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Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I start by commending the words of my noble friend Lady Ramsay, particularly with respect to intelligence. She, like me, winced at the introduction of intelligence matters into the public domain. I hope very much indeed that we have not seen a precedent in this case. That is one of the things that worries me most, particularly when listening to some of your Lordships' remarks, which drag up issues with respect to the proceedings of the Joint Intelligence Committee that, in my view, should never have been in the public domain.
One of the advantages of speaking late in a debate is that one has the benefit of having heard your Lordships' wisdoms and occasionally, also, your Lordships' follies. In that respect, I think that I have never heard anything quite so remarkable in contrast as the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, who I am delighted to see in his place. Although I did not agree with him, he delivered an admirable and well argued, coherent speech. But he ruined it with one of the most infantile summings-up that I have ever heard. He said that it was remarkable that on this side of the House no one who cheered the Government on when at the start was here to make a speech. Well, I am here to say that I cheered the Government on and I still am. My noble friends Lady Ramsay and Lord Tomlinson are in precisely the same category. I suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, informs himself a little better before he makes another peroration. In fact, if I were him I would stick to speeches and leave perorations out in future.
Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, is not in his place at the moment. I was intrigued at one or two of the things he said. He was completely wrong when he talked about "new terrorism" and how appalling the happenings in Iraq, the Middle East and north Caucasus were, as though they were totally unprecedented and new forms of horror.
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We should remind ourselves that what has been going on there has not been the prerogative of Arabs, people who live in the north Caucasus or Muslims. Within the memory of almost everyone in this House, such things were done by Europeans coming from a Christian background on the continent of Europe in the past 60 years. Those of us who are old enough remember what happened at Oradour-sur-Glane where the German troops put an entire village inside a church, locked the doors and burned it down. At least the Muslims have not gone around burning down each other's places of worship. We should remember what the Germans did in Lidice.
A broadsheet article only this week reminded me of what they did in the Ukraine as well. There the Germans killed children, not by accident because they happened to be in the way or were alongside adults. They singled out children in order to massacre them because they did not want people to grow up knowing about the horrors that they had inflicted and who would want to take revenge. These were not terrorists, but members of armed forces subject to discipline and wearing the uniform of their country, acting under orders. So let us be careful before we stigmatise people in the Middle East as being outwith the law and savages unknown to the human race. I will not buy it and I hope that very few noble Lords will do so.
I have one tart word for the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, whom I hold in the highest regard. I thought I heard her say that, in respect of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, we could not yet figure out who was responsible for all the terrible things that have happened in those two places. I should point out that the career of General Sanchez is for all practical purposes at an end. He will forgo any future promotion. The American brigadier in charge of Abu Ghraib has been suspended from duty. Legal proceedings have been started against many American servicemen and I would be surprised if we do not see officers of at least the rank of colonel in the dock. It will take some time to do that because the American justice system works slowly, but to suggest that the Americans do not know what is going on and are not trying to do something about it is, I think, a total misrepresentation.
I turn to Iraq itself. We have to recognise that there are two different regimes operating at the moment: a daytime regime and a nighttime regime. During the day, over large parts of the country the writ of the coalition forces still runs. At night, it does not so run. Then the militias and sometimes the bandits monopolise the streets and take complete control, despite the efforts of the extremely brave men who offer themselves up to be members of the police forces of Iraq. It is impossible for me to conceal my admiration for those who join the police forces. They do not have safe barracks to return to. They can be assassinated in their homes, in their cars or in their supermarkets; and their children can be assassinated while at school. We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude and we have to hope that they will be successful. However, I am sure that they will not be
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successful if we do not stay. As the noble Lord, Lord Owen, and the noble Baroness, Lady Park, pointed out, we have to go the distance.
On Iraq itself and the coalition as a whole, I think that we have made two very serious blunders. We made a great mistake in going after Najaf, and an even greater mistake in not going after Fallujah. I am quite clear in my mind about this, although of course I do not see secret papers any more. There may be things of which I am innocent, but speaking as someone who is informed by the broadsheets and by talking to officers who have returned from the front, I am clear that not going into Fallujah was a very serious mistake.
The people of Fallujah are extremely well organised. It is the home of al-Zarqawi. Such people are trying to foment civil war. Someone, at some time, has got to deal with Fallujah. If we do not, there will never be peace in Iraq. I regret to have to tell the House that I am informed on extremely high authority that the influence of Her Majesty's Government was exercised in the direction of trying to tell the Americans not to go into Fallujah, or to come out as early as possible. I have to say that I think that that was a great error of judgment on the part of Her Majesty's Government.
