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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:17 pm on 16th April 1986.

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Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Brighton, Pavilion 6:17 pm, 16th April 1986

—we and the Americans betrayed, if I may say so, our friend the King and some of his Ministers, who were murdered or imprisoned.

Our Foreign Office advisers thought that a new young man was a good idea, rather as the Labour party thought the other day. We can see what happened. Ever since then, the Libyan Government have been a pain in the neck to the world. They have subverted north Africa. There has been the war in Chad, and the helping of rebels against the Sudan. They have tried to subvert Egypt, and were helping terrorism long before they began to attack the United Kingdom through the IRA. At any juncture, it would have been quite justifiable to attack them, but because of their close but ambivalent relationship with the Soviet Union, only the United States could face that challenge.

At last, after many years, the Americans have girded up their loins and taken up the challenge. Their action was prompted by the most recent of many provocations, and at last they felt themselves to be justified under article 51. Thus the Americans did it, and we should all be delighted that it was done. For years the civilised world has suffered from the terrorism engendered by Tripoli. But we could not have done it by ourselves, and nor could the French, the Italians or the other Arab countries—much as they have suffered from that terrorism. At last the Americans did it, and we should rejoice in that.

It may be said that there were better ways of dealing with Gaddafi. As an old veteran of the Special Operations Executive, I would rather it had been done subversively or covertly, but often a totalitarian police state cannot be broken without first breaking up its infrastructure. I do not think that the Americans reached a rash conclusion. I am sure that the CIA had some influence. No doubt the Americans went into all the other options but could find no other way of achieving their aims. Rightly, we supported them, because the Gaddafi regime is just as much a threat to us and to other European countries as it is to the United States. It is even more of a threat to the moderate Arab countries. I have just been to the middle east, and it was clear that those countries would be delighted if Gaddafi was suppressed. But they could not accept Gaddafi being provoked but not suppressed.

Old as I am, I must tell hon. Members a story. In 1940, when I was in the Balkans, I asked an opposition leader in Bulgaria what he thought of King Boris, who was sidling up to Hitler. He said that kings were like snakes—to be admired from a distance or killed, but not prodded. The question is whether we have prodded or killed. I do not know the answer. The tape is very confusing tonight. There is no news of Gaddafi's whereabouts. There are rumours that he has left the country. If I knew that that was true, I would finish my speech now, and there would be no need for the shadow Foreign Secretary to speak. President Reagan would have been proved right.