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Lord Monson: My Lords, unless Saddam Hussein is insane, which is a theoretical possibility although not many experts seem to believe that he is, he must have realised that an attack was likely if he continued to defy the United Nations resolutions. Why therefore has he exposed his country to aerial bombardment? Either he has something exceptionally nasty up his sleeve for the countries doing the bombarding or he calculates that the attacks will somehow result in medium-term or long-term benefit for him and his clique, or both.

The noble Baroness did her best to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that the Government were well prepared for coping with the first danger. One hopes that her optimism is justified. Obviously she cannot give any

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details publicly; but I wonder whether she or the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, can comment on the second danger. That is to say: is there any possibility that the attack could in some strange way strengthen rather than weaken Saddam in the long term?

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, as one who has had a fairly long time in political life both before and during the war, and some very minor military experience during the war itself, I feel bound as a member of my party to give my full support to the Prime Minister for the very agonising decision that he must have had to make. It is a very comfortable posture to be able to sit on the fence and take the middle line on the basis of indecision, possibly lack of knowledge or possibly a regard for a future political career. But a decision has to be made, and I feel sure that the Prime Minister has made the correct decision. It is not the custom of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom on such important matters to sit on the fence. Decisions have always contained an element of risk, and the rights are not always overwhelmingly on one side.

For those of us who had experience of the last war, the decision at that time was comparatively simple. Our war aims were clear because they were immediate and involved our own survival. It is much more difficult to make a decision on a world-wide scale concerning a part of the world with which the British population as a whole has had little contact.

In the time that has elapsed since the repeated breaches of undertakings offered to the world and to the United Nations by Saddam Hussein, one's mind must have vacillated considerably one way and another. But bearing in mind the necessity for making a political and military decision, I am convinced that the Prime Minister has made a correct one; subject only to this. It is offered not by way of criticism in the slightest but because the pressure of events must bear heavily upon the time of any individual at the head of his own country. I refer to the definition of the aims and the purpose of the whole exercise. In that respect I agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, who has enormous experience. One of the first things before embarking on a military operation, either on one's own or in conjunction with allies, is to make quite sure, and to articulate clearly, precisely what one's military aims are. I believe that in that respect we should do so quickly within the next few days. Provided we do that, and provided our aims are honourable, I have no doubt that ultimately right will prevail.

Lord Vivian: My Lords, I fully support the action that the Government have taken to date and agree in particular with what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, said especially in regard to the support of the Iraqi Opposition.

I should like to emphasise one aspect. It is absolutely vital that the current military action is 100 per cent. successful, and, to ensure that, it must be given sufficient time for it to succeed. Perhaps the Minister will reassure the House on that point.

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5.7 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, noble Lords will remember that in Kipling's novel Kim the hero on one occasion pressed his face to the window of an officers' mess in the north-west frontier and overheard the colonel saying to the adjutant, "Remember, remember, this is punishment not war".

That recollection is relevant for two reasons. First, the colonel was wrong. I think that the implication of all we have heard today in this extremely interesting and important debate following the powerful and important Statement made by the Minister is that we are not involved in a punishment activity. We are concerned with the first stages of what could be a long conflict--a war in fact. The war aims have been mentioned several times and they should be looked on as such. That is why all noble Lords were so impressed by the powerful speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig.

When talking about supporting the Iraqi Opposition, for example, one is plainly not concerned only to diminish and degrade Iraqi military force. One is concerned with the implicit as well as the explicit background to the whole affair, which might involve the destruction of the Iraqi Government. "Destroy" might be a better word than "degrade" and "diminish".

The story is also relevant because in these circumstances the colonel is the President of the United States and the adjutant is the Prime Minister. The Government ought to explain to your Lordships and to the public at large why, during the past years, we have elected to give such strong support to the United States in respect of Iraq. Is it because we have such long experience of the Middle East, particularly of Iraq which this country invented and ran during the first 30 years of its independence? Is it because of the special capacities of our Armed Services? Is it because we have some particular weapons which the United States does not have and needs? Is it because we want to be involved in the war or punishment process? I do not say that that is a wrong identification, but it is desirable for us and our European allies to know exactly why we are there and they are not thought to be essential.

5.11 p.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): My Lords, I begin by addressing the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, as to why we find ourselves always alongside our American friends and allies in dealing with the dictator in the Middle East. I submit that it is for none of the reasons which the noble Lord put forward. It is simply that our two Governments totally agree as to the right course of action to take in the circumstances which we face. We are two responsible Governments who believe that we should live up to our international responsibilities. We take it upon ourselves to enforce the spirit of the international community as set out in successive United Nations Security Council resolutions. That is all that needs to be said and I am pleased to see that the noble Lord nods his assent.

We are not involved in punishment. I make it absolutely clear that we are not punishing the Iraqi people. We are trying to get compliance and in failing

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to do so we are determined to do what we can to reduce the military capabilities of Saddam Hussein and, most particularly, his capabilities in respect of the production and possible use of weapons of mass destruction.

The noble Lord, Lord Vivian, asked whether we would give the operation time to succeed. I am sure that your Lordships would not expect me to share with them my knowledge about the operational plans of the British and American commanders. However, I draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the language that has been used on several occasions, and not just in the past few days, is that this time the action against Saddam Hussein will be substantial and sustained. Sustained is the word which matters.

