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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 26th February 2003.

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Photo of Roger Godsiff Roger Godsiff Labour, Birmingham, Sparkbrook and Small Heath 4:15 pm, 26th February 2003

All hon. Members know that Saddam Hussein is an evil man. He is a brutal dictator who has committed genocide and used poison gas against his people. He launched a war against Iran that resulted in more than 1 million people being killed. He invaded Kuwait and, when he left, caused an environmental disaster by torching the oilfields. I have no doubt that he has weapons of mass destruction and I fully accept that he has not complied with United Nations resolutions. With the rest of the civilised world, I believe that the Iraqi people would be well rid of such a person.

However, do my comments explain the reasons for America and the United Kingdom making a pre-emptive strike? I regret to say that I am not convinced. I fully support working through the UN, although I can envisage circumstances in which the USA, the United Kingdom or any other country took unilateral action, for example, if they perceived their national interest to be under threat. After 9/11, the civilised world united in its determination to combat and root out international terrorism. We rightly identified al-Qaeda as the main proponent and rightly took action against the Taliban in Afghanistan because they were harbouring that organisation.

Since our action in Afghanistan, we have realised that we failed to obliterate al-Qaeda, and America appears to have lost the plot. Instead of pursuing terrorists, who live in the shadows and kill indiscriminately in the shopping malls of Tel Aviv and the bars of Bali, we are seeking a change of Government in Iraq on the basis that Saddam Hussein is an evil man who will not comply fully with UN resolutions. That is an unconvincing justification for a dangerous course of action.

President Bush referred to Iraq, North Korea and Iran as the axis of evil. What will we do about North Korea, which is ruled by an equally ruthless dictator and also has weapons of mass destruction? Everybody knows that the Chinese will not allow the Americans to interfere in North Korea's affairs. What will we do about Iran?

As I have said previously, 50 per cent. of the electorate in my constituency are Muslims. My support for the American ethos and my belief that, overall, America has been more a force for good than evil in the world does not always win me great support among my Muslim constituents. However, I must tell my many friends in America that I believe that they are about to make a disastrous mistake. With great respect to them, I do not believe that they understand the Islamic world. The current American Administration does not appreciate the consequences in the Muslim world of a pre-emptive strike on Iraq. If America, supported by the United Kingdom, launches a pre-emptive strike against Iraq, Saddam Hussein will overnight become a hero—a martyr—of the Muslim world despite the fact that he is not a hero now because he runs a secularist rather than a fundamentalist regime.

What will be the consequences in adjoining countries? We need to remember that bin Laden comes from the Saudi royal family. He left Saudi Arabia to form the al-Qaeda organisation because he believed that the house of Saud was giving America too much support by allowing it to have bases in a country that is home to the great places of worship for all Muslims. What will happen if a regime change takes place in Iraq and the house of Saud comes under attack from within its own country? Will America commit itself to stationing a large number of troops, for however many years, in Iraq and Saudi Arabia? If so, what will that do to opinion in the Muslim world? What will happen to the Mubarak regime in Egypt? I accept that it is not a pleasant regime, but it is pro-western and greatly vulnerable to attack from within. What will happen to that country?

I strongly support the war against international terrorism, but America, Britain and the rest of the western world would be well advised to give more attention to why international terrorists emerge. They do not suddenly come out of the sky. International terrorists are born in the squalid, teeming refugee camps of Gaza, the west bank and along the Azad-Kashmir border. Young people living in those camps are without a country, a job, a future or any hope. They are vulnerable recruits for those people who say, "You will get your reward in the next world. Just join us in the jihad against America and the west." They will join having been told that America pursues double standards and that, when convenient, will use UN resolutions to justify a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. They will also be told that when, I regret to say, it suits America and other countries in the west, a blind eye is turned to UN resolutions on the building of settlements by the Israeli Government all over the west bank and on India not carrying out a plebiscite to allow the people of Kashmir to determine their own future.

I am not by nature a rebel. It gives me no pleasure to say that I cannot support my Government in the Lobby tonight. I am proud of the enormous amount that they have achieved since coming to power. I do not support or have any love for Saddam Hussein. I want the man to go and to go soon. But—