The Gulf

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 7:16 pm on 6th September 1990.

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Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth , Belfast South 7:16 pm, 6th September 1990

May I be allowed, first, to join the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and Mr. Speaker in paying tribute to colleagues who are now deceased? I sympathise with their parties and families on behalf of my hon. Friends and, as I believe everyone will understand, particularly on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland in respect of Ian Gow, who showed himself a solid Unionist, determined to maintain his position against all terror. It is apt that, on a day when we are dealing with one who, by terror and destruction, would seek to impose his mind and will on a region of the world, we should pay tribute to one who resisted terror in our own nation.

I have been a little happier with some of the more recent speeches than with some that took place in the middle of the debate. I welcomed the general unanimity on the Front Benches as right hon. and hon. Members tackled the issue. The right hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce) omitted to say that, if Saddam Hussein is modelling himself on Nebuchadnezzar, he is in for a sticky end.

I noticed some confusion during the debate and among the advice given, and was reminded of the old statement to the effect, "I don't know what you are doing to the enemy, but you are certainly scaring me." In my judgment, some of the contributions gave more succour to President Hussein than they did to either the hostages or the men and women stationed in the Gulf region at present at the behest of our and other Governments. During this debate, we have a responsibility to give them succour. I know that, in these hours of uncertainty and torment, we dare not forget the welfare of those Britons and other nationals who are trapped in Iraq and occupied Kuwait. I am sure that all my colleagues will agree that their safety is paramount amid all the talk of hostilities.

I put on record our tribute to Douglas Croskery, who was murdered while helping others in a brave bolt for liberty. I praise the efforts of my friend the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) in seeking to help Douglas Croskery's family.

Without any qualification, I express the general support of my party for the way in which Her Majesty's Government have responded to the crisis, which is, in the final analysis, a dispute between the forces of peace and international harmony on the one side and despotism, tyranny and subjugation of the liberties which we cherish on the other.

I suggest that those who have been ready to throw stones at the Americans might also have been the first to throw stones at them if they had not come into the fray on the side of Kuwait and the international community.

As I see it, we have two clear choices. We either appease a dictator and allow both ourselves and the United Nations to fall into the same depths of mendacity and shame as our predecessors pre-1939 or we stand for those hallowed principles that we profess so vehemently in times of tranquility. Those who look back to 1938 and are reminded of the horrors that ensued must not be ignored, because the threat remains the same. A dictator, revelling in the cult of personality which he has constructed for himself, has run roughshod over the rules of international behaviour and morality which we, as a nation, are pledged to defend. The integrity of Kuwait has been violated. Are we to accept that as a fait accompli? Is it to be treated as another Czechoslovakia so long as Britain does not become embroiled in a conflict which, some say, does not involve us?

Surely Britain's national interests cannot be regarded as so inward looking as some have suggested. Are we so selfish that we should turn our backs on the oppressed and bullied of the world simply to preserve our own position? Surely we are not involved merely because of the interests of our economy, or those of any other nation's economy and the oil industry. There are other issues at stake.

Appeasement of a dictator breeds only the hunger for more territory, an insatiable desire for living space for a vibrant and thrusting state which the tyrant feels he has created. Here, the threat is compounded by a desperation to roll back the physical and psychological losses of an eight-year conflict. That leads inevitably to an irrationality that is blatantly oblivious to the codes of international morality.

I am happy that the consensus that is emerging from the debate is that our nation must show the world that our resolve to resist aggressors shall not be weakened and that our love of freedom and national integrity are not merely the ostensible ramblings of a once influential world power.

The politics of Saddam Hussein must never be allowed to become excusable in the world. His actions threaten more than a delicacy of relations between the powers in the middle east. The appeasement of Hitler and Mussolini in the 1930s was practised in the mistaken belief that both were basically honest and rational men who practised the accepted art of diplomacy, but with only a little more zeal, to achieve their objectives. We must not fall into the same naivety in our handling of Saddam Hussein.

Over the past two years, many of us have warned those who have gleefully advocated the disarming of NATO and the world in the aftermath of the bi-polar cold war. Those advocates should stand corrected. The crisis in the Gulf should demonstrate to all that the world will never be immune from the threat of megalomania or the evil designs of the despot. Our nation, with its friends and allies, must remain on guard against that threat and those designs.

The Foreign Office has, to this moment, faced the challenge of Saddam Hussein. I pay tribute to those who are representing our nation. They are few in number, but they have done tremendous things in seeking to be helpful, and under tremendous odds. The Foreign Office as a whole will need to have the courage and conviction that, in my judgment, has been so demonstrably absent from its deliberations on Northern Ireland, where it provided a framework whereby British interests and the interests of Britons would be undermined.

As we and the United Nations look into the future, we should take steps to have all territorial claims on neighbouring territory withdrawn. Such claims historically foster strife. In Northern Ireland, the claim inspires terrorists to implement the constitutional imperative of the Republic of Ireland. As we look to the future, those issues must be faced, as well as the crisis in the Gulf. We must stand on guard against all hostilities.