I was grateful for the support of my noble friend Lord Bruce for the Prime Minister. He is right in saying that it is easy to sit on the fence and to do nothing. I entirely agree with him about the necessity for our military aims to be clear. That point has been repeated many times by noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. I can do no better than refer your Lordships to the text of the Prime Minister's remarks which will appear in Hansard tomorrow morning. I shall not repeat them because I am sure that your Lordships will find that the Government's position is set out very lucidly in that Statement which was repeated by my noble friend the Leader of the House at the beginning of the debate.

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, asked why on earth Saddam Hussein should have exposed his country to aerial bombardment. He offered various possibilities and theories as to why that may have been the case, including that he might have something nasty up his sleeve. There are many other possibilities. From what I know, this time, Saddam Hussein has made a very serious miscalculation. It is quite possible that he thought he had far more time. He thought he could go again this far to the brink and then, as he did in November, put his hands up and make some conciliatory gesture and get away with it. He thought that he would get the armed forces of the United States and the United Kingdom all psyched up so that they would have to be wound down again. He thought that he would win another psychological victory over us. This time, he has miscalculated very badly. It is most improbable that any attack on Saddam Hussein, in the long run or even in the short run, will strengthen his regime because I am quite sure that the effect on the targets which we attack will be so devastating that it will be clear to the Iraqi people the devastation which he has brought down upon them.

The noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, talked about he role of Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General. I am sure that Her Majesty's Government will give him full support at such time that it is appropriate for him to go back to Baghdad, as we have always done in the past.

The noble Earl suggested that we should be chary of giving a carrot to Saddam Hussein, which was an argument rather in the contrary direction to that advanced earlier in the debate by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. There is constantly on offer to Saddam Hussein and any successor Iraqi government the carrot of total suspension and removal of sanctions

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as soon as there is full compliance with Untied Nations Security Council resolutions. The matter is as simple as that. I do not believe that any other carrot is appropriate. We hope that, as a result of the activities of today and yesterday, Saddam Hussein will be aware of his responsibilities to his people and will realise that he has currently embarked upon a path of insanity.

I was asked about the costs of the operation by the noble Earl and whether or not they would be borne by the defence budget. I am not aware yet that my Secretary of State has had any discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer but normally, costs of military operations are borne by the contingency reserve.

My noble friend Lord Rea asked whether or not Saddam Hussein would turn again on the Kurds and the Shi'ites. I must be perfectly candid with your Lordships. It is quite possible that he will, if not turn on them, seek to make absolutely certain that there is no threat to his regime from either of those directions. With any luck, the result of the allied attacks will be a weakening of the revolutionary guard and its ability to impose the sort of iron discipline on Iraqi society which we have seen in the past. But it is quite possible, in the short term, that he will step up his reign of despotism in relation to those two wretched groups of people.

The noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, asked whether or not a cruise missile had landed in Iran. When I came from the Ministry of Defence, we were still concerned about that report. We are inquiring into it. I regret that I can give your Lordships no further information on that matter but I am sure that, as soon as we have the answer to that question, it will be put in the public domain as soon as possible.

The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, asked whether or not there were any agreements with Arab states on cost sharing. I am not aware of there having been any negotiations in that regard. However, one of the crucial elements in the decisions of the past two days was to create, as far as possible, an element of surprise. The last thing we wanted to do was to go around tipping our hand throughout the Gulf, having negotiations with people and saying, "Next week or the following week we are contemplating doing this or that. Will you divvy up a certain proportion of the cost?".

Discussions will take place when the present operations are over but that is as far as I can go in answering the noble Lord's question today. His idea of having Saddam Hussein sign any future document is an intriguing one. I do not know why he thinks that Saddam Hussein's signature on a piece of paper will be any more reliable than any other guarantee he, or any member of his government, have given in the past.

The noble Lord talked of civil war in Iraq and dangers from bordering countries. I can assure him that it is firmly the policy of Her Majesty's Government and that of our American allies to preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq. We have no desire whatever to see greater turbulence in that part of the world which might result from the break-up of that country. The noble Lord asked whether or not we contribute to the United States' strategic thinking. The answer is that we do, regularly,

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at every level of government both between the State Department and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office here, between the Ministry of Defence and the Pentagon, and of course between the Prime Minister and the President.

My noble friend Lord Kennet asked whether there was any news today from the United Nations. As far as I know there is none but it is still fairly early in the morning in New York. I suggest--this is not intended as a flippant remark--that any news bulletins will be more up to date than my information by the time they come to his screen.

My noble friend talked of possible unfavourable repercussions with our friends and allies in Europe. It is always possible to find arguments for doing nothing. If we have disagreements with our friends in Europe, they were not at the top of our considerations in the decisions we were taking today. We know that a lot of our friends in Europe support us; some disagree. Many of our friends throughout the world support us and we rely on that support and our belief in the rightness of our actions. I must tease my noble friend a little because he fairly admitted when he asked what we would do if there was a Russo-Chinese attack on another country like Iraq, that it was impossible to find an equivalent of Iraq. My noble friend answered his own question.

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