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Sir John Stanley: The hon. Gentleman's point reinforces my argument. The non-compliance with the resolutions was all related to failure to comply with weapons inspectors' efforts in relation to weapons of mass destruction. It was all about weapons of mass destruction. At no time did the UN resolutions endorse the proposition that military action should be taken simply to change the regime in Iraq.
This country has been taken to war on a ground that has so far proved to be invalid, and the Government are now using a justification that they previously repudiated and stated was illegal. Perhaps in the end everything will come right for the Government: perhaps over the next few months or year, weapons of mass destruction will be found. If they are, I, as one who supported the Government on 18 March, will feel a distinct sense of reliefhugely exceeded, I am sure, by the sense of relief felt by Ministers. I voted in support of the Government in good faith, on the basis of the evidence about Saddam Hussein possessing
If in, say, a year's time, however, there is still no sign of those weapons of mass destruction, as I said in our debate in July, it will become incumbent on the Prime Minister, and the senior Ministers most closely associated with the decision, to consider their personal position, in view of the fact that they have taken the country to war on grounds that cannot be established. That is a matter for them, but at the very least, I sincerely believe that if no weapons of mass destruction are found, before this Parliament ends the Prime Minister will owe the country, this House of Commons and, most important of all, the families of the servicemen who have died a proper apology for being the first Government in our modern history to have taken this country to war on the basis of a threat assessment that was shown to be invalid.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): First, I congratulate the new hon. Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather) on her election victory and on her excellent speech today. Yet another Islington person has made their way into the House of Commonsand there are many more yet to come. Her speech was very good, especially her reference to the joy of representing an inner-city, multi-ethnic constituency. The strength of communities working and living harmoniously together, expressing their cultural diversity, is a joy to behold in this country. The right-wing journalists who continually denigrate multiculturalism as political correctness would do well to understand the fact that there is a joy of life in inner London that the rest of the world should understand and respect. I wish the hon. Lady well in her career in Parliament.
When he introduced the debate, the Foreign Secretary said that a strategy document would be produced next Monday. I am pleased to hear that, but find it a little odd that he announces that the document is coming on the day we debate foreign affairs. Why on earth could the document not have been made available to us today, so that we could have debated it today? Since it is not available, may I express the hope through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the usual channels will ensure that there is a substantial debate in the near future on the strategy document, which will enable it to be properly analysed? Otherwise, what is the point of having the document at all?
The Foreign Secretary made the point that one of the underpinning principles of British foreign policy is support for the United Nations. I am sure that the whole House supports the UNeverybody supports the UN. The only problem is that the policies that have been followed by the United States and Britain in the past year have done enormous damage to the principles of the UN, UN law and international law in general. George Bush took us into the Iraq war specifically without the endorsement of the UN, and specifically claimed that the war was legal, when in fact the only basis of a legal war is self-defence. As the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) explained, we were taken into war on the basis of the existence of weapons of mass destruction, none of which, strangely, have yet been found.
I hope that the strategy document contains a serious affirmation of our support for the UN and reforms within it. The UN is a major world institution, it has an enormous effect on the lives of millions of people around the world, and many people living in the most desperate circumstances pin their faith and hope on it, yet we spend little time debating UN reports on the Floor of the House. Might there be a case for having a Select Committee on UN affairs, in addition to the existing Select Committee on Foreign Affairs?
Mr. Gardiner: I agree, of course, with my hon. Friend's assessment of the importance of the UN, but he stated that the only basis of a legal war is self-defence. Does he accept that military action is a penalty for failure to comply with obligations under chapter VII of the UN charter, which deals specifically with weapons of mass destruction?
Jeremy Corbyn: My hon. Friend is correct to say that that is a possibility under chapter VII. The problem with his submission is that neither the United Nations nor the Security Council ever agreed to such action in Iraq, no weapons of mass destruction have been found, and, crucially, Britain and the United States prevented Hans Blix and his team from returning to Iraq in January this year to continue their weapons inspection programme. They were replaced by the Iraq survey group, which is vastly larger and better funded than Hans Blix's team, but which, after several months of trawling through every building in Iraq, has come up with absolutely nothing.
Perhaps someone at some point in the future will find weapons of mass destruction, but I suspect that had such weapons been available to the Iraqi regime, they would have been used at the point when the invasion occurred. They were not. I suspect that we were taken into war on the basis of misinformation in the documents that were presented to this House. That is a serious matter because of the damage that it has done to international law and to the esteem in which the British and American Governments are held.
