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The real failure in this area involved the divisions within the United States Administration. This is important and often underestimated. It involved the struggle between Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz on the one side and Colin Powell on the other. Unfortunately—in my view—Donald Rumsfeld won that struggle and the Defense Department took over from the State Department on general post-war planning. Colin Powell, along with the generals, warned of the acute dangers of having too few troops in Iraq to maintain order after the removal of Saddam Hussein. That was absolutely right. It has always interested and struck me that Tony Blair’s influence on George Bush was great in a one-to-one relationship. The failing came because Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz’s influence on George Bush was greater than that of Colin Powell and Tony Blair put together. That is a painful reality, but it is the reality. They said

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that the issue involved the beliefs that “democracy will flower”, “everybody will be happy”, “they will greet us with flowers” and so on, which of course was not quite the case.

That disfunctionality at the heart of the US Administration was part of the problem, but we could not deal with it. That does not excuse us for our mistakes, nor does it excuse us for the general failure of the post-conflict plan, but it is a mistake to say that the post-conflict plan was not there. A lot of good people worked on it on both sides of the Atlantic, but it failed. There are other reasons why, as well as those I have just given.

I will not drag on for too long, but another reason has been referred to on a number of occasions: the decision by Paul Bremer to disband the police, army and other aspects of the state in May 2003, particularly the army. The army was of course the one organisation you could have used to maintain power; that is not dissimilar to the way in which we used Japanese armed forces to police areas with British or American officers and NCOs in 1945. It was not as though we had not done this before. For some reason that only Paul Bremer will know, the decision was made rapidly to abandon that. I often wonder how much influence we had on this, and it is one area where we could ask legitimate questions.

The other area touched on by a number of people, such as my noble friend Lord Smith, is that of promoting democracy. I am a great fan of promoting democracy but—this is important—you should normally promote security and the rule of law first, and it is often better to promote local democracy before you promote national democracy. That is not always the case but it is certainly true for Iraq. I was in Iraq a few weeks ago, and it is clear that the local democracy bid is working much better than national democracy, partly because of the tribal splits and a voting system that tends to reinforce those splits rather than heal or bridge them. The response by many political leaders in Iraq was one of cautious optimism, not least because it is working from the bottom upwards.

There will be other occasions when we have to intervene, and it is important in the new world, post-Cold War, that we cannot walk away from these brutal dictators; nor should we. I find it offensive when some rather academic lawyers say that this was against the law. They ought to stand in front of the mirror and say to themselves, “It is and ought to be unlawful to remove the Saddam Husseins, Adolf Hitlers”—or any of the others—“from power”. Of course it is not unlawful. The problem is whether you can do it, and whether you make the situation better or worse by doing it.

Finally, an important point on the failures is the hubris of the United States. The United States is in a similar position to that of Britain 100 years ago: it involves losing overall power and tending to over-estimate the power it has. That hubris—whether displayed on the aircraft carrier at the end of operations, as referred to previously, or when capturing Saddam Hussein and showing him having his teeth inspected on television—said to the Arab world generally that we were triumphant and they were defeated. The loss of support not just

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for the United States but the West generally, through that sort of image of hubris and dominance, is profoundly damaging. A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, referred to the feeling in the region of the dominance of the West. It is an important point, and the United States has got to address it as it comes to terms with the position that we came to terms with at the beginning of the 20th century.

2.18 pm

Baroness Verma: My Lords, I join in congratulating my noble friend on securing this debate, and opening it with an outstanding speech. It provided an opportunity to raise the increasing concerns of many in your Lordships’ House. I speak among great experts, and I do so with some trepidation. I will concentrate my comments on the plight of women in Iraq.

Violence against women has greatly increased after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Where a better, open and democratic vision was promised to the people of Iraq, it seems that women have increasingly become the victims of horrific and appalling violence at the hands of all sectors of society, be they tribal or religious. Laura Sandler’s article, “Veiled and Worried in Baghdad”, summed it up perfectly for me. It said:

Iraqi women are living in fear. They die for belonging to the wrong sect, for helping fellow women and for wanting to work and be educated. They live in fear of defying the strict new prohibitions on dress and behaviour applied by both Shia and Sunni militants. Sadly, they live in fear of their husbands and other male relatives. Women’s rights have been undermined by the country’s post-war constitution, which has taken power from the family courts and given it to the clerics. Women are threatened with death unless they wear the full abbaya, the black all-encompassing veil; yet, paradoxically, the same men who enforce this are responsible for carrying out or ordering the rape and murder of women outside their sects and communities.

