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One lesson has surely already been learnt. The surge has been successful. The head of the US army, who warned the United States in, I think, January 2003 that it would need 200,000 troops in Iraq, has been proven right. If we had increased the number of troops earlier, things might have been very different. When John Sawers, the British ambassador in Egypt, who had previously worked in No. 10, went into Iraq, he made a report, which we have seen. We know that he recommended—he was supported in this by Major General Albert Whitley, the most senior British officer with the US land forces—that because of the chaos that he found in Baghdad at the time serious consideration should be given in Downing Street and Whitehall generally to sending the British 16 Air Assault Brigade, which was in Iraq but due to return home, to Baghdad. There is little doubt that, if the British Prime Minister had followed John Sawers’s advice, the American Administration would not have been allowed to “off-ramp” the 16,000 soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division. This was the chance for Britain to make an individual decision. A serious report from a well balanced and knowledgeable diplomat recommended increasing the number of troops in Iraq to deal with the looting and the chaos, but it was overridden. This is not just about the politicians. We have to face the fact that senior diplomats in the Foreign Office have to be held to account, as do the senior generals and other senior members of the Armed Forces. We cannot just go on ignoring what they have done.

I crave the indulgence of the House, as I should like to go back in history. The poem “Mesopotamia”—what is now Iraq—subtitled “1917”, was written by Rudyard Kipling. I thought that I would cut it but, as I think I have time, I will read it all:

The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave;But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung, Shall they come with years and honour to the grave?They shall not return to us, the strong men coldly slainIn sight of help denied from day to day:But the men who edged their agonies and chid them in their pain,Are they too strong and wise to put away?Our dead shall not return to us while Day and Night divide—Never while the bars of sunset hold.But the idle-minded overlings who quibbled while they died,Shall they thrust for high employments as of old?Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour?When the storm is ended shall we findHow softly but how swiftly they have sidled back to powerBy the favour and contrivance of their kind?Even while they soothe us, while they promise large amends,Even while they make a show of fear,

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Do they call upon their debtors, and take council with their friends,To confirm and re-establish each career?Their lives cannot repay us—their death could not undo—The shame that they have laid upon our race.But the slothfulness that wasted and the arrogance that slew,Shall we leave it unabated in its place?”

I beg this House of Lords, over the next few months, to make a decision and force an inquiry. In contradiction to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, whom I greatly respect, I believe that the Falklands commission did have value. The Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence learnt some important lessons, as did the politicians.

In my profession, there is a tradition that, when you make a mistake, you have a post-mortem. It is a great tradition. Sometimes there is an actual examination of the body, but often a case conference examines where mistakes were made. I have made mistakes. Many of us have made mistakes. We should face up to them. I tried in a recent book, the HubrisSyndrome, to draw attention to some of these things, but I am really a participant. We need a dispassionate look and to learn from our mistakes.

12.21 pm

Lord Tugendhat: My Lords, I, too, pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Fowler not only for introducing this debate but for his balanced, eloquent and persuasive speech. I also agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Owen, said. My noble friend Lord Fowler and I go back a long way: we first met as young officers in the Essex Regiment at the time of Suez. On the merits of that escapade, he was right and I was wrong. He was quickly proved to be right. That was more than 50 years ago. It was a great disaster. It is fair to say that what has happened in Iraq is the biggest disaster that has occurred to British foreign and strategic policy since that time. It is of the first importance and of great significance and we must learn lessons from it.

I will not speak about how we got into the war. I agree with my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that it has been extensively inquired into, but not comprehensively. If there is no inquiry, more and more information will leak out and more are more will be known, but in a disordered fashion and in a manner from which it is difficult to draw conclusions. Nor will I speak about the war itself. That was short, sharp and successful. I want to address myself to what has happened post war—what has happened since President Bush stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier in front of a sign proclaiming “mission accomplished”. If only it had been: if only all that has happened since that hubristic and theatrical act could have been avoided.

