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Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab): I think that we should get away from two simplistic approaches to developments in Iraq and what needs to be done. One comes from those who supported the invasion, but who excuse or explain most of what has occurred since as not a great problem, or claim that it is outweighed by the severity of the Saddam Hussein regime, and say therefore that what has taken place is basically okay. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) expressed such a view. We need to get away from and beyond that.
At the other extreme, there are those who opposed the war, who might be in danger of damning almost everything that has happened since, or of using what Wittgenstein called a one-sided diet of examples all the time about what is wrong in terms of humanitarian and other considerations, and who might say, "I told you so." It is as though things have not developed or moved. In both those camps, there needs to be shift and movement.
I was pleased to hear the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick), because no one has been more strident than he has in defending the right to invade Iraq. He strongly emphasised his deep concerns over what has been revealed about humanitarian problemsnot just those on the American side of the coalition, which need to be investigated fully and properly and acted on and which arise from Amnesty and Red Cross reports. He also stressed that there had been problems, that things had not gone right all along and that we were not always clear in connection with those. I think that there are those on both sides who recognise that we are in a different situation once the attack has taken place, and it is very important that we respond to changing developments.
I opposed the war, but I am keen to see the reconstruction of Iraq and its development into a free society with civic institutions and free provision. In that I associate myselfI can do a little bit in certain areaswith the new Iraqi Federation of Workers Trade Unions, which is a free trade union movement that works in difficult circumstances. It is challenging many trade unions in the Arab world, many of which are state controlled and, to some extent, replicas of what existed under the Ba'athist regime. The federation is not all that acceptable within Arab territories, and there is a still a remnant of Ba'athist trade unionism, which existed in Iraq and needs to be confronted.
The federation does not do too well in dealing with the Americans, because the Americans are interested in the redevelopment of Iraq in terms of their own vision, so their capital interests in that connection are to the fore. Trade unions are therefore a difficulty if they are going to be free, because they represent the workers who want to get into such things.
The federation challenges various people, but it has great difficulties because of mass unemployment and other problems. Just as things were developing nicely,
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with the International Labour Organisation involved in the United Nations office in Baghdad, the bombing took place last August and all that was lost. All the federation's connections became difficult. Those who are working in that area should say to the Government and those who supported the invasion that some of us who opposed it and would defend that position nevertheless might have something to offer and to say about these changes.
I am the most unlikely person in the world to vilify the armed forces in southern Iraq. I did my national service in Basra back in 195556. It was a peaceful period, but I understand what life is like there and the problems, even if there has been a great transformation since. At least I understand the heat of the midday sun that the forces will face. I hope that the Government recognise that some of us are not just taking what seem to be predictable positions.
Chris Bryant : My hon. Friend is making some telling points. Does he believe that there is not as big a difference between the two sides on this matter as many people would assume? Most people want British troops to leave Iraq as soon as possible. The division between us is on how soon that can happen.
Mr. Barnes: There are differences in the way in which the argument is put forward in different camps. One problem is point-scoring, one side against the other, which means that extreme positions are taken. The fact that some of us opposed what was taking place from a certain analysis and a certain background also means that we shall not just surrender to the position of those who supported the invasion. We want people to realise how tough the circumstances are and that there are some things that we are unlikely readily and easily to get. United Nations' involvement would be tremendous, but without it there might still be things that we could argue for and encourage the Government to do, as long as people realise that we are also in the game.
The point is often made that Britain is not to blame and that the problem rests with the Americans. What has been revealed about abuse falls very much within the American camp, but that does not absolve us. The Americans are our allies. We joined them. What are we working towards with them? If they were on the edgethey seemed to be at one time, although they seem now to pulling backof further invasions of Syria, Iran and Korea, the clear lesson is that they are not fit people for us to be associated with, at least under the current regime, when it comes to entering any other military adventure anywhere in the world.
The special relationship between the UK and America should give us an opportunity to speak about what has happened so far as Rumsfeld and others are concerned. If The New Yorker is correct to say that Rumsfeld ordered a loosening of the rules under which military personnel could squeeze information out of detainees, we should react to that. If, as The New York Times says, rough treatment is par for the course in American prisons and part of the culture there, that too should influence us seriously. We should direct our minds to engaging in such serious matters without continually listening to point-scoring in the Chamber from one side against another. We should try to work together while still recognising the limits to that and the fact that we may speak from different positions.
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Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): The road to peace was mentioned several times earlier in the debate. The road to peace in Iraq seems to be a journey through a vale of tears that will go on for some time. It is one of those journeys where we know where it began but do not know where it will finish. When we embarked on the war, which I still consider to have been illegal and immoral, the then Chief of the Defence Staff expressed his misgivings about embarking on such an operation without a clear exit strategy.
Before those with a different view on the war criticise me, I put on the record that, like everybody else, I have nothing but admiration for the forces on the ground and the exemplary way in which they have performed their task. They did not ask to go to Iraq: they have been placed there, and they will do their job in their usual professional way. Our dilemma concerns our destination and what it will mean for the soldiers on the ground, as well as the wider issues.
I despair whenever I hear the Government present their case. We heard it again in this debate and in Defence questions. Every time a Government spokesman refers to Iraq, we hear the same circumlocutions, euphemisms, diversions and inaccuracies that present a wholly misleading case. One of my favourite, pithy aphorisms is from Noam Chomsky, who said that whoever captures the language captures the argument. It is important to look at the language that is used. For example, we have heard much about sovereignty, but what does that actually mean? If we hand over sovereignty on 30 June, can we do so in any real sense if the new authority will not have any control over its own security forces? Indeed, the official Opposition would be up in arms if it were suggested that the United Kingdom did not have true sovereignty over its own defence and foreign policies because it was part of Europe. We can at least be certain that whatever takes over in Iraq on 30 June will not be sovereign in any way that we would recognise.
Another word that is bandied about is "contractors", which has become an all-embracing term for the privatisation of war. For example, let us take the terrible murder of Nick Berg. He was a television aerial and dish erector and had gone to Iraq to make a few quid. He could legitimately be described as a contractor, but many of the other contractors are nothing more than mercenaries. They are former special service operatives performing highly specialised, highly paid and highly dangerous jobs. They accept the money for the job, and they are not in the same bracket as those who are trying to restore the civilian infrastructure.
Let us not forget that we went into this shambles in Iraq because of an unholy alliance between the Government and Conservative Front Benchers. Today, we heard an exchange in which the shadow Foreign Secretary gave the Secretary of State for Defence the latest news on weapons of mass destruction and shells with sarin gas. By definition, a shell is a battlefield weapon, but they have again altered the meaning of WMD so that it covers just about anything. We should not forget that the reasons for war given in this House
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revolved around the pivotal issue that there were weapons of mass destruction, but we have still failed to identify or provide any as evidence.
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