Strong anecdotal evidence collected by organisations such as the Iraqi Women’s Network suggests that rape is often used as a weapon in the sectarian war to humiliate families from rival communities. A spokeswomen for the network said that you could call it “collateral rape”. One former deputy Human Rights Minister in Iraq agrees that there are increasing incidents of rape occurring across Iraq. She said:

This violence would not be possible without a wider allowance for brutalising the lives of Iraqi women. The Government of Iraq have allowed ministries run by religious parties to segregate staffing by gender and female staff to be subjected to death threats and worse. With the undermining of the family code of Iraq, established in 1958, which guaranteed women a large measure of equality in the key areas of marriage, divorce and inheritance, this has now been superseded by new religious courts. It has seen the re-emergence

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of men contracting multiple marriages and women forced back under the veil and into the house.

In the chaos of the coalition-backed Government who control Iraq, thousands of women and girls across the country have been subjected to horrific rapes, abduction and trafficking. Does the Minister know whether statistical evidence can be produced to show that the Iraqi Government are taking seriously the issue of women’s abuses? Have they evidence to show that positive action is being taken by the law enforcers against those perpetrating crimes against women? In the cases of burnings, of which 400 cases were reported in 2006, is he able to say if these incidents are automatically investigated, with or without the consent of families? Will the Minister also say how much funding is going into directly supporting female victims of these vile crimes and how that is being monitored?

The Iraqi penal code prescribes leniency to all those who commit crimes for “honourable motives”. I cite a case of a brother who accused his sister of adultery and wanted to kill her to restore his family’s honour. For him, democracy meant he could do whatever he wanted, as, increasingly, family disputes were settled by local religious authorities. Can the Minister say whether his talks with the Iraqi Ministry for Women’s Affairs and the Ministry for Human Rights were open and free, without fear of intimidation in those ministries? Can he tell us whether real progress can be foreseen and that, as far as he is aware, the practice of honour killing is not safeguarded in the Iraqi constitution under any other name?

I did not approve of Saddam Hussein’s regime, but neither did I approve of the invasion of Iraq. To date, the Government have refused an honest and open debate by not allowing a full inquiry. In the mean time, what is inexcusable is that an environment has been created in which oppression has been re-enforced by empowering the very factions that make it their business to terrorise women and civilians.

I have spent several days reading very graphic, disturbing accounts of experiences endured by women—acts so horrible that it is hard to believe that one human being could be so cruel to another. It would be tragic for Iraq to be liberated, only to find her women imprisoned.

2.25 pm

Lord Parekh: My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, for securing this debate and initiating it with considerable passion and eloquence. Many noble Lords have spoken about the situation in Iraq, and so I shall not go over it. Instead, I shall ask a slightly different question. Like some noble Lords, I strongly believed that the war on Iraq was thoroughly misconceived and would go down in history as a disastrous misjudgment and an act of unforgivable folly. I said so at the time both in and outside the House. The war was opposed by about 90 per cent of the world’s population, 92 per cent of the membership of the United Nations and almost all the religious leaders whom one cares to think of. The question that

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this raises is how this could have happened, especially in a mature society such as ours where we have considerable experience and reasonably good ways of reaching significant political decisions.

What lessons can be learnt about the quality of our democracy and decision-making in a society such as ours in order to avoid wars of this kind? There are five or six important lessons that we need to learn. First, much was made during the lead up to the war on the available intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and the imminent threat that it posed. As we know, the intelligence was inconclusive, misinterpreted and even doctored. In such sensitive matters, we have no choice but to rely on the report of the Government, based on the kind of intelligence available to them. We have no way to check the intelligence or the kind of judgment that the Government reach. How can we ensure that in future intelligence is not doctored, misinterpreted or used to serve decisions taken independently of it? That is the first important lesson that we need to learn. I should have thought that one way in which we might deal with such a situation is to ask half a dozen impartial privy counsellors with considerable experience in this area—especially foreign affairs and defence—to look at the evidence and reassure Parliament and the country that the intelligence implies what it is taken to imply.

