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Noble Lords: Hear, hear.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I do not know whether I will get any more cheers.

This has been a remarkable debate which has reflected the views of a very divided public, some of whom—a minority—are undoubtedly in favour of war. A majority want to avoid that situation. I remember as a young child, growing up in 1938—when I was nine or 10; I cannot remember—when people taking to the streets would have enormously favoured Neville Chamberlain. Barely a year later, however, when we went to war, the situation changed. I am not arguing that that situation is parallel in any way. It is a matter that the Government have to face, but it is not absolutely critical. Come a war, I think that people will rally round and say that the war is just. However, that is not my argument today.

I think that the Government, on the whole, are rather benign. They have taken a view that Saddam Hussein had 12 years in which to disarm. I do not think that that is strictly true. The pressure to accomplish change has not been consistently applied until now. There has been more than an element of ambiguity over the period. It took the events of 11th September to produce a riposte to Saddam, although there was no clear evidence that he was responsible for those terrible events. There is no unequivocal evidence that Al'Qaeda and he were united in their aspirations. However, both of them represent threats, albeit different threats, to the world community.

There are some who entertain the notion that we can—indeed, should—do little or nothing. I think that that view is wholly wrong. Others take the view that there is no alternative but to go to war, and the sooner, the better. I think that that view, which amounts to the United Nations being a sideshow, is also wrong. In my view, the way forward lies somewhere between those extremes.

Now is not the time to be swayed by semantics. The fact that, some weeks ago, the United Nations Security Council determined on a resolution is highly significant. However, situations change. The question we have to ask ourselves now is whether there has been a significant change in the past few weeks. I understand that, only tonight, Dr Blix said that Saddam Hussein has not made the advances that are needed. I think that that is a highly relevant piece of evidence.

I am not persuaded by the antics, or perhaps they may be called the tactics, of President Chirac and Chancellor Schroider. I believe that theirs is a recipe for

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inaction. Their counter-resolution involves little that can be unacceptable to Saddam Hussein in maintaining the status quo. His disinclination to disarm is not just a matter for him; it affects us all. While he is not the only tyrant in the world today, he has slain innumerable people. He has shown nothing but contempt for the United Nations and, for that matter, most of his own people.

So how long should we give him? What should we be demanding of him? I believe that even at this late hour there is an acceptable and legitimate halfway house: allow the inspectors some further leeway; give them a further opportunity to search. But it has to be a final ultimatum as well. Saddam Hussein must be under no illusion that he has to identify the weapons of mass destruction and other noxious weapons which are under his control. We must allow the inspectors a limited, but a reasonable time. I would make it abundantly clear that Saddam Hussein must co-operate fully with them; otherwise he will reap a whirlwind.

I hope against hope that many innocent civilians in Iraq will not be cut down. Already time is short for the preferred United States option. I believe that that is their clear policy. There is an alternative and we should go down that route.

It is incumbent on us to declare our war aims unequivocally. We have to do that and I make no bones about it. What are they? What about the refugees? What about the rehabilitation of Iraq and its people after the war? There is a duty to answer all these questions. I believe that is what the British people want.

I conclude by declaring my interest as the President of BALPA, the British Airline Pilots Association. In the event of an armed conflict there will be effects on the aviation industry. The International Air Transport Association, which represents 280 airlines, has calculated a 20 per cent slump in passenger numbers if war proceeds. What have we to say to them? Inevitably, there will be a number of redundancies. It may be that civil aircraft will be commandeered to assist in the carrying of personnel and in medical evacuation. In that situation the livery of such civil aviation companies and their national identity may well be removed.

I pose the following questions to the Minister for response, either tonight or in the near future in writing. Will the Ministry of Defence be responsible for the cost of work undertaken on aircraft in this situation? What enhanced security measures will be taken at airports for those on civil aircraft? What further support will be forthcoming as far as insurance cover is concerned? My noble friend may not be able to reply to my specific questions but on the wider issue, the arguments are many and complex. I only hope that the solution to which I have pointed will be of some value.

9.40 p.m.

