New Forest East



By Julian Lewis

Southern Daily Echo – 24 June 2003

Sandra Gidley [Liberal Democrat MP for Romsey] sneeringly suggests that MPs who supported overthrowing Saddam Hussein now agree with the Liberal Democrats that this was wrong.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

After the first Gulf War, Saddam began the long game of hide and seek with the United Nations and its weapons inspectors. These inspectors acknowledged that he had possessed large quantities of deadly germs and gases and that he had given no adequate explanation of what had happened to them.

Less than two years ago, the simmering threat of fundamentalist terrorism erupted in the heart of New York and Washington DC. More then 3,000 innocent civilians died within minutes and – a point often overlooked – it was only a matter of luck that ten times that number managed to escape before the collapse of the World Trade Center.

There could thus be no doubt that if deadly germs or gases got into the hands of these terrorists, they would not hesitate to use them.

This terrible development means that whereas rogue regimes like Saddam's may have been tolerated in the past, they can no longer be tolerated in the future if there is reason to believe that they may have weapons of mass destruction which could be passed to the fanatics who would use them.

The Prime Minister was right to make this analysis. Most Labour MPs and almost all Conservative MPs were right to support him. Mrs Gidley and the Liberal Democrats were foolish, blinkered and irresponsible not to do so.

So what is the fuss about now? It is not because weapons stocks have yet to be found: many of us argued all along that the UN inspectors' job was futile unless the Iraqis agreed to show them where the weapons were. Such weapons can easily be hidden or stored and the plant producing them dismantled.

The only point at issue between the Government and the Conservatives is the entirely separate question of whether Mr Blair misled Parliament by distorting and exaggerating the advice supplied by our Intelligence Services. Misleading Parliament is a most serious offence, even if done in a worthwhile cause like the overthrow of Saddam. If Mrs Gidley cannot appreciate this distinction she should not be in the House of Commons.