The Times – 20 February 1998
Although I voted with the Government on Tuesday night (reports and leading article, February 18; letters February 14, 16, 19), I am concerned at the lack of clarity in its declared objectives for air strikes in Iraq.
In a paper sent to every MP on February 4, the Foreign Secretary stated:
Iraq has built up an appalling stock of weapons. We must be certain that they are totally eradicated and cannot be rebuilt.
Yet he contradicted this in the Iraq debate on February 17, in reply to a question about the effect of directly bombing a stockpile of chemical or biological weapons. He said:
We are entirely clear about the dangers of hitting such a stockpile. That is why we have taken great care in our targeting plan to ensure that we do not hit such completed weapons (Hansard , February 17, col 902).
If the stockpiles of Iraq's mass destruction weapons cannot be targeted for fear of releasing dangerous chemicals and germ agents, it is hard to see how bombing raids alone will ensure their "total eradication".
I share the doubts, expressed by Service chiefs and academic strategists, about the ability of air power to eliminate this threat unaided.
Dr JULIAN LEWIS MP
House of Commons