Lord Elton: My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, I rise to speak on an entirely uncontroversial note. I assure the noble Lord that he was 10 years old for the last 25 days of 1928—which puts him 15 months ahead of me. We therefore shared a childhood

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in the gathering shadows of the Second World War. The speech by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, struck a strong chord with me because I saw with my youthful eyes the terrible price paid for indecision before a major war.

We are asked whether there is sufficient evidence on which to conduct a war under Resolution 1441. I believe that there is sufficient evidence. Dr Blix's update of 22nd January points to 6,500 chemical bombs with a payload of 1,000 tonnes of chemical agent missing; 8,500 litres of biological agent unaccounted for; and 650 kilograms of bacterial growth media—enough to produce 5,000 litres of concentrated anthrax—also unaccounted for. The gun may not be smoking but it is obviously there.

Bush junior refers from time to time to Bush senior, who obviously has much influenced him. I too had a father—once a Member of your Lordships' House—with experience of the Gulf or thereabouts. He was part of the British Expeditionary Force that came to a stop at Kut-el- Amara in Mesopotamia and was among the handful of survivors of both the siege and the horrific 1,000-mile march into captivity. It is not a theatre of war to which we should lightly commit our children.

Bush senior prosecuted a just and successful war that was, without question, legal under a United Nations mandate. Bush junior proposes to conduct a war that, according to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, is not quite just—and which, according to a mass of public opinion and not only in this country, is not quite legal under the United Nations. I do not think that it matters absolutely in the last resort whether it could be proved in a court of law that Resolution 1441 would countenance this war, as I believe it would; what matters is what the world thinks.

We live now in an undivided world in which everybody has an opinion. Thanks to television and other communications media, everybody has good information on which to base their opinions. Opinion is hardening against the idea that Resolution 1441 alone is sufficient justification. However, I think that if push came to shove, it would be.

It is at this point—when I am longing to go, thanks to the encouragement given by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, and convinced of the tremendous advantages of immediate action, thanks to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, that I pause to think. It seems to me that we are not in a position so to proceed, for lack of proper planning. I am talking not of military planning—although it was interesting to hear the military comments on the political planning, because soldiers have to think what will happen next because their skins depend on it. Like other retired commanders before him, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, asked what is to happen next.

The political preparation is insufficient because we do not have a united alliance; we have a terrible division between us and Europe. I shall not go into the detail of that. Those who shout "Oil" at the Americans should remember that they have to shout "Oil" at the French and Russians too, because they have an interest in preserving the status quo from an economic point of

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view, just as the Americans may have one for changing it. All that I observe is that there is no unity of political will on the part of those intending to prosecute the war.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, said that it was incumbent on the West to do something. That shows the terrible failure of planning, because the war ought not to be West versus Middle East any more than it ought to be Christian versus Muslim, Europe against sub-Asia, or whatever. It ought to be a war between law and justice, as evinced by the operation of the Security Council of the United Nations, against lawbreakers. The case for that has not yet been built.

More serious still is what happens at the end of the war. The Gulf War was conducted under a mandate that expired as the last Iraqi crossed the Kuwait-Iraq border. That did not pose a problem at the time, because there was only the question of the Kuwaiti Government being reinstalled. However, it has left us a huge problem for now, because it left the Iraqi machine more or less intact. The present mandate expires when the troops reach Baghdad and are in the position to enforce disarmament—but who rules then?

Will the spoils simply go to the conqueror? Will there be repetition of British gunboat diplomacy, or the great game in Afghanistan? I do not like to mention Afghanistan, because we claimed that we were going to start nation-building there. As my noble and learned friend Lord Howe said, we have not succeeded very well in that. However, we have not even started to plan nation-building in Iraq. Therefore, if time is needed, it is not needed to put the finishing touches to Resolution 1441 or for a new resolution that makes it absolutely clear that we are able to go in; it is needed for a resolution that states the terms under which we shall come out and what we shall leave behind us.

Will it be spoils for the victor, or justice for the poor and the oppressed? We keep praying them in aid of our liberating efforts in Iraq, but have done nothing to plan for them. It is a keynote of the Christian religion—of the teaching of our Lord—that we should tend first to the poor and the weak. I think that that is the true Islamic message as well. There could be international co-operation in this respect to build a settled Middle East for the future, provided that we settle the problem in Palestine and Israel as well. I have had eight minutes, so I shall say only that the solution to that is essential to a final settlement in Iraq. Until we know what we shall finish up doing, we should not start doing it.

