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Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, many of my noble friends on these Benches will deal with where we go from here in Iraq, but at this point in the debate I want to ask how was it that we got here. Paragraph 382 of the Butler report reveals that on 12 March 2003, the Chief of the Defence Staff required confirmation that it was lawful for him to issue the order to commit military forces to action. That was not and is not an irrelevant legal quibble.
The use of armed force by one state against the sovereignty of another state is a crime against peace. Personal responsibility was clarified at Nuremberg, where in his opening statement Lord Shawcross said that,
"it is both logical and right that, if the act of waging war is itself an offence against international law, those individuals who shared personal responsibility for bringing such wars should answer personally for the course into which they led their states".
Saddam Hussein is to face trial on just such a charge, laid against him personally, for the invasion of Kuwait. However, it is not a charge that is limited to the head of state, as the execution of the German Chief of Staff, Field Marshall Keitel, demonstrated at Nuremberg. So the question of legality raised by the Chief of the Defence Staff was not only crucial to him on a personal basis, but was also one that exercised the people of this country, many of whom demonstrated their concerns on the streets of our major cities.
There are two sets of circumstances where the use of force against another state is justified. The first is self-defence, and the Attorney-General has never wavered on this point. Having considered all the evidence, he concluded in his initial advice that there was no threat to Britain or to British interests which justified a pre-emptive strike on the basis of self-defence against Iraq.
The second justification is the authority of the United Nations Security Council. On this score, for the invasion to be a legal act, there were two questions for the Attorney-General to answer: first, was the United Kingdom authorised by the Security Council to be its agent to carry out such an attack? On 21 April last, I pursued this matter in debate with the Attorney-General, and I summarise my points by saying that the United States and the United Kingdom sought specific authority in October and November 2002 and again in February and March of 2003, and failed absolutely to get the necessary trigger words authorising military action into any resolution. As the report acknowledges,
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Miss Wilmhurst, the Foreign Office legal adviser, resigned over this issue. Moreover, last week, Mr Cheney denigrated Senator Kerry for saying that he would like to see American troops deployed,
But the second question was equally important to establish the legality of the war. Was there a breach of a Security Council resolution of such importance and materiality that it was justifiable in fact and in law to invade Iraq? Until the publication of the Butler report we had all assumed that all the relevant circumstances would have been placed before the Attorney-General for him to make an independent and impartial assessment of whether there had been a material breach of the resolutions. That was his duty.
But that is not what happened. His advice, as is disclosed in paragraph 379 of the report, had been that the Prime Minister had to be satisfied that it was possible to demonstrate hard evidence of non-compliance and non-co-operation by Saddam with the terms of Resolution 1441. But if there was such hard evidence, it was not put before the Attorney-General for his opinion.
"it is indeed the Prime Minister's unequivocal view that Iraq is in further material breach of its obligations, as in Operative Paragraph 4 of UNSCR 1441, because of false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq to co-operate fully in the implementation of the resolution".
In other words, no independent analysis and opinion was obtained from the Attorney-General himself. The assessment of the evidence, if there was any, that there was a material breach of Resolution 1441, was that of the Prime Minister rather than of the person charged with the duty to make that assessment. The result is that the Attorney-General can say, "Well, it's not my fault. The Prime Minister decided that there was a breach of the terms of the Resolution. It was not me because I never had to consider it". Meanwhile, the Prime Minister shelters behind the Attorney-General by saying, "I have a legal opinion which says that it was all right", and his advice was based entirely on the Prime Minister's own unsupported assurances. No one was to blame.
What was the basis of the Prime Minister's "unequivocal view"? The officials' advice to Ministers referred to in paragraph 267 of the report had been that any authorisation to use force in the original Resolution 678, which was passed before the 1990 Gulf War, could be revived only if the Security Council
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not the Prime Ministerwas convinced of a breach by incontrovertible proof of large-scale activity. In their advice officials added that:
The JIC made its initial assessment on 18 December, before the fresh inspections by Dr Hans Blix under Resolution 1441 could be evaluated; he had been in position for only three weeks. No update was sought or received by the Prime Minister when he made his pronouncement of an unequivocal breach of the resolution in March.
