International Terrorism

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:42 am on 4th October 2001.

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Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Shadow Secretary of State, Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party, Shadow Foreign Secretary 10:42 am, 4th October 2001

I welcome the debate and the recall of Parliament. The whole House has listened with grave attention to the Prime Minister's statement and the speech of the Foreign Secretary. My hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has outlined our response. I am grateful for the chance to do so more fully.

I join the Foreign Secretary in sending our expressions of sympathy to the Government and people of India in relation to the Srinagar atrocity. Although I welcome this opportunity, I must touch on a difficulty that has arisen because it is three weeks since we previously met to discuss the international crisis and because we are meeting for only one day.

Yesterday the Home Secretary launched a raft of proposals. We have already indicated that, where such proposals are clearly designed to combat and will be effective in combating international and domestic terrorism, we wish to give them a fair wind. It is therefore somewhat disappointing that the Home Secretary will not be explaining to the House today or answering questions on the proposals that he outlined yesterday to his party conference. I hope that he will take the earliest opportunity to do so. As the Leader of the Opposition said, we stand ready to see Parliament recalled again before the end of next week to enable him so to do.

Prior to the Home Secretary's announcements yesterday, we asked for the Secretary of State for International Development to address the House today on the growing humanitarian crisis. That request was rejected by the Leader of the House. Again I trust that the House will at the earliest opportunity have the chance to hear from the right hon. Lady.

It is now more than three weeks since the terrible acts of terrorism were perpetrated on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, and the deliberate destruction of so many innocent lives. Three weeks, and the horror of the images remains vivid; the anger at the evil of those outrages lives on; and the determination to bring to book those behind the crimes against humanity is undiminished. What has changed is that the first reflex reaction of a desire for a quick response has been replaced by a grimly determined analysis of the terrorist apparatus that spawned those acts, a systematic identification of those who were responsible for them and the preparation of the means by which its eradication can be achieved.

When we last met in this House three weeks ago, I expressed my hope for a controlled and measured response. I paid tribute to the coolness and restraint of President Bush and his national security team. How much more today must we make clear our admiration for the careful and conscientious way in which our American allies have built the case for action and are focusing on key objectives? President Bush has met outrage with reason and terror with carefully measured reaction. Our confidence in him and his team has not been misplaced. Today I reaffirm our commitment to support the Government in standing shoulder to shoulder with our American colleagues.

Needless to say, in the 23 days that have passed, some have sought to sow seeds of doubt as to whether any action is justified or sensible. I suspect that we shall hear more such voices today. Let me make this clear: to accede to such thoughts would be to betray the thousands of innocent people who died on that dreadful day, and would reward the terrorist murderers who killed them. Indeed, with the passage of time, the need to take on the terrorists, to eradicate them and the apparatus of terror which they control, and to give no respite to those who shelter or hide them, becomes ever clearer and the case ever stronger.

The Prime Minister today outlined some of the incontrovertible evidence of Osama bin Laden's responsibility for, and link with, the murderous destruction of 11 September. As my right hon. Friend made clear, we accept that evidence. It is laid before Parliament today and it makes certain things very clear: to do nothing is not an option; to seek to compromise with bin Laden or those who support him would be to fly in the face of the total barbarity and inhumanity of the deeds for which he must bear the blame. He and his henchmen in al-Qaeda must be pursued and, one way or another, brought to book, and the network of terror that he has cast about the world must be destroyed.

Some also argue that, once that objective has been achieved, that should be an end to the matter. That, too, would be to miss the point. I was delighted to hear the Foreign Secretary say that that part of our objectives is a start, and only a start. To say that it is the end of the matter would be to leave the terrorist virus alive and flourishing in its various environments, ready to emerge stronger and even more deadly in the future. When the President and the Prime Minister declared their purpose to be the eradication of international terrorism, we applauded them because anything less would be to promote the possibility of even worse acts of terrorism in the future.

Bin Laden must be the first objective along with his friends and supporters, particularly in al-Qaeda, but the fight against international terrorism will have begun only once that objective has been achieved.

International terrorism is not a monster that, once the head has been cut off, shrivels and dies. It is more like a virus that spreads of its own accord, self sufficient within its own environment and location. The fight must continue with equal determination and resolve until the scourge of international terrorism and those who sponsor or promote it are removed.

There will be siren calls from those who wish to see no further action. They will be the "appeasement" challenges of our generation, and the Government will have our full-hearted support in resisting them. We must let those who stand beside us in the fight against terrorism know that we are with them until the campaign has been won. We must not flinch from addressing, too, the terrorism of Hezbollah, of Hamas and, closer to home, of the still active remnants of the Provisional IRA and the loyalist terrorists.

We need to starve the terrorists of their finance—often emanating from crime—which enables them to flourish and to perpetrate their acts of criminal violence. We must never appease them, nor allow them to gain advantage from their acts of terrorism. We must make it clear to any state that sponsors or promotes terrorism, against which we are committed, that we shall bring to bear whatever pressure is needed to ensure that such sponsorship or support is ended.

We must leave the terrorists no hiding places, no safe houses, and no communities who will give them shelter and protection. Like the eradication of a virus, it will be hard, long and not without risk, but the ultimate goal of freeing the world from the scourge of terrorism must be worth that hardship and risk. It can be achieved only if we constantly re-emphasise that this is a fight against terrorism—murderous, calculating, increasingly sophisticated and progressively more dangerous. It is not about religion or culture, and those who seek to suggest that it is are, in the end, the friends of terrorism. Where terrorism claims to be about idealism, that concept is invariably distorted and perverted in the psychopathic terrorist mind. That is what allows it to slaughter without mercy.