9.49 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I want to touch on an issue that the national and international debate has been remarkably silent on, which is the environmental consequence of war. I will approach it from two angles: first, that we should be aware of the environmental dimension; and, secondly, that if we need to prepare military plans—being prepared they certainly are—we should do so with environmental consequences in mind.

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The Geneva Convention was amended in 1977 when it became apparent that it was not able to cope with environmental issues. Perhaps noble Lords would be happy to be reminded of how it was amended. Article 55 states:

    "Care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment against widespread, long-term and severe damage. This protection includes a prohibition of the use of methods or means of warfare which are intended or may be expected to cause such damage to the natural environment and thereby to prejudice the health or survival of the population".

It also states:

    "Attacks against the natural environment by way of reprisals are prohibited".

I am sure that the Government intend that we shall abide in any military action by that section of the Geneva Convention, as much as we intend to abide by all the others. Those who do not abide by it have been illustrated this evening. We were reminded of Saddam Hussein's actions, which the world saw graphically illustrated in pictures from the Gulf War of burning oil wells, which had been set alight by Saddam Hussein. They were clearly visible even from space and spilled some 10 million gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf, resulting in irrevocable ecological damage and thousands of oiled birds in the sea.

Perhaps not so visible, but also passionately referred to by my noble friend Lady Nicholson, was the act of ecological vandalism and, in her opinion, genocide in the draining of the marshes.

In the international context of agreements, there was in 1992 the Rio declaration on the environment and development, of which Britain is a signatory. It stated in Principle 24:

    "Warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development. States shall therefore respect international law providing protection for the environment in times of armed conflict and co-operate in its further development, as necessary".

That was designed explicitly to protect the environment during war conflicts, and was adopted at the 47th session of the United Nations. It is a sad fact that there is a new term in the vocabulary of war—ecocide. It means the deliberate and conscious causation of environmental damage to achieve war aims. Recent history is full of examples of both ecocide and damage caused by war that has had catastrophic unplanned environmental consequences. An example of the first ecocide would be defoliant use in Vietnam, and the second example would be the bombing in Yugoslavia, which resulted in the Danube basin pollution.

Awareness of the scale of damage that war was causing to the environment prompted the United Nations to set up the first study that it ever undertook to assess the consequences of such environmental damage and the suffering that it caused.

Traditionally, humanitarian aid has meant feeding and shelter, but it became obvious from the UN study that the eradication of severe contamination of environmental hotspots was crucial because drinking water was at risk. Several noble Lords this evening

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have mentioned the issue of drinking water. If it is polluted by military action, the problem will be far greater.

The United Nations Environment Programme and its sister agency, UN Habitat, collected and analysed the consequences for the environment and human settlements of military actions. Since then they have worked in Albania, Macedonia and Guinea to establish the environmental impact of refugees. They have also worked most recently in Afghanistan to pinpoint areas of environmental degradation. Have the UK Government asked them about the lessons they have learned from that work? If war is undertaken, many of the issues that have been explored would be relevant in planning for the aftermath.

Among the issues that must be considered are pollution and other collateral damage to the environment, such as oil spills and chemical leaks. The effects of depleted uranium contamination on populations that are in the area at the time, or who may return to the land afterwards, is an issue that is hotly debated, but it can affect populations of the area for generations to come. It is not just a matter of the time when the war takes place or for a few years afterwards. There is evidence that depleted uranium use may affect generations to come.

I also refer to the ruin of farmland by landmines and unexploded bombs, which means that it becomes too dangerous to use, and to land that becomes disused because of the displacement of people, which makes feeding people more difficult. When I visited Croatia in 1999 I saw for myself the vast fertile valleys of abandoned farmland that stretched from the Vlebit mountains far inland across the Krayina. I believe that Britain has a duty to prepare military plans with environmental consequences in mind.

It is not deemed acceptable directly to target civilian communities. Targeting industrial facilities may produce dangerous pollution and, as a result, nearby cities may suffer from, for example, asbestos pollution. I ask the Minister whether an environmental impact assessment has been prepared. Who has the responsibility for its recommendations being translated into a clean-up plan?