Last week, President Bush visited this country. It was a deeply controversial affairindeed, I tabled an early-day motion, signed by a number of Members, requesting that he should not be invited and that the visit be cancelled. However, the visit went ahead, apparently costing us between £7 million and £10 million and causing a great deal of disruption. A large number of people took part in demonstrations against the visit. The Foreign Secretary and others were wont to say that the participants were deeply anti-American and only wanted to attack the United States. However, having been involved in the demonstrations, I should like to tell the House that the march last Thursday was led by Americans, particularly the Vietnam war veteran Ron Kovic, who made a moving speech in Trafalgar square in the evening about the issue of American power and influence in the world and what could be done to try to curtail those ambitions and bring about a sense of world order.
I received an interesting email yesterday from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union of San Francisco, which sent a delegation to Iraq to meet people in various factories. I shall not read it all, as it is very long. However, the ILWU complained about order No. 39 of 19 September issued by the provisional Administration in Iraq, which I mentioned in an intervention on my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. The ILWU said that the order permits
The war on terror declared by George Bush after 11 September 2001 is simplistic in approach. It led us into Afghanistan, where there were 8,000 dead, and it has led us into Iraq, with all the dead there. I suspect that both those military activities undertaken on behalf of the United States have probably increased support for rogue groups around the world that will commit unspeakable acts of violence against individuals. The solution is not to meet the threat by saying that we will go to war anywhere, any place, any time. Surely, the solution is to look at what feeds those groups, the issues that face us and the poverty around the world that drives people to desperate measures. If we are to preach democracy and the rule of international law, and if our influence over the United States is supposedly so great following the visit of President Bush, why is the legal void of Guantanamo bay allowed to continue to exist? The United States created a non-existent legal phrase of "illegal combatant", and, for almost two years, has used it to incarcerate people in Guantanamo bay and other places without charge, trial or representation. There is only the unsatisfactory prospect of a possible military tribunal in the United States.
I plead not just on behalf of the British nationals in Guantanamo bay but for everyone else there. They all deserve a fair trial with independent representation in which they know the charges against them. Before we get too high and mighty, our own anti-terrorist legislation allows similar actions to be taken against non-British nationals whom the Home Secretary believes may have a connection with international terrorism. I have no time for criminals or people who commit criminal acts, but if we are to defend democracy we must have an open form of legal judgment in which defendants have the right of independent representation.
I listened carefully to the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling, who spoke about the construction of the wall between Israel and Palestine, much of it on Palestinian land. I agree with himI saw the wall under construction last year, and it is an unbelievable act of madness to assume that it will bring about a peace. The inability of countries that are closely allied to Israelin particular, the United States but also, to some extent, Britainto bring sufficient influence to bear on it to stop the construction of the wall sends a message across the whole region that western countries will support Israel come what may and will carry on funding it and supplying it with arms. That will not bring about a long-term peaceit is a recipe for more long-term conflict and problems.
I have met people from the peace movement in Israel and many people in Palestine and various Palestinian organisations and groups. There are brave people in Israel who are campaigning for peace, justice and recognition of Palestinian rights, including the right of return and the liberty to reside in Jerusalem. They surely have the vision and ability to look to the future, whereas the Sharon Government are offering a recipe for long-term disaster and conflict in the region. We could and should put far more pressure on Israel, including the suspension of all arms supplies while the construction of the wall and the illegal occupation continue. We should also recognise, as I have said, that many brave people in Israel have campaigned for peace, not least Mordechai Vanunu, the nuclear scientist who will be released, we hope, early next year.
The right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling talked about the wall between Israel and Palestine, which is designed to achieve security for Israel, although I am not sure that it does. In October, I had an opportunity to visit another wall, which was constructed illegally by Morocco across the western Sahara to prevent the Sahari people from reoccupying land from which they were expelled in 1974. I should be grateful if, in his reply, the Minister can give us any further news of diplomatic initiatives to ensure that the UN agency dealing with Western Sahara and Morocco, MINURSO, is allowed to continue its work. I also hope that he can give us some hope that an early referendum will take place as part of the decolonisation process, as it is fundamentally wrong that more than 100,000 Sahari people, who were expelled from their land in 1974, should live in the misery of refugee camps in southern Algeria, forgotten and ignored by the rest of the world. I hope that progress has been made.