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Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, it is my pleasure to be the first noble Lord on this side of the House to be able to congratulate my noble friend Lord Wolfson on his excellent maiden speech. Neither of the two noble Lords who previously congratulated him commented on the fact that he has been 15 years in this House without making his maiden speech. It was certainly worth waiting for. Those in my party who know the noble Lord know very well his great skill and his forensic abilities that he demonstrated to the full in his speech. I hope that he will not wait another 15 years before making his next speech.
I first declare an interest in that I am a director of a company which was specifically formed to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq, although nothing that I say is likely to enhance the prospects of that company.
At the time I strongly supported the war both in this House and outside, but subsequently I changed my mind because I gradually came to believe that the country was misled about the reasons for the war. Of course, I am not saying that the Prime Minister acted in bad faith. I am not saying that the Prime Minister misled the country intentionally, but that he was so keen to go to war that he seemed to lose all critical faculty. The fact that his motives were right does not in any way modify or justify the consequences.
I watched with disbelief the evidence that unfolded from the Hutton inquiry and read with concern the conclusions of the Butler report. I find it impossible to
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resist the conclusion that No. 10 was desperate to grasp at any evidence to support a decision that it desperately wanted to make. Like other noble Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Butler, for his excellent report. Thanks to him we know that the JIC lamented the fact that the intelligence was sporadic and patchy. His report was struck by the thinness of the intelligence. Thanks to him we know that the policy shift from containment to the more aggressive stance was,
Since the time when I supported the war I have reread the Prime Minister's speeches and the intelligence dossier. The intelligence dossier in particular makes ironic reading, not least the chapter entitled,
The way that the Prime Minister chose to make his case has had the unintended consequence of making us all less safe and more vulnerable to terrorism. The threat of a catastrophic attack by WMD armed terrorists is certainly real, but the next time the politicians call for military action even more people will refuse to believe them.
Rereading the Government's dossier on Iraq's alleged WMD, I was struck by the very precise estimate that the Government made of the number of people who were killed by Saddam Hussein through the use of mustard gas in the Iran/Iraq war20,000. The precision of that estimate, of course, stands in complete contrast to the Government's coyness and refusal in response to repeated questions to make any estimate of the number of Iraqis who have been killed in this wara point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I find it very difficult to reconcile the willingness to estimate Saddam Hussein's actions in killing people and our inability to estimate how many people we killed in a war in which we participated and in which we fired the ammunition and in which we know how much ammunition we fired.
To watch last week the Republican Convention in New York was to watch a gathering in denial that seems to have turned this war into a fantasy. We know that the two governments were wrong and out of touch with reality before the war. The question is: are they any more in touch with reality now? The two governments continually assert that the people of Iraq are much better off. Many are but some might question that, particularly the families of the 15,000 to 20,000 dead civilians and military personnel. So, too, might the Christians who have lived peacefully for years in Iraq and now find their churches bombed and fired. Some people in Fallujah might disagree. This was formerly a Sunni city, a near secular city, which today, according to the Washington Times, is a city where Sharia law is now in force, Western haircuts are banned, men are
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forced to grow beards, women are forced to cover themselves and Sharia punishments are carried out in the city centre.
The invasion of Iraq has been discredited also by the subsequent chaos hugely influenced by Iraqi exiles who have their own agenda. The "American appointed government" control only part of Baghdad; even there its Ministers are car-bombed and assassinated. According to the press, Baquba, Samara, Kut, Mahmoudiya, Fallujah and Ramadi are all outside government authority. In their efforts to retain and regain control the Iraqi Government re-employ some of Saddam's generals and re-recruit his secret police. Mr Allawi has said that he wants to slash some throats. This has led some Iraqis such as Sheik Mahdi al Sumayda to compare Mr Allawi's new public safety law with the rules that Saddam used to wield.
When the United States transferred sovereignty over Iraq things did not improve. Forty-two Americans died in June, 54 in July, 66 in August. The death toll of Iraqis in Baghdad alone reached 700 in July, the worst month since the invasion ended.
Last month's national political conference in Baghdad was supposed to provide a broader base for the government than Prime Minister Allawi's narrow exile dominated cabinet. In her opening speech the Minister referred to that and to the wider grouping which met to influence the cabinet. However, her conclusion was not one that was shared, for example, by the Herald Tribune of 23 August, which stated that the whole proceedings were influenced by a familiar cast of characters drawn from the same narrow sources as the first US-appointed Iraqi governing council, and that an opportunity had been lost to draw disaffected Iraqis into peaceful politics.
The question that the Government should ask themselves is why is it that even the Shias of Sadr Cityamong the people most oppressed by Saddam Husseinturned against the coalition. This was an area of Baghdad where it was rumoured that Saddam Hussein had dug trenches around the city and filled them full of petrol in order to prevent the inhabitants aiding the Americans. These were the same people who flocked south to fight at Najafwhy?
The other night I watched on BBC2 an excellent programme, "Randall in Iraq". It was simply a programme in which ordinary people in Iraq spoke. It was not unsympathetic to America. It included many interviews with ordinary Americans and Iraqis. However, one point was made repeatedly by the Iraqis. The words were more or less always the same: "When someone does something bad'bad' was the word that they usedthe Americans always take it out on a hundred of us". And so it was in Fallujah where the US military followed similar tactics to the Israelis. It is an approach that is doomed to fail. Each day America creates more terrorists than it is killing.