Some may say that the environmental consequences are a small price to pay for regime change. I do not believe that to be the case. The environmental price is paid most dearly by the people and wildlife living in the conflict region at the time of the conflict. It is a price that is paid for years and, in some cases, for generations thereafter. We have a duty to them.

9.56 p.m.

Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, I do not believe that the war against Iraq, when it comes—as I fear it will—will have much to do with weapons of mass destruction. We already have the instruments in place to keep Saddam Hussein and his weapons bottled up in Baghdad indefinitely. Further measures of disarmament can be secured without war.

On paper, the Government agree with that. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have repeatedly said that they seek to disarm Saddam, not to overthrow

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him, and that can be achieved without war if he co-operates. The Government's policy is disarmament, not regime change.

But no one believes that that is President Bush's policy. The US Administration are committed to regime change, come what may. That, barring coup, assassination or the voluntary retirement of Saddam, means war. The Prime Minister, who courageously set out to divert the American drive towards war into the endless complexity of UN procedure, finds himself a passenger in a run-away car without any further influence on the driver.

True enough, a formula has been discovered to paper over the cracks. It might even be enough to avoid a Security Council veto. Saddam has not fully complied with Security Council Resolutions 687 and 1441. He is in material breach of his obligations and must now face the consequences.

Those, I submit, are legal fictions that are designed to cover up the drive to war. Saddam's military capacity has been much reduced since 1991. I do not believe that anyone disputes that. The Government have admitted as much. Their own dossier, Weapons of Mass Destruction, which was published last September and which was certainly not intended to maximise Saddam's contributions to world peace, pointed out that between 1991 and 1998, his nuclear weapons programme was destroyed and, with it, large parts of his chemical, biological and ballistic missile programmes. The new generation of inspectors has not found that those programmes have been reconstituted.

One might think that that was a record of success, not failure and of substantial compliance, not substantial breach. However, the Government cannot acknowledge that because it underscores the case for keeping up the pressure and, in fact, possibly producing more pressure for Saddam to deliver. It does not support the case for going to war.

I listened carefully to the Prime Minister's speech yesterday. He said that 50 per cent compliance was not good enough; it had to be 100 per cent. Of course ideally we would like 100 per cent, but where in the world do a government have a 100 per cent success rate in meeting their targets? I daresay this Government would be pleased with 50 per cent.

The only reasonable test of compliance is whether Saddam retains or could quickly develop a capacity in present circumstances to wage aggressive war. I stress "in present circumstances", because the choice has never been between destroying Saddam and leaving him free to do what he wants. There is the middle course represented by the regime of sanctions and coercive inspections. The Prime Minister has said that Saddam has been given 12 years to comply and has not done so. But the fact is that he has been bottled up in Baghdad for 12 years.

I regard this as a killer argument. Saddam has not been good, but he has been kept quiet. His expansionist ambitions have been completely frustrated. Why do we believe that a system that has achieved these results over

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12 years cannot keep him trussed up for another 12 years, or as long as he lives? He is 65, so maybe it will take 12 years.

One could argue that 9/11 has changed everything; now we face a terrorist threat and Saddam might pass on his small supplies of chemicals and bacteria to terrorist groups. But we need to consider carefully what incentive he might have to do so. I do not think that his incentive is strong; it is extremely weak. If small amounts of these substances can do as much damage as is claimed—and I am very sceptical—destroying government laboratories will not do much good. Small-scale private enterprise operating on well-tried principles, located almost anywhere in the world, could produce as much anthrax or nerve gas as demanded by any terrorist group.

If the looming war is not about Iraq's so-called weapons of mass destruction, what is it that drives American policy? That is fundamental to the whole question. I believe it is a desire to reshape the geopolitics of the Middle East, and beyond that, of other areas of the world, backed by the conviction that the United States alone has the power to do so.

This line of argument can be traced through the thinking of a number of neo-conservative hawks associated with the Project for the New American Century, most of whom—I am talking especially of Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith, Richard Armitage, William Bennett, John Bolton and Richard Perle—occupy key places in the Bush Administration or his entourage. These people were advocating the overthrow of Saddam Hussein long before the election of George W Bush and before 9/11. Those events gave them the opportunity to carry out their plans.

