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We need to get to the bottom of how this House was misled in voting to go to war.

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Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend also consider the possibility of examining the cost of war—the sustained amount of money that seems to appear during a war? As the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Sir Peter Tapsell), the historian across the way, will recall, during the 1920s Churchill, Bonar Law and Lloyd George had long debates on the issue of money being spent on the equivalent of the Iraq war then. Why has there not been a proper discussion in this Chamber of the escalating costs of this war? Why does that escalation happen?

Lynne Jones: With respect, that is not a matter relating to the inquiry. I merely make the point that had the resources that have been deployed in this war been devoted to fighting terrorism by winning hearts and minds, we would not face the kind of international threat from terrorists that we face today.

I am also moved to support the motion as a result of recent contact with one of my constituents. She is a British subject and citizen, and her husband, who is currently in prison in Iraq, has joint citizenship. In February 2003, Oxfam stated:

We know that so much suffering has been felt, and I shall tell the House about the suffering experienced by my constituent and her husband.

Although it was not the main reason for going to war, in Prime Minister’s questions Tony Blair told me:

The Iraqi people are free of one murderous tyrant, but many hundreds of murderous tyrants have sprung up in his place. The Iraqi Government are weak and the country is run by fiefdoms and militia.

The constituent to whom I referred, Mohammed Hussein, was in Iraq in January 2007. He went there with his wife and two-year-old son to try to persuade his mother to come to the UK for medical treatment—she was very ill. She had been unwilling to leave Iraq because she was living in the same household as her daughter-in-law, whose husband, her son, had been killed in Baghdad by terrorists. Her son was a member of the Iraqi police force. She was forced to flee Baghdad to Najaf, which I am told was more peaceful at the time. She was not allowed by the governor of Najaf to join two of her daughters who were in the city, but she did join another daughter who was living in its outskirts. In the run-up to the holy festival of Ashura, she, her family and my constituents were outside Najaf at a place called Zarga. On the night before Ashura, Mohammed Hussein telephoned a number—I think it is 130—that Iraqi citizens are invited to use to report any suspicious activity. He reported that a number of armed men had been seen in the vicinity. Subsequently, there was an event that became known as the battle of Najaf. During that conflict, the mother, sister and, we believe, the brother-in-law of my constituent were killed, and my constituents were rounded up along with many other people.

Since then, along with hundreds of people who were rounded up simply for being in the vicinity of that conflict area, my constituent was sentenced—in an en
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bloc trial where no individual evidence was allowed—to 15 years’ imprisonment. I have a letter from his wife telling me about the torture that he suffered from the Iraqi authorities. She said:

She gave some further information, and I have since spoken to her. She told me that she witnessed the torture of another woman with whom she was imprisoned for a short time. She said that that woman was hung from the ceiling, her clothes were forced above her waist and she was beaten on the legs and feet by the authorities. My constituent was threatened with the prospect that that would happen to her. For a while, she was imprisoned near her husband. She said that he was chained to a toilet and guards came in intermittently, beat him and threatened to rape his wife and his sister. That is what is going on in Iraq today. Is that what we fought this war for?

I went to Iraq in 2005 and met many people, and the majority were in favour of the war. Almost all of them, however, condemned the nature of the occupation. They said that it had been totally mishandled. They were very concerned that the Iraqi people were seeing no benefits from the millions of dollars that were being poured into their country. One said to me, “No other tyrant has done what the Americans have done to my country.”

We also spoke to an opinion pollster who had set up the first opinion poll in Iraq. He had 350 very brave people going out throughout the country—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I am afraid that the hon. Lady’s time is up.

7.33 pm

Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington and Chelsea) (Con): I commend the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones) on her moving comments and clear illustration of what happens when one goes to war, even if it is for the best of purposes, but then loses control of subsequent events. I shall return to those considerations in a few moments’ time.

The Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey), said that the Prime Minister had missed an opportunity, when he came to office, to try to distance himself from the Iraq war by initiating an inquiry. Although one would have liked to see the Prime Minister do that, it was never really on the cards. The Prime Minister is as involved as Tony Blair was. During that period, he was the second most powerful member of the Government, and if he had made it clear that he could not support the war, it would not have happened with British involvement. The Prime Minister of the day could not have accepted such a consideration. The Prime Minister has a serious problem, which explains the rather curious way in which he has tried to handle these legitimate demands for an inquiry.

