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Iraq

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:07 pm on 26th February 2003.

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Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Scottish National Party, Banff and Buchan 4:07 pm, 26th February 2003

No one would doubt the sincerity and long-standing commitment of Ann Clwyd to the Kurdish people. I only wish that I could believe that many of those who are planning military action have the same sincere concern about the hopes and aspirations of the Kurdish people. Although I oppose military action, as I am about to outline, I hope that the question of Turkish deployment in the Kurdish areas is well understood by the people who are planning military action, as well as the consequences that might follow.

There is one point on which I agree with Mr. Galloway and one on which I disagree with him strongly. The point of agreement is that, without any question, people should understand that this debate is going to be the crucial one as far as war is concerned. The shadow Foreign Secretary said—perhaps this admission would not have been made by the Foreign Secretary—that the resolution before the United Nations and the Government motion are cover resolutions. That is how he described them. I took that to mean that although they do not mention war or military action—even the new UK resolution at the Security Council does not do that and the Government's motion certainly does not do so—if they were passed at the Security Council and here, they would be taken as a green light for military action. No one who votes or does not vote tonight should be under any illusions that this is the opportunity to slow down the process if people want to do that. If that opportunity is not taken, it ain't going to come again.

There is another reason for that which we should understand as well. The procedures of this place do not always allow for the sort of vote that we are fortunate to have this evening. Not for the first time in his fairly short time as Speaker, our Speaker has taken an unusual course in selecting a genuine all-party amendment that gives hon. Members a chance to vote on an issue of principle that goes across the parties. I am proud to speak for my party and for Plaid Cymru in supporting and co-sponsoring the amendment tabled by Mr. Smith. That type of amendment will not necessarily be allowed to emerge again under our procedures, so let us make no mistake—this is the opportunity for hon. Members who wish to do so to vote to slow up the march to war.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin said some fairly savage things about President Bush. I do not agree. I can understand that view in terms of the policy of the American Administration, but I tend to look at the matter slightly differently. I see that Mr. Dalyell is looking puzzled. He is probably the only Member who was a Member of Parliament when Barry Goldwater ran for President of the United States in 1964. He ran under the argument that America could win a pre-emptive war against the Soviet Union if it was strong enough in nuclear weapons. His slogan was, "In your heart, you know he's right". The Democrat reply was, "In your guts, you know he's nuts". Thankfully for all of us, the Democrats were successful in that election. I am not arguing that that is President Bush's position, but when I listen to Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle and other people who are central to that Administration, the words of the Democrat party in 1964 are very meaningful to me—in my guts I think they are nuts. They are trying to apply a management school theory about dominating companies and markets to international politics. They argue that America must exert its power in every sphere of influence, regardless of any consequences. That argument, which would have been regarded as extremism only a few years ago, now holds sway in key parts of the American Administration.

I differ with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin on the reason why that argument is central to the Administration. It is due not to a deep-laid plot by George W. Bush, but to the consequences of 11 September and the trauma and fear that has gripped the American people since then. This is not anti-Americanism. America is a country that was founded out of the intellectual strength of the Scottish enlightenment. [Laughter.] I hear some laughs. Hon. Members on both sides of the House should understand where the American constitution and its checks and balances came from. America understands it. The founding fathers would be birling in their graves, to use a Scottish phrase, if they could see what is being done in the name of America and the American constitution in terms of the pre-emptive, aggressive policy that is emanating from the American Administration. It is possible for that policy to become central to the Administration only in an atmosphere of fear.

That is where the Prime Minister is heavily culpable. As the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury told the Prime Minister yesterday in a telling intervention, it is the job of a candid friend to tell his friend the truth in times of crisis. That is particularly so in this case given that the friend, America, is gripped in the trauma of the aftermath of 11 September, 18 months ago. The fact that the Prime Minister has failed to do that is his central culpability, because he was in a position to put the brakes on that sort of policy, and he still is in such a position. Unfortunately, however, he has exchanged that position of influence to become a prisoner of the policies that emanate from some of the extreme people in the American Administration. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister is no longer in charge of these events and that events are controlling him. To return to the "Newsnight" interview that I mentioned earlier in an exchange with the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister was specific in front of a studio audience about there being one set of circumstances, and one only, in which he would argue for the use of force.

That was if the weapons inspectors said that their process had ended. According to the transcript, the Prime Minister said that if the majority of the Security Council adopted a second resolution and it was blocked by one country's unreasonable veto, he would consider the use of force. It is significant that neither the Prime Minister yesterday nor the Foreign Secretary today was prepared to stand even on that position. The Prime Minister is no longer in control of events; they are controlling him.

Let us consider morality. The Prime Minister is a religious man and I respect that. It does him great credit. I have nothing like his record of church going or observance. However, I, too, have faith and conviction. I believe that if an immoral and unjust war takes place, with thousands of casualties and the spilling of innocent blood, the person responsible for arguing for it will answer one day to a much higher authority than the House of Commons.