, skill and devotion to duty, and hope that their tasks will be swiftly concluded with minimal casualties on all sides.

We still have a final moment for reflection. Late last week, President Bush issued a plea. He said:

He was talking about the middle east peace process, but his words also apply to Iraq. We should still be working through the United Nations. We have not yet exhausted all the diplomatic and political alternatives.

We should not be going to war.

5.11 pm

Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie): I shall talk about only one aspect of this issue: the humanitarian consequences of the action of my Government and the United States in going to war on Iraq.

In this debate we have been obsessed, as we have been for many months, with the wickedness of Saddam Hussein. There have been countless words of vilification, but for my constituents they were hardly necessary; they are fully aware of his behaviour. What bothers my constituents—it is one of the reasons why the Prime Minister fails to persuade them of the rightness of his approach—is that little or no attention is being paid to the consequences of the action that we are about to take.

If damaging consequences are set loose by our actions, we must take the morality of that into account. If, as we are likely to do, we take action that strongly increases the probability of the use of weapons of mass destruction, we must question whether such a policy is wise or moral. If we take action that involves the use of our own weapons of mass destruction in a horrific onslaught against the people of Iraq, that, too, has to be put on the moral scales. Half the people whom we are going to kill are children. None of the people whom we are going to kill had any say in the imposition of Saddam Hussein as their tyrant. We must take that into account.

We are going to invade a country of Balkanesque complexity where occupying forces will be unable easily to withdraw. We are rapidly in danger of becoming piggy in the middle for every discontented ethnic or religious group in the area. There seems little doubt of speedy, initial victory, but it is worth remembering that the six-day war in the middle east is still going strong after 35 years. This war has similar potential.

It is currently not easy to get countries to volunteer for armed service in Afghanistan. Which countries will have troops of the right quality to assist the Americans and us? Have we faced up to being an army of occupation?

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Above all, we are being led by an American President who is completely honest about what his Administration intend to do with the world. I have recently been reading Bob Woodward's book, "Bush at War"—on his first war in Afghanistan—which is a real love story. Bob Woodward says of Bush:

We have not just to look at the history, as we keep doing, but to think through the consequences.

I have been concerned by the lack of reporting to the House on the humanitarian consequences of an invasion. When I backed the Government in going down the UN route, the intention was certainly not that we would just debate and vote in the Security Council and then the Iraq issue would be simply handed over to General Tommy Franks. Obviously, the conduct of the war has to be done by the military, but what happens alongside and afterwards must be an UN operation.

The Government have been very remiss in reporting on what the operation will involve. The only people who have been clear about what will happen are the Americans, and they did so most clearly five to six weeks ago in a report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Douglas Feith, the Under Secretary of Defence.

The Pentagon would be in control. I quote:

Another quote:

that is us—

That is simply not acceptable as a way of administering a country that has been invaded. That is not conjecture; it is a statement of policy by the American Government. The expectation is that the Americans, not the UN, would have the lead role and that foreign Governments and organisations would report to the United States President. That had been planned without reference to the Secretary-General of the UN or any UN organisation.

Stories are now going around that, in fact, the Prime Minister has negotiated the lead role for the UN under a new UN resolution that will be proposed. I am puzzled by that story because it is not in the motion and it was not in the Prime Minister's speech. [Interruption.] It is not in the motion. If hon. Members read the motion, they will see that it does not refer to a UN-controlled mandate post-conflict. If that is there, it is very welcome. If it is true—this story is going around as well—that Kofi Annan will be in charge of the oil-for-food programme, that is a big step forward, but perhaps the Minister would tell us in his winding-up speech exactly what has been negotiated with George Bush to make the situation much more acceptable when the conflict is over, rather than what is in the motion at present. I would very much welcome that.

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We have to consider the scale of the humanitarian problem. Iraq is a huge country, the size of France. We have to think about feeding 26 million people instantly. That has to be done by the UN, not by the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance after the election. No one has paid any attention to that very important issue, but I hope that the Minister will be able to make it absolutely clear in his winding-up speech whether the UN or the American generals will be in control after the election.

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