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To analyse what happened in our relationship with the United States, I look back at my personal involvement in the first Gulf War and the relationship then. There were different personalities. There was no doubt that Douglas Hurd and Jim Baker had a particularly good relationship, and in no sense did the Pentagon dominate the State Department. Dick Cheney was a more junior member of the Administration—an effective Defense Secretary, my opposite number—but the State Department was not by-passed. Our co-operation was close, with one exception: the decision to stop after the turkey shoot and the Mutla Ridge; some may remember those terrible pictures of the Iraqi army trying to escape out of Kuwait. The meeting at which the decision to stop was taken was held in the White House without any British representation. Until that point, co-operation had been close throughout. We played a major part in ensuring that we had the right rules of engagement before it started. Looking at what happened in the United States this time, we had—in Washington—a very inexperienced president with an exceptionally powerful vice-president who drew on his own experiences of the first Gulf War and his close relationship with another great Washington hand, Donald Rumsfeld. They undoubtedly very much sidelined Colin Powell and the State Department. We want to learn lessons on that.

We also want to learn lessons on intelligence. I do not think that it is unkind to say this as it is widely known: I chaired the Intelligence Security Committee, and we were critical of the lack of interest that the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, took in intelligence. We regularly encouraged him in successive reports to chair the ministerial Committee on Intelligence Services on a regular basis. It did not happen. He must bitterly regret that now. A closer involvement in intelligence of that kind would have helped him as a very inexperienced Prime Minister—that is no criticism; it was the inevitable consequence of 18 years of Conservative government. He came in with no ministerial experience at all. However, closer involvement would have helped him to know which questions to ask and which challenges to put to the intelligence services. He had our reports—although I always worried whether he really read them. We had already said on more that one occasion—as the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, knows very well—what a hard target Iraq was for human intelligence. The intelligence services told us, as was in our reports, that we knew very little about what was going on in Iraq. That should have been a red light to warn a Prime Minister that he had better ask some pretty tough questions before taking some fundamental decisions of that kind.

On the military side, it is interesting to think that when we set out to expel Saddam Hussein and his invading Iraqi army from somebody else’s country, 750,000 troops were involved. When we set out to undertake the much more difficult task of invading

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somebody else’s country and destroying their Government and president, we tried to do so with less than half that amount. If one is talking about the effect of “shock and awe”, and—that favourite phrase of the Americans—“having won the battle”, you must hold the ground, which means substantial forces. But you must do something when you are holding the ground. I offer the analogy of the SAS and their stun grenades. If you try to break into premises and chuck in a stun grenade, you do not just then wait for an hour for the dust to settle and people to gather their wits. The point of the stun grenade is that, having made the attack, you get in quick and change things fast. We did not come into Iraq fast with real plans; that was the great mistake.

Briefly, on an inquiry, I am critical of our Parliament. Congress is much more effective at holding the Executive to account. Parliament should show its determination and resolve, and insist upon an inquiry. The Iraq Study Group was, in a sense, an American committee of privy counsellors: Jim Baker, Lee Hamilton, Larry Eagleburger and Bill Perry; a range of distinguished American people. We must set up something similar. The clinching argument for that is there will never otherwise be a right time, but we may find ourselves in this situation again. We cannot be sure. I would not like to take responsibility for the deaths of our Armed Forces facing a new situation, if we made some of the same mistakes we have made this time but had not got around to studying them, learning the lessons, and ensuring that we never made those mistakes again.

1.18 pm

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, we owe a great debt to my noble friend Lord Fowler for this important debate.

As Rory Stewart has said, nowhere in 30 years has there been such a concentration of foreign money, manpower and determination as in Iraq. Nor has their failure, to some extent, been more dramatic. He adds:

The lessons HMG should draw from Iraq are all relevant to the continuing military task in Afghanistan: the struggle for resources, whether helicopters, armoured vehicles or, not least, skilled manpower. The Government have remorselessly refused to provide the money to meet the ever-increasing demands they have placed on the Armed Forces ever since the strategic review, coupled with taking on not one but two wars simultaneously, in addition to our continuing commitment in the Balkans. We have moved from being told that not a shot would be fired in Afghanistan to being told that we are committed there for many years in what has proved to be a virtually full-scale war. We are not helped by the fact that it is a NATO operation in which some are fighting but others are not.

