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As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has said, the problems of Afghanistan and of the Middle East—historians among us will remember that the Middle East used to be known as the Near East; no one quite knows why there was that sudden change from Near to Middle—are quite separate, even if they are interconnected. Her Majesty’s Government share a mission in Afghanistan with the other NATO countries, however inadequately our allies may respond. So far as I know, there is no serious opposition to the NATO commitment, even among countries, such as Spain, that are generally opposed to United States policies and to President Bush. That is because all can see that if the Taliban were allowed to resume its control of the country, or even part of it, we should have a good deal more than poppy growing to complain about. We can assume that, were we to accept defeat at the hands of the Taliban, al-Qaeda would soon be back at home base. It is therefore hard to see that Britain—a responsible country, even if very far from Kabul—can have any attitude for the foreseeable future other than to remain. The Minister, with his statistics on new wells and the number of girls now in schools, encouraged us to think that the mission might one day be able to be fulfilled; but how far ahead is that likely to be?

As to poppies, we should not forget how, in the course of another, successful, ethical foreign policy—the abolition of the slave trade—this country persuaded its slave traders to change almost overnight from the purchase and sale of slaves to the purchase and sale of palm oil.

Support for the NATO position in Afghanistan does not mean that we have to accept all the arrangements that were made by the United States at an early stage in the war against the Taliban, particularly the establishment of the prison at Guantanamo, which must be one of our great ally’s worst ever actions. If President Theodore Roosevelt,

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who in 1902 arranged for the US lease of Guantanamo Bay from a newly independent Cuba, knew what has been going on in eastern Cuba, he would be turning in his grave, even though he was known for speaking softly and carrying a big stick.

Earlier in the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, called Afghanistan more a collection of tribes than a state. That may be so, but it is an ancient community, with a complicated and interesting history in which Britain has been much involved. Was there not a time in the 1760s when an Afghan empire extended not only over eastern Persia but over Baluchistan, the Punjab and parts of Kashmir?

Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq is a very modern country indeed, having been cobbled together in the aftermath of the First World War, as the noble Lord, Lord Luce, recalled, by a distinguished academic, Dr Gertrude Bell; by an outstanding soldier/administrator, Sir Percy Cox; and by the then Colonial Secretary, Mr Winston Churchill. Before 1919, the three former Turkish provinces of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra constituted the area that is now Iraq. That still has a consequence for modern politics. The country, as most noble Lords will know, was a British mandate from 1920 to 1927, and Sir Percy Cox, whom I have just mentioned, was our first High Commissioner. He was the man who drew the straight lines that have characterised the Iraqi frontiers ever since, and who the Dictionary of National Biography recalls as having revised and amplified the Turkish administrative system with rare skill, a commendation that might have been read with benefit by the early United States administrators in Iraq after the conquest, such as General Garner and Mr Brennan.

Until 1957, Iraq remained an informal part of the British Empire. This country had no greater friend in the Middle East than the longstanding Prime Minister Nuri es-Said and King Faisal of Iraq, was tutored by a distinguished English social anthropologist in his youth, a friend of mine, Julian Pitt-Rivers. After 1957 in Iraq there was a dictatorship, first of the army and then of a political party, the Socialist Nationalists of the Ba’ath party. Despite that bizarre and unsuccessful history the Iraqis nevertheless—this is something that strikes one whenever one meets someone from that country—quickly developed a sense of patriotism and of what a nation should be. Perhaps that was assisted by the fact that the territory of Iraq has a very grand place in history. It is, after all, the birthplace of civilisation, of law and of writing. Unlike some new countries, such as Ghana, Iraq did not have to invent a past, for the past in Iraq was always there between the Tigris and the Euphrates.

In 2003 as we all know, the United States decided to invent a new stage in the history of Iraq, by establishing a sun of democracy there which it was hoped would radiate throughout the region. One United States neo-conservative spoke of a “tsunami of democracy” sweeping throughout the Middle East. That policy was not directly reflected in the speeches justifying the war itself. Instead, the pretext—that was the word used by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Mr Wolfowitz—was the nuclear weapons allegedly possessed by Saddam Hussein. It would have been far

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preferable, as I am sure noble Lords would agree, if Britain and the United States had been completely honest in 2003 and announced that their plan was indeed regime change—getting rid of a regime of brutal wrongdoing. The United States at least could have remembered those words as they figure in the at-one-time famous Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine of 1905, which specifically justified US intervention in foreign countries in Latin America if “brutal wrongdoing” was proved.

