Now we can get on with the important issues of the day.
Today, Parliament has the opportunity to debate the current international situation, an issue that affects us all, and to set out a way forward for the people of Iraq and for the United Nations.
Throughout the life of our young Parliament, the Scottish National Party, together with others, has sought to ensure that Scotland's national Parliament takes a stand on the great international affairs of the day. We have given Parliament the opportunity to discuss the future of Europe, the conflict in Afghanistan and the build-up to war in Iraq. The staging of such debates has provoked varying reactions from the SNP's opponents. At first it was hostility, then indifference and now participation. The participation of all parties in these international debates has led to some of the best debates that this Parliament has seen. That journey from hostility to participation is one that I welcome. It is now accepted—on all sides, I hope—that the Scottish Parliament has, in my view, the right and the duty to debate international affairs.
"Every nation has a stake in this cause."
He is right: our nation has a stake. That is why the SNP, together with a growing number of parties, believes not only that Scotland should have the right to debate the future of the United Nations, but the right to participate in the deliberations of the United Nations as a full and equal member.
A Scottish voice in the UN should be a different voice from that provided by the British Government. It should be a voice raised in opposition to illegal war and in defence of the founding charter of the United Nations. Further, it should be an expression of our country's desire to play a legal part in global reconciliation and conflict resolution. The SNP motion encapsulates a vision of what I believe is our country's true international calling.
We are debating in the aftermath of yet another terrorist atrocity. The events of recent days in Baghdad have been traumatic and have resulted in tremendous loss of life. In Saudi Arabia, one of
"Invading Iraq damaged the war on terror. There is no doubt about that. It has strengthened, rather than weakened, al-Qa'ida".
Given the shocking images from Abu Ghraib jail, that is a sentiment that no one can disagree with. The mistreatment of Iraqi detainees was sickening and, for justice to be done, the people who gave the orders—not just those who carried them out—must be investigated and punished.
One of the clear consequences of that conduct is that there will be many in the Arab world who now express contempt whenever they hear talk of western values. Western values will also be brought into question by the abandonment of the road map to peace in the middle east—a road map put together quickly to argue the case for war and just as quickly dumped when war was joined.
Without doubt, the invasion of Iraq—and the consequences of how the conflict was started and has been pursued—has created a more unstable world.
The member will be aware that, like him, I opposed the war in Iraq. I, too, am concerned about the global situation. However, I have to question why he did not bring this debate to the chamber before today. Would it not have been better to have done so before now? Could it be that we are having this debate as the SNP's platform for the election next Thursday?
The SNP brought two debates to this chamber before the war in Iraq commenced last year. We are having this debate today because this happens to be the biggest issue that is affecting our country and it is right that the Scottish Parliament should have a say on this issue at this time.
I advise Irene Oldfather to speak to the House of Commons member for Cunninghame South, if she can bear it. He will tell her just how much debating time the Scottish National Party has in the House of Commons. We have taken the opportunities that we have had to bring this issue to the fore in the House of Commons.
If we are to create a safer Iraq and a safer world, we must examine, recognise and tackle the roots of the instability that now afflicts our world. First, never again can there be such cavalier disregard for international law and the United Nations as was shown last year by the United States and the United Kingdom. Before, during and after the war, attempts were made to justify its legality, but none has been convincing. Few believe that United Nations Security Council resolution 1441 legitimised military action. Earlier this year, the prominent new Labour Queen's counsel Baroness Helena Kennedy said that the vast majority of lawyers believe the conflict to have been unlawful and that she could think of probably only two lawyers who believed that the action was legal. The Government and the Attorney General relied on one of those lawyers for advice. The war broke international law.
The second factor that we must examine is the fact that the overriding reason for going to war—Saddam's weapons of mass destruction—has proved to be a fiction. In the Prime Minister's introduction to the Government's September 2002 dossier on Iraqi WMD, Tony Blair told the British people that intelligence
"has established beyond doubt ... that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons" and
"that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons".
We now know that at the same time as the Prime Minister was telling us that the intelligence had proved "beyond doubt" the full extent of Iraq's WMD programme, some of the most damaging claims from single discredited sources were being made. We also know that, far from having no doubts about that information, some senior intelligence officials were expressing very real concerns about the authenticity of the claims. In short, it is hard to square the Prime Minister's assurances with what we know today.
This is not just a case of innocent mistakes being made. There is now overwhelming evidence of deception—evidence provided by the Bush Administration itself. Speaking about his now infamous presentation to the UN Security Council,
"It turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and, in some cases, deliberately misleading."
"Deliberately misleading"—those are the words of the United States Secretary of State. In other words, the case for war was based on a lie. The Prime Minister should have the good grace to admit that fact now.
I have set out the background to the situation that we are in today. To move forward, we need a new and convincing commitment from all countries to respect the decisions of the United Nations and we need honesty about the mistakes that were made and the deception that was carried out. Most pressing of all, for the people of Iraq we need security on which to base an agreed political settlement.
On an issue that has caused such disharmony, there is, however, widespread agreement about what is required. Most people believe that political control should be handed over to a new Iraqi provisional Government by 30 June. Most people agree that democratic elections should be held before the end of this year. Most people agree that the current security situation is getting worse, not better. The worsening security situation has led in part to the recent announcement of the deployment of the Black Watch back to Iraq.
Mr Henry said that it was a perception. I am sure that there are people in Iraq who believe that British and United States forces are thuggish. Unfortunately for the way in which this country and the United States are perceived, some soldiers have behaved in a thuggish fashion. We should condemn them unreservedly for what they have done in the Abu Ghraib jail.
Mr Gallie made an accurate point about those allegations, which were made only in the Daily Mirror . However, in terms of the conduct of United States and United Kingdom forces, I would be prepared to listen carefully to what Amnesty International has said about such issues and, into the bargain, the British Government would do well to pay a little bit more attention to what organisations such as Amnesty say.
Scottish troops have been put in a position to carry out their duties and they will do so in a professional and dedicated manner. However, their deployment in Iraq is an illustration of the disastrous US and UK answer to the deteriorating security situation there. For the US and the UK, the answer is more of the same and more troops. At first sight, the two Governments' UN Security Council resolution on the future of Iraq appears to argue for change; it promises an end to the occupation by 30 June and, overnight, a deadline for the withdrawal of troops has been proposed. However, nothing will change.