The Foreign Secretary, Mr Straw, in his letter of 17 March, justified the Prime Minister's position by reference to the 12th quarterly report of Dr Blix to the UN Security Council. However, in that report Dr Blix said that he wanted more time, and that things were going much better than they had in the past. But he did not get that time.
I must disagree, as I did on 17 March last year when the tanks began to roll, with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale. The war was clearly unauthorised; we were not the agents of the UN Security Council; and it was illegal. Today the Prime Minister approves of an American Administration that professes belief in the pre-emptive strike rather than self-defence and jeers at the need to obtain United Nations authority for military action. That is the ethical foreign policy of New Labour.
One of the things that I have noticed about this debate is the absence from the Government Benches opposite and from the speakers' list of those who cheered the Government on in March 2003, at the time when the decision was made.
Lord Owen: My Lords, those of us who supported in this House the invasion of Iraq have a very special responsibility to question our judgments and to ask ourselves how it could be that a brilliantly successful military operation could have been followed by so great a degree of ineptness and incompetence in the handling of the occupation.
I hope that I am ready to say that I have made a mistake, but I still believe that the toppling of Saddam Hussein was justified. We need to recover from the abysmal record of those early few monthsand we are recovering. In that context I agree with the very measured evaluation of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, of where we have been successful and where we have failed.
It is by no means certain that we will recover. It is by no means certain that there will be a successful transition in Iraq. But it is profoundly important that it is successful. There can be few other things on the agenda of the international community that are more important than making a success of this transition.
We are not doing enoughneither quickly enough nor with enough resources and capacityto train the Iraqi police or military. There can be no better investment than to put that to rights quickly. If it is
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necessary to have more troops in Iraq to do this, then that need should be met. All our efforts in the short and medium term should be put into shifting from British and American defence forces and building up a capability inside Iraq.
An insurgency is a very difficult thing to defeat. We all know that. The word "patience" has been used on a number of occasions. That is the only way in which an insurgency will be defeated. There can be no time scales, there can be no planned exits. However well the Iraqi people build up that military force and that police force and however well the relationships between their religious leaders such as Sistani and the Iraqi Government work out, they will still need a mobile force equipped with helicopters and, if necessary, with aircraft with all the modern capabilities that are mainly attached to American forces. That force could be utilised to act as a constant deterrent to the insurgents from making crippling attacks on the emergence of this democratic government.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford got very close to arguing a case that these countriesand Iraq in particularcannot have a democracy. We made grievous errorsand I include myself in thisin believing that the Arab world was different from everybody else, and that we could therefore turn a blind eye to what was going on in Saudi Arabia and justify monarchs and regimes for year after year that we knew lacked the support of their people, for which there was not remotely a consensus. We often sought refugenot only in the Middle East but in Africa tooin tribal customs and tribal leaders and found excuses for not going for that essential discipline: one person, one vote and the ability to throw people out of office. That is what democracy is about.
And so to the future. I hope that this House will demonstrate its commitment to the overwhelming viewalthough there are notable exceptionsthat we must now persist, monitor and watch those decisions being carried out. The first step is the sort of debate that we have had today. I come from a profession that believes that a post-mortem is not much use unless it stops people making the errors that caused death.
We need to start with the intelligence. We have done so in the committee review of the noble Lord, Lord Butler. There are many conclusions and many recommendations tucked neatly away in that document that could easily be forgotten. The noble Lord, Lord King, has mentioned that the Government have already sidestepped the clear-cut recommendation about the chairmanship of the JIC on the justification that this is an interim appointment. It is a scandalous decision not to follow through on their decision to accept the review committee's recommendations and to evade one of its most clear-cut recommendations within weeks.