From listening to several speeches in the House in this debate, I have the sense that some noble Lords—the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, for example, and the noble Lord, Lord Jacobs—might have supported such a policy of intervention if brutal wrongdoing was plainly written down. As we all know, the military operation in Iraq was brilliant. It is right to give credit where credit is due, but as the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, said, no one seems to have taken any trouble to consider what would happen after the victory. Someone else—I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby—wondered where the British planners were at that time: why did they not consider the future? Alas, there was no Sir Percy Cox able to reconstruct the former Administration “with rare skill” and—again alas—the emblematic sight of post-war Iraq was not the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad but the sight of American troops standing by while great museums were being looted.

Now the case is everywhere being put frequently for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, even—most unusually—by our leading soldier. But even those who questioned the desirability of the war at the beginning, such as me, must now wonder whether a serious withdrawal is possible if the alternative in Iraq could be what the Chief of Staff to the United States President, Josh Bolten—not Ambassador Bolton but Josh—described recently as,

and of course the United States’ allies. That, for once, is a realistic statement by an American neo-conservative.

So the odds are that we have no alternative but to stay. One distinguished Member of this House, the late Lord Harlech, is credited with telling President Kennedy in 1963 in respect of a Central American civil war, “Every country, you know, Mr President, has a right to its own Wars of the Roses”, but all civil wars have unforeseen consequences, even more than all wars. However desirable it must be, I cannot see that a British-US role in Iraq can be abandoned once it has been begun. Before we seriously contemplate any withdrawal, we should consider much more seriously the future politics of the country and in particular whether the place of the three Iraqi provinces that I mentioned earlier as existing under the Ottoman Empire—Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra—might be re-examined to give historical backing to a real federal state with a balance between the Kurds, the Sunni and the Shia.

The democratic creators of the Bush Administration never seemed to be interested in the

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details of what democracy was going to be, but the fact is that they should because one democracy is better than another. The great successes in recent years in history has been the federations such as those in the United States but also those in Germany, Australia, Canada, and—without the use of the actual word—in Spain. A solution along those lines has begun to be mentioned to the United States following the thoughtful writing on those questions by Ambassador Peter Galbraith; and the noble Lord, Lord Howell, referred to it in his speech.

My noble friend Lord Hannay opposed the idea of any break up of Iraq into three separate entities, but that is not what I am suggesting. All the same, I recall, as my last reflection, that Churchill at the Cairo conference in 1920 as Colonial Secretary instinctively favoured the creation of an autonomous Kurdistan as a buffer zone between the new Turkey and the new Iraq. I suspect that Churchill’s instinct, as so often, was right, even when he knew far less than the experts such as Sir Percy Cox.

8.08 pm

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I put my name down to speak. I was told that it got lost somewhere in the system, so I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for a few remarks in the gap. I want to say two things that are fairly raw, given the time available to me. First, I am increasingly concerned about the use of the phrase “the war on terror” as a major theme for directing our policy in the Middle East. I have an increasing sense that the real change that has happened in foreign policy is the end of the Cold War, and that is what we are adjusting to and we need to get it right. There is an interesting article in the latest New York Review of Books, which I hope appears in the Library, reviewing a book by Louise Richardson, who is a professor at Harvard. The book is called, What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat. It has some sober things to say to us on these matters.

The trouble with conducting policy under the theme “a war on terror” is that it invites reaction: the sort of reaction that creates chaos and disorder and continued violence. Who would say in Iraq that that is not where we are at the moment? My first point is, can we shift away in the construction of the policy from that as a major theme? Why do we not work on the business of diversity and difference? Why do we not work to our strengths? I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Luce, about the importance of maintaining our international relationships in all of this. Whatever we think of the Bush policy, the relationship of this country with the United States, with Europe, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, with China, with India and across the world has huge potential for exercising influence in the Middle East. We are a prosperous country. We are struggling, reasonably successfully, with being a multicultural society. Why are these not being used as strengths in a diplomatic route into these matters. That is my first point.

As to my second point, I am even more concerned that a policy of a war on terror has led to military action. The comments of the noble Lord, Lord Jacobs,

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about the retreat of Israel from the Lebanon in 2000 were very interesting. Of course, what Israel left behind was Hezbollah even stronger than when it went in. Military action can be counter-productive; it can end up in exactly the opposite place to where it started. We sent our troops into Northern Ireland in 1969, where they were hugely greeted by the Catholic and nationalist populations. Two years later bombs and stones were being thrown at them and so on. We went into Iraq in April 2003. Six months later, more than 60 per cent of the population thought it right to attack the troops who had gone in.