The Prime Minister made it clear last week that the multinational force should remain under American command. It is precisely the fact of that American command that is a major factor in the current unrest. The forces that fought the war are now largely seen as an army of occupation and armies of occupation cannot create peace in the sphere of action in which they are involved. We need look only at the condemnation of the actions in Fallujah or Najav to see evidence of those points.
A number of factors make matters crystal clear. The reality of the American occupation of Iraq presents a compelling case for change to the steps that have been taken there. The current set-up is turning into a nightmare. An army of occupation cannot be an effective peacemaking force. We cannot follow the approach that the US and the UK propose. To provide the stable political environment that is needed for democracy to prevail, we need an alternative. One alternative would be an immediate withdrawal of troops, which is a course of action that is set out in the Scottish Socialist Party amendment. I opposed the war, but it is not good enough to argue simply to leave the Iraqis to their fate. Whether we like it or not, we have created this mess and we have a duty to help clear it up.
A second alternative would be the continuation in Iraq of a multinational force, but with a country other than the US in charge. Such an approach has its attractions, but it presents difficulties in finding an acceptable and willing country to take command. The other alternative is to put the UN in charge of a force, with the agreement of the Iraqi people, pending full Iraqi sovereignty. That would put the UN at the heart of the process.
Today the UN looks battered by events surrounding the war in Iraq, but, paradoxically, there is a historic opportunity. By helping to rebuild security and peace in Iraq, the UN can rebuild confidence in the ideal of collective global action for the good of humanity. The founding charter of the UN is a source of inspiration and hope, with its affirmation of faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and the worth of the human
Our proposal therefore is this: that a UN force, made up of troops from a range of countries, but preferably from Islamic countries, should replace the current US-commanded force. There is every reason to expect such a force to be effective. First, there is broad agreement on a political settlement in Iraq, which is an important prerequisite for the deployment of a blue-helmet force. Secondly, Muslim countries, notably Pakistan and Malaya, have expressed a willingness to commit troops to Iraq, but only if the UN is in charge. Thirdly, a UN force is likely to be more acceptable to the local population if it is predominately made up of Islamic troops. Indeed, early in the discussions about the reconstruction of Afghanistan, the British Government proposed a similar arrangement for that country.
There are, of course, difficulties. I recognise that the UN Secretary-General has talked of the problems with such an approach. It will require a political and practical commitment to the UN from western countries, which sometimes appear happy to allow less wealthy nations to shoulder the burden of peacekeeping. It is also not an overnight solution. However, the prize is clear: the restoration of security in Iraq to allow democracy to flourish and the restoration of authority in the UN to build a better and just world.
In recent days, we have seen yet more confusion in the political arrangements in Iraq. The role of the United Nations in the process of appointing the provisional Government has been brought into question and there have been disputes over how the interim Prime Minister has been chosen. That demonstrates the necessity for a democratically elected Government that commands the support of Iraqi citizens. That will come about only if there is effective peacekeeping, stewarded by the United Nations, to allow that opportunity to arise. At this pivotal moment for the future of our planet, the United Nations has an opportunity to demonstrate its worth to humanity. As part of the global community, we in Scotland have a right and a duty to speak up.
The debate centres around three distinct positions. The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat amendments argue for various shades of the status quo in Iraq. The SSP amendment leaves the Iraqis to their fate. The SNP position argues that the United Nations has a fundamental role to play in healing the conflict and in delivering long-term peace and stability for the people of Iraq. I urge the Parliament to support the motion.
That the Parliament reaffirms its support for the United Nations and its belief in the primacy of international law; believes that the war in Iraq was both illegal and based on a deception as evidenced by the failure to find weapons of mass destruction; believes that as a consequence the world is now a more dangerous place; notes that the unstable security situation and the current rules of engagement within Iraq have led to the coalition forces being seen as an army of occupation, and believes, therefore, that to promote future stability in Iraq any foreign troops on Iraqi soil should be brought under UN command and that current coalition forces should be replaced, on a phased basis, by those drawn from non-Western, preferably Muslim, countries pending the restoration of full sovereignty and the consent of the Iraqi people.
As I listened to Mr Swinney's speech, I reflected that there stood a man who never had to make a real decision in his life. He is a man whose only concern is to hold on to the reins of power in his own party and, as I looked at his back benchers, I reflected that he was not making a very good job of that either. He has no principles, no vision, no fortitude, no courage and absolutely no experience.
Let us not forget that Iraq was not a benign place before the coalition took action. It was a country degraded, with 60 per cent of its people on food aid, few freedoms and, for those who opposed the regime, terror, punishment and mass graves. I note that Mr Swinney took time to condemn only the British armed forces, never taking one moment to reflect on Saddam Hussein's regime. That is pathetic. The graves that Saddam's henchmen dug and filled with human beings are a bitter sign of how that country was. Kurds were killed because of their ethnicity, Shiites because of their religion, Sunnis for their political views, and Egyptians, Kuwaitis and Iranians because their lives meant nothing to Saddam, his sons or their followers.
Let us look closely at the SNP motion. It says that the war in Iraq was
"illegal and based on a deception".
No, it was not. Britain's engagement was founded on the agreement of the UK Parliament within the law. No court has ruled the war illegal and let us remember that action was taken only after 18 UN resolutions. Nor was it based on deception; that is a matter of nationalist opinion, not a matter of fact. The war was not based on US or UK intelligence alone. Every major country believed that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction existed. In the country itself, a month before the war, what were the Kurds doing? The Kurds were preparing for a chemical attack, reinforcing their experiences of
I am grateful to Mr Kerr for giving way. I would like to take him back to the issue of deception, because he was in danger of deceiving Parliament in his remarks. He said that it was my assertion that deception had been undertaken. Did he not listen to what I said in my speech? I said that Colin Powell had said that he had been deceived about that information and that, as a result, the world had been deceived. Why is Mr Kerr not big enough, as Mr Powell was big enough, to say, "For that, I am disappointed, and I regret it"?
Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I have some hindsight from Campbell Martin, who said that the stance of John Swinney and the SNP hierarchy was based on opportunism and not at all on principle.
Hindsight is a great thing, and what I was trying to explain was that every nation in the world, almost bar none, believed that there were weapons of mass destruction. That is the appropriate point, if SNP members would care to listen. The SNP has said that, as a result of the coalition action in Iraq, the world is a more dangerous place. The world is a more dangerous place, of course, because of terrorism. What about the twin towers and the Pentagon, and attacks in Indonesia, Tunisia, Kenya, Yemen, Somalia, Tanzania and Saudi Arabia? It is therefore arrant nonsense to say that leaving Saddam Hussein's regime of torture in place—a regime that legitimised brutality—would have led to the world being a safer place.
