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Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I have listened to most of the speechesand to those of my own party, of which there were a great manyand I agreed with two of them. Perhaps I may explain my position a little. I agreed with going to war with the object of removing Saddam Hussein because it was quite obvious that the man was totally irresponsible. In fact, one might describe him as bonkers. He went to war with Iran and lost 800,000 men. He thought that he could get away with taking Kuwait. Anybody who thought that the West would ever allow that was
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wholly irresponsible and a grave danger to the whole of the Middle East when in charge of a country with great potential wealth. It was quite obvious to me that it was essential to remove him to have any chance of bringing a lasting peace to the Middle East. So I backed the war.
One criticism that should be levelled at the Government, and it has been levelled by one or two noble Lords, is that they accepted American direction far too easily although advice had been given that would have been far better than the way the Americans went about things. The American Secretary of State for Defense was entirely wrong. His chiefs of staff wanted at least twice the number of men as they had some idea of the trouble that would arise after they had won the simple battle. We now have a situation where, mainly because of the lack of any control in the American section round Baghdad, our troops, who did a remarkable job in and around Basra, are now suffering from activity that was inspired by the fact that they got away with it in Baghdad and elsewhere.
We must do something positive. I hope that the Government are saying that we must stick it out. The Government also need to recognise that the history of the regiments of this countryI refer particularly to the regiments of my country, the Black Watch and the Argylls, for exampleneeds to be perpetuated. Different organisation may be needed but the spirit that led Riddel-Webster to take off his helmet, wave his bonnet and walk through the crowdsa brilliant move, which owed a great deal to his pride in belonging to the Black Watchmust not be destroyed. I hope the Minister will take this strongly to heart and will ensure that the traditions of the old regiments are preserved, even though a great deal of their way of working may alter.
We face quite a long struggle to get the new government in Iraq working. They need backing and will need it for more than a year. We must be prepared to back them. We must be prepared to put more troops into Iraq in order to be able, for example, to protect the roads, which are tremendously dangerous. We have a big job to do. I think that it can be done, but it will take an enormous amount of toil. It will take money and it will take people. Lives will be lost. But we must do it, otherwise we throw away the chance of peace in the Middle East.
Viscount Waverley: My Lords, drawing the short straw demands an attempt at brevity and originality. The Arab world and Muslims generally, do not trust the West and particularly the United States. While assistance is not denied, including financial or other aid, the pervasive lack of trust fosters the perception that this help is to pursue exclusively the interests and hidden agendas of donors.
The challenge is how to alter or modify such dangerous views and lay solid foundations for an equitable world of religious and ethnic co-existence, freed of poverty and corruption, with accountable
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government, freely chosen, for future generations. Iraqis will only realise and enjoy those aspirations once the lack of trust is overcome and a dilution of the US-imposed democratic model is achieved. Until then, internal security will remain elusive and illusory.
Entrenched perceptions and obstacles are not helped by history and long memories. The latter point was made by my noble and gallant friend Lord Inge, who felt it important enough to draw attention to it. The perception throughout the Arab world and elsewhere is that the United States and Britain attacked Iraq because Israel encouraged them to do so.
Further, the obstacle of extremism, flourishing in the aftermath of war, will remain until western attitudes towards Arabs and Muslims undergo positive change. Extremists tend wilfully to misinterpret religious books and derive momentum and new recruits from their tribal communities that believe in and reward revenge. Only enlightened Arabs and Muslims can, and must, be the ones to convince the extremists that what they are doing is wrong, but we in the West must help them to do so.
We should not forget also that today's Arab perspective can be drawn from shared history, most notably with Britain, with events and promises that led through contrary expectations to the Balfour Declaration; revolution in Syria, Lebanon and Algeria that sealed France's exit; and matters Italian in Libya. But it is current affairs that are fertilising extremism and distrust: imbalances between Palestine and Israel; the influence of the Israeli lobby on media control and the American elections; and partisan, expedient and unfair application of international law to the affairs of the Middle East by the United States.
US vetoes against majority votes of the UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions on Israeli-Palestinian issues serve as a well-rehearsed illustration. And what of the future? Our world is in transition, evolving towards the global certainty of regionalism. Leaders and forward thinkers should be encouraged to reflect on and to work toward the certainty and essential benefits of regionalism; a shared commitment to responsibilities and resources.