The Defence Committee in the other place has always been deeply concerned at what the Treasury’s resource accounting and budgeting—RAB—procedure

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has done to the MoD’s ability to meet defence priorities within its budget. The MoD once thought that it could,

It did not think that meant cuts, just stretching the budget further. It reported, however, that the Treasury was unwilling,

I repeat: we have problems with the Treasury.

Ever since the Iraq operation began—and before—the MoD has been contending with undermanning, the consequent breaching of harmony lines, a lack of vital equipment that has meant that there is not enough for training on it as it has to go straight to the operational forces on the ground, and permanent overstretch. Families at home are left in disgraceful accommodation, many have suffered from unpardonable stress because of breakdowns to the pay system, and the severely wounded who return to this country have had, in some cases, very shabby treatment. There is no money for training or servicing. The helicopter crash in Iraq some years ago was attributed to insufficient training of the crew. The inquiry into the more recent Nimrod crash in Afghanistan has reported that:

In other words, there is no money for training and skilled engineers are leaving the services, which is one of the vital pinch points identified by the NAO.

The FCO, which ought to be able to produce not only admirable advice but also skilled linguists with in-country skills, has an almost invisible budget. The MoD, which is responsible for the nation’s defence—the chief reason now why we can punch above our weight on the international scene—has been starved of funds for the past 15 to 20 years. We proudly claim that we give more in aid than any other country except one: the US. DfID’s budget is to rise by 11 per cent each year for the next three years. That and the major increases in education and health far outstrip defence. The MoD’s budget will rise by 1.5 per cent per annum for the foreseeable future, and it is looking at a shortfall of £1 billion over the next three years even now. Defence will get only 2 per cent of GDP by 2011, while the defence budgets of the Russians and the Chinese are rocketing up. If the Government use their defence forces as part of their international strategy, they must expect to pay. It is shaming that the Danes can take care of their interpreters in Iraq, but we cannot. It is shaming that at a time when shortage of manpower is a serious problem, the MoD is trying to find ways to make the Ghurkhas, worth their weight in gold in Iraq and Afghanistan, retire early in order to save on their pensions. Iraq should have taught us the value of our Armed Forces as our representatives in the world.

We are all only too familiar with the failure, until quite recently, to provide armoured vehicles and helicopters with lift. One lesson of Iraq must surely be not to leave the forces in Afghanistan in a similar situation, obliged at this stage to rely on the goodwill, on some occasions,

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of other NATO allies on the ground who are quite likely to withdraw or to have another agenda. We should also learn from Iraq not to repeat the gross lack of care for the operational efficiency and the human well-being of our Armed Forces, which is demonstrated by the Government’s readiness to enter into a commitment with no visible end in Afghanistan while our Armed Forces are still not disengaged from Iraq and are seriously undermanned. Without the Territorial Army, we would be in serious trouble. HMG cannot expect the TA to rotate again and again. We are rightly committed to retain the capability to re-intervene in south-eastern Iraq should the situation deteriorate. Shall we have enough men and matériel? The Armed Forces have a vital part to play in the defence of this country, and we cannot exclude the possibility of an attack from the sea by al-Qaeda. They are also regularly called upon for domestic emergencies: Operation Fresco, the floods, and so on. The lesson we should draw from Iraq and for Afghanistan is that it is in the national interest to ensure that we have forces trained and equipped to defend us adequately and, where appropriate, to intervene abroad; Serbia looms, and the situation in Pakistan is fragile. No Government should expect to commit their Armed Forces to military operations overseas without first ensuring the long-term funding. Not least, we are destroying a generation of our best young people. Recently, a witness to the Defence Select Committee said:

For too many people in this country, Iraq is simply the trigger for an anti-US reaction. It should be a wake-up call from the public telling the Government to ensure that the Armed Forces are given the support that they need and deserve. I add, in strong support of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that the most important lesson must surely be to end for ever the culture of sofa government and to return the proper powers of the Cabinet, the JIC and the ministries, so long ignored in favour of wholly unqualified special advisers. This is where the Treasury ought to be held to account by properly briefed Ministers.

We also need to remember that our influence in the world depends on how both enemies and friends perceive our diplomatic and military power. It is in our power to ensure that they continue to respect us. It is also in the power of the present Government—I fear perhaps of future Governments as well—to be so obsessed by the need to save money that they forget that we have a part to play in the world and that respect is tied up with how we are seen to perform diplomatically and militarily. We cannot do the other things unless we have that respect.