The Prime Minister says that the world is a safer place today, but Iraq has become a magnet for international terrorism. There was no link between Al'Qaeda and Iraq but there is now. We have unleashed forces of religious fanaticism that were
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previously contained. We have squandered the sympathy that there was for the United States immediately after 9/11. The Minister says that people will never agree about the war but this is not just an academic question; it is a question that affects Arab opinion right across the world. Not just Arabs, but, increasingly, Muslims have turned intensely hostile towards the United States and the West.
This war has been the worst foreign policy debacle since Suez. No doubt we have to soldier on, as others have suggested, in order to find the least bad answer. I shall support that and the rebuilding of political society in Iraq. However, the Government can hardly be surprised that confidence and trust in those who led us into this disaster have been severely dented.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, it is, I believe, one of the strengths of this House that we should be debating the significant and, in my view, very well marshalled and judiciously weighted report by the noble Lord, Lord Butler and his colleagues, not in the heat of the moment, or a day or two after its publication when tactical considerations and instant reactions predominate, but rather after a period of careful reflection when the waters have calmed a little and a sense of perspective is easier to achieve. I say this not to criticise the other place, but to make the point that these are complex and tangled matters of considerable importance to our own national security, which should not be addressed only by a quick debating response. In concentrating so single-mindedly on systemic issues rather than on the ever- fascinating topic of the responsibility of individuals and the implications for them, the report surely made the right choice. For it is those systemic weaknesses in the way we gather, analyse and present intelligence, and what the Government do to remedy them, which will have a lasting effect, for better or for worse, on the effectiveness of the intelligence and the intelligence services in safeguarding our security.
One of the first aspects to which a sense of perspective surely needs to be applied is the extent of the intelligence failure in respect of Iraq's WMD programmes. That there were failures in the gathering, analysis and public presentation of this intelligence is not in doubt. The report analyses these failures meticulously, and the facts on the groundor rather, the lack of themreinforce those judgments. But, to judge from the media hype, this was one of the greatest intelligence failures of the last century. Is that really so? I rather doubt it. Should this rank alongside the failure to spot the Japanese fleet approaching Pearl Harbour, the German divisions marshalling on the Soviet Union's western border or the invasion of the Falklands in 1982? I would suspect not. Indeed, the intelligence failure to spot in 1990 how far advanced were Iraq's WMD programmesin particular the nuclear programme, which would in all probability have given Iraq nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery by 1993was of much greater potential risk to us and our allies. What was a mistake, as the report says, was to put more weight than it was
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able to carry on intelligence material which was patchy and hard to verify. But do not let us now swing from one extreme to another, and say that because intelligence may be patchy we should simply ignore it. When we are dealing with ruthless totalitarian regimes, that may be the only timely intelligence we ever get. Do not let us embrace, as if it were a given truth, the idea that a piece of intelligence which cannot immediately be confirmed by a second source is of no value at all.
It is not only generals, but also diplomats, politicians and journalists who have a slight tendency to focus on the last war and to allow that tendency to distort their view of future threats. Therein lies one of the greatest risks to us from the series of events under scrutiny: that because mistakes were made in this instance, we will undervalue the indications derived from intelligence on future occasions when the use of force has to be contemplated. The reportrightly, in my viewrecommends a complete separation between the gathering and analysis of intelligence on the one hand, and its public presentation on the other, the latter being a matter for the Government, with the intelligence agencies' role being limited to checking the facts which the Government plan to make public. But is there now not a risk that reliance on intelligence at all in such circumstances will be treated as flawed and unsatisfactory? In any case where the use of force by this country does have to be contemplated, there will be, as in this case, honest and deeply-felt differences of opinion. But we should surely try to avoid the kind of group-think whereby reliance on intelligence is simply shouted down.
One thing is sure. We have not heard the last of threats to international peace and security from the proliferation of WMD, nor of the risks to the whole international community if these weapons were to fall into the hands of terrorists. In this context, the report most valuably underlines the pre-emptive role that international inspections can play in countering these threats. The credit here given to the work of UNSCOM, of UNMOVIC and the IAEA is overdue, welcome and merited. International inspection regimes are often denigrated as imperfect and easy to circumvent, an opinion expressed in neo-Conservative circles in Washingtonmost recently today in an article by Mr John Bolton in the Financial Timesand one which has led the present US Administration, unwisely in my view, to resist the establishment of an intrusive inspection regime for biological weapons.
The sensible response, surely, is to strengthen these inspection regimes in the light of experience, and to make them more effective. In the case of Iraq, the evidence now is that while these regimes were indeed inadequate before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, they were a lot more effective thereafter. They were one of the main reasons why, despite Saddam Hussein's continued determination to acquire such weapons systems in the future, there were in fact no stockpiles of them found after last year's invasion. The UN Secretary-General's panel, on which I have the privilege to serve, is focusing seriously on this area of proliferation and will be reporting before the end of
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this year. It will then be for the member states to decide how best to strengthen the international defences against the proliferation of all these weapons systems. It will, I hope, be seen to be in our own national interest to play a prominent and constructive role in such effort, and urge the US Administration and others to do so too. We cannot possibly afford to shrug our shoulders, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford did, and say Iran will get its nuclear weapons.
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