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Angus Robertson: Why did the abuses happen in the first place?

Dr. Tonge: As the hon. Gentleman says, why did they happen in the first place? Who gave the authority for American soldiers to abuse soldiers in this way? Was it just because the same thing was happening in Guantanamo bay? Why were the British Government so weak and feeble in trying to get our citizens out of Gantanamo bay? It rather suggests that they are colluding in American treatment of prisoners of war.

Liberal Democrats have been accused of being opportunist, but on the doorstep people say that they have been told lies about weapons of mass destruction by the Government, that at the very least Britain has colluded with human rights abuses in Iraq, and that we have endangered the safety of British citizens by increasing terrorism. The Government should be ashamed of their record in the past year, and if they have no shame, I am ashamed on their behalf—truly ashamed.
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The Prime Minister could save his soul. We have heard very little about the middle east peace process, which is mentioned in the motion. The Prime Minister could save his soul and his Government by breaking with George Bush and Ariel Sharon and by using every means to put pressure on Israel to withdraw from the territories of Palestine that it has occupied since 1967. That is a key issue that has not been addressed this afternoon.

If the Minister were to tell us that the offered withdrawal from Gaza is a step in the right direction, I would merely laugh in his face given what has been going on during the last week with the bulldozing of houses, sometimes with people in them—a scorched-earth policy—and the killing of leaders in that area before withdrawal is even considered.

When the Minister replies, cannot he acknowledge the visit of the delegation from the Palestinian assembly, which is in Britain this week, and accept once and for all that the road to peace in Iraq and the wider middle east, as well as the road to solving the threat of terrorism in this world, still lies through Jerusalem?

5.14 pm

David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): The sadistic abuses in Iraq revealed in the past week or so have undoubtedly set back hearts and minds in that country and throughout the region. We must thoroughly investigate how such acts could take place in the very prison where Saddam had his torturers and murderers. I find it difficult to believe that those who carried out the abuses and worse did so without the knowledge of senior officials and that they acted on their own initiative.

In order to ensure that people in the middle east, especially in Iraq, understand how seriously the issue is taken in the United States, the best course of action would be for the Secretary of State for Defence and his deputy to resign. That would show that when America says that it is sorry, it really means that it is sorry, and that the person in charge takes responsibility.

Chris Bryant: If my hon. Friend means that Donald Rumsfeld should resign, I agree with him, but he did not make that clear and seemed to suggest that the British Secretary of State for Defence should resign. Does he distinguish between systematic abuse by American soldiers, which is abhorrent to those Labour Members who, like me, have been members of Amnesty International for many years, and the incidents involving British soldiers, which may have been one-offs?

David Winnick: No comparison is possible between what the Americans did and the allegations against British soldiers, which should be investigated. I hope that I made it clear that the United States Defence Secretary and his deputy should go, and go quickly.

I do not regret supporting the destruction of Saddam's regime. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-
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Avon (Mr. Maples) described that regime as "unpleasant"; it was not only unpleasant but outright murderous, and should have been dealt with much earlier. I was in the House when the controversy occurred over whether military action should be taken to liberate Kuwait. Some of my hon. Friends opposed that action, and I am not sure what the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) would have done had she been in the House. In 1991, I hoped that Iraq would be liberated, but I accepted that that was not possible because the coalition would have fallen apart. Had such action been possible, it would have been justified.

Lord Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, took the lead in urging action to stop the Serbian crimes in Bosnia and Kosovo. He was right, but some Labour Members—perhaps me, for that matter—were a little slow, and the Prime Minister has gone out of his way to praise the way in which the former Liberal Democrat leader understood the need to deal with the crimes that were being committed. Action was taken rather late in the day, but if Milosevic and his cronies were guilty, how much worse were the crimes of Saddam? If one supported what was done in Kosovo—some hon. Members did not—how can one object to action to destroy the regime in Iraq, which was far worse, far more criminal and far more murderous?

Mr. Keetch: Twelve months ago, Liberal Democrat Members did not rule out military action against Iraq in all circumstances. We said that it was not the right time and that the inspections conducted by Hans Blix should be allowed more time—what is more, Hans Blix also believes that he should have been given more time.

David Winnick: The Saddam regime had from 1991 onwards to comply. If Security Council members, including this country, had acted more effectively, we would not have got into the position that we reached. I made it clear at the time that, apart from weapons of mass destruction—Hans Blix was by no means satisfied that there were none, and the hon. Gentleman agrees with that—on the ground of human rights alone, I agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche) that we were right in the action that we took.

I agree with much of what the hon. Member for Richmond Park said about Palestine. I recently had a debate on the subject in Westminster Hall. The actions of the Israelis over the past few days were deplorable. We have seen on television Palestinians forced out of their homes, those homes bulldozed and the people forced to live in tents. The more the United Kingdom speaks out against Sharon's actions, the better things will be. I am pleased that more than 100,000 people in Israel demonstrated their distaste and dislike of and opposition to Sharon's policies. I support a sovereign Palestinian state, which should come about as quickly as possible. I made my views clear, as the hon. Lady knows because she listened to me, only a few days ago in Westminster Hall.