The Sunnis do not have a Sistani. Fallujah does not have the religious sites that Najaf has. Fallujah is the centre of extremely well organised attacks on coalition forces and Iraqi police forces. It is a centre that is attempting nothing more nor less than the total disintegration of Iraqi society. It has to be dealt with sometime or other. In my view it can be dealt with only by coalition forces. It was a very great mistake that we did not follow through when we went in in the first place.
I would like to make one last point. I am stilljustan optimist with respect to Iraq. It is easy to construct an extremely pessimistic scenario there. But I detect improvementseven along the lines of the Wolfowitz doctrinein different parts of the Middle East since we went in and liberated Iraq. I dislike the words "invasion" and "war". There has been no declaration of war; there has been a military activity which led to the liberation of Iraq from a foul dictatorship. Our troops were engaged in an extremely noble cause and they are to be congratulated on the performance of their duties.
We have seen signs in Kuwait, with changes in the franchise for the elected assembly there. We have seen changes in Saudi, where the glimmerings of local democracy are starting to appear. There was an extraordinary conference of business people in Riyadh a few months ago where the top entrepreneurs in Saudi assembled in one large hall. Half of them were men and half were women, with a dividing line down the middle. But the extraordinary thing was that the meeting was chaired by a woman who had no headdress on. That would have been unthinkable a year and a half ago.
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It takes a long time to change society in that part of the world but I am one of the optimists, unlike the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, whom I hold in the highest regard and affection. When people get offered the choice of a democratic society against any sort of tyranny they will always vote for the former.
I was interested in the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, about the method of cabinet government. I agree with him. When reading the Hutton report I saw some of those e-mails: they were sloppily written, slapdash and an immense contrast to the despatches that my grandfather sent back from Tangier in 1908, which were properly written by an educated man. They had a beginning, a middle and an end. I do not know whether he was right or wrong, but there was definitely that contrast.
The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, went on a bit too long about the poor wretched Germans. Since the war they have behaved so impeccably in expiating their sins that surely we should give them credit for that and not permanently go on about German atrocities in the war.
I was pro-war in the beginning for the following four reasons: I assumed that they had weapons of mass destruction, though this claim was probably exaggerated; I knew that they had been in disregard of mandatory United Nations sanctions; I knew that it was a foul tyranny because I had listened to Ann Clwyd and the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson; and I was fairly certain that he had been involved in some form of nasty terrorism even though I was equally certain that he had nothing to do with Al'Qaeda because he was a Ba'athist Muslim running a secular nationalist regime and hated that sort of Mohammedanism.
When it was exposed by both the Butler and Hutton reports that the weapons of mass destruction were not there, some of the numbers regarding Saddam's tyranny were open to question. The terrorism which may have been undertaken in a minor way is now being undertaken in a major way. It seems that the war should not have been fought because the situation at the moment is worse than it was before, and that is very serious.
"intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is sporadic and patchy . . . from the evidence available to us, we believe that Iraq retains some production equipment, and some small stocks of chemical warfare agent precursors, and may have hidden small quantities of agents and weapons".
Either somebody has changed the meaning of what the intelligence committee said, or the Prime Minister is too stupid to understand the difference and thinks that he said the same. I do not think you become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom with that level of intelligence.
"this House . . . recognises that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and long range missiles, and its continuing non-compliance with Security Council Resolutions pose a threat to international peace and security".[Official Report, Commons, 18/3/03; col. 760.]
If we had believed so much that there were weapons of mass destruction, why were some units in the Armed Forces allowed to go into Basra without chemical and biological suits? Either they knew that Iraq did not have such weapons, so they did not need the suits, or it was crass incompetence for them to be allowed to go in without having those essential tools of self-defence.
This is a very sorry story. We are left with an Iraq that is in the most ghastly mess. Unfortunately, we do not have a great deal to be proud of. I was informed over dinner only today, and it does not surprise me, that our policy in Iraq in the 1920s changed every time the Government changed, without any consideration of the needs of Iraq itself. The Americans are worsethey do not do empire, which is a great pity. When you occupy a country, you have to know what you are going to do with it. You have to know how to create a police force.
Iraq at the moment is in anarchy. There are now Wahhabi terrorists, Al'Qaeda terrorists and different sets of Sunni and Shia terrorists, chopping off Nepalese cooks' heads, executing innocent Italian lorry drivers, kidnapping French journalists. This is worse than what was going on before, and this is the pickle we have got ourselves into. I have not the faintest idea how we will get out of it, I have not the faintest idea how long we will be, and it depresses me beyond peradventure.
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