This world is not a safe place. It is a beautiful world, it is often inspirational and it is full of compassionate and caring people, but it will never be a safe world if we turn our backs and refuse to confront difficult situations, leaving people in pain—in prison and without freedom—to die, and all because we do not have the courage to act.
Let us not forget the good work that is going on in Iraq every day. British forces are involved in more than 2,700 reconstruction projects; 80 per cent of Basra now has access to running water; 65 health projects have been completed; and 91 schools have been refurbished. That is in the southern part of the country alone. As Ann Clwyd—who is a person with significant personal credibility in the region and who is our human
"I spoke to the leader of Baghdad city council and asked him what was the difference between now and before the war. He looked at me and said—'If I had met you a year ago, I would have said hello, long live the President and goodbye. Now I can complain to you about not having enough electricity and about the garbage in the street.'"
She asked the Iraqis about the position of the forces over there, and what did they say? They said, "Stay the course." Yesterday saw the announcement of an Iraqi Government. That was an historic announcement at the start of a process that will lead to the first democratically elected Government in Iraq for many decades. With the freedom of democracy, people do not walk away from the opportunity to work for peace in any country. We stay the course.
It is a challenge, but what are those who continue to bomb and maim actually fighting? They are fighting against democracy. Let us be clear. Many of the people involved have a violent and criminal history that predates the arrival of the coalition forces. Many are thugs; none is a freedom fighter. They have never had the support of the majority of the Iraqi people. We do not walk away from people who are working to win back democracy in their country. We stay the course. We work for the handover on 30 June, knowing that there will be more violence and more acts of terror from those in Iraq and outside it. We work to confront abuse and persecution.
Those of us who have supported the war have the integrity to accept the consequences even when they are difficult. On the security situation and the appalling abuses in Abu Ghraib, we accept the responsibility to be true to our values, to punish those who abuse power in our name, and to take action against those, whoever they are, who denigrate human life. We accept the consequences. That means acknowledging the abuses, but it also means acknowledging the progress and the courage and humanity of our armed forces.
Those who oppose the war must accept the consequences too—that Saddam could still be in power. He would be emboldened in his regime of persecution and torture—a regime that used industrial shredders to dispose of those who opposed him. There would be no guaranteed autonomy for the Kurds, no religious freedom for the Shiites and no coming democracy for the people of Iraq.
Will Mr Kerr define exactly why the United Kingdom went into Iraq? Was it to do with all those people being killed, or was it because of the false prospectus of the weapons of mass destruction? Can we be
Referring to mass graves with 300,000 people in them as "red herrings" is abysmal, irresponsible and disgusting. However, to answer Mr Brown's question, there were a number of reasons for going in. As I said previously, every developed nation in the world thought that there were weapons of mass destruction available. Why were the Kurds preparing, one month before the war, for a chemical attack on their own people? Because they knew what Saddam could do and they knew that he could kill 5,000 people with chemical weapons.
The SNP motion talks about an occupying force. That is wrong and another cheap use of words. The UN defines an occupying force and it recognises the coalition in Iraq as a multinational force, authorised under resolution 1511. I say to Mr Swinney that he should make up his mind. Either he supports the UN or he does not. He cannot pick and choose the bits that suit him for his own narrow political interests.
The nationalists have constantly and deliberately misrepresented the coalition. The coalition is not solely Britain and America; it is a coalition of more than 30 countries, including Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands, Australia, Bulgaria, Thailand, Denmark, El Salvador, Hungary, Japan, Norway, Mongolia, South Korea, Azerbaijan, Portugal, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, the Philippines, Albania, Georgia, New Zealand, Moldova, Macedonia, Estonia and Kazakhstan—more than 30 countries that are involved in a truly multinational force that is working for democracy and working to rebuild and reconstruct Iraq.
The SNP motion proposes that the coalition forces should be replaced by a force made up of
"those drawn from non-Western, preferably Muslim, countries".
I do not believe that the UN should practise apartheid. We do not construct alliances on the basis of one religion against another, one colour against another or one race against another. Which Muslims would Mr Swinney have in his proposed force? Would they be Shiites or Sunnis? Would Shiites be deployed in Sunni areas and Sunnis in Shiite areas? Where would that end? Mr Swinney must understand the principles on which the UN was founded. We cannot turn away from those principles and divide the world. The SNP's proposal would mean that the rich, western,
As Pauline McNeill said, the SNP has chosen to denigrate the Parliament and, more important, the people of Scotland. The SNP debate is not about serious, life-threatening international terrorism, global security, the complexities that we experience in a difficult world, the preservation of human values or work for peace. It is founded on a desperate need to win votes. How else can SNP members explain the remarkable coincidence of their attention to the issue only when an election is due? They raised the issue in March last year before the Scottish Parliament elections and in June this year before the European elections. It beggars belief that they seem to be prepared to trade again on the suffering and misery of the Iraqi people for their chances at the polls.
We call for the restoration of full sovereignty—that is a shared objective. It is also an objective that we share with the Iraqi people. They are not asking us to leave; they are asking us to stay the course, to build capacity in their country with them, to restore the infrastructure with them, to defend the rule of law with them, to feed, clothe and educate their children with them and to work for peace with them.
Legitimate opposition is a central tenet of democracy, but the nationalist motion represents opportunism, muddled thinking and political inconsistency. Global security, peace and democracy are far too important to be diverted to satisfy narrow, shallow political interest. The Labour Party amendment is founded on human values, integrity and principles. It does not seek to divide; it seeks to unite behind a positive future for Iraq. It recognises the courage and achievements of our armed forces in Iraq and it puts the UN at the front and centre of our determination to build a safer world. It recognises the courage and determination of the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people demand that we stay the course and we will.
I move amendment S2M-1374.5, to leave out from "reaffirms" to end and insert:
"notes that discussions are taking place on a draft resolution on Iraq in the UN Security Council; recognises the importance of international support, particularly that of countries in the region, Iraq's neighbours, and regional organisations, for the people of Iraq in their efforts to achieve security; welcomes the ongoing efforts of the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the United Nations to assist the people of Iraq in achieving the formation of a sovereign interim government of Iraq and the end of the occupation by 30 June 2004; affirms the importance of the principles of the rule of law, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and of democracy, including free and fair elections no later than 31 January 2005; notes the report provided to the Security
When I first heard about the debate, I welcomed it because I believe that we in Scotland should take a view on the international situation. However, we should take not just a narrow view on the situation Iraq but a view on the wider world. Issues such as poverty and world debt are relevant to what I interpret to be an examination of the international situation. However, the SNP motion presents none of that.
