New Forest East

IRAQ, TERRORISM & NATO - 17 October 2002

IRAQ, TERRORISM & NATO - 17 October 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Doug Henderson) said that he thought that there was a new phenomenon of international terrorism. I recall that phenomenon some time ago in the shape of Carlos the Jackal, a rather successful international terrorist, the Baader-Meinhof gang and the Red Army Faction. I recall something else about all those terrorist groups. It was always denied that anyone else was behind them and it was denied that they were covertly funded, supplied and supported by the enemies of Western democracy.

Do you know what happened, Madam Deputy Speaker, at the end of the Cold War when the wall came down and the secrets were exposed to public view? It turned out that those groups had been funded by the conventional enemies of Western democracy and many of them were dug out from their boltholes in the former Soviet Union and the disgustingly named "socialist democratic republics" of its evil empire, which we were so lucky to defeat.

How did we defeat that evil empire? It was by having what the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Llew Smith), whom I was sorry to see leaving the Chamber as soon as he had finished his speech, called “the US war machine” and “the British war machine”. The funny thing about machines is that they are as good or as bad as the purposes to which they are put. I think that the nuclear weapons of the US and British war machines have rather a lot to their credit. Post-Hiroshima and post-Nagasaki, in all the time that they existed, they never killed anyone. However, weapons, such as the knives and the machetes that were used in Rwanda, killed a great many people. Therefore, to generalise about weapons without reference to the nature and track record of the people who possess them and to the intentions of the people who might use them is to miss the whole point of the debate.

We have heard some interesting remarks about how “brave” it is of these young men to sacrifice themselves. I do not think that it is very brave to sacrifice oneself in a cause when one has been indoctrinated with blind hatred and with a belief that, if one sacrifices oneself in the cause, one will go to Paradise and have a much better existence after one's death than one has now. Far from being brave, it is the essence of cowardice to demonstrate one's so-called bravery by taking it out not on people who can hit back but on those who are going about their lawful business, whether at work in an office building or at play in a discotheque. With due respect to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North, who knows I like him very much as an individual, it is very foolish to say such things in the House of Commons because it encourages people who are misguided at best and downright evil at worst.

I referred to the contribution of the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent, but the speech of the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Nigel Beard) was a stark contrast. He made one of the most original and thoughtful speeches in the debate when he referred to Ballistic Missile Defence. I believe that I am right to say that he spent much of his working life before he entered Parliament in the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Beard indicated assent.

Dr Lewis: I am glad that I got that right. The work that he did in the Ministry of Defence with many people from many other political parties probably did a great deal more for peace, security and freedom in this country than the blatherings of those who think that getting rid of our weapons, while allowing dictators such as Saddam Hussein to keep or to acquire them, will lead us to a promised land of peaceful international relations.

The Americans' determination to get rid of Saddam Hussein this time has, of course, something to do with 11 September 2001. Even if there were no direct link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, it would be relevant for the Americans to consider the fact that, when they dealt with al-Qaeda before 11 September, they knew that it was a highly dangerous organisation which might pose a deadly threat at some unspecified time in the future. They did not act against it, probably because they felt that international and domestic opinion was not strong enough to enable them to act against it. We know what happened – 3,000 people were killed. I believe that people at the heart of the American planning machine take the view, and they would be right to do so, that they are not going to make the same mistake with Saddam Hussein.

People say that there is no immediate threat from Saddam Hussein, but what is the converse of that proposition? Surely we are not supposed to wait until there is a threat so close to us that it would be much more dangerous to act against him than it is now. If the truth be told, the real mistake was made by the Americans and the British Conservative Government in 1991, when they failed to finish off  Saddam Hussein. They were concerned that a coalition might break down, leading to adverse consequences in the political set-up of the Middle East. Because they ducked that decision then, we now face a harder decision. That was a mistake; we must not make the same mistake now and store up even greater trouble for ourselves in future.

The hon. Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn), who I am sorry to see is not in his place, asked about the circumstances in which Saddam Hussein might use nuclear weapons. He said that the most likely circumstance is that of an attack on Iraq, when Saddam would have nothing to lose. That over-simplifies matters, because Saddam may have nothing to lose, but the military infrastructure around him will still have a great deal to lose. They will know that if they carry out any order from Saddam Hussein in the course of an overwhelming military attack from a Western coalition, which is what it will be if it happens, they will face certain annihilation. The best way to deal with the matter is to deal with the threat before it gets more and more certain that Saddam Hussein will acquire more deadly weapons of mass destruction than he already has and be able to hold the region, if not the world, to ransom.

One of the strange things that Saddam and al-Qaeda have in common is that they were too impatient. Both wanted to act but they did not want to wait. As we now know, if Saddam Hussein had waited two years to invade Kuwait, the scenario would have been very different. If he had waited that long, he would have had a nuclear bomb, so the West's response would have been more cautious and indecisive, and that would have shifted the balance of strategic considerations, possibly decisively, against what still deservedly carries the name of the free world.

Make no bones about it, hon. Members should be aware of the fact that there is no disgrace in referring to the strategic importance of the resources of the Middle East; there is no disgrace in referring to the oil-richness of the Middle East; and there is no disgrace in recognising that Saddam Hussein wanted to go into Kuwait precisely because he wanted those resources and, above all, to deny them to states that he regards as enemies.

I want to cut short my remarks because I know that other Members wish to speak. I shall conclude with the briefest of references to NATO's upcoming, vital summit in Prague on 21 and 22 November. When that event occurs, there will be an enlargement of NATO. Nobody knows yet how many countries will join; it could be up to six or seven. That enlargement will involve a significant increase in NATO's obligations.

If that occurs and it works – I think that it will do so – NATO will once again have triumphed in showing international society that it is possible to work together co-operatively in matters of vital national and international significance without undue loss of individual sovereignty. I think that the Americans put up with the idea of a Rapid Reaction Force outside NATO because they thought that it might help the Europeans to contribute more ships, aircraft and soldiers. That is not going to happen and they know it. Thank goodness they are now setting about creating a real Rapid Reaction Force that is inside the structure of NATO and is not futilely placed outside it so as to confuse, weaken and undermine all that NATO has achieved in years gone by.