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Lord Desai: My Lords, it is a great pleasure and privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill. He has said one of the things that I wanted to say about the success of democracy in India. He also mentioned the welcome readmission of Pakistan into the Commonwealth.
In such a debate and with so little time, one has two choices. Either one can concentrate on one aspect or one can spread oneself thinly. I shall start with a theoretical point: one can be idealistic in such a debate, as my noble friend Lord Parekh was, or one can be a realist, as my noble friend Lord Robertson of Port Ellen was in his excellent maiden speech. I intend to be realistic because I am pessimistic about the world being a good place in which to live either now or in the near future.
I have already spoken on the Middle East, and I have said that I do not think that the Middle East problem is soluble. Until the two countries themselves decide that enough is enough and come to terms, no outside power will help. Indeed, every outside power hinders moves to a settlement in the Middle East. I point to the example of India and Pakistan. The agreement of that dispute, which is, perhaps, not as virulent as that in the Middle East, will be brought about by the two countries themselves. India and Pakistan always saidIndia definitely saidthat they did not want to internationalise the dispute over Kashmir. They saw it as a dispute between India and Pakistan that would be solved as such. Although we can make the right noises, it is good that the great powers have kept out of advising and pressurising the two countries too much. That is why I believe that the agreement between India and Pakistan will, when it comes, be more deeply embedded than would an agreement arrived at through imposition by some sort of international troika or whatever.
I supported the war in Iraq, and I need not apologise for doing so. However, as many noble Lords have done, I would dissociate us from the appalling things that have happened in Abu Ghraib. It is important to say that what has happened to prisoners in Abu Ghraib or in Guantanamo is not a part of British policy in the Middle East or anywhere else. We do not endorse such things, and we do not do such things. What is more, it is clear that, in AmericaI have just been therethere is not as much shock about it as one might have expected. Someone said to me, "This happens in our prisons all the time. What are people surprised about?". It does not happen in our prisons, and I hope that nobody will bring us photographs showing that such cruelty happens in our prisons. If it happens in American prisons, we must distance ourselves.
We are America's friends. We are its friends in the Iraq operation, and we believe that it was a good thing to eliminate Saddam Hussein, as my noble friend Lord Robertson of Port Ellen said. However, we do not believe that it is necessary, subsequent to a human rights-based intervention, to violate human rights in Iraq. We must be careful to create that distance. When America refused to be part of the International Criminal Court,
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people wondered why. Now, it is absolutely clear why Americans will not be part of the International Criminal Court. I do not blame them. If their culture domestically is as much in violation of human rights as it happens to bethis is not news; there have been human rights studies done about thatit is quite clear that they cannot be part of the International Criminal Court.
Given how powerful America is and how capable it is of doing goodI believe that it is capable of doing a lot of goodwe have to draw a line somewhere in our friendship. I do not criticise the Prime Minister for being a very enthusiastic partner of America, but we have to draw the line somewhere, as my noble friend Lord Brennan said. We have to fall out sometimes, and this is a time to fall out.
Many noble Lords have said that countries cannot be made democratic "like that" and that they become democratic on their own. That is a very strange doctrine in the light of history. Take, for example, Japan, Germany or Austria. Japan's reconstruction after the Second World War as a democracy is an example where it could easily have been said, "Oriental cultures cannot absorb democracy": or who would have expected that India would be a democracy? That is partly because of what happened in the independence movement and the influence of Gandhi, but also partly because the local roots of democracy were sown in India in a series of reforms from the beginning of the 20th century.
Lord Bramall: My Lords, in this wide-ranging debate, it would indeed have been nice to put the past completely behind us and concentrate on that most difficult of all occupations, thinking deeply about the future. But we cannot ignore what sadly is still happening in Iraq. Not only must our exit strategy for the moment be our highest priority; unless we come to terms about what happened there, why it happened and draw sound conclusions, it is unlikely that we will tackle successfully the many problems, including terrorism, still emanating from that disturbed part of the world.
In Iraq, having been given many different reasons and justifications for what we did and why we are there, which have since proved erroneous or counterproductive, we are being repeatedly told that the endeavour on which we are now embarked is to bring democracy to Iraq. One can but wonder what legalor, now, even moralmandate the coalition really has to do that, rather than to leave it to the Iraqis.
Entering a country in support of a past UN resolution to seek out and destroy any weapons of mass destruction might have been one thing, but to remain in occupation in order to impose an alien political system and culturewhen, if the Iraqis are united over anything, it is a rejection of the current occupationis quite another.
Of course, having brought Iraq to a state of manifest disorder, whatever our motives, it is not unreasonable to feel that the coalition ought to see the occupation through to a more benign conclusion. Certainly,
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handing over political power early would restore some legitimacy in the eyes of the rest of the world. It is to be hoped that that would make it much easier to involve the United Nations in some way.
The trouble is that that also raises a dilemma. If the security situation is by then no better, it is doubtful whether such a government would survive; while, if the coalition forces remain to try to improve things, even under a UN label, they will almost certainly exacerbate the situation and make a coherent exit strategy more difficult.
While coalition forces remain, they must work very closely with and at the behest of the Iraqi Government, who should indeed have the overall responsibility for security. Once we have decided to withdraw totallyin my opinion, in view of all that has been happening, that should be sooner rather than laterwe would at least have the opportunity to start tackling the future problems in the Middle East in a different and, I submit, more sensible way. That would be more relevant to the terrorist threat and more sensitive to the views of the people and governments in the area.
There may be some egg on facessome of it deservedand some destabilisation for the Iraqis themselves to sort out, which would perhaps concentrate on local aspirations and use a more federal administration for law and order. But I would prefer to heed the Suez precedent of quick withdrawal and soonest mended rather than reinforce with extra troops something which may not even be achievable. When General Braddock lay mortally wounded, ambushed in the forests of North America in the 1750s, he engagingly said, "Next time we will do it better".
We really should know by now that, unlike naked aggression, terrorism cannot be defeated by massive military means, but by concentrating more on the twin pillars of competent protection and positive diplomacy. By protection, I mean building up our home and overseas intelligence, which would greatly reduce the risk to us and to others, and then, based on that intelligence, rooting out those planning and perpetrating criminal acts. In keeping up our guard, sensibly improving our physical protection and, of course, maintaining our morale, we could always be confident that, having done what we can to prevent those things happening, our many-sided society can handle and take in its stride, within the rule of law, whatever abominations may be thrown at us, as we have done in the past, and not be provoked into high profile but unproductive responses.
The diplomatic pillar means listening, building commercial and cultural bridges, infusing rather than imposing values and ideas, helping friends help themselves and using only highly selective military force in co-operation with host nations or in the context of a UN mandate. If there are genuine key issues on which the mainspring motivation of terrorism thrives, diplomacy should help to address these as a matter of urgency.
If there really is such a thing as a war against terrorism, we will certainly win it. We will do so by subtlety, by diplomacy and by using our brains and selective use of force, but certainly not by brute force.
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