I will give way in a minute.
The motion represents an opportunistic effort to induce something into the public mind that can create an excuse for the SNP's pathetic performance at the forthcoming European elections. That is why the SNP lodged the motion and why we are having this debate today, as Pauline McNeill and Andy Kerr said. I regret that very much.
No. As far as we are concerned, we have representatives at Westminster—as does the SNP—who will debate those issues. We will not exploit the issues, but we will support our colleagues down south who are prepared to address major issues, such as AIDS in Africa. Our colleagues at Westminster have consistently raised concerns about such issues over the years.
Sadly, we had to include in our amendment our concern that foul accusations were being made against our armed services. Very sadly indeed, Mr Swinney came out with such a slur on our armed services. Without a doubt, at any time in any armed force, there is always an individual who might go beyond the norm in the way that they act. Our armed forces are more than disciplined—they are well controlled. They have carried out peaceful
We believe that people are guilty once they have been proved guilty; what we are talking about are challenges on individuals. I have confidence in our armed forces and the justice system. They will ensure that if any member of our armed forces has carried out such an act, they will be punished for it. If any of the charges are upheld, I would expect the punishment to be severe because the good name of our armed forces will have been brought into question.
I go along with much of what Andy Kerr said. However, he seems not to acknowledge that members of the Scottish Parliament were deceived by the words that came out of Westminster in the past. There can be no doubt that some of the statements that led up to the situation in Iraq were not based on fact. That causes me some anxiety, as I trusted that when a British Prime Minister made statements in the House of Commons he had the information to back them up.
I have to say to Andy Kerr that I believe that Parliament was misled on the issue and that it voted to go to war in Iraq on the wrong basis. However, I believe strongly that it was right that we went to the assistance of the people of Iraq when we did. I do not accept that the situation has been made worse; had we not gone in and had we left Saddam Hussein in position, we would have set up an icon for terrorists to build around. It was right that we took those actions, but it was wrong that Parliament was presented with the wrong reasons for doing so.
Given the member's comments about the need to remove Saddam Hussein, could he explain why the Conservative Governments under Thatcher and Major sold weapons to Saddam Hussein? Does he not feel hypocritical to stand up in the chamber and condemn Saddam Hussein when his own party sold weapons to the man?
If we looked back at the history of weapon sales, we would find that we sold weapons at times—as did other nations—to
In the present, I am concerned about the way in which the Blair Government is prepared to commit our armed forces time and again even though just a few weeks ago all of us were worried that steps would be taken to reduce our Scottish regiments. There is concern about the cuts in the air force and the navy—I am thinking of concerns about the cutbacks in the Sea Harrier and the Eurofighter. There are now proposals to cut back on our fleet. I believe that those actions are not consistent with a Government that is prepared constantly to commit our forces as it has done.
"would increase spending on health and education and freeze the rest."
How does a freeze on defence spending tally with the kind of comments that the member has just made?
Oliver Letwin made it quite clear that defence and police expenditure would not be cut, but that expenditure would be looked at. If a Conservative Government placed our armed forces in a conflict situation, the one thing that it would not do—it has never done so—is send them in under-resourced in any way. We would handle defence and all such issues in the responsible way that we have done in the past.
No, not to Mike Rumbles.
In talking about the international situation, it is worth while reflecting on the appearance of the Dalai Lama in the chamber today. It brought to mind another situation that we have to face up to, to which Shona Robison referred earlier. China was a major aggressor in the past, but it is going to have to be welcomed into the universal political world in future. However, we must recognise that in order for China to be accepted into that international scene there must be change there. The change must be two way. We have to examine the situation in Tibet and encourage change.
There are other issues, such as situations in Africa, South America and across the globe. The UK played a proud part in the past and has a prouder part to play in the future.
I move amendment S2M-1374.2, to leave out from the first "and" to end and insert:
"; recognises the importance of maintaining an influential Scottish voice in the UN Security Council through the permanent position allocated to the United Kingdom; notes the serious security situation in Iraq and pays tribute to the courageous, professional and effective manner in which British armed forces are responding to it; condemns malicious attempts in certain quarters to damage the reputation of our armed forces in Iraq by false accusations; supports future requests from British commanders on the ground for further equipment or manpower to enable them to fulfil their task; looks forward to a genuine transfer of power to a representative Iraqi Interim Government on 30 June 2004 to which, as the civil power, the United Kingdom can continue to give aid as required, and reaffirms the goal of helping to create a stable, democratic and prosperous Iraq which can become a beneficial influence within the region as a whole."
Before Britain went into the conflict in Iraq last year, the Liberal Democrats made their position very clear: we indicated that we deplored the vile, tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein, who was a brutal dictator, and we asserted the importance of United Nations action to deal with the problem that was then identified as Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction. We made it clear that war should be the last resort, and even then only with the backing of the United Nations.
As my colleague Sir Menzies Campbell said:
"we went to war ... on a threat and a promise. The threat was that of weapons of mass destruction, and the promise that of progress in the middle east peace process. But neither threat nor promise has been fulfilled."—[Official Report, House of Commons, 17 May 2004; Vol 421, c 677.]
Let us recall that at that time the Prime Minister assured this country—indeed, assured the world—that every effort would be made to seek a more peaceful solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and he assured us that all the evidence suggested that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.
We should not lose sight of the fact that it was very much on the argument of weapons of mass destruction that the Prime Minister argued the case for going to war. It is dangerous to enunciate the principle that, however reprehensibly immoral and vile a regime may be, we can take it out without the sanction of the United Nations.
Fifteen months later, the middle east situation has undoubtedly deteriorated. The vicious cycle of terror attack and retaliation has driven Israel and the Palestinians even further apart and, despite the promises of progress, a negotiated settlement seems further away than ever.
Fifteen months later, the weapons of mass destruction have never been found. Today we are
My comment was about the middle east. Given what has happened there, with the vicious cycle of terrorist attack and counter-attack, and given what happened in Saudi Arabia, I believe that we are further away from a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians than we were 15 months ago.