To use military action as a route into sorting out these problems is deeply dangerous and counter-productive. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that we will have to reconstruct the diplomatic tasks that the Foreign Office has traditionally done so well in the past. There is a huge task in front of us if we are to get out of this mess.

8.11 pm

Lord Garden: My Lords, despite it being only a fortnight since we discussed many of these issues after the gracious Speech, things have happened internationally in the mean time, and the contributions that we have heard throughout the debate today have all been important and have added to the information that we had before.

The central issues are not surprising. We have talked predominantly about Israel-Palestine, Israel-Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan and how we can develop the relationships with Iran and Syria. The noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, brought an important dimension to the debate that had not been picked up elsewhere—the question of Turkey. From these Benches, I support every word that he said. It surprised me that there has been no mention of the possibility of conflict in Iran, of the possibility of either US or Israeli action against Iran, or of the way in which Saudi-Iranian relations are going.

Most noble Lords made the point that all the problems are interconnected. Although the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, chose to separate them, I think that at the end he put them back together again. Certainly there is an interconnection between these problems, which cover a large geographical area. It is also an area full of natural resources, although we have not spoken a great deal about the wealth that is available but is so unevenly distributed. As King Abdullah of Jordan told us on 7 November, we do not have much time. He talked about there being a matter of months left in which to make progress. There is a real problem, in that the international community does not seem to be able to focus on more than one crisis at a time, yet things are moving in all these areas, as we have heard.

Like other noble Lords, I shall start with Iraq, particularly because it is an area in which we have a significant commitment. We also, as many noble Lords have said, have a deep responsibility there because we had a hand in causing the current situation and because of the levels of deaths and violence, the exodus of people and the lack of a clear strategy. We heard from the Minister today that things are relatively calm in all but four areas. We

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heard a similarly complacent introduction from the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, on 20 November. The problems in Iraq are extraordinary. The bucolic pictures of progress that we hear from Ministers are impossible to reconcile with the reality. There were reports in a newspaper this weekend of a policy of murdering patients in hospitals if they belonged to the wrong group.

My noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby referred to the problems of reconstruction. We know that electricity is still available only for a few hours a day in much of the country. We know of the fleeing of tens of thousands of professionals out of the country. The Minister told us the figures for how many people had gone back into Afghanistan; he did not tell us the figures for how many people are leaving Iraq. We have asked repeatedly over the past three years for objective data to be published on a regular basis so that we can see where there is progress and where there is a lack of progress, so that we can put the resources in the right place. There is no hope of a successful political development in Iraq if the Iraqi Government cannot, in the end, deliver any improvements in the day-to-day lives of their people.

I would love to have the time to debate with the noble Lord, Lord Soley, the appropriate ways in which interventions should be carried out. It is a complex issue, two aspects of which relate to how many allies you have with you and what chance you have of a successful outcome. I would say to those who supported the intervention in Iraq, which includes my noble friend Lord Jacobs, that they should do what I do and look every morning at the website www.dailywarnews.blogspot.com. This website collates media reports from Iraq of events over the past 24 hours. It is always sombre reading. The Saturday report included 91 killed and 43 injured in a triple car bomb attack in central Baghdad; an American soldier killed in Anbar province; three killed and seven wounded at a police checkpoint at a west Baghdad hospital; an interior ministry official gunned down in the east of the capital; two killed by a Katyusha rocket attack; and a soft drinks delivery driver and his colleague shot—and that is only the Baghdad section. It finishes with just one sentence:

Lest noble Lords should think that I picked a particularly bad day, I rechecked the website this morning. Yesterday’s report has a similar sentence stating that the figure for yesterday was 50 bodies in Baghdad. I shall not weary your Lordships with the continuing litany of death and destruction for the other provinces, although the website gives the figures province by province, not only for the four provinces. I added it up to 196 dead reported in the Iraqi media in that 24-hour period. There were hardly any reports, of course, in our own media. We have grown bored of reading about the terror that we have brought to the Iraqi people.