Although I agree with what has already been said on the need to know more about how we got into this war and what information Ministers, officials, generals and so forth had, we need an inquiry into what has happened post war, whether as part of a broader inquiry or on its own. We specifically need answers to the following questions. First, to what extent did Her Majesty's Government share in the decision making? What was Her Majesty's Government’s input into the

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policy that has been followed since the end of the fighting? Secondly, to what extent were Her Majesty's Government overruled by our great ally, the United States, and to what extent was the advice of Her Majesty's Government simply ignored? Thirdly, to what extent did Her Majesty's Government simply leave it all to the Americans as the senior partner in the adventure—let them take the big decisions and confine our actions to our own limited area of responsibility?

I suspect that there will not be any such inquiry because the findings would be too humiliating for the Government. I suspect, too, that to a very large degree we simply left it to the Americans. I hope that the Minister can assure me that I am wrong and that however badly the situation turned out, Her Majesty’s Government fully participated in all the big decisions. Meanwhile, I draw two preliminary conclusions from what has happened, on which I hope he may feel able to comment.

First, whenever British troops are committed we must be sure to have an adequate say in all strategic and political decisions before, during and after the fighting. If that is not possible in a particular operation because of the imbalance of power between the United States and ourselves, we should stay out. Secondly, the corollary of involving Parliament in decisions to commit troops—I applaud the change introduced by the Prime Minister soon after he took office—is that the Government should be held accountable to Parliament for the outcome, not only for the military operation and how we got into that but for the occupation, the reconstruction, and the fulfilment—or not, as the case may be—of our war aims.

As we all know, the Suez debacle led the British Government to decide not only always to stick as closely as possible to the United States but never again to embark on a military operation that the United States could thwart. But that did not mean having to follow the United States wherever it led. Here I think the Labour Government could take a look at their predecessor, Harold Wilson—I know that he is not a popular man in Labour circles—who showed that it is perfectly possible to remain on very close and good terms with the United States, but he did not follow it into Vietnam, although President Johnson put a great deal of pressure on him to do so, and although other American allies, notably the Australians, did indeed follow the United States down that path.

Therefore, it is not just a question of whether we agree with what the United States wants to do in a given situation, nor is it a question of not wanting to leave the United States isolated in a particular situation, although I can understand the previous Prime Minister’s concerns on that point.

It must also be a question of whether and to what extent a British Government can have an influence on the formation and conduct of policy when British troops are involved. We may have been the junior partner in Iraq but we were and are a partner and therefore we are responsible for what happened in Iraq. We share the responsibility with the United States and others for what happened in Iraq and we

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must draw lessons from it. The final lesson I draw from it is that, as a result of the decisions taken by this Government, we find ourselves in a position where we have responsibility without power, where we share in the responsibility for what happened but were not able to influence the big strategic decisions, and that is a very humiliating position for this country to be in.

12.28 pm

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, for tabling this debate and giving us the opportunity to discuss Iraq without the fevered concentration on the negative, which is usual in the media. First, I shall deal with the question of an inquiry. We debated this at great length last February in a debate on Iraq tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hurd. Then, as now, I completely agreed with the Government’s position stated in that debate, when the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, said,

As the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, reminded us, the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, went on to say that,

As I understand it, that is still the position and I certainly go along with it.

The Minister on that occasion also said:

I agree completely with all of that, and I do not consider that discussion of an inquiry is either sensible or appropriate while there are British forces in theatre.

When looking at Iraq, it is important not to start only at 2003. As I have often told the House, I spent the last 12 months of my government service—which ended in August 1991—wholly immersed in Iraq.

There are two very important lessons to be learnt from 1991. First, do not leave decisions about crucial ceasefire timing and conditions to soldiers, even those as distinguished as Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf; because they got it wrong. Secondly, do not allow a very long, detailed Chapter 7 resolution—that chapter enables you to take military action—such as United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 of April 1991, to lie for some 12 years before taking decisive military action to enforce it.