Fifteen months ago, my party argued that the Security Council should judge how much time UN weapons inspectors needed, but the United States and the United Kingdom Governments felt that they could not wait for the UN. Instead, they decided to invade Iraq without further UN authority, in effect placing themselves on the periphery of the international community. There is a certain irony that, 15 months after the United States and the United Kingdom sidestepped the United Nations, the handover date of 30 June now depends largely on the efforts of Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations and the new interim Administration. We should welcome yesterday's news that Iraq's new interim Administration has been appointed on the recommendation of Mr Brahimi.
That does not mean that we should underestimate the challenges ahead. A brutal tyrant has lost power, but those who overthrew him must not risk losing their moral authority, not least as a result of the regime established by the US in Guantanamo bay and the shameful and degrading treatment of detainees. Human rights abuses—no doubt by a tiny minority of US soldiers—have only added to the tension and unrest that is already prevalent in Iraq. Let us be clear that as much as human rights abuses are completely unacceptable, so too are violent terrorist attacks—both must be condemned. As John Swinney said, there must be no hiding place for the terrorists.
Unlike the SSP, I do not believe that we can just cut and run. We have a duty to remain and assist the people of Iraq to build a democratic future. Nor do I share the perhaps facile optimism of the SNP that we can suddenly create a Muslim force. It is not clear precisely what the SNP policy is. The motion states that the force would be "preferably" Muslim. On 25 May, the SNP said:
"The Bush/Blair policy has made these forces part of the problem, which is why they should be replaced by troops from Islamic nations".
As recently as yesterday, the party talked about a
"phased replacement of US and UK troops by Muslim forces".
Is the force to be phased in and is it to be preferably Muslim or wholly Muslim? The policy has not been thought out.
Our responsibility is clear, but our role is not limitless. More troops would not necessarily help the situation. The Liberal Democrats believe that no additional troops should be sent to Iraq unless certain conditions are met, the most important of which is that additional troops should be deployed only when commanders on the ground have requested them to safeguard our existing forces or to fulfil international obligations to the people of Iraq and to the UN.
Mr Wallace has been swift to criticise the SNP proposals. If I understand his amendment correctly, he is against the deployment of further troops unless that is done for British security in Iraq. Does he believe that that proposal will be enough to solve the problem in Iraq or does he have other proposals to offer, as we have done, to resolve the issue?
I will certainly talk more about what I see to be the way forward. That includes working under a new Security Council resolution. I have no objection to the deployment of troops from Muslim countries, but I do not think that the policy of putting together a Muslim force stacks up, not least because of the practical issues that Andy Kerr and the Secretary-General of the United Nations have raised.
For the moment, there is no alternative to the occupation of Iraq. We were against sending the troops in the first place, but a withdrawal would cause chaos. Iraq would not be made safer for its citizens; electricity and water supplies would not be maintained; aid agencies' operations would be impeded; and, most important, UN efforts to achieve a smooth transition to Iraqi rule would have little chance of success. Those who are opposed to the creation of a stable state would exploit the vacuum that the withdrawal of troops would create. Sending more troops is not the answer, but neither is immediate withdrawal. British troops on the ground are making an important contribution by helping to rebuild vital infrastructure. We salute their bravery and professionalism in difficult and dangerous circumstances.
The Liberal Democrats believe that three principles are essential if we are to make progress. First, all our effort should be directed to supporting the United Nations in establishing the provisional Government. Second, once the provisional Government has been established, our effort should be directed to supporting the United
"To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support".
With Iraq in turmoil, the Liberal Democrats believe that the United Nations is our last best hope. The United States and the United Kingdom bypassed the United Nations in starting the war, but they must now embrace the UN to win the peace and create the stable and democratic Iraq that we all want to achieve and which, above all, the Iraqi people deserve.
I move amendment S2M-1374.4, to leave out from "reaffirms" to end and insert:
"notes the motion passed by the Parliament on 13 March 2003; reaffirms its support for the United Nations and its belief in the primacy of international law; regrets that Her Majesty's Government saw fit to take this country into the Iraq War without United Nations sanction or credible evidence of a significant threat to the safety of the United Kingdom or of the world community; believes that as a consequence the world is now a more dangerous place; notes with concern the deteriorating security situation in Iraq and the Middle East; believes that progress in Iraq is only possible if the role of the United Nations is expanded and enhanced and the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis on 30 June 2004 is real and visible; recalls that when the House of Commons endorsed military action against Saddam Hussein it did so on an understanding that progress on the road map for a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians would be a priority for Her Majesty's Government; expresses its disappointment that recent events have made the achievement of a negotiated two-state solution more difficult and less likely; recognises the bravery and professionalism of British armed forces serving in Iraq in difficult and dangerous circumstances; calls upon Her Majesty's Government not to commit any further troops unless requested by United Kingdom commanders in Iraq for the purposes of securing the safety of British forces and the fulfilling of Britain's international obligations towards the people of Iraq and to the United Nations, and further declares that any such troops should remain under United Kingdom operational command and within the area currently under United Kingdom control."
I was told that I had seven minutes, but maybe there was a change in the chair.
Last month, the newly elected socialist Government of Spain restored some faith in democratic politics when it honoured the election pledge that delivered it a shock victory on the back of a huge electoral turnout at Spain's general election. Spain withdrew its troops from Iraq, stating that it wanted nothing to do with what it called an "illegal and immoral war". Today, the Scottish Socialist Party amendment calls on the Parliament to support the same action, and to withdraw all British troops from the illegally occupied Iraq. The call for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq is not just an SSP call; it reflects the actions of one of Europe's most powerful nations, which realised that it was wrong originally to have supported the invasion of Iraq.
In November last year, the First Minister, speaking in the course of a debate on the war in Iraq, dutifully obeyed his master in Westminster by supporting the illegal invasion of Iraq because
"The people of Iraq now have a chance to express their opinions."—[Official Report, 20 November 2003; c 3470.]
Last month, in a pro-US forum, the people of Iraq did just that. In an extensive Gallup poll, reported on CNN and in USA Today, 64 per cent of the people of Iraq said that coalition actions have turned out worse than they had hoped for and 57 per cent of Iraqis said that they wanted all coalition troops to be withdrawn immediately. I say to those who tell us that we should stay the course that we should perhaps listen to what the people of Iraq are telling us. They want us out of their country. In the same poll, 70 per cent of Iraqis said that they view the troops not as liberators but as an occupation force.