Reference has been made to the letter that the Prime Minister was sent by the Fabian Society. What he said in his reply, which has already been mentioned by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for
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Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), is rather curious. The Prime Minister said that it was

Is it seriously being suggested that we have to wait until Iraq is a secure and stable country before the Government will feel able to initiate the inquiry that they promised? We all know that even in the best scenario it will be years, if not decades, before Iraq is a secure and stable country. That cannot be the basis for denying the inquiry that is so clearly necessary.

The case for an inquiry is unanswerable, both for reasons that are internal to Iraq and for reasons regarding the implications for the region as a whole. I refer again to the Prime Minister’s comments, because they show the confusion and double standards at the heart of Government. The Government are confused. They know that their policy on Iraq is a shambles and that they cannot deal with the criticisms properly. When the leader of the Liberal Democrats asked the Prime Minister last week whether he had any regrets over what had happened in Iraq, almost the only point that the Prime Minister made in his reply was:

as if we went to war to ensure vaccination for the children of Iraq, and as if that somehow justified all the other terrible things that have happened in Iraq!

The Prime Minister knows perfectly well that that was a ridiculous justification for war, but no Ministers can now use the arguments that were made at the time. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Ministers know perfectly well that whatever the Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs might have said, to argue for regime change in its own right is against international law, and could never possibly have the support of the UN. Ministers are scrabbling away trying to find convincing justifications, all to do with what a terrible man Saddam Hussein was, when they know perfectly well, as we do—we are not telling them anything that they do not already know—that that could not possibly have justified the war.

I want, too, to refer to the external consequences of the war. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Sir Peter Tapsell) who, in a marvellous and colourful speech, made some powerful and appropriate points. The single greatest beneficiary of this disastrous Iraq war has been Iran. Two of Iran’s most powerful enemies were Saddam Hussein’s regime on one side, and the Taliban on the other. Never in their wildest moments did the Iranians believe that both regimes would be removed by the United States—the great Satan—without Iran having to lift a finger to achieve its geopolitical and strategic objectives.

One then has to add to the implications of Iran’s emergence as a regional power the terrible Shi’a-Sunni sectarian conflict, which does not now exist merely in Iraq, but is part of a regional problem that is distorting the politics of the middle east. Although those tensions would have existed without the war in Iraq, that war provided the opportunity for a massive loss of life and ethnic cleansing on an enormous scale in Iraq that certainly would not have happened otherwise.

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Then let us look at the whole question of al-Qaeda. Even today, people such as Dick Cheney try to claim that there was some link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. We know perfectly well that al-Qaeda had no opportunity to develop its terrible deeds in Iraq until the power vacuum was created by the war initiated by the US and the UK. Perhaps most serious in terms of the next year or so is the fact that for the west and the international community, putting real effective pressure on Iran to desist from going down the nuclear weapons path is infinitely more difficult than it would otherwise have been. That is because of the massive loss of authority, credibility and power on the part of the US in particular, but also on the part of anyone who argues for tough measures with regard to these matters.

I want to draw attention to a crucial question. Iraq is not only terrible in itself, but it is the single biggest example so far of the consequences of what is known as the Bush doctrine—that pre-emptive wars can be justified—combined with Tony Blair’s Chicago speech, which tried to justify, under the name of liberal interventionism, the use of our armed forces to change regimes and, hopefully, in his view, to promote democracy around the world.

That comes to the heart of the question of what is and what is not a just war. The concept of a just war goes back many centuries, as people have struggled to try to find some set of criteria for when war can be justified, particularly against those who have not attacked first.

Traditionally, there have been five justifications for a just war. First, it must be started by a lawful authority: in the case of Iraq, that is a question of enormous controversy. Secondly, it has to be for a just cause, and we know that the reason why we went to war was not justified. Thirdly, it has to be a matter of good against evil—and I would be happy to concede that point, if it were the only relevant consideration. Fourthly, it has to be the last resort. Partly for the reasons given by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle, it clearly was not that in this case. Finally, there is the issue of proportionality.

In the modern world, we have to extend those propositions in two important ways. First and most crucially, if we are going to try to begin to justify a war against a country that has not attacked us—if we are not acting in self-defence, and especially if we do not have the mandate of the Security Council of the United Nations—it is crucial that as part of the justification for war we consider all the likely, possible or credible consequences of that war. I do not mean only the combat, but what may happen after the combat is over. Unlike in the mediaeval world, in the modern world a war is not an end in itself. In times gone by, there were wars, somebody won, somebody lost, the war ended and things went back to normal. The whole problem with Iraq has been the power vacuum created by the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and all the consequences that flowed from that.

I was very disturbed by the interview that Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s chief of staff, gave to Andrew Marr a week or so ago. He was asked whether he had known what was going to happen in Iraq. He said:

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He spoke as if a lack of water was the only predictable consequence of sending an army into Iraq, removing the regime and creating a power vacuum.