1.26 pm

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, the debate we are holding today is focusing to some extent on the need for a formal inquiry into the Iraq war. Such an

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inquiry has been championed by the Opposition parties and, so far, the Government have given only a dilatory response. I do not intend to dwell on that issue, except to make a plea that if and when such an inquiry is held, it should not simply become an occasion for settling accounts and partisan point-scoring. The terms of reference and the membership of such an inquiry would need to be designed to discourage that. Meanwhile, it is surely none too soon to begin to draw some lessons from what has been for all concerned—both protagonists and antagonists of the action taken in Iraq—a tragic and debilitating experience. For that reason, this debate is to be welcomed, and I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, for obtaining it. I hope it will be put to good use. I shall concentrate on a somewhat eclectic mixture of some of the political and diplomatic aspects of the subject rather than the military and security ones.

The first is the intelligence and the uses to which it was put in the run-up to the invasion, which has been mentioned by several noble Lords. It seems now to be rather generally recognised that not only was the intelligence on Iraq’s WMD assets flawed but that the public use to which that intelligence was put was unwise and excessively prescriptive. Intelligence gathering, particularly from totalitarian regimes which will go to any lengths to protect their secrets, is not an exact science and it is never going to provide certainty about the assets and intentions of those regimes. It will often provide crucial parts of a jigsaw puzzle, but not the whole of it, and Governments should not believe or assert that it does. Have we learnt the negative and positive aspects of that lesson? I very much doubt it. The reactions to the United States’ recent national intelligence estimate on Iran’s nuclear programmes would seem to indicate quite the contrary. The same people who were most critical of the intelligence on Iraq and the uses to which it was put are now speaking of the intelligence on Iran as if it were Holy Writ. Would they be taking the same view if the estimate had indicated that Iran was close to acquiring nuclear weapons? I rather doubt it. Better surely, in the light of experience in Iraq, to be more cautious in analysing the implications of intelligence, whether it suits one’s purpose or not.

The second aspect is the role of the United Nations in the run-up to the war. It is pretty clear now that the campaign to get a second resolution during the first two months of 2003 was doomed to failure, not just because of the possibility of vetoes by France and Russia but because the necessary nine positive votes to get such a resolution were simply not there. I recall at the time, when the campaign for a second resolution began, saying, “They must know something I don’t”. It appears now that they did not. In the event, the campaign for a second resolution and the public confrontations in New York ended up inflicting far more damage on the United Nations and on the legitimacy of the action eventually taken than was the case over Kosovo a few years earlier when a quite different approach was followed. Is that an invitation to bypass the UN and to use force unilaterally? Certainly not, in my view. But it should be an invitation to avoid getting locked into a military timetable that is inconsistent from the outset with any realistic prospect of getting a

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second resolution. The logic of getting international inspectors back into Iraq was to give them sufficient time to do their work, and that logic was ignored.

The third aspect is post-war justice. The trials of Saddam Hussein and his principal henchmen and their execution can surely have satisfied no cause other than that of revenge, which should have no place in the administration of justice. Would it not have been far better if they had been brought before an international tribunal, as were those guilty of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, and if world opinion had been able to appreciate fully the enormity of the crimes of which they were accused, while seeing that they were given a reasonable opportunity to defend themselves? No method of trial could have entirely avoided the risk of creating martyrs, but the one chosen was absolutely certain to fall into that trap. Now that we have a functioning international criminal court, even if not every country in the world yet accepts it, this must surely become the right and best way to challenge the doctrine of impunity.

Time does not permit me to go into the many bitter lessons to be drawn from the fundamental errors made since the end of the first military phase of the action against Iraq—the provision of inadequate manpower to achieve security in the collapsed state; the disbanding of the Iraqi army; the banning of all Baathists from public service; and the fatal combination of incompetence and hubris which characterised the US handling of Iraq in the first years after the invasion—but the failure to grasp and to come to terms with the regional dimension of Iraq’s problems deserves some mention. It should have been clear from the outset that all Iraq’s neighbours had a vital interest in that country’s future, policies and structure, and that each one of them had the capacity seriously to undermine the prospects for a stable and prosperous Iraq.