The second important lesson has to do with the way in which the authority to declare war is exercised. To his credit, Tony Blair consulted Parliament, which was an unusual but important step. Gordon Brown has learnt the lesson and has said that in future wars of this kind would be undertaken with parliamentary approval. I am glad to hear this because I think that we are beginning to learn an important lesson, but it is not enough. When a political party has a large majority, it can easily rely on arm-twisting and other kinds of pressure to gets its way. We need to guard against this. I should have thought, therefore, that parliamentary approval should include not only the House of Commons but the House of Lords, too. After all, your Lordships' House is considerably experienced and the only place in the world that I know of where you have retired Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and others. I should have thought that a debate about the war should have considerable input from your Lordships' House.

The third lesson that we have to learn has to do with how decisions on going to war are taken. Who makes an input? It surprises me that people are surprised at the situation; anyone with any knowledge of Iraq could easily have warned the Government about it, as some historians warned that the consequences that we have subsequently seen were going to follow. Insurgency was inevitable; the Shia-Sunni balance was delicate and likely to fracture. I am surprised that regional experts—not just academics such as myself, but also diplomats with experience in the area—were not fully consulted or encouraged to make an input. To the best of my knowledge, there was only one meeting where the then Prime Minister consulted academics and regional experts. They warned him away from the course of action that he was contemplating and were never consulted again. This is not the way to take decisions of this kind.



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The fourth lesson concerns the way in which we defend wars of this kind in the name of promoting democracy. One wrong conclusion to draw would be that we should not try to foist democracy on other countries. That is too simplistic and I do not think it would work, because where dictators are engaged in, for example, ethnic cleansing, we cannot remain indifferent. So what should we do? I have noticed, both in your Lordships’ debate and in the literature that has followed the war in Iraq, that there is an increasingly important distinction drawn between promoting democracy and promoting constitutionally limited government. Promoting full-blooded democracy from outside is impossible, because democracy requires an appropriate political culture that you cannot impose from outside. A constitutionally limited government would safeguard the rights of individuals and minorities, and an outside agency can be depended upon to promote a regime of rights and liberties, rather than a fully fledged electoral democracy. It is also important to bear in mind that we promote constitutional government not by threatening and imposing it but by a suitable mixture of incentives and pressure—as used systematically by the EU in relation to accession countries. That is the way to promote constitutional government—not by resorting to war.

Another lesson we must learn concerns the role of the media. In the United States, where I spent some time during the Iraq conflict, I was struck by the fact that almost all the media, including Fox television, represented only one point of view. The result was that the public had no access to alternative ways of thinking. Mercifully, in Britain, this was not the situation. By and large, the British print and television media were responsible. I pay particular tribute to the BBC. In spite of being leaned upon and bullied by the Government, it did not abdicate its responsibility to present an alternative point of view and to investigate Government claims about intelligence and other matters. The lesson is that the independence of the BBC must be fully respected and that it should be encouraged to become even more investigative and daring in situations of war and crisis.

Lastly, as a loyal member of the Labour Party, I cannot help asking a counterfactual question. If Labour had been in opposition, would the war have taken place? With Labour in power, there is tremendous pressure on grass-roots opinion to silence dissent and not be too vocal. In the Cabinet, too, there is a tendency for dissent not to be expressed. But countless millions of us did dissent, including the million who marched and many others who would have if they could. The question therefore is, if Labour had been in opposition—I am not saying it should have been—would it not have mobilised popular opinion to a far greater degree than took place? I believe that a Conservative Government—or whatever Government were in power—would not then have dared to take this country into war. Therefore we in the Labour Party need to ask ourselves how we can make sure that the party to which we are loyal and that we love, when in government, does not betray its own principles and embark upon adventures that in opposition it would be the first to condemn.



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2.34 pm

Lord Bew: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, who is a senior scholar in my field. I, too, would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, for introducing this debate. I listened to his eloquent speech with great interest, and it provoked me into changing certain opinions I had before coming into this Chamber.

I want to focus briefly on the current situation in Iraq. The latest American figures suggest that civilian deaths are down 75 per cent on a year ago. Last month, the overall number of deaths, including among Iraqi and allied forces, may have been the lowest since the war began. I agree with noble Lords on all sides of this Chamber who have stressed that the situation is still precarious. There is much that is in doubt. In particular, there is the political issue of the ability of the al-Maliki Government to reach out to Sunni interests, transcend sectarian identification and develop a genuine Iraqi identity. There is also the current state of play among those Sunni tribes that have moved away from al-Qaeda—in a development that has been enormously important and positive for Iraq—and the proper integration of those tribes eventually into genuine Iraqi armed forces. These questions remain unsettled. There is apparent considerable improvement, despite the violence of recent days. There is no certainty, but there is the possibility that we could not have talked about a year ago that the battle of Baghdad, brutal though is has been, has been won. I have lived in a city in which grisly sectarian bombing and slaughter was the order of the day. Eventually something switches and a tipping point is reached. We have not quite reached that point in Baghdad, but we are at a point where we might think it can be reached, and where we can talk about stability in a country with tremendous oil resources, which will be hugely to its advantage in the next few years.

