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Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mrs. Mahon: No, I want to continue for a while and my hon. Friend has not been present for the whole debate.

As many hon. Members said, the war has not been cost free. More than 6,000 Iraqi civilians are dead, hundreds of thousands have been injured and the security and livelihoods of many more have been destroyed. For what—a better life? We were told that when the occupying troops went in, flowers would be strewn in their path and they would be welcome. However, the reality is a massive increase in rape—women are not safe to go out—abductions, in the south as well as the north, murders, lootings and all other violent crimes. Power supplies have still not been restored and the water remains contaminated. Diseases such as cholera and dysentery are rife.

Contrary to the claims of the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence yesterday that all 240 hospitals are operating, NGO reports present a different picture. I recommend that my right hon. Friends read those reports on how the hospitals are operating. A mass of evidence exists, if they look for it, that paints a grim picture. There is a huge increase in patients admitted with gunshot wounds; many hospitals are without the medicines that they require; much equipment is useless or not operable during power cuts. Much has also been stolen and wrecked by looters. It is therefore not true that 240 hospitals are operating as we would recognise a fully operating hospital.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Mahon: I shall do so shortly.

In a sense, Iraqis are worse off than they were under that hateful man. Before anybody asks "Do you support Saddam Hussein?", I emphasise that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) and I

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went to 10 Downing street and signed early-day motions in 1987 and 1988, when Saddam Hussein was considered to be someone with whom we could do business. I opposed him then; I do not have any truck with that man.

The view is being put forward that we got rid of a dictator, that it was worth it, and that we are going to bring freedom and democracy back to the Iraqis. I believe that the contrary is happening at the moment, and will do so for the foreseeable future. I cannot see that changing. Iraq has descended into a lawless state—civil unrest is growing and about a dozen attacks on our troops take place daily. The jihadists are entering the country at an alarming rate. This was always predictable; indeed, it was predicted.

What is happening in Iraq is seen by millions of Muslims throughout the world as a western crusade to grab the oil and to grab another part of the world for western society's needs. Iraq is surrounded by 10 or 12 Muslim countries, representing about 240 million Muslims. That is a fertile breeding ground for extremists. Al-Qaeda might not have been in Iraq before, but it, or similar groups, are almost certainly there now. I have never equated Iraq with Vietnam, although I know that some people think that it is going to end up like Vietnam did. My real fear is that Iraq could end up like Afghanistan.

We should give Iraqis the vote, but I am not convinced that the Shi'a majority want anything like what we would view as a western democracy. Iraq will almost certainly become an Islamic state. I do not think that this process will lead to a secular society; the country will probably split into various pieces. Everything that has been said about keeping it as a sovereign state and introducing democracy will simply not come about.

Yesterday, without making a statement to the House, the Secretary of State committed two more battalions and more specialist personnel to join the armed forces already in Iraq. This is a grave mistake. As I said earlier, I have recently spoken to troops who have just returned from a six-month tour of duty in Basra. They did not recognise the rosy picture that has been painted of southern Iraq. I sat and listened to them for more than an hour, and I suspect that two of them will be leaving our armed forces. There is no way that those two young men will go back to Iraq. They said that they were tolerated, at best, when they first went in, but that now there is deep resentment. If people want to look, they can see the demonstrations and the attacks that are happening on a daily basis, not only in the American-held areas but where we are, too.

Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham): I am interested to hear what my hon. Friend has to say about the troops returning from Iraq. Other members of the Defence Committee and I visited Basra in late July, and I accept that the situation there is no bed of roses, mainly as a result of a lack of investment by the previous regime over many years. However, schools, for example, are being opened by dedicated troops who are working very hard there. Will my hon. Friend give credit for the fact that things are being done to improve the situation,

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certainly in parts of southern Iraq? The picture is not entirely the bad one that she and, unfortunately, the press are trying to paint.

Mrs. Mahon: I point out to my hon. Friend that all the schools were working before we carried out this illegal invasion. [Interruption.] Most of them were. I have had meetings with Iraqi women who were involved in higher education but who are now unable to pursue their studies because they dare not go out alone, either during the day or at night, because of the abductions, rapes and murders. Many Iraqi women in the south are also being subjected to the hard-line mullahs who now insist that they should be veiled. Many freedoms have therefore been taken away by this untimely and unnecessary war.

Mr. Kevan Jones: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mrs. Mahon: I must make some progress; we do not have too much time.

The Iraqis feel humiliated and deeply resent their country being occupied. It is much worse where the United States troops are in control. We are possibly doing a better job than they are, but the resentment is still there.

Yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Chris McCafferty) asked how many ordinary Iraqis—men, women and children—had died since the peace had begun. I think it shameful that the Foreign Secretary admitted that he did not know; but we can obtain the information from the websites, and we read daily of the tragedies caused by the disastrous methods of control used by some of our US allies.

On Sunday Peter Beaumont, a distinguished journalist on The Observer who is very knowledgeable about this part of the world, reported on the victims of methods used by the coalition. Such things happen daily in Iraq. He said:

That is part of the daily life that people think is making things better for those in Iraq.

It is almost impossible to imagine the level of bitterness and hatred that such actions breed among the Iraqi population. I believe that our service men and women have been placed in grave danger. I believe that the United Nations and the non-governmental

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organisations are exposed to an Afghan-type situation. When the International Red Cross is pulling out, we have some very serious problems.

Suicide bombers are now operating in Iraq. These are certainly not just Saddam Hussein's disgruntled fedayeen. I think that we have opened Pandora's box. The resolution currently before the UN will not be acceptable. What country, what sane Government, would send their service men and women under that resolution? It keeps the United States totally in control and gives little military, economic or political power to anyone else.

It is clear to everyone who has been involved in the debate that there was definitely no post-war plan. I still believe that the war was intended to allow the US Government to get their hands on Iraq's oil—and, shamefully, my Government were prepared to help them to do so. It has created division between Europe and America, and it has had profound consequences for the United Nations, which I think it has damaged. It was a dreadful and costly mistake. Questions will be asked for years to come about why we went to war. What we certainly do not have at present is an exit strategy, and as a Member of Parliament whose constituents contain young men and women in the services, I think that that is an absolute scandal. I want to know when they are coming home. I want the UN to be brought in—I think that essential—but it will not be brought in under the latest resolution.

This has been a dangerous, reckless adventure, which has made the world a much more dangerous place for all of us. Those who misled and deceived us, and conspired to bring about this disastrous invasion, will carry the guilt. The rest of us should keep reminding the world that such recklessness should never happen again. We should use the United Nations and stick by international law.

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