That is the point that I am making. The fact that there was no democracy or freedom in Iraq before the invasion has been used as a justification for the invasion. Apparently the invasion was justified because Iraqis now have opinions. The problem is that we are just ignoring their opinions. Seventy per cent view the troops as an occupation force; those are not cheap words, as Mr Kerr would have us believe, but the opinion of the Iraqi people, who are suffering from that occupation. The invasion of Iraq was based on a tangled web of lies, deceit and distortion that was
Bush and Blair stand condemned as liars in relation to the war on Iraq, because they deliberately misled the people of this country and attempted to mislead the people of the world. A total of 399 days after the so-called victory in the war in Iraq, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. There was no 45-minute threat to British interests. Before the invasion of Iraq, there was no link with al-Qa'ida, but al-Qa'ida cells are certainly active in Iraq now.
Two thirds of the way through Tommy Sheridan's speech, we know about the origins of the war and so on, but what do we do with it now? In the absence of a proper civil authority in Iraq, what would be the result of immediate withdrawal of coalition forces without there being some structure in their place?
It is important that we explain fully the basis of this illegal invasion to explain that the current occupation is an illegal occupation. We have no right to be there; we should withdraw and the Iraqi people should make their own country in the way that they want. We are an illegal occupying force. I do not want another drop of either Iraqi blood or British troops' blood to be spilled on the basis of the tangled web of lies and deceit that we have heard. That is why we want the troops to be withdrawn.
The argument that has been used is that we did not know whether there were weapons of mass destruction and we had to go in first before we found out. Mr Kerr refused to take an intervention, which was on whether he agrees that Hans Blix and his weapons inspectors should have been withdrawn from Iraq, given that they were peacefully verifying that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, peacefully verifying that he posed no threat to British interests and peacefully verifying that he posed no threat to his immediate neighbours. Hans Blix and his team were ordered out not by the dictator Saddam Hussein, but by George Bush, because they were exposing the tangled web of lies, the fear that was being created and the hysteria that was whipped up that we must go into Iraq and must kill more than 20,000 men and women.
No, thank you.
Some 4,000 Iraqi children—more than 10 times the number who were massacred in the 11 September atrocity—have been massacred in an act of revenge that has made our world a much less safe place in which to live.
Our party believes in the sovereignty of the Scottish people, which is why we believe in the sovereignty of the Iraqi people as well. We have no place to be in Iraq and we should withdraw immediately. The SSP calls unequivocally for the immediate withdrawal of our troops. We should do what the Spanish Government has had the courage to do in sticking by its electoral pledge and get out of this immoral and illegal morass that the American Government has created in its pursuit of oil and world domination. Let us cut ourselves from the apron strings of the US of A and let us do it now.
I move amendment S2M-1374.3, to leave out from "reaffirms" to end and insert:
"believes that all British troops should be withdrawn from Iraq immediately; considers that the decision to invade Iraq was based on lies, deceit and distortion and that President George W Bush and Tony Blair are guilty of wilful deception in relation to weapons of mass destruction, Iraqi links to the September 11 atrocity and Iraq posing an imminent "45-minute" threat to British interests; further considers that the invasion of Iraq was illegal under international law and the continued presence of coalition troops represents an illegal occupation; believes that the billions of pounds committed to waging war in Iraq should be diverted to agencies like the Red Cross, Red Crescent, Médicins Sans Frontières and others to assist in the rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructure with the consent of the Iraqi people and that peace across the Middle East will be only secured on the basis of a free and viable Palestine requiring the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territory; further believes that Scotland's name should be synonymous with peaceful resolution of the world's problems and conflicts, and extends the hand of peace and friendship internationally."
To secure peace in Iraq and allow it to move towards democracy, there must be coalition disengagement, both political and military. I have never been an advocate of the all-troops-out-now position. To create a security vacuum in Iraq before stable political institutions have been established, which have democratic legitimacy and the consent of the Iraqi people, and before the Iraqis have the means to defend their nascent democracy against attack would be a recipe for chaos and civil war.
However, I also believe that any troops who stay in Iraq must have the support of the Iraqi people and must be there to serve Iraqi interests, not the interests of those whose motives for invasion remain suspect. For me, and for reasons to which I will return, that means that they must not be drawn predominantly from US or UK forces and that they should not be under US command.
Let us remember that amidst all the talk of a new United Nations Security Council resolution and the transfer of sovereignty to the new Iraqi Government, there is no intention on the part of either Bush or Blair to remove coalition forces from United States command. In my view, that makes continuing unrest in Iraq more likely, not less likely. Whether we like it or not, Iraqis see UK and US forces as an army of occupation. To say that is not to criticise our soliders; it is simply a statement of reality. It is the direct consequence of Blair and Bush waging war illegally on the basis of lies; going to war in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction that do not exist; claiming that the war in Iraq would advance the war on global terror when the reality is that is has accelerated the flow of recruits to al-Qa'ida; and using the defence of human rights as an ex post facto justification for war, while abusing human rights in Guantanamo bay and Abu Ghraib.
Arguably, the unrest is above all else a consequence of promising progress for Palestine while backing Israel to the hilt as it continues to kill innocent civilians and to use American-supplied Caterpillars to bulldoze people out of their homes in an attempt to impose a settlement that will deprive Palestinians of more of their own land. For all those reasons and more, the coalition in Iraq lacks credibility in the eyes of the international community and is seen as the enemy by the Iraqi people.
For as long as coalition forces remain dominant in Iraq and remain under US command, they will be an incitement to rebellion. The legitimate anger of ordinary Iraqis will provide cover for those whose motives are to undermine and frustrate the democratic process. Such people will view attacks on coalition troops as the way to win popular support.
Many Muslim countries have sizeable forces that have been engaged in peacekeeping tasks around the world on many occasions. Given the conditions that I have described and to which Robert Brown alluded, there is a need for a genuinely multinational force that is drawn, as far as possible, from countries that are culturally, politically and religiously more in tune with the Iraqi people. Until such time as the Iraqi Government can assume full control, such a multinational force under the command of the United Nations rather than the United States would be the best way of guaranteeing security.
Sorry, I do not have time.
