New Forest East



By Julian Lewis

Southern Daily Echo – 10 August 2004

In a rare excursion into the field of foreign and defence policy, Brian Dash (In My View, July 31), gives the game away with his closing remarks about election results. Responsible political parties try to consider vital questions of war and peace on their own merits ­– and that is why the Conservatives have backed the Government over Afghanistan and Iraq.

Heaven help this country's security if Brian's Liberal Democrats ever hold the balance of power. The wish to do nothing about a regime in Iraq with a long history of possessing and using deadly chemical and biological weapons is typical of their irresponsibility.

Since the emergence of fanatical and suicidal terrorist groups, it is no longer enough to contain and deter rogue regimes that might create and proliferate such terrible weapons.

If Saddam had disposed of all his weapons stocks, then he was exceptionally stupid to continue obstructing United Nations resolutions and requirements, as he did. His overthrow is an object lesson to other tyrants not to follow his example.

Some of the current violence in Iraq is being caused by the remnants of Saddam's regime, some of it by Iraqi fundamentalists and some of it by an influx of al-Qaida suicide bombers.

These vicious groups were not created by the recent actions of the West – and it is better that they are confronted in Afghanistan and Iraq than in the cities and towns of the UK. It was a Lib Dem MP who said that bombing Afghanistan with bread was the way to deal with the Taliban and al-Qaida there. If it were left to the Liberal Democrats, this country would sit back and wait for the terrorists to strike us in a time and place of their choosing, just as they targeted the Americans in 2001.

Nevertheless, as I stated in my column in June 2003, with which Brian belatedly takes issue, there remains the entirely separate question of whether Mr Blair misled Parliament by distorting and exaggerating the advice supplied by our Intelligence Services.

I pointed out, both then and to the Prime Minister in the recent debate on the Butler Report, that support for the overthrow of a dangerous regime does not imply support for manipulating intelligence in order to do so. By using New Labour propaganda tricks in the field of international relations, the Prime Minister has seriously weakened public confidence in the reliability of secret information and our Intelligence machinery.