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Lord Brennan: My Lords, the situation in Iraq is of grave concern, in the short term and, even more so, the long term. The noble Lord, Lord Wright, has given us the opportunity today to carry out careful scrutiny of this problem and to speak about it with candour.
The conduct of foreign affairs by this nation is based on two foundations. The first is to recognise and apply our national qualities: a sense of fairness and justice, a profound obligation to our armed services, and a commitment to help countries that need it to improve and, if necessary, re-establish themselves as a country. We value those qualities and are valued for them. The
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second foundation is the pursuit of our national interest, but in a way that serves our national reputation.
Applying that analysis to the aftermath of the war in Iraq, three matters arise. The first is fairness and justice. The events at Abu Ghraib prison and the shocking images that we have seen should be the subject of the following by this country: first, to condemn it; secondly, to do so forcefully; thirdly, to call, from either the United States or this country, if criminal investigation shows it to be appropriate, for prosecution with efficiency and expedition. Why? All to show that our sense of fairness and justice is applicable to war. Can we rightly say that we have spoken out forcefully on this question so far?
The second matter is safeguarding our soldiers. I have no military knowledge, but as a parliamentarian I am entitled to ask what is the plan, and where do we go next? As a parliamentarian I would strongly question any further expansion of troop numbers in Iraq or any significant alteration of our military role there unless the following conditions were satisfied. First, that such proposals had been fully discussed with, and agreed to by, as necessary, the general staff of our Armed Forces. Secondly, if there is to be such action, there should be an adequate supply of manpower and equipment. Thirdly, what is to be done must be indispensable, militarily as well as politically, and not capable of being done by anyone else. Lastly, there must be a properly thought out set of exit strategies. Our Armed Forces deserve nothing less. Have we achieved this sense of obligation in present circumstances?
The third matter is promoting our national interest and protecting our national reputation. Yesterday, Richard Perle, no less, frankly conceded that an army of liberation had become an army of occupation. That is the reality, which even he has accepted. The way forward, in our national interest and for our national reputation, is to help Iraq to rebuild itself governmentally, institutionally, and economically, all within a system based on the rule of law. That would be consistent with the quality that I previously described by which we seek to help other countries.
Each of these threefairness, protecting our soldiers, and standing up for our national reputationare interdependent. Damage to one can produce damage to all. I cannot see any feature of the needs of the coalition between this country and the United States that would prevent this country following these three objectives plainly and publicly. Indeed, if there were any restraint on it, that would call into question the nature of the coalition. I do not wish to criticise the United States of America. Her Majesty The Queen, on the visit of President Bush last November, said that we are strong allies and we usually agree; sometimes we disagree, and once in a while we fall out. That is the result of mature friendship.
We should speak frankly, certainly in this House, when we need to. History will judge what is going on in Iraq by what Britain did to stand up for the values that I have described. I am sure that the Prime Minister and
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my noble friend the Minister are determined to achieve those values and will give us reassurance. That is what the nation expects.
Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, in his excellent speech opening our debate today asked what are, or should be, our priorities. In my view, they should be to continue to remain alert against, and to deal with, the underlying causes of terrorism, and that means to deal with the Middle East situation, which is at the heart of terrorism. In the long term, the removal of Saddam will be seen to have helped against terrorism. Here and now, however, we are naturally much more concerned with what has been going wrong in Iraq and Afghanistan. I do not for a moment discount what has been achieved, sometimes against seemingly insuperable odds. There is no doubt that valuable progress has been made and much good has been done, but so much more would have been possible had the preparation been better and attitudes different.
In Afghanistan, the warlords are again in the ascendant. They are benefiting from billions of dollars from poppies and from smugglingand with that money comes power. With power comes ruthlessness and brutality; and it is the poorer people who suffer and for whom the hope of a more peaceful existence is once again destroyed. I agree with the point made by my noble friend Lord Biffen about appearing to be advocates of Western-style democracy. We should be wary of trying to foist our own pattern or system of government on those countries. I know that idea is fully accepted by the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw who, in his admirable speech at the Foreign Policy Centre in March spoke of promoting,
The precise system of government, and the ways in which people participate in it, should be for the people to decide. That must be the case for both Afghanistan and Iraq, but for that to happen the conditions must first make it possible. That means that we must understand their history and be sensitive to their traditions and customs.
Caution rather than arrogance should be the guide, yet America seems to be following too closely the example of Israel. In fact, America is much too closely identified with Israel for its own good. Excessive, almost panicky use of force is no way to win hearts and minds or inspire confidence among the people who you claim to help. The noble Lord, Lord Brennan, referred to the repulsive obscenitymy words, not hisof Abu Ghraib. That has savagely and sadly changed the landscape. It has been devastating for the coalition; it has been a tragedy for Iraq; it has been massively frustrating for British forces; and it must have caused the Prime Minister to wring his hands in despair.