That ought to have led to an approach which created a dialogue with those neighbours and which built in the dimension of regional security, ideally through the establishment of sub-regional security guarantees and confidence-building measures, to any long-term perspectives for Iraq. Instead, the three crucial neighbours of Iraq—Turkey, Iran and Syria—were handled in ways which either marginalised them or treated them as pariahs with whom even dialogue was not possible. The reversal of that policy has come very late in the day and yet that same regional dimension arises when dealing with any number of the world’s most burning questions—Afghanistan, Burma, Zimbabwe and Darfur, to give a few examples. We ignore that dimension at our peril.

Perhaps the most important lesson to be drawn from Iraq is the complete bankruptcy of the policies which have been given the label in the United States of neo-conservatism, even if some of those who have practised these policies would reject that label. Not only have the policies not worked on the ground but it is now clear that the US people have no stomach to seek to pursue them and impose them on an unwilling world. The turning away from these policies is something which we in this country should welcome since the pursuit of them has damaged us, too,

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through our close alliance with the US. If neo-conservative policies were to be succeeded by a period of isolationism or of unwillingness by the United States to pull its full weight in handling the many global problems which face us all, then our last state would not be much better than our first.

That underlines the importance of this country and its European partners preparing carefully for the change of administration in Washington which is coming at the end of this year, and being ready to work hard for a new co-operative transatlantic approach, including one to deal with the unfinished business of stabilising Iraq and securing for its people a better future than the past, or the present, has provided.

1.35 pm

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, I very much agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said about neo-conservatism. Of course, proper Conservatives do not have a hyphen in their conservatism. I should like to add my thanks to the many who have thanked my noble friend Lord Fowler for this debate and for his excellent speech in introducing it. He pointed out that it is nearly five years since the invasion of Iraq but it is also almost four years since Ministers from the Dispatch Box were telling us that it was time to move on; the war was over and therefore the debate was over. Sadly, the debate was no more over than the violence was over.

If a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, had produced deaths and injuries on the scale that we have seen in the Iraq war, there would have been an outpouring of sympathy, appeals for money on television, and endless debates in this House. I am somewhat staggered by the equanimity with which questions about the scale of casualties in Iraq have been received. My noble friend Lord Fowler referred to a figure of 100,000 dead since the invasion. There are many other estimates, many of them far higher. Johns Hopkins estimates more than half a million dead and the New England Journal of Medicine estimates between 100,000 to 200,000 dead with a mid-point of 150,000. There are many estimates but I would go along with my noble friend that a figure of 100,000 seems about right, judged on the wide range of different estimates there are. The vast majority of deaths have been at the hands of non-western forces but the West has considerable responsibility for the context in which those deaths happened. We need to recognise and acknowledge our role in creating the conditions for violence and instability. It is that reluctance to acknowledge that responsibility that has fuelled so much of the criticism and hatred of western action.

All this stems from a war that was based on a false premise. This was an optional war, a war we did not have to fight. If we had known the costs, both human and financial, surely we would have opted for a policy of continued containment of Saddam Hussein. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, that that policy had demonstrably failed. No one is entitled to make a mistake of this magnitude. It is no justification for these deaths to say that 100,000 people would

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probably have died anyway under Saddam Hussein. We simply do not know that. The Secretary-General of the UN described this war as an “illegal war”. The Minister speaking for the Government today was working for the Secretary-General at that time. It would be interesting to know what his view was on that pronouncement.

Whether or not the war was illegal, there can be no doubt that the intelligence was handled in a particularly shoddy way. I agree with what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, about the difficulty and the undesirability of publishing so much intelligence material, but what was astonishing was not the publication just of intelligence material but the publication of some material in support of the Government’s case that was not intelligence at all. I find it utterly bewildering that the Government should have thought it right to publish under the Government’s name a paper that had been written by an academic and publish it without his permission, without his acknowledgement and without his approval. It was like the conduct of a third-rate cheat during a university exam.

This Government, who led us into this war, were the same Government who passed the legislation in this House that set up the International Criminal Court, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, referred. As those who participated in the debates on that legislation will remember, it provides that commanders, including politicians in charge of forces, can be prosecuted for what they did not know but which the court judged they should have known. There are plenty of things that the Government should have known about Iraq. They should have known that there was no firm evidence of WMD. They should have known that there were no significant links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. They should have known that it was na├»ve to think that democracy could take root quickly in a country such as Iraq. They should have known that the intelligence that it takes about 45 minutes to activate certain lethal weapons applied only to battlefield weapons and not to strategic weapons—a question that the Prime Minister never seems to have asked.


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