The question of John Scarlett is a difficult one. I gave evidence on the day that John Scarlett was appointed. I thought that it was an outrageous decision in advance of hearing from the committee. I refused to give evidence until I got an assurance from
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the chairman that this would not fetter the committee from making criticisms of John Scarlett. To its credit, it did not fetter it and it did make criticisms. It then came to the conclusion that, nevertheless, he should be appointed. I came to the conclusion that I cannot accept its recommendations and then pick and chose between them.
It is of fundamental importance that the authority, competence and trust that we have given MI6 hitherto be restored. We must now give John Scarlettwho was among other things the agent responsible for the most important Soviet agent in almost the whole of the Cold Warand the service that he leads every support in making the necessary changes recommended in the Butler report and in going on to prove, as it has often done in the past, that it is a very effective intelligence service.
I turn to the other recommendations of the Butler report. It is a pity that the committee members did not go further into the question of the conduct of governments in foreign and defence policy. I understand why; it was, after all, an inquiry about intelligence. The committee members had to steer within the intelligence remit, as I had to in my evidence to them. Nevertheless, nobody reading their reports on this matter can be in any doubt that there have to be substantial changes in the manner of cabinet government. We must monitor this particularly carefully.
In previous speeches I have criticised the creation inside No. 10and therefore within the political and public relations framework of No. 10of the conduct of foreign policy to the extent that has happened. It is one thing to have Cabinet Secretariats who are answerable to the Cabinet; the present machinery is quite another thing and it has failed miserably over Iraq. Downgrading the Cabinet Secretaryeffectively taking him out of the intelligence sphereand having another person answerable to the Prime Minister with oversight of intelligence has not worked either. I would like to go back to the broad overriding remit of the Cabinet Secretary which has served us well over many decades.
I am worried about receiving an invitation to mark the end of the United Nations department in the Foreign Office after 58 years of continuous service. I am told that this may not be as bad as it seems, as there may be two departments or its function will spread across them.
One of the biggest mistakes that was made over Iraq was the decision to go for a second UN resolution. There can be no doubt about that. Why was that decision taken? The French said, quietly and privately, that they would live with the first resolution. They might not vote for it, but they would not act against it. Some people might say that they did not mean to carry that out. I believe that it was the act of a friendly power. That was the message delivered in Washington. None of the senior Americans wanted a second resolution andmost importantly for those of us who believe in the role of the UNnor did Colin Powell. Why did we pursue it?
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The role of the UN representative is not unmonitored. The existence of the UN department inside the Foreign Office was to monitor the Permanent Representative and, quite frequently, to challenge the judgment of the Permanent Representative across a broad range of government decisions and to come to the Foreign Secretary with recommendations that were not always the same as that of the Permanent Representative.
I think that a strong UN department is essential for foreign policynever more so than now, when the Security Council ought to be, and often is, working much more effectively than it did during the Cold War. The Prime Minister cannot make these decisions about voting, with the short time span that he can give to these big events. He needs independent advice on these questions. Yet we hear that the Prime Minister was ringing up the Permanent Representative, not just once or twice but day after day, on frequent occasions, as if he could sense whether some small country would vote yes or no in the Security Council. That is a very difficult judgment to make, and what one is told at one time is often quite different another time.
I shall not belabour the point but I hope that the Foreign Secretary will give very careful thought to dismantling a powerful department, which the UN department was, and come to us all, perhaps with a consultation paper, before he makes that irrevocable decision, after 58 years. It is very important that it carries weight; it is very important to have that department in trying to develop an overall view of our foreign policy. We have an EU department that co-ordinates all matters, as the Cabinet Office used to dosadly, that is now in the political offices of No. 10. I hope that an equivalent independence, integrity and knowledge base will not be lost for the UN in the Foreign Office.
Finally, on Iraq, I hope that at every stage the Government will send out a message that we are going to stay, that we will be patient and persistent, and that we will see a successful democratic transition in Iraq. In my judgment, nothing would show that better than to put Saddam Hussein on trial before the end of the year and give him a fair trial. It may need to take a long time, such as the trial of President Milosevic.
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