What, in these circumstances, should be the objectives of British policy? It must be, as the noble Lord, Lord Wright, indicated, first and foremost to restore calm and bring back the powers of diplomacy; to take account of the aspirations of the people of the region, who want food, water, housing,
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education, security, and the rule of law. That applies equally in Iran. I was interested in the speech given by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. It is true that today in Iran there operates the tyranny of fundamentalism, which is stifling potential, especially that of the younger generation of men and women. They need to hear our voice; they need to hear more than Al-Jazeera; more even than CNN. They need to hear the voice of the BBC World Service, which does so much good. I hope that when the noble Baroness replies, she will indicate that the Government are determined to expand and develop that medium of communication.
Of course we should stand firm in Iraq and see the process through, but who will decide? There are confused signals coming from America, from the British Government and from inside Iraq. If we are not to walk away now, who will decide when we should do so? On the wider front, clearly we must keep our forces strong, with the capacity for a quick and flexible response wherever a threat arises. That means remaining an active member of NATO, and it means avoiding being locked in to a bureaucratic European system. We should remain strong and steadfast, but not an uncritical friend of America, so that our role can continue to be a civilising influence in the world, where tolerance, individual freedom, and the rule of law can prevail.
Lord Weatherill: My Lords, despite the limit on speeches today, I will spend a few precious seconds in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, on his admirable maiden speech, and also the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, on initiating this debate on a Cross-Bench day. I have him to thank for sending me to numerous countries during the time of my Speakership, and I always remember his injunction to me that if all went well he would be very grateful, while if it all went badly he would utterly repudiate me. Looking back, I realise now that I was merely a visiting card for his ambassadors.
I hope it is not necessary to spend time in reminding your Lordships that, like the noble Lord, Lord Eden of Winton, I spent five formative years of my life in the Indian army. My regiment, the 19th Lancers, had a squadron of Sikhs, a squadron of Hindus and a Muslim squadron. I should like to be the first today to echo the congratulations of the whole House to the Indian people on their continued tradition of democracy and democratic elections. After the trauma of partition in 1947, who would have thought that a nation of 1 billion people, three distinct geographical regions and many different religionsHindu, Sikh, Christian, Muslim and otherscould conduct a general election with such efficiency and success, and achieve this with an electoral system of voting which has caught the attention and interest of the whole world?
At partition in 1947, my regiment became part of the Pakistan army, and I have paid regular visits to it. Last year, I took my wife and she was charmed to be referred to regularly as "Bharbi". For those of your Lordships who do not speak Urdu, that is "brother's wifeyour husband is our brother, so you are our sister-in-law". I join your Lordships in welcoming Pakistan's return to the Commonwealth family. Pakistan's geographic location means that it is a most important country in the present fight against terrorism and for global security and stability. I warmly welcome the Indian Government's promise to continue the peace process with Pakistan. It is important that this is not disrupted, delayed or derailed. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will press both GovernmentsIndia and Pakistanto keep this process on track.
We should also use our influence on our American allies to ensure that Pakistan is supported to the full in Afghanistan and in its efforts to eliminate terrorism in its own tribal areas. Pakistan's role in combating terrorism cannot be over-estimated.
Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, said that it might be appropriate to mention other countries in this debate, other than Iraq and others with perhaps greater importance. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is in London this week, and I hope that some of your Lordships will come to meet him in Portcullis House this Friday and hear his speech. I declare an interest as patron of the All-Party Group on Tibet. I have visited his Holiness in Dharamsala, northern India, and in the process I have come to know him well. In our country, we seek to encourage the settlement of dispute by "parley rather than by the sword". His Holiness has told me that he is tending to lose credibility among the young Tibetan refugees, who feel that his support for this process is getting them nowhere, and that the world will not take notice until they are allowed to go back into Tibet and shoot up the Chinese. If ethical foreign policy means anything, it must mean active support for leaders who seek solutions to difficult problems by way of discussion and by peaceful means.
His Holiness is meeting the Foreign Secretary on Friday. Unhappily, the Prime Minister is not able to see him on this occasion. I hope that one of the results of his visit will be the appointment of a special commissioner on Tibetan issues, as exists in the United States of America and the European Union, to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the problems and greater freedom for Tibetans in their own country. His Holiness seeks not independence but a greater degree of self-government and, above all, the end of the human rights violations to which the Tibetans are subjected in their own country. He deserves our full and active support.
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