Coalition disengagement from Iraq must be political as well as military. The debate about the extent of sovereignty to be transferred is important, but we must be careful not to let debates about sovereignty cloud another issue. Sovereignty will be meaningful only if the interim Government has the support and credibility to exercise it. The Iraqi Government will not be legitimate in the eyes of the Iraqi people if it is composed of American placemen. In those circumstances, the Iraqi people will simply look elsewhere for political leadership.
America's blatant attempt to manipulate the make-up of the new Government was typical, but it was probably more successful than it wants us to think. We can only guess whether yesterday's spat between the US and the Governing Council over the appointment of the new Iraqi President was real or a cynical public relations stunt, but the unavoidable truth is that, as long as the US remains so heavily engaged in Iraq, the suspicion, if not the reality, will be that the US is pulling the strings. That means that the chances of the new Government leading the country to free elections in January—which is absolutely essential—will be diminished.
This is a moment of truth for Bush and his sidekick, Blair. If they believe in giving Iraqis genuine power, rather than in controlling the country by proxy for their own strategic and economic ends, they must recognise that they are currently the main stumbling block on the path to democracy. Bush and Blair should get out and allow the United Nations to take their place.
Across the country and across the Parliament, people have genuinely held views and conflicting viewpoints on how we have arrived at the current situation. This afternoon, we have heard a great deal of analysis about how we got here, but we are all agreed on the need to win the peace.
I want to spend a few moments talking about how we achieve a peace that is worth working for. We should perhaps put politics aside and concentrate on how to do that. Many will be familiar with the saying that peace is not just the absence of war; it is about promoting an agenda of fairness, freedom, justice and equality. That is what the Security Council resolution seeks to do.
Will Irene Oldfather join me in taking the opportunity to mark our great admiration for those who took part in the D-day landings in the
I am happy to support Mr Gallie in that viewpoint. Many of us recognise the contributions that our fathers and grandfathers made, through the D-day landings, to the peace that we have in Europe today.
The values and principles that I spoke about should relate not only to Iraq but to the middle east. I am aware that my colleague John Home Robertson visited Palestine recently, and he will be able to report on the need to support the Palestinian people and find solutions to the problems that they face.
Not at the moment.
If we are committed to peace, we must also strive for a better balance in other difficult situations in the world.
As politicians, we have a duty to respond to the crisis in a measured and responsible way that is free from political opportunism. That will help to bring about peace and will restore the confidence of ordinary Iraqis in themselves and in their electoral process. Andy Kerr spoke about the fear of politicians to speak up and say anything other than, "Hail to Saddam," a year and a half ago. The regime was brutal and torture was a way of life. We must recognise that part of our role is to restore the Iraqi people's confidence to allow them to speak their minds and to have a Government that is directly elected by the people.
In the meantime, there are a number of constructive things that we can do. We can continue to support the humanitarian effort to make life better for ordinary Iraqis. It is important to praise the efforts of those who have been involved in the past and those who have lost their lives as a result of putting humanitarian aid before themselves. In today's debate, it is also important to mention the work of the Red Cross and others who have contributed to trying to find resolutions to the humanitarian crisis.
We also need to encourage those involved to work with the interim Government and the newly appointed Prime Minister. I was disappointed to hear Nicola Sturgeon's words; it is offensive to suggest that there was some kind of orchestrated PR campaign to say that the new Iraqi Prime Minister was directly elected by Iraqis rather than just being a puppet of the US. That comment is quite disgraceful. We need to work to ensure the successful implementation of the election to create a transitional Government in January and a
I conclude by paying tribute to the objectives that the Dutch presidency of the European Union has outlined for the next six months. It has indicated its frustration with the constant bickering in Europe, which has not been productive, and has identified the failure of EU members to unite around common causes in relation to Iraq. I hope that the UK Government will work with the Dutch presidency of the European Union in future deliberations to support the balanced world order that the European Union could bring.
The Labour amendment seeks to emphasise the importance of human values. It seeks to unite us, not to divide us, and it acknowledges the courage and determination of the Iraqi people. I support the amendment.
Before the debate, a number of contributions were made under the heading of points of order. It was quite clear that a number of members are unhappy about the subject matter that is being debated, and I have to say that I have a great deal of sympathy with the points that were made. That said, and given that the SNP might to its advantage have decided to debate something over which the Parliament has a scintilla of control, it cannot be denied that there is considerable public disquiet about the international situation in general and the situation in Iraq in particular.
There is also considerable public cynicism about the basis on which the coalition went to war. The majority of the Westminster Parliament voted to do so on the basis of the Prime Minister's advice that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and presented a clear and present danger to this country and our interests. The events of the past 12 months, the Hutton inquiry and, in particular, the failure to find any such weapons have become a matter of the greatest concern and have raised many questions about whether those who voted to undertake the exercise did so on the basis of the correct information.
Nevertheless, the agenda has moved on and we must cope with the realities of the situation, which are extremely difficult. As Mr Gallie said, the security situation in Iraq is indisputably serious. However, not even opponents of the action can claim that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a Shangri-la, because it manifestly was not. Those who criticise—rightly—the behaviour of some individuals in Abu Ghraib jail might with advantage consider what happened in that jail before the
I agree absolutely. As I have said, we must be better than people who have behaved like barbarians. One feature that emerges time and again is the fact that our armed forces are better than that. That has been demonstrated. When Mr Swinney referred somewhat disparagingly to some sections of our armed forces, Mr Gallie was right to underline the presumption of innocence.
We should be proud of our armed forces' performance in the past 12 months. The Scottish contingent has made a formidable contribution to the reinstatement of Iraq as a modern and forward-looking democracy. The armed forces are entitled to our fullest support, but I am concerned that Treasury savings are in danger of being made at the expense of soldiers' lives. The journal Defence Analysis says that the Treasury has withheld at least £200 million and that Gordon Brown refuses to fund up to £500 million of the cost of the Iraq war. If our armed forces are being deprived of the necessary equipment or supplies to ensure their safety, that is a serious matter.
As I have said, nobody is happy about the situation, but to withdraw and leave a job half done is not an option. It is essential to place Iraq in a position from which it can be a viable, progressive and democratic country. As Mr Gallie's amendment says, it should
"become a beneficial influence within the region as a whole."
That must be our goal. There is no point in pulling out at this stage. We must see the task through. It is incumbent on all members of the Parliament and all members in another place to ensure that our armed forces are given every possible support in fulfilling that task.
It is right that we should debate Iraq today, because little of what has happened since we last debated the issue has been good for the people of Iraq or happy for Britain and our involvement there.