Mistakes were made after the liberation of Iraq and far more should have been done to provide basic facilities. I believe that there was a slowness and that we did not explain our intentions to the people to Iraq. That
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did not help. I agree that the United Nations should be given a far more active political role in preparing the future of that country. The deadline of 30 June must remain but it should be only the first step towards an Iraqi Government, who need far more legitimacy than the current governing council.

I supported the action last year and, as I have said, I make no apology for the way in which I voted in March 2003. However, I believe that there is a danger that the longer the occupation lasts the more suspicion will grow in Iraq and the region that the United States in particular wishes to stay for a long time. There is a danger that the occupation will be perceived as indefinite and that every excuse will be found to continue a military occupation. People in Iraq who are not terrorists or insurgents and said that it was right to take action to destroy Saddam's regime as well as those in the wider middle east will conclude that it was not simply a question of ousting Saddam. All sorts of conspiratorial theories will be presented that the action was a means of turning Iraq into a satellite of the United States or the coalition. There is great political danger in an indefinite occupation of Iraq.

Once the 30 June deadline is reached and the governing council is given more legitimacy, I hope that every step will be taken to ensure that the Iraqi Government's political role is given far greater emphasis than is currently intended. In so far as it is possible, I hope that more countries, especially Muslim countries, will be included in the transitional period. We all want the same outcome: a sovereign Iraq, a country that is not occupied and an elected, democratic Government with legitimacy. Those are the objectives for which my colleagues and I voted last year. That is why I emphasise that we must be very careful, not only because of the current terrorism, to ensure that the occupation has a limit and that the people of Iraq can rule themselves without outside occupation or interference.

5.24 pm

John Barrett (Edinburgh, West) (LD): As this nightmare unfolds on our televisions and we watch women, men, children, civilians and contractors dying daily, it is worth remembering again why the House sent in the troops. At least we had a vote on the issue, as the right hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) said, but the picture that was painted at the time was that weapons of mass destruction existed and presented a threat. Do the Government—does anyone—still believe that that is true? What happened to the 1,400 people who constituted the Iraq survey group? If they had found anything of note, the Government would be trumpeting their report. Why the silence? The right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) mentioned one round—is that it?

When those who opposed the war questioned the Prime Minister, the reply was often, "At least we have captured Saddam Hussein", as though that alone justified military action. The Government cannot have it both ways. We are in a coalition, and I must remind the Government that it was US soldiers who captured Saddam. If the US forces' success on that occasion is something that we want to share, we must also accept that they, as part of the coalition force, have been accused of shameful actions, and that some of them
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have perpetrated almost indescribable acts involving prisoners in Iraq. We cannot say that that has nothing to do with us, because it has been done in the name of the coalition.

We were given four reasons for going to war: the threat of weapons of mass destruction and the non-compliance with UN resolutions; the fight against terror; the humanitarian crisis; and Saddam's reign of terror. People say, "At least Saddam's reign of terror is over", but if that vote on weapons of mass destruction were to be repeated today, now that we know that the 45-minute threat related only to battlefield weapons and that the two trucks that were supposedly mobile laboratories were in fact sold to Iraq by us for meteorological purposes, there is no way that we would go to war based on the dodgy dossiers, the dodgy evidence, the Prime Minister's word or anything similar, because trust in the Government has gone.

The argument moved on to the fight against terror as a reason for going to war, but the terrorists have been fuelled by recent events. Those who wanted to portray the west as inhuman now have all the recruiting material they need. They have material—including photos and videos—to last them a long time. Donald Rumsfeld sends a shiver down my spine; what must he do to those in Iraq?

Hon. Members mentioned the reconstruction plan and said that the humanitarian grounds were reason enough for going to war in Iraq, but Iraq is not yet the relatively wealthy country that it should be. Before any trouble, it had a standard of living similar to that of Spain or Portugal, but it has not yet returned to that position. The end of Saddam's reign of terror has been cited as the only success, but the toppling of a dictator would never have won international support as a reason for going to war. If that was the reason that we went to war, we should be at war constantly.

What next? There must be either an exit strategy or more troops. The present situation is a nightmare. If the troops were pulled out tomorrow, the country could implode. Any terrorists not in Iraq would make their way there, and Osama bin Laden would probably be among the first. Civil war could break out. The Kurds might see an opportunity to establish their own homeland. Those who are suffering most would continue to suffer. Would sending more troops alleviate that?

The only way forward is to involve other countries through the UN. If that does not happen, we and the USA will have to send more troops just to protect those who are already there. I have already mentioned the consequences of pulling the troops out. We are left between a rock and a hard place. We must get other Muslim and Arab nations brought in on their terms, so that they can play a part in the drive for peace. We and the American Government are part of the problem as well as part of the solution. We cannot move the troops out today because that would make things worse, but if they stay indefinitely it will inflame an already dire situation.

How many more people must die on each side before this comes to an end? We need to hear what the Government plan to do next. We heard earlier from the Secretary of State that we cannot estimate the number of casualties, but on this day, the anniversary of the
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battle of Monte Cassino, at which it is estimated that 200,000 people died, surely we can estimate the number of civilian deaths in Iraq.

5.29 pm

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