But Saddam's overthrow was simply to be a first step in a larger programme which amounts to the establishment of long-term American rule in the Middle East, with Israel as its junior partner. I am using my own language, but I know enough history and enough about international relations to be confident of decoding language that has to be kept coded if it is not to sound too alarming.

Traces of this grand design can be found in President Bush's "axis of evil" speech and the new strategic doctrine of premption. But the underlying philosophy is most cogently expressed in Robert Kagan's remarkable book Paradise and Power. In essence, the argument is that a liberal order rests on the foundation of armed might; that the United States is the only power possessed of the will and force to ensure such an order; and that therefore it must be prepared to use its "unipolar moment" to secure the world order it wants. That is coupled with the view that the Europeans are decadent and therefore hopeless as partners in such a project. As Kagan puts it,

    "the Americans are from Mars and the Europeans are from Venus";

or, as the title of his book suggests, the paradise in which the Europeans live depends on America's willingness to use force to deter or defeat those who lack the requisite degree of moral maturity. That is the

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choice between peace and war that we face. It is not about how many vials of poison Saddam Hussein has or whether he is in technical breach of UN resolutions.

I describe this neo-conservative project not to belittle it. In some moods, I am quite attracted by it. I admire its daring, and its aims are not ignoble. But, on balance, I find it chilling, mainly because I do not believe that it can be made to work, at least in a democracy. A democracy that embarks on a career of conquest will soon cease to be a democracy. That is the lesson that we have learnt. That is why, in the end, we in old Europe abandoned the old imperialism. And that is why we should pause long and think hard before sanctioning a new imperialism.

10.6 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I have been away from your Lordships' House for several weeks but I have endeavoured to keep up to date with what has been happening. I am horrified that we appear to be moving inexorably towards war, despite assurances from members of the Government that war is not inevitable. I do not believe that the present Iraqi regime represents a threat to anyone—not even to the countries closest to it.

Iraq suffered a crushing defeat in the first Gulf War. Since then, there have been punitive sanctions; inspections which were carried out extensively until 1998 have now been resumed; and there have been regular bombing raids by ourselves and the United States. As a result, a country which once had one of the highest living standards in the Arab world is now at a third-world level.

The idea that this battered country offers any threat to ourselves or the United States is, in my view, simply absurd. Indeed, the Americans seem to recognise that themselves—hence the rather desperate attempt to link the regime with Al'Qaeda. There is of course no evidence for that, as our own Government have said on more than one occasion. The notion of a pre-emptive strike against a country that does not threaten us or anyone else, whatever the past history may be, is quite unacceptable. It is a cover for aggression and a breach of the United Nations charter.

The Government have been applauded for having, it is said, persuaded the United States to go the UN route. But it is clear that the United States Government are interested in that route only if the UN agrees with the US view and gives authority for military action. The same applies to the inspectors—there is so much anxiety about identifying a "smoking gun". There was palpable disappointment when, in their last report, the inspectors did not come up with this. Indeed, they stated categorically that there was no evidence of a nuclear programme. What? No weapons of mass destruction? They must be hidden somewhere. So there must be biological or chemical weapons.

The Iraqis claim that what they once had was destroyed, and they have offered the names of about 80 people who can attest to that. A previous inspector has said that the material that the Iraqis once had

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would now be so degraded as to be no longer useable, even if it exists. But, in any event, why not let the inspectors do their job and, if we have contrary information based on intelligence, why do we not supply it to the inspectors and let them check it out? But no, President Bush's patience is running out, so decisions have to be made.

Obviously the United States Administration would prefer a UN cloak of respectability. That is necessary to silence criticism at home, let alone in this country and throughout Europe. But it is clear that the US will go to war, with us tagging along behind, whether or not UN authorisation is obtained. The war programme is based on hostilities commencing around the middle of March. Later, the climatic conditions may not be so favourable.

I do not believe that a moral case can be made for this war. It will involve the deaths and injuries of many civilians. It is likely to commence with a massive aerial attack, and that is always destructive of civilian lives and civilian infrastructure. Water supplies are disrupted and poisoned, occasioning more deaths. Hospitals are unable to work because of the destruction of power supplies. Food supplies are disrupted—in particular the Oil for Food scheme, which enables some poorer people at least to exist, is likely to be destroyed. The people not killed in the bombing will starve.

