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The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: My Lords, as we came to terms with the terrorist attack of 9/11, one of the commentaries on the state of the world was that Islam had now displaced communism as the major ideological threat to the West.
In the popular mind 9/11 evidenced a "new" threat, with commentators widely reporting that with this event "the world had changed". The popular view saw communism as the age-old enemy whose place had now been usurped by a new and powerful religious force.
If that is so, there is something ironic here that communism, which drew so much from a man who dismissed religion as the opiate of the people, should have been replaced in its role as challenger to the capitalist West by a religion.
The truth is that, in the context of history, communism appeared as a relatively recent and short-lived phenomenon; the major tension that has dominated the landscape of the world for more than a thousand years is the relationship between two culturesone rooted in Christianity, the other in Islam.
What happened on 9/11 was not the eruption of a new threat but a return to and a re-emergence of an historic tension that had lain relatively dormant and in the past century been eclipsed by war with Germany and the threat of communism.
We have failed to understand the history of the relationship between the two cultures, and how actions will be interpreted and understood by each party in the light of both history and religionas with, for example, the careless use of the word "crusade". There are major theological and ideological differences between the two cultures of Christianity and Islam; there is also common ground between the two. Speaking from these Benches, and conscious of many friendships with Muslims, never in the history of the planet has it been so important to take religion so seriously. What is required by religious leaders is not just dialogue, but an urgent summit on how we shall live together.
On the political front, governments must understand that all actions have an historical and a religious context. Present actions in Iraq and the Middle East will be interpreted in the light of that
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thousand-year relationship. To ignore this, or to have little regard for it, is to make the world not a safer, but a more dangerous place. That is why, on these Benches, while we have shared the Government's desire to make the world more secure, we have not been persuaded that the Government have fully understood the historical and religious dimensions of their actions. As the noble Lord, Lord Watson, said, a truly safer world cannot be secured by military intervention alone. In support of much of what the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, has said, what is needed is this soft diplomacy, and also a patient understanding of the historic and religious roots of the conflict of cultures and by the conviction that in today's world the well-being of one culture depends not on the destruction but on the well-being of the other.
Lord Truscott: My Lords, I do not propose to repeat here the detailed history of the UK's involvement in Iraq, and I hope to avoid rehearsing the arguments made by other noble Lords in the House today. However, it is important that noble Lords do not fall into the trap of examining the issue of intelligence with the benefit of hindsight. We were, after all, dealing with a regime which had wilfully obstructed the United Nations over 12 years.
Since 1991, the UN had issued 17 resolutions on Iraq. Authority to go to war against Saddam Hussein derived from the combined effect of Security Council Resolutions 678, 687 and 1441 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which specifically allows for the use of force to restore international peace and security.
On 7 March 2003, the UN weapons inspectors themselves detailed at least 29 instances of Iraq's failure to provide credible evidence of disarmament, as required by the UN and Resolution 1441, and outlined at least 17 occasions when evidence contradicted the official Iraqi account. This is not intelligence, but the report of the UN inspectors themselves.
In January 2003, UNMOVIC chairman Hans Blixwho is in the Palace of Westminster todayhimself reported concerns about the possible existence of chemical and biological weapons including anthrax and VX nerve gas, and the discovery of chemical rocket warheads. Missiles were being developed beyond the permitted range of 150 kilometres. Baghdad was continuing to obstruct UN weapons inspectors' interviews with Iraqi scientists.
Saddam Hussein had no intention of complying with Resolution 1441, which called for Iraq to co-operate "immediately, unconditionally and actively" with UNMOVIC and IAEA. In my mind there is no doubt that Iraq was in breach of 1441, and therefore I take issue with the rhetoric of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, who said that there is a question of legality of the war. Iraq was warned by the UN that failure to comply would constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations, with serious consequences to follow. Resolution 1441 gave Baghdad a final opportunity to comply with
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disarmament obligations. Therefore, there is no doubt that Resolution 1441 was Saddam Hussein's final opportunity to comply with the will of the international community and he failed to take it.
"the strategic intention of resuming the pursuit of prohibited weapons programmes, including, if possible, its nuclear weapons programme, when United Nations inspection regimes were relaxed and sanctions were eroded or lifted".
In going to war to uphold Resolution 1441, the UK was upholding the authority of the United Nations itself. A dangerous dictator, intent on developing weapons of mass destruction that he had shown no compunction in using against his own people in Halabja in 1988, and a leader who did not shy away from attacking his neighbours had to be stopped. The UN could allow Saddam only so many "last chances". Earlier, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said that the weapons inspectors should have been given more time. But I would respectfully remind the House that the reason why the weapons inspectors were let back into Iraq in the first place was because diplomacy was backed by the real threat of force.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Tomlinson that now is the time to look to the future of Iraq rather than the past. Already we have now spent too many months navel gazing, looking at the genesis of the war and the issues surrounding it. Of course the situation in Iraq remains extremely difficult and our Armed Forces risk their lives every day to bring peace and democracy to the country. But the prize is great indeed. Instead of a dictatorship which persecuted its own people, Iraqis now have a chance to rule themselves, unite their country and serve as a beacon of stability, prosperity and freedom in the Middle East.