Time does not allow expansion on these two lessons, which are part of the reason I consider—and have always considered—our military action in 2003 politically, morally and legally completely justified. Whether one agrees with me about that or not, no one can be satisfied with the way in which things developed after the successful 2003 military action; and, indeed, lessons can and should be learnt.

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One mistake which was made was not the commonly levelled criticism that there was no post-military action planning, but that the very detailed planning in the US State Department for handling the civil situation after the invasion and overthrow of Saddam—all of which was meticulously reported in Bob Woodward’s excellent book, Plan of Attack—was never put into action. The State Department was prevented by the Pentagon from implementing it, as my noble friend Lord Anderson said. We have all expressed disquiet in this House about some of the decisions taken after the invasion. An outstanding example was the disbandment of the Iraqi army. As is reported in another Bob Woodward book, State of Denial, General Jay Garner told Donald Rumsfeld that three terrible mistakes had been made. The said that they were,

It was not for want of some of the people on the ground seeing the dire consequences of some of the mistakes that had been made. These are certainly lessons that need to be learnt.

Not enough recognition was given to how the horrors of Saddam’s regime brutalised and exacerbated tensions between Sunni, Shia and Kurd, fracturing Iraqi society. We know, from the Balkans and elsewhere, the violence that erupts from the removal of a dictatorial regime, and Iraq had been held in the grip of a fearsomely efficient terror machine of incredible brutality. Again, this was recognised by Jay Garner, who at a press conference at the time said:

I argued in April 2003 that it was a mistake not to tackle Moqtada Sadr then, when he was clearly responsible for the murder in Najaf of the respected 42 year-old Shia cleric leader, al-Khoei, who had just returned to Iraq from exile in London after the invasion. To have dealt with Moqtada then could have avoided many subsequent problems.

We should all learn from the success of General Petraeus’s tactics of the surge, which is leading to a return, however modest, of some of the 2 million Iraqis who fled abroad and to attempts of some Mahdi army militants to bring back some displaced Sunni neighbours to Shia districts. A major aim of the surge was to give Iraqi politicians breathing space to pass legislation to try to bring about some reconciliation. Now, at last, a law has been passed—the Accountability and Justice Act—to give former, not top-level, Ba’ath members some chance of pensions or even reinstatement in their former jobs. Other positive developments are the Sunni Awakening movement, which is acting against the insurgents linked to al-Qaeda, and the main Sunni alliance in the Parliament, the Iraqi Accord Front, indicating that it will rejoin the Maliki Government.

Control of the oil industry and provincial elections remain elements in the national reconciliation package, but in both there are interesting and encouraging developments, which unfortunately there is no time to

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expand on now. There are some grounds for at least a glimmer of hope for national reconciliation, which everyone—Iraqis and others—has learnt is the only hope for any peaceful progress for Iraq.

12.37 pm

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne: My Lords, I warmly welcome this important debate, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, for giving us this vital opportunity. The timing is excellent, for the recent gains in security in the region and Iraq’s gains in political stability and cohesion achieved in recent months give a unique opportunity to the European Union and its member states to forge the closer permanent relationship that is our policy.

There are now most important new opportunities for trade and investment that others are taking on. I spoke in October at the Al Thiqa economic development conference held in Nasiriyah. This was the first ever development conference held in southern Iraq. It was impressive to hear the Ministers for oil, security, housing, roads, water and the Marshes, among others, set out their current expenditure and roll out future plans. The Deputy President, the Deputy Prime Minister and the local governor also spoke. Council members, tribal leaders, other local notables and Members of Parliament took part in the debate.

Some of Iraq’s major new investors were present at the conference, including Japan, the principal investor in the south. Another example of successful investors is MTC Al-Atheer, the Kuwait-registered group working with Iraqi partners, which to date has made $2.5 billion worth of investment in Iraq’s mobile telephone network. I learnt too that the French company Lavage had just signed an agreement with the Iraqi Government for three major cement factories to be refurbished, sharing production 40 per cent to the Iraqi Government and 60 per cent Lavage. The possibilities for EU investors now throughout Iraq, not just in northern Kurdistan, are very large indeed. I look to Her Majesty’s Government and to member states to do all that is possible to encourage EU companies to take up the opportunities. Other nations are doing so and we are being left behind.