Millions will be made homeless, and jobless, as the factories, homes and workplaces are destroyed. Modern warfare requires that civilian morale is totally and brutally crushed. It is a truly terrifying prospect for a civilian population.

We are told that there is a moral case for war, and that Saddam Hussein is so awful a ruler that he is killing his own people through his interpretation of the sanctions imposed by ourselves and others. Of course, Saddam Hussein's worst crimes were committed when he was an ally of ourselves and the United States—so nothing much was said about Halabja at the time.

I find the argument about sanctions astonishing. They are administered by a UN sanctions committee, as regards which we, and the US, have a substantial input. Radiotherapy equipment, chemotherapy drugs and analgesics are consistently blocked by the United States and ourselves, on the grounds that they could be converted into chemical and other weapons. Therefore Iraqi children are denied pain-killing medicines through our actions, rather than those of the Iraqi rulers.

Meanwhile, we and the US are constantly bombing Iraq on the pretext of protecting the no-fly zones. These are clearly attempts to degrade Iraqi installations in advance of war. There is no UN authority for these bombing raids. This was recently made clear by a UN spokesperson. Basra has been bombed repeatedly—as has northern Iraq—and there have been civilian casualties. They are acts of war, and as such totally breach the UN charter.

However, the powerful can get away with it, and that is also the problem with the United Nations route. Many people have said that they would reluctantly support military action if there were UN authorisation. However, it is clear that a lot of arm-twisting is going on

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behind the scenes to try to gain support for the US position. Countries facing economic problems have been offered loans or aid—or else there are threats that aid would be withdrawn. In domestic politics the purchase of votes is regarded as unacceptable. Why is it countenanced in international affairs, when issues of life and death are involved?

The world population has a right to be sure that the decisions taken on its behalf are on the merits of the issues themselves—rather than as a result of backstage bullying and bribery. It now seems that France, Germany and Russia have produced a plan offering an alternative to war. This involves more inspectors, more monitoring and a longer timescale and so forth. It is surely worthy of consideration, particularly in view of the widespread concern that exists in this country and throughout Europe. The Motion drafted by ourselves and the United States is intended as a trigger for war, despite its anodyne wording.

The Government have not convinced the British public that there is a case for war. Myself and others question whether it is about disarmament of Saddam Hussein at all. I was very interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky. I believe that there is an agenda to which the Republican advisers around President Bush subscribe, and which they made known before he was elected. They believe that if the United States dominates Iraq, it will be able to reshape the Middle East. They believe they would be stabilising one of the world's most important oil producing regions. They think that they would eventually produce a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on terms which are likely to be much more welcome to Ariel Sharon than to the Palestinians.

Most people would not want to go to war for such a strategy—so we have the farce of the dossiers about a threat, in which many people simply do not believe. Those of us who oppose war are often derided as appeasers—or else are told that we are anti-American. I know that there are many Americans who share our feelings against war. It takes some time for them to get organised and to make their views known. But they will do so and they are already being joined by a number of prominent United States citizens.

As to the charge of appeasement, that makes me very angry. I am old enough to remember the Second World War. I know what it is like to huddle in an air-raid shelter and hear the scream of the bombs as they come down—and to see people, or what remains of them, dug out of the wreckage of their homes. The generation who challenged Hitler's regime—and Saddam Hussein is no Hitler—knew very well what had to be faced. Today's armchair worriers face no such threat. They will watch the war on television while others pay the price.

In my experience, those who have first-hand knowledge of war are often those most opposed to it and critical of those who want to start another one. That was certainly true of my late husband, a former RAF pilot with a string of medals for bravery earned during the Second World War. I remember how we watched the first Gulf War on television and saw the

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bombing of Baghdad. I remember how he said to me, "Smart bombs, smart bombs. Don't you believe it. We are watching people being killed down there". And of course so we were.

My Lords, we must not let it happen again.