When asked why there were not sufficient troops in Iraq, Jonathan Powell said:

Who is “they” supposed to be? This is the Prime Minister’s chief of staff speaking—the man closest to him, who we know worked with him in the preparation of British policy. He says that they made no attempt to consider the possible consequences of removing a Sunni-dominated regime in a country with a Shi’a majority. They did not consider what would be the consequence of removing the existing power structure and, as was entirely predictable, the Shi’a majority then demanding power. They made no attempt to consider the implications for Iran if its traditional enemy were removed by force. They made no attempt to consider the implications for Shi’a-Sunni sectarian conflict. It was not that they got it wrong. They had not studied the situation and come to an unjustified conclusion. If Mr. Powell is to be believed—and we have no reason to doubt him—they were so busy wondering about the water supplies that they gave no thought to such issues.

That suggests that we must learn from this experience that if one wishes to contemplate going to war in the modern world, and credibly to justify it as a just war, such consequences—which, in the case of Iraq, were not only predictable but predicted—must be taken into account and one must be prepared to live with the consequences. That is the first major change necessary to the just war theory to take account of modern circumstances.

The second consideration goes to the heart of the argument made constantly by the Prime Minister and other apologists for the war. They ask whether we would have liked Saddam Hussein to have remained in power. Would it, they ask, be better if Saddam Hussein were still there, as if somehow that was an argument in itself. Well, it is not, because in the modern world armed forces can be used in a more restricted way. Using the military does not only mean going to war. They can be used for peacekeeping, for peace enforcement, for containment in various ways or to impose a no-fly zone. As my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle rightly pointed out, that was successfully being done in the 10 years before this terrible war began. Of course sanctions were not working perfectly, but Iraq’s military power had been emasculated, by the first Gulf war, by the economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations, by the arms embargo that had been imposed, and by the no-fly zone that the United States and the United Kingdom were enforcing.

Those sanctions had been so successful that those Arab and middle eastern countries that had supported the first Gulf war, including Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt—which were happy to be allies of the United States and the United Kingdom, and who sent their armies to help to liberate Kuwait, because they recognised that Saddam Hussein was a threat to regional security—were not happy to send their armies or provide diplomatic or political support for the Iraq war of five years ago. They knew, as we all know, that
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Saddam Hussein’s regime had been emasculated. He was not a better man; he was still an evil man who would have like to do more evil, but he no longer had the capability to do so.

The lessons must be learned for the future, if this is not to be an entirely terrible experience. First, in trying to decide whether war is justified, we must look not only at the combat aspect, but at the political, economic and social consequences of any war that we may initiate. In Iraq we have seen terrible loss of life of hundreds of thousands of people, millions of refugees, and internal anarchy. Ministers know how terrible the situation is in Iraq, and they wish that it had never happened. They wish that different decisions had been made five years ago. They know that, although I do not expect them to say so.

The second lesson must be that the alternative to going to war is not, and never has been, doing nothing. Nor has it meant restricting oneself merely to economic, social or diplomatic pressure. There are other military means that can be used, including no-fly zones, embargoes, and various methods of peace enforcement. As we showed in Iraq until 2003, that can ensure regional peace and security. It was a messy solution and it might not have lasted for ever, but it did not even begin to be as terrible as what the people of Iraq have had to live through over the past five years.

7.47 pm

Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway) (Lab): May I say straight away what an irrepressible joy and pleasure it is to follow not just the person but the blazing erudition of the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), which was surpassed only just, perhaps, by the blazing erudition of the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Sir Peter Tapsell). I can tell both of them that at the conclusion of this debate I shall hand them my papers for marking, and I hope to do rather better than I have done in the past. I shall also have the pleasure of joining them both in the Lobby.

I believe not only that there must be an inquiry but that it is urgent and necessary, because this is a war without an apparent or defined end. There is no apparent or defined context of victory. What is victory in this war? We had a victory four years ago, and it is a gloomy symbiosis that the fourth anniversary of that victory marked the death of the 4,000th US serviceman in Iraq. He will not be the last; and nor will our next casualty be our last.

What is the victory that we seek? Is it the stable, secure state that is spoken of by the Prime Minister? What is a stable and secure state? Who decides when Iraq has become a stable and secure state, capable of its own government? I do not wish to be facile and flippant, but I remember when debating devolution that there were those who said that Wales was not a sufficiently stable and secure state to govern itself. So who decides, who sets out the parameter of when we can safely leave? If the Americans cannot leave, nor can we.

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