That is something that Islamist extremists would hate to see. They prefer, as we saw so tragically in Beslan in North Ossetia, to sow death, hatred and division. We should show the people of Iraq that there is another way; that there is another path that they can follow to true democracy. We hope that the elections pass off peacefully and that we move further down the road to a truly democratic Iraq next year. It is a stance that the overwhelming majority of Muslims rejectthe stance taken by terrorists in places such as Beslan and in other countries. In Iraq we should not flinch from being on the side of those of all religions who seek a better life and a brighter future, free from the horrors of conflict.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, when we went on leave, as I would call it, I never knew that we would be recalled here until I suddenly saw it on that new Government machine called "government.com" or something. I decided to look at my Iraq file, which started some 30 years ago. I examined it and looked at all the debates that I downloaded. I went through all the reports that have been published. I returned to the Scott inquiry. I suddenly realised that while Genesis
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occupied only seven pages and 50 chapters, the reports on terrorism and Iraq and the debates were equivalent, effectively, to the whole of the Old Testament.
I wondered why, when people wrote those ancient books, they began with a few words which, over time, became more and more. If I recall Isaiah correctlythe right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth referred to itit had 66 chapters and 669 pages. Is it a whole lot of waffle, or is it better that we return to original signals such as the Morse signals that I tried to use the other day when I could not use the Internet? One used to be asked to send a PIM. It went, "dit, dah dah, dit; didi, dah dah", and then one said "over" with a "k". A PIM was one's "position and intended movements". I wonder what our position is?
I have spoken in these debates before, and I have not necessarily agreed with the Government. However, one person for whom I have great admiration is the Minister. Like a good lacrosse player, she has defended herself against everything that could have been thrown at her with total and utter integrity, and great charmoften when the ball was on another pitch. She has done it in the right way. We were all behind her, though not necessarily behind the Government. Sometimes people are called PLUspeople like usmeaning that they are patriotic, non-political and believe in supporting the Government. I shall support for ever and a day the right of a Prime Minister to go to war.
When I spoke, I used to say quietly that I did not think that terrorism was the right word. It was the wrong word, as we could not have a war against an "ism". It is not something that we can touch and see. We could have a war only against people or lands. I probably made the mistake of saying that the Government were terrorist-related, as the word "terrorism" means government by fear.
When the September report came out, telling us all that we should be scared stiff of ancient gases, sarins and toxins, I thought, "Never mind. They want a reason". I then watched a programme in central Europe and saw that the message was coming out again. The Home Office had sent another piece of paper saying that people should be frightened of a whole range of gases and that they should go to Marks & Spencer and buy tinned food and duck tape to protect themselves. An actuary told me that that would be like someone living in the north of Scotland worrying about being run over by a car when he was trying to get into a Division in Parliament. The odds are not in favour. I wonder why they have tried to create that fear and nervousness when it is not necessary. What shall we do now? The Government have made a series of mistakes and have been heavily criticised today. The noble Lord, Lord Truscott, talked about resolutions. Given the number of other UN resolutions that have been broken by many other people, would we be at war with the whole world? The question is about the morality of the action, which is down to the subjective view of the individual. It was obviously right for the British to intervene in Iraq because we have an historic relationship and
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responsibility and probably a greater duty than any other nation. However, we should have played to our own agenda. But we played to someone else's.
The right reverend Prelate talked about a cartoon in a newspaper. I saw a copy of the Sunday Times showing our Prime Minister standing just beside Mr Bush, and then two chimpanzees holding hands together. We are long-standing allies of America, but we must pursue our own foreign policy. We should listen to people who know. I went through the list of speakers in the recent debates and tried to mark out who had been to Iraq. There were very few. Your Lordships may have forgotten a wonderful man, George Brown, for whom I had a lot of time. He was a disciple of Nasser, together with Saddam Hussein. When I chaired the Committee for Middle East Trade, I would occasionally ring up George and he would say, "I was out there recently". We used to have the ability to talk to heads of state no matter who they were, whether they were left-wing, right-wing, or dictators. In some places in the world today it might be better to have a benevolent dictator.
I do not think that the Government listened to the right advice. The noble Baroness will forgive me if I refer to a communication sent in the form of a letter by ex-ambassadors to the Prime Minister. I tabled a Question for Written Answer on whether there would be an answer to the letter. I was told by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House that it was answered by the Prime Minister in a statement he made with the Italian Prime Minister before he kicked his shin at football. The letter states:
"The conduct of the war in Iraq has made it clear that there was no effective plan for the post-Saddam settlement. All those with experience of the area predicted that the occupation of Iraq by the coalition forces would meet serious and stubborn resistance, as has proved to be the case. To describe the resistance as led by terrorists, fanatics and foreigners is neither convincing nor helpful. Policy must take account of the nature and history of Iraq, the most complex country in the region. However much Iraqis may yearn for a democratic society, the belief that one could now be created by the coalition is naive".
I am not in charge, but I must refer to what the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, said: here we have what is potentially one of the richest countries in the world whose people are highly educated and really good engineers. They could put things right if they had security. Their production capacity could be much higher than 6 million barrels a dayit could be 8 million. Your Lordships have only to look at the oil prices to work out the cash flow that the country could generate if there were stability and security. With its population, it could be very significant.
I worry that we are too bureaucratic. I have read all the reports, and I like them. To my surprise, I find that ultimately most of my CDs are used as Frisbeesindeed, like others, the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, went sailing across the lawn. We have a lot of paper and a lot of wisdom. I just wish that the Government would listen more to their own people who know about Iraq.
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