10.16 p.m.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Morgan, made comparisons in a derogatory manner. He compared the attitude I had at the age of 19 towards Neville Chamberlain in 1938 with the attitude applying today to Saddam Hussein. Of course there is no comparison between someone in charge of an enormous, able, well-paid nation such as Germany and this man in a small country which is slipping increasingly backward.

One cannot ignore history. People say, "I know he's a bad man, but—", but they must take account of that. Firmness might well have led Saddam to accept the Saudi offer of shelter. I am afraid that the marches which took place world-wide and the attitude of a number of politicians of vision have strengthened his resolve to hang on. One can understand that.

I believe that the Government and the Prime Minister—particularly the Prime Minister—have done extremely well in giving us a chance of avoiding war. That depends on Saddam Hussein believing that we might well go to war unless he concurs.

Those are my views and they are not the same as those held by most members of my party. I shall say no more—merely that my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf expressed that point of view better than I can. I do not want a war, but firm opposition to this evil man, situated in a very dangerous position, will do more to avert a war than anything else.

10.18 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I support noble Lords who today have opposed what is clearly the inexorable drive to war. I do so not because I am a pacifist; I am not. Indeed, I supported the campaign to regain the Falklands when at least one member of the present Government marched in favour of bringing troops home and ceding sovereignty to a fascist dictator. It would be interesting to know how many members of the Government were against our retaking the Falklands—perhaps we ought to send them a questionnaire to discover exactly what their attitude was.

I also supported the Gulf War in 1991 to eject Iraq from Kuwait, because I do not believe in dictators, or anyone else, invading other people's countries and removing their sovereignty. Again, it would be interesting to know how many members of the present administration were opposed to that war and to taking back Kuwait from Saddam Hussein.

I was also in favour of pursuing Saddam, taking over Baghdad and removing the regime at that time. We failed to do so. I urged that we should. If we had, we would not be having this debate. So we missed the opportunity to get rid of that awful man about whom everyone is talking. We did not do it then and there is

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no reason why we should do it now, because, as many other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, have said, he is contained and cannot get out of his box.

The Prime Minister's Statement yesterday referred to 4 million refugees. But of course, many of those refugees are Shia Muslims, who were encouraged by the first Bush Administration to rise up against the Iraqi regime. When they did so, they were abandoned by Mr Bush I. Many of them were killed and many of them went into exile. That is one reason why we have so many refugees.

As many noble Lords have said, the West was also complicit in the use of chemical weapons against Iran and the Kurds. Indeed, they supplied them and were aware that they were being used, but did nothing. That suited them at the time because the policy was to contain Iran. So the policy then pursued by Saddam was agreed by the West.

What has concerned me during the past four or five months has been the implausible and chameleon-like case for immediate war against Iraq. First, the case was the possession of weapons of mass destruction. Then it was that Iraq posed a military threat to the United States and Europe, which of course it does not. It is absurd to suggest that Saddam does; he has neither the weapons nor the means to deliver them. That was always absurd. Then it was because he had links with Osama bin Laden, which the CIA itself denied. Then there was regime change, followed, of course, by the moral duty to free the people of Iraq from Saddam's tyranny. But yesterday, the Prime Minister's Statement returned to ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam could remain in power—presumably to continue to tyrannise his own people.

It is that incoherent message that has confused so many people and led them to suspect the real motives of the United States and, to some degree, of the United Kingdom. Speculation about the real agenda ranges from grabbing Iraq's oil to taking over the whole of the Middle East for their own purposes.

What I have found reprehensible about the stance taken by the United States and the United Kingdom is that their policy has been underpinned not only by a threat of massive military action against Iraq—a country of 20 million poor people, not Hitler's Germany—but by a threat to the future of the United Nations. The threat is that if the United Nations does not bow to their wishes, it will be undermined. If it does not come to heel, the United States will undermine its position in the world. That is not only unacceptable but dangerous for world peace and order.

What has not yet been properly tried is real diplomacy. We used to have diplomacy before war, but it has not been tried. Mr Blair has been all over the world to solicit support for belligerence. Why has not he or any other British Minister visited Iraq to attempt to negotiate? The same goes for the United States. The United Nations arms inspectors are just that; they are not negotiators and should not be seen as such.

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War should always be the last resort for democracies. As Churchill said so well:

    "To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war".

