Iraq

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:23 pm on 18th March 2003.

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Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Conservative Party 1:23 pm, 18th March 2003

The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful case for supporting the Government's motion tonight, and I expect that he will be in the Lobby in support.

The Prime Minister rightly pointed out that Saddam Hussein has lied to the UN for 12 years. Even now, we do not know the full extent of his arsenal, or of his facilities to develop weapons. He has the means, and as has already been said, it should be evident to everyone that he remains in breach of the obligations under 1441. He has absolutely no intention whatsoever of relinquishing the weapons that he has developed: the remaining al-Samoud 2 missiles; the Scud-B warheads; the R-400 bombs; and the tonnes of VX, anthrax, sarin, soman, botulinum toxin, mustard gas and other deadly weapons, viruses and agents identified by Hans Blix in his report, which I recommend that every Member of this House read before passing judgment.

Saddam Hussein has not only the means but the mentality. To date, his main victims have been his own people. The tale of his rule of lawlessness is a litany of horror. Dissident women are raped, children are tortured and prisoners are trapped in steel boxes until they confess or die. As we have heard, chemical weapons have been used against the Kurds, and Shi'a villages razed to the ground. As the Prime Minister said, when Saddam Hussein came to power, Iraq was a wealthy country: today, it is impoverished.

If that was not enough, Saddam Hussein is also the man who has waged war against Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Here in Britain, where we are at liberty to protest against any military action, we should recall—as the Prime Minister said—that such liberty does not exist for those who live in Iraq and whose tongues are ripped out if they dare to question Saddam Hussein.

When I had the privilege of visiting our troops in Kuwait, I also had the opportunity of talking to the families of 600 Kuwaiti prisoners of war, taken by Saddam Hussein at the time of the last Gulf war and still missing. I recall talking to one old man whose last sight of his son was when he was being taken away by Iraqi soldiers. He has never been returned. There is no documentary evidence of the existence of those 600 people. Inspection of the prisons is not allowed. At no time has Saddam Hussein agreed to independent inspectors telling their families what happened to them.

Some may say that 600 people do not matter in the great scheme of things, but the equivalent percentage in our population would mean that 60,000 British people were missing. How many Members would not consider that a matter of massive importance and a sign of the distinct distastefulness of that regime?

There is a huge and powerful argument to act. Saddam Hussein is in breach not only on weapons but also in personal terms for those who live and have to suffer under his regime. It is well worth meeting the dissidents and I advise all Members to do so. Their tales about what has happened to their families are harrowing. One man told me that he last saw his brother 18 years ago as he was being taken away for a minor traffic offence. His brother has never been seen again. I promise that no one will shed a tear over the departure of Saddam Hussein.

Saddam Hussein has the means and the mentality. He also has the motive. We in Britain helped to expel him from Kuwait. For more than 10 years, British forces have been enforcing the no-fly zones. We are a crucial part of the coalition that seeks to force UN resolutions upon his regime. The threat that his arsenal poses to British citizens at home and abroad cannot simply be contained. Whether in the hands of his regime or in the hands of the terrorists to whom he would give his weapons, they pose a clear danger to British citizens. To those who doubt that, I point out that only the other day Saddam said that he would strike anywhere,

"by land, sea or sky".

Those who believe otherwise are living in cloud cuckoo land. The reality for them, as for others, is that Britain and its citizens are as much prime targets as anybody in the world.

As the Prime Minister said, Saddam's last hope lies in his ability to string along the international community for as long as possible. People who say that another month and a half would be all right and that it is only a small delay should realise that, in another month and a half, any military action will become nigh on impossible. The delay would not be for a month and a half but would have to last until the autumn, and in the meantime, Saddam's prevarications and games will split the international community and wreck the UN. The blame for further military action lies squarely in the hands of Saddam Hussein. It is his regime only that has made further military action necessary, yet, even now, he has the power to ensure that such action does not take place.

It would be wrong for us not to acknowledge the consequences of that military action. I am sad to say that the Iraqi people may have to suffer yet again, but I hope and believe that, in the decision that the Prime Minister has to take, the suffering of the Iraqi people will be short-lived and that the ultimate end will be peace and security in their country.

That is why the Opposition have constantly urged the Government to set out their plans for humanitarian assistance. Our view of the lack of preparedness was endorsed by the Select Committee on International Development, which warned last week of concern about the "lack of leadership" in co-ordinating the planning and preparation of the humanitarian response to possible military action. The Committee also recommended that the Department for International Development

"immediately issues a statement outlining its basic humanitarian contingency plans".

We welcome the written statement made last week by the Secretary of State for International Development, but it did not explain what is being done to improve co-ordination between the Ministry of Defence and DFID. It did not establish whether DFID would set up a mechanism to co-ordinate the UK humanitarian response. It did not set out what will replace the oil-for-food programme, which feeds up to 60 per cent. of the Iraqi population. It did not spell out DFID's plans in the event of Saddam Hussein unleashing any of his arsenal of chemical and biological weapons on his own people. Nor did it give details of how to cope with the flight of refugees. Those are pressing questions, as it is estimated that up to a million people may seek refuge on the borders. The questions need to be answered.

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Julian Todd
Posted on 5 Jan 2005 6:25 pm (Report this annotation)

Well, I guess the whole of reality was in "cloud cuckoo land", Iain. Saddam Hussein didn't have the means (ships, bombs, planes, missiles, toxins), nor any particular motive for killing civilians all the way over here in England (what would be his gain?).

It could have been so different if the Tories had shown some political know-how and chosen to oppose this disaster at the start.