A regional solution could accrue easily to such countries as Iraq and Afghanistan that do not have a history of centralised systems and only limited experience of statehood; more realistically resolve the Palestinian/Israeli difference by Israel's contribution to regionalismrecognition that its viable future depends on peaceful, constructive relations with neighboursand allow ruling regimes more easily to implement a reform agenda, and contend with a newly endorsed conservative Iran. The question that I more increasingly ponder, however, is that if a group of senior players believes that Israel was behind the decision to attack Iraq, where does that leave decision-making on Iran, with its deteriorating relations with the United States and its seemingly pending nuclear weapons capability?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, this has been an impressive and interesting debate. On a rough count, there were six speeches defending the Government's position; a number that were carefully neutral and balanced; and a substantial majority that were critical. I note in passing that this is a debate in which the largest number of non-Front-Bench speakers have come from the Cross Benches, and there have been some very powerful speechesin particular the one we heard not long ago from the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster. There have been relatively few speeches from the Government Benches wishing to support the Government.
The noble Lords, Lord Tomlinson and Lord Truscott, suggested that it was time to move on; the question is, can we move on? I would argue strongly that we cannot yet move on, for three reasons. First, as a number of noble Lords said, the issue has told us a number of very worrying things about the structure of government and the absence of checks on executive dominance.
Secondly, we still have the same Prime Minister, who still advances similar reasons for loyalty to American strategy, for pre-emptive intervention and for blurring the war on terror and the containment of the spread of weapons of mass destruction. I read again this morning the speech that he made in Sedgefield in March, when he did his best to justify the war and in which he seemed to start by arguing that we were not concerned with regime change and to end by justifying the war on the ground of regime change. He declared that he was indeed concerned about Islamic extremism and terrorism well before September 2001, and again he blurred the question of Islamic terrorism and extremism, weapons of mass destruction and the intervention in Iraq.
The third reason is, of course, that the game is not over in Iraq, Afghanistan or in the wider Middle East. I read the Butler report carefully, but I have also this summer read the Woodward, Kampfner and Riddell accounts, Robin Cook's memoirs, the Philip Stephens book and Anthony Seldon's book. There is now a great deal of material on what happened and how the Government put it. The references in the books by Bob Woodward, John Kampfner and Peter Riddell are fascinating; all of them interviewed the Prime Minister and all the other major players.
What emerges is the extent to which we now have personal rather than Cabinet government. I never thought that I would look back to Mrs Thatcher's period as Prime Minister as a great period of Cabinet government in comparison with what we have now. We have a foreign policy run from No. 10; we have a disregard for the institutionalised expertise of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and we have what has rightly been called "sofa" government.
We have a Prime Minister with a passionate sense of mission, as he set out in his Chicago speech in 1998; a strong sense of the divide between good and evil; a strong commitment to close co-operation with the United States; and an optimistic belief that he could exercise more influence over President Bush than
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could Vice-President Cheney or the Secretary of Defense, Mr Rumsfeld. One has to rememberthis was part of what influenced those of us in my party to become more sceptical about the drift towards warthe extent to which there were doubts in Washington in the spring and summer of 2002 about the direction of American policy, as expressed by James Baker, Brent Scowcroft, and a number of very respectable Americans.
One of my biggest doubts about the Prime Minister is, indeed, his intelligence assessment of the United Statesthe assumption that Britain could have major influence in Washington and that the United States was not following a very different agenda. That is part of what Peter Riddell and others have called the "self-delusion" that led Britain's Prime Minister to war.
There is strong evidence that our Prime Minister understood that President Bush was determined on war as early as March 2002; that that war was intended to remove Saddam Hussein from power; and that he then committed Britain to go to war alongside the United States. But he had to persuade his party and his public and to justify British participation on different grounds from those in which President Bush and those around him believed, which is to say weapons of mass destruction and on a refusal to accept the resolutions of the UN Security Council.
The scepticism which my party was developing in this period rested partly on our deep doubts about American motivation. As someone has said, this was a war of choice cooked up in Washington think tanks and strongly influenced by the agenda of the current right-wing government in Israel. Ideology was overriding evidence, and there was an extraordinary degree of dependence on Ahmed Chalabi, including the belief that he could explain what was happening inside Iraq and the belief that overthrowing Saddam Hussein would create democracy throughout the Middle East; that the road to Jerusalem lay through Baghdad. All of that should have rung alarm bells not only in my party but also in No.10. We were also doubtful about the quality of the evidence in particular as produced in the September dossier because the later dossiers were worse.
"What we had has been described by one American intelligence official as faith-based intelligence. It was a case of "We have the conclusions, please find us the evidence" or, as Robin Cook put it in his evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee, "There was a selection of evidence to support the conclusion rather than a conclusion that arose from a full consideration of the evidence".
Cabinet committees should have questioned this. Professional expertise should not have been swept aside. As the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, rightly said, there was a need for informed, collective judgment and for collective responsibility, which sadly failed in this case.
I say one thing in passing about John Scarlett, who has been mentioned a number of times in this debate. It is clear that, in the run-up to the war, he unwisely stepped across the invisible line that divides the professional official from the political advocate. What the consequences of that should be for his career I leave to others, but I believe that it is extremely
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important to maintain that line and that the Joint Intelligence Committee should be on the professional side of that line.