We have heard many views today on what to do. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, reminded us, we hang on expecting Baker-Hamilton to pull a rabbit out of the hat tomorrow. We have also learnt that on 6 November Mr Rumsfeld was writing his

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memo of 21 proposals of how to cut and run without appearing to do so. Despite the Minister’s protestations, we know that the British Government have no influence on this US debate on strategy and as usual we must wait to find out what the US intends to do. I trust that we in this country will not have to wait too long to have a full investigation into the way we have handled Iraq. There are lessons to be learnt at every stage—from when we went in, to how we conducted the war, to what has happened subsequently. Those are lessons that we may need to apply if we come back to other interventions later.

Noble Lords have agreed that partition would be bad for Iraq, yet the endgame has not yet been played out. We have taken comfort from the apparent stability in the Kurdish northern region, yet there are worrying reports of growing tensions even there. Perhaps the Minister in his winding-up speech could share with us his assessment of developments in the north of Iraq. The battle for the central region including Baghdad seems to be being lost if the level of violence is the indicator. Even in the south, which is of direct interest to us in the UK as our forces are there, divisions are appearing between the Shia groups, and the role of Iran is of great concern. Add to all that this talk of Saudi Arabia readying itself to take sides against Iranian-backed Shias in Iraq and we have a picture of great instability. As many speakers have said, we need to talk to Iran and Syria. I welcome the proposals that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, gave us and what he said about the region having to have a real stake in, not just a single conference on, the way forward.

Then we turn to Afghanistan, the other country in which this nation has a direct military commitment. I spoke about reconstruction in our debate on 10 October, and we have had a series of opportunities to speak on NATO and Afghanistan in the past two months. As noble Lords will know, I do not accept the criticisms that have been generally voiced about NATO’s performance. We owe NATO quite a lot for the progress that has been made in Afghanistan.

On this occasion, I will deal briefly with only two aspects. The first is opium production. The Minister in his beautiful way said that the increase is “disappointing”. As my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby gave us the area statistics for increase of production, let me give another statistic. This is from the Washington Post of 2 December, which reported that the 2006 production of the crop has broken all previous records. In addition to a 26 per cent production increase over the past year, coming to a total of 5,644 metric tonnes, the area of land being cultivated grew by 61 per cent. In the areas that we are interested in—the two main production provinces of Helmand in the south-west and Uruzgan in central Afghanistan—production was up by 132 per cent. Does the Minister recognise these figures? Are these the ones that are disappointing? If so, what does it mean for our strategy?

We on these Benches support the analysis that Afghanistan is a direct security threat to the UK in two different ways: because the training of terrorists that al-Qaeda carried out in the past could be

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re-established; and because the country is a provider of heroin on the streets of Britain. But if we are losing the battle on that second half of the dual threat, what changes of policy do the British Government envisage? We have had some ideas from noble Lords. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, highlighted the importance of alternative livelihoods, and the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, gave us a picture of the economic challenges and the way in which the economy might be developed.

The second question that I would like to draw to your Lordships’ attention is more difficult—whether we have adopted the most appropriate military strategy for stabilising the south and east of Afghanistan. The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, spoke about the Canadian approach, but noble Lords might be interested in a very thoughtful report in the Toronto Globe and Mail this Saturday, which looked at techniques used by the Dutch in the very challenging Uruzgan province. The Dutch did a concerted hearts and minds operation with 1,400 troops. The commander described his approach as follows:

The Canadian reporter contrasted that with the more gung-ho—but certainly less successful in terms of casualties—approach adopted by the Canadians in the next-door province of Kandahar. There are lessons for our own approach here. As I have said before, the other Europeans have made progress over the last five years in Afghanistan because they have worked with the people at a slow pace—a pace that we could go at with the number of troops that we have. There are no easy military-style solutions.

I was very taken by the point that my noble friend Lady Williams made on the continuity of commanders. These are lessons that you learn on the ground. If by the time you have learnt them you get posted and someone else from another nation has to relearn them, there is no continuity in approach, which gives rise to dangers for us.

Before I leave the subject of Iraq and Afghanistan, I must comment on the special problem that the two very challenging operations give the British Armed Forces. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, the noble Baroness, Lady Park, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, spoke on this subject. I spoke about it in the Queen’s Speech debate as well. We all know that the defence planning assumptions have been exceeded not on a routine but on a continuous basis for the past seven years. Either those defence planning assumptions must be changed, which will involve additional resource costs because that is what they generate, or we reduce the tasks. We cannot carry on doing it in this way or we will end up with broken forces.


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