We in the European Union have high competence in building a public administration. Prime Minister Maliki and his Ministers are indeed hard-working and the Parliament is fully functioning. But to be effective, Ministers must be supported by a functioning and competent administration that is committed to serving the people. In Iraq, at all levels of the administration, there is a profound lack in skills in this most important area, but we can help. This crucial gap gives the European Union a chance to show our special skills in capacity and institution building as well as in training. Of course, creating a public service ethos in Iraq will require a complete reversal of the former position which the previous administration took. As we in the European Union know well from our work in central and eastern Europe throughout the enlargement process, dictatorship thrives on public control and turns away from serving the public interest.

To help Iraq reverse the dismal administrative situation it inherited we need to make close partnerships with the public service ministries, particularly health, which

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is a key priority for Prime Minister Maliki to help in building up a functioning and significantly less corrupt public sector. I hope that Prime Minister Maliki will visit the European Union soon. If he does, I would like us to be able to present him with the package of training and institution and capacity building in public health and education that Iraq so sorely needs. Public health is a key, essential element in stabilisation and association processes. Access to public health is a millennium development goal.

In October I had the opportunity, and again two weeks ago, to address the Iraqi Parliament in plenary session—not once but twice. I was their first official visitor and it was a great honour to address them. I learnt immediately how much assistance they need. We in the European Parliament, in consequence, are setting up a permanent ad hoc delegation to Iraq. We have a new rapporteur for an Iraq report—a close friend of mine, the socialist Portuguese Member of the European Parliament, Ana Gomes—and I am her shadow for the next report. We believe that strengthening Parliament’s ties is one of the key ways in which we can assist the democratic process.

Iraq has a permanent standing constitution committee, because there are still problems in the constitution. We can assist. Women’s issues are a key area in today’s Iraq. My colleague Ana Gomes is on the women’s committee in the European Parliament. We at once vowed that we would create those ties officially as well as informally. Then there are the issues of how to frame and progress laws and the essential links that are still missing between Ministers and their civil servants in drafting laws and for Parliament in progressing them. Proper parliamentary procedures are still not in place. Those needs are vital and we can help.

Iraq has a true parliament and a wholly secular constitution. It is one of the very few nations in the region to have such a constitution, despite its flaws. We should do all that we can to help the Iraqis to strengthen the democratic process. The rule of law is critical to a functioning democracy. I pay tribute to the Council of Ministers and the EUJUST LEX exercise which has trained so many judges and magistrates. I am proud that, through this mechanism, we have trained 24,000 election monitors, who I saw working so hard in the 2005 elections in January and December of that year.

However, there must be cohesion in the European Union institutional approach if we are to succeed. There must be closer co-ordination also between member states. It is now possible, at last, to have a unified EU approach. Past national divisions have healed and the way ahead is clear. It will require careful, dedicated and patient work to deliver what we have promised to the Iraqi people. Like us, the people of Iraq demand democracy and good governance. They demand and need the provision of basic rights, basic services and the full complement of those enjoyments of privileges that we have in our democracies in western Europe. We have come a long way towards delivering that goal, and with the EU newly united on the issue of Iraq, I believe that we can achieve much more in partnership and co-operation with the Government, the parliament, the administration and the people of Iraq.

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I would suggest that the prize of a stable Iraq exercising a benign influence regionally and internationally is worth every effort to attain. I hope for and work towards the enlargement of the European Union to incorporate Turkey, when Iraq will become our next-door neighbour.

In conclusion, if there is a lesson to learn, I suggest that we should not allow past challenges to inhibit and cloud the future. We should not use yesterday’s problems to stop moving forward. We must move on.

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