One of my puzzles over the past two years has been over the peculiarities of British intelligence. As professionals, I and my colleagues at the London School of Economics have a lot of contacts with US intelligence operatives and have discovered just how unhappy many of them were with the sweeping aside of their professional expertise. After all, analysis matters. It places evidence in context. It seems to me that part of what happened is that the context of the broader Middle East was lost. I particularly treasure the comment of one of the American intelligence officials at one meeting which was,
The Prime Minister deceived his party, his Parliament and his public. In the words of the Economist on its cover, he and President Bush were "sincere deceivers" or as Clare Short put it to the Foreign Affairs Committee, it was an "honourable deception", but deception it very clearly was.
The cost to British foreign policy has been very considerable. Our Prime Minister has rested British foreign policy on the idea of Britain as a transatlantic bridge between Europe and the United States. The European end of that bridge collapsed in this process, and No. 10 sank to active denigration of the position of the French Government. Peter Riddell, Bob Woodward and others make it clear that the attitude to the American position within both Paris and Berlin was sharply affected by their suspicions of Vice-President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and their growing belief that there was a submerged agenda in the American approach which now turns out, indeed, to have been correct.
What have we lost in this? We have lost the momentum in Britain's European policy. We have lost the potential of a referendum on the euro, to which our Prime Minister said he was deeply committed, and we are now putting at risk perhaps a referendum on the European constitution. It is quite astonishing to me how much of the British press accepts the submerging of British sovereignty under American foreign policy while being astonishingly suspicious about the sharing of sovereignty with our European partners.
A number of noble Lords in this debate have made comparisons with Suez. However, the appropriate comparison seems to me to be more with China in 1949 and Vietnam in the late 1960s and with two Labour Prime Ministers loyal to the United States who recognised that the United States was caught up in irrational, emotional policies and that it was better for Britain to take some distance from it. Correctly in 1949 the British recognised communist China and correctly in the late 1960s Prime Minister Wilson held back from committing British troops to Vietnam. I regret that on this occasion the wisdom of previous Labour Prime Ministers has not been followed.
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A great deal has been said also about the continuing war on terror in which clearly we are committed for the next generation. There are real dangers of slidingas I think the Prime Minister's rhetoric in his Sedgefield speech suggestedinto a global confrontation. Many on the American right would welcome this, as would President Putin. I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that I do not see the war in Chechnya as part of a global war on terror. Having been 10 days ago a great deal closer to a number of soldiers in Russian uniform in South Ossetia than I felt was very comfortable amidst evidence of massive smuggling by the Russian military, I am much more prepared to believe that it is the corruption of the Russian military and the vast mishandling of the whole of the north Caucasus by the Russians that has led to the bitterness from which we are now suffering in Chechnya.
One of the best points that the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, with whom I rarely agree, made was that we should not overemphasise the novelty of brutality. It is not just German brutality that we have to remember, we should look also at Stalinist brutality. Nearly a million Chechens died during the Second World War. That is part of the background to the current conflict. We should remember how the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation used to behave at the end of the previous century. If it had had more effective explosives, it would have killed a lot more people in a fairly annihilistic manner. We should remember the 19th century anarchists who did their utmost to blow up as many European heads of government and state as they could.
Terrorism is a continuation of war by other means, just as Clausewitz said that war was a continuation of politics by other means. Terrorism is the action of those who do not have the ability to fight conventional war, of those who are the underdogs, the desperate and the despairing. Sadly, there is a lot of despair. The women terrorists of Chechnya are the widows of men who have been killed and many of whose children have been killed. The politics of despair is something that we have to tackle if we are to tackle the causes of terrorism, which means that we have to deal with the problems of the Arab world and of the Muslim world and of the Middle East as a whole. I say very strongly that it would be a disaster for Britain and for our multi-ethnic and multi-religious community in Britain to define a war in terms of Islamic terrorism.
However, we still have a commitment to Iraq and to Afghanistan, a complex set of policies towards Iran, a huge set of neglected policies towards Saudi Arabia and a neglected Middle East peace process.
on the Middle East peace process. In January 2003, he said to British diplomats that the Middle East peace process remained essential. I agree with him. But it has not remained central. So we have to talk about future policy and start from the past. The question we have to ask is "Can we have confidence that the Prime Minister has learned?"
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His arguments are that the end has justified the means. We will only know that if the results in Iraq turn out better than their prospects currently appear, if we manage to contain the problems of Iran and if we are lucky enough that Saudi Arabia does not collapse in the next two years. A great deal is riding on the management of post-war reconstruction in Iraq, a process over which so far Her Majesty's Government have had and sadly continue to have too little influence.
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