Adjournment (Christmas)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:39 pm on 19th December 1990.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North 7:39 pm, 19th December 1990

It would be wrong for the House to adjourn without returning once again to the issue that faces us all. When we return here on 14 January, a war could have begun. There could be shooting in the Gulf, with nuclear weapons on one side and chemical weapons on the other. There is no defence against either form of weapons. If chemical weapons are used, dust clouds will blow a long distance and many will die as a result. If the other side decides that it has been forced into using nuclear weapons, what happened at Chernobyl will be minor compared with the consequences of their use in the Gulf. As my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has pointed out on many occasions, and as he will do so later tonight, the consequences of fighter planes from Saudi Arabia flying into Kuwait and Iraq to bomb their oilfields will be catastrophic and truly horrific.

No hon. Member is an apologist for Iraq. I am not. On many occasions, I have questioned Iraq's treatment of the Kurdish people, its use of chemical weapons at A1 Malkiya in 1988, its oppression of Kurdish rights throughout northern Iraq, the imprisonment of trade unionists and the assassination of those who, over the years, have stood up for human rights in Iraq. In no sense am I an apologist for Iraq, nor do I support anything that the Iraqi regime does.

After Kuwait was invaded on 2 August, the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), who was then Prime Minister, rushed across to the United States and cobbled together an arrangement with President Bush that enabled a multinational peacekeeping force, as they called it, to go into Saudi Arabia to protect the rights of smaller nations and ensure the survival of democracy. When that happened, I thought back to what happened only a year before, when 7,000 people were bombed to death in Panama by American troops.

I remembered also the decision of the International Court of Human Rights at The Hague, which found unaminously and specifically against the United States because of its aggression against Nicaragua. I thought also about the people I had met in Central America who were maimed as a result of United States arms being poured into the region to kill people. I thought also about the United Nations resolutions that had been carried on Namibia, Palestine, Cyprus and many other issues that could not be implemented because of power of veto of the United States, or of any other member of the Security Council.

In the post-cold-war world in which we now live, is the fate of the world to be decided by the dollar power of the United States and by the industrial nations getting together to teach the rest of the world a lesson, or are we serious about searching for lasting solutions to apparently intractable conflicts? I believe strongly in the cause of peace. I believe that peace is possible in the middle east. We live in a world that is bitterly divided between north and south, between rich and poor nations, between the rich and poor within rich nations and between the rich and poor within poor nations. We live in a world where, increasingly, the poor are subsiding the rich. I do not like that. I want a world order that brings about peace.

Those who say that the only solution to the middle east and Gulf conflicts is to let slip the dogs of war on 15 January may be pleased to see United States, British, French and other troops go in and succeed in moving the borders and regaining Kuwait, even though 500,000 people may die in the process. Land will be laid waste for decades, if not permanently. However, when the fighing has stopped, the Palestinian and Kurdish problems will still be there, the lack of democracy in Kuwait, the lack of human rights in Iraq and the lack of democracy and respect for human rights in Saudi Arabia will still be there and the oppression of peoples throughout the region will still be there. The only way to achieve a genuine and lasting peace is to put on one side the colonial mentality and to start talking about the rights and self-respect of the peoples in that region.

I hope that there is no war on 15 January, or at any time. Instead of relaxing and doing nothing until we return here on 15 January, I hope that all those who are responsible for getting the troops to the area and building up war fever will, if necessary, go to Iraq, or anywhere else, so that talks can take place with the object of achieving peace in the region instead of the horrors of a chemical-nuclear war, with all its accompanying death and destruction. There is time, but not much.