Diplomacy should not consist simply of threats. It should offer carrots as well as sticks, in return for co-operation and reformation, rather than humiliating a country and its leaders. Why cannot we offer Iraq a deal that would gradually end sanctions and no-fly zones in return for full co-operation on weapons of mass destruction? There has already been movement on that and moves to end military rule and establish a democratic system.

No doubt I shall be accused of being naive, but, before we embark on military action that is likely to kill thousands of innocent civilians and is bound to destabilise the Middle East further and put the United Kingdom and its citizens at heightened risk of terrorist attack, we should seriously try the diplomatic route. True, that will take months of patient negotiation, but is not that what democracy is about and what makes democracy superior to dictatorship and tyranny?

10.28 p.m.

Lord Desai: My Lords, I apologise, first of all, to my noble friend for not being present at the start of the debate. My flight was delayed.

Like many people, I am aware that our policy on Iraq is made up of several strands. People often find that going into an operation for more than one reason is somehow dishonest. Perhaps there should be only one story. There are concerns about weapons of mass destruction; there are possible links with terrorism, not just Al'Qaeda but other terrorist organisations; and there is a problem with human rights.

I have supported the Government in this matter for a long time on the grounds of the human rights abuses by Saddam Hussein's regime. I said that in the previous debate on Iraq, and I say it again. I was impressed by the speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne. She said that it was not a matter of Saddam Hussein being a threat to us. Hitler was not a threat to us; he did not threaten the United Kingdom. Indeed, a famous historian at the University of East Anglia, Professor John Charmley, argues persuasively that it was wrong of Churchill to persist with the war with Germany and that it would have been in our interest to settle, so that we could save the British Empire. If we looked after only our own interests we would not fight any tyranny which was not attacking us. That is quite right. Why should we? What is it to us? "A distant country about which we know little", as a famous British Prime Minister said.

But we have to fight Iraq and Saddam Hussein because while he is contained and trussed up, as the noble Lord, Lord Skidelski said, he is killing his own people. If he is allowed to survive because we do not like wars, we shall be abandoning the people of Iraq to die silently. They will not be seen dying on television or dramatically, but they will still be dying, day after day, as they have been ever since Saddam came to power.

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The fact that we may have supported Saddam in the past does not mean that we should go on supporting him in the future. The fact that we may have supplied him with weapons in the past does not mean that we should sell him more weapons, as some German and French companies have been doing, or that we should allow him to buy them somewhere else, or that we should allow him to develop them on his own. The fact that there are other dictators and evil people in the world does not mean that we should not go after Saddam Hussein.

Although the United States may have an ambitious plan which was concocted long ago—I do not doubt that there is such a plan in the minds of some people—at least in this case we arrived at a unanimous decision of the Security Council. As my noble friend Lady Turner said—I am glad to see her back in her place—that resolution received unanimous support without any bribes. As far as I am aware, the 15 countries that voted for Resolution 1441 were not bribed.

The history of the resolution is listed in the paper we are discussing. Command Paper 5769 lays out clearly the entire history. It shows how, under Resolution 687, way back in 1991, Saddam Hussein was supposed to comply within 15 days—and still people say, "Why can't we give him more time?" The first part of the history is that he was given seven years, between 1991 and 1998, instead of 15 days. And he threw out the inspectors in 1998; and we then got another resolution; and now it has taken six months; and some people may want another 11 years to go by.

But who is going to guarantee that in the meantime the people of Iraq will not be tortured, raped, murdered, put in prison and so on? Who will guarantee that? My colleague, Professor Mary Kaldor, has said that she would like to have human rights inspectors in Iraq. Of course that would be nice, but people are not saying that. Because they do not want to see blood on their televisions they are saying, "We will let Saddam go on killing his own people". That is not a very moral position to take.

People now ask why we did not go to Baghdad in 1991. My noble friend Lord Judd asked that. I was shocked when he did so because United Nations Resolutions 660, 678 and 687 laid down very clearly the precise limits under which that intervention was practised. It would not have been legal or moral to go to Baghdad. That was clearly discussed at the time. I remember that the then President of the United States, who had experience of the United Nations because he was once America's ambassador there, said that there was no mandate to go to Baghdad, and therefore General Schwarzkopf was called back.

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