Despite this improvement, there is one area that has already been discussed by a number of noble Lords in which we have to acknowledge great difficulty, and that is the condition of women, particularly in the Basra area. Just before Christmas, the police chief talked of 50 recent murders of women by religious zealots. In the past two days, I have met a delegation from the Iraqi Women’s League, who suggested that murderous attacks on women in the Basra area were running at one a day. I add my voice to those of other noble Lords in asking the Minister to outline the Government’s attitude to the situation in Basra. This Government has a particular responsibility. We would be grateful for a response from the Government on the plight of women in Iraq.

The noble Lord, Lord Fowler, concentrated on the need for an inquiry. As the former historical adviser to the Bloody Sunday inquiry, I have to declare an interest. The Bloody Sunday inquiry’s name was taken in vain. It is understandable that the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, among others, has said that we do not want a repeat of the Bloody Sunday inquiry, with the expense and the advantage that accrued to lawyers. As an historian, in no way will I defend lawyers. But I do say that this inquiry has taken so

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long principally because it is so very difficult to reach the truth about what happened in Derry on one afternoon in 1972. Many people believed before the inquiry was announced that they knew, and yet we are still struggling. I assure you that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, has a genuine problem in reaching the truth—it has taken so long because that is extremely difficult.

That is one general health warning. Even if we do not follow that model, which is ridiculously expensive, it is very difficult to reconstruct historical realities and contexts. Let me give an example from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, which hugely impressed me. He did not mention 9/11. For Tony Blair and his Cabinet, as for George Bush, without 9/11 there would have been no Iraq. Even though the connections are complicated, there is no question but that without 9/11 there would have been no Iraq. That is a crucial context. Another crucial context is that in the 1990s many people’s immediate experience was of the way in which communist regimes had fallen and the relatively easy transition to democracy in many former communist countries. We now know that that was, in a certain sense, an illusory model. We now know that regimes fuelled by ethno-national sectarian passion have more of a life—as in the case of the Baathist regime in Iraq—than regimes that were promoted by the ideologies of communism and socialism. It is difficult to recreate these contexts, but no British Cabinet—or American Cabinet, for that matter—could have avoided them at the time.

This is the difficulty with inquiries: it is hard to be fair or just. There have been assumptions by some today that Foreign Office advice was, or may have been, good but was not heard; others have had the assumption that it may not have been good. The noble Lord, Lord Owen, gave a dramatically interesting example of Foreign Office advice that seemed extremely powerful; he suggested that, if it had been followed, things might have been different. On the other hand, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, the decision to win a vote in the United Nations—a vote that could never have been won and for which a major price was paid in terms of British influence on the United States—was taken at least in part, presumably, on Foreign Office advice. These are exceptionally difficult matters.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Soley, with whose views on foreign policy I am in much sympathy, I have no opposition in principle to an inquiry. It has to be conceded that the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, has made a powerful case. I take the observations of the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, seriously, but they are an argument about timing, although I understand that argument.

Let me give just one other example of the difficulties that we face. Many Members of this House will remember the 2004 report of my noble friend Lord Butler on weapons of mass destruction; indeed, the contributions of my noble friend were accurately recalled by the noble Lord, Lord Fowler. The report has that famous and carefully sculpted last paragraph, which implies that Mr Blair’s informal style of government exacerbated the difficulties in formulating policy on Iraq. There is

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no question about that. However, let me also remind noble Lords of the first paragraph. If we are to take the report seriously, as I think we should, we must also take seriously its opening; indeed, we must take seriously the whole body of the report and the complex material that it presents about the difficulties of intelligence gathering and assessment. The report opens with these words:

Lord Bach: My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord, but I have to point out that, when eight minutes shows on the clock, we are in our ninth minute. We are running pretty short of time, so I wonder whether he could draw his remarks to a conclusion.

Lord Bew: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I will simply conclude by saying that, if we are to have an inquiry, we must accept, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, that it cannot be partisan, that it must be open-ended and that it must fully respect the difficulties faced by all those who were involved in making these decisions at the time.


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