The reason for war—that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction—has not been and is not likely to be proved. The occupation of Iraq is achieving the opposite of what it set out to do—it has intensified the threat of terrorism and made
As Mr Swinney said, the highly respected International Institute for Strategic Studies said last week that the Iraq war had been a recruiting agent for terrorism, had helped to restore an al-Qa'ida that had been dispersed by the invasion of Afghanistan and had made a repeat of an atrocity on the scale of 9/11 more likely.
This misguided war has further serious consequences, which Jim Wallace outlined. It will make it far more difficult to produce peace and stability in the middle east and not least between Israel and Palestine. It may also—understandably—lead the United States to retreat into one of its periodic bouts of isolationism. After the American Administration's fingers have been so comprehensively burned, future Administrations may be less willing to face up to a genuine threat from another country.
Although the invasion of Iraq was mistaken, that mistake should not be compounded by the withdrawal of the coalition's forces in the immediate or near future. There can be no withdrawal without Iraq spiralling into anarchy or probable civil war, but we require a further Security Council resolution to bring coalition forces under UN auspices, so that they have to report regularly to and be subject to the authority of the Security Council.
That is how we should proceed militarily, but how should we proceed politically? The 30 June deadline for initiating the transfer of sovereignty back to the Iraqi people looms. Then there will be a transitional Government, but that is only the beginning. A new constitution must be drawn up, an electoral commission set up and voter registration begun. Iraq must be enabled to move to free and fair elections as soon as the security of the ballot can be guaranteed. I agree with my colleague Sir Menzies Campbell, who said recently in the House of Commons that our relationship with the United States should be a partnership of influence, not so subordinate that we appear to be subservient.
If senior Republican senators, such as Senator Richard Lugar—chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations—and Senators John McCain and Pete Domenici, can be openly critical of the White House, and if General Zinni, the former American commander in the middle east and the State Department's representative there, can attack the Bush Administration in the most scathing terms, why can our own Prime Minister not speak out? Why can he not speak out passionately against the denial of civil and human rights to the detainees at Guantanamo bay, against the inhumane and degrading treatment of those held at Abu Ghraib jail and against the
If he were to show some humility and admit that he might just be wrong, Mr Blair would win some respect; if not, history will be his judge and the verdict will not be a favourable one.
The SNP motion clearly lays out our belief both in the primacy of international law and that the war in Iraq is illegal. That is the position that we held when we sponsored the debates in January and March 2003 and it is the position that we hold now. I believe that that was and is the position of most people in this country. That raises questions about the state of democracy in the UK. Many Labour MPs—and Andy Kerr this afternoon—try to justify the decision to go to war last year on the basis that, for the first time ever, a decision to go to war was taken by the Parliament at Westminster and not just by royal prerogative. I contend that the decision to remove Saddam Hussein by force was taken long before then: it was taken by George Bush, who was supported by Tony Blair. The decision was justified by those two men—and by others—through the use of scaremongering, coercion, manipulation of information and deception.
As quoted in the The Times on 1 May 2003, US General Wesley Clark admitted that the fight was never just about weapons of mass destruction—whatever the rhetoric. Rather, the war was about the inauguration of a new US strategy for the region. It was about the politics of empire under the guise of the US's view of democracy and freedom—whose freedom is the question that we are now considering. In the UK, before all the backtracking and rewriting of history began, the justification for invading Iraq was the capacity of its weapons of mass destruction. We now know that we were subjected to a lie. What we had was a pre-emptive war—
On the clarity of the SNP's position, would Linda Fabiani care to comment on Campbell Martin's threat to publish a dossier of secret SNP cabinet discussions that shows unequivocally that Mr Swinney was swithering—I believe that "wobbling" was the word used—on the issue? Will she comment also comment on the two apparent non-denials, which did not say that Mr Swinney was not wobbling but called Mr Martin's
I say that Campbell Martin is not in the SNP and I suspect that he suffers from a very bad memory.
What we had was a pre-emptive war based on dodgy intelligence and generated by Downing Street.
It is now seen quite clearly that the people of Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world seriously mistrust the coalition forces, which is perfectly understandable. No matter how well intentioned the majority of the troops are—that is not in question—the fact is that, quite apart from the documented human tragedies that are unfolding daily, the armies are from the same countries that were subjecting Iraq to long-term bombing campaigns prior to the full-scale invasion. Those armies are also from the same countries that imposed sanctions back in 1990, which ensured that Iraq had one of the highest infant mortality rates on the planet and that one quarter of all Iraqi children were underweight, while one fifth were malnourished.
The Iraqi people who lived in the no-fly zone suffered years of death and maiming by the USA and the UK after the first Iraqi war. That action was against UN resolution 688, the forerunner of resolution 1441, which was also interpreted illegally by those whose agenda was already set. The Iraqi people feel as if they have been at war for years and years, not just since 2003.
Whatever one feels about the rights or wrongs of the sanctions that were imposed or the rights and wrongs of having gone to war and removing Saddam Hussein by force, there are facts that cannot be denied. It is a fact that the world is now a more dangerous place. It is a fact that poll after poll in this country show that the majority disagrees with the war. It is a fact that thousands of Iraqis have died and that soldiers in all the forces are dying. It is also a fact that Iraqis perceive the US and UK armed forces to be an occupying force.
Encompassing all those facts is another: the current situation cannot continue and is untenable. The promotion of future stability in Iraq must be of prime importance, along with the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people. That transfer will be complete when there is a democratically elected Government, but the interim Government, which will have sovereignty over internal security issues, should be able to direct a UN-commanded force. The forces on the ground must be brought under UN command and must not remain under the command of countries that Iraqis view as invaders. Because it was committed to a war without a UN mandate, our military does not have
Although the authority of the United Nations has been undermined by this war, it is the agency that should have international legitimacy. It is, after all, no better than the sum of its parts. We have to send out the message that the basic principles of the UN—the ones upon which it was formed—and its founding charter are still at the heart of our beliefs. We must affirm our support for the UN and for Iraq.
In the mid-1980s, I was a member of the Scottish Trades Union Congress youth committee and was, through my participation in that body, able to meet young people from a cross-section of Scotland and from several overseas youth organisations. I recall attending the world festival of youth and students in Moscow and having the opportunity to discuss issues, formally and informally, with groups of young people from apartheid South Africa, Chile and other countries under oppressive regimes and dictatorships.
I especially recall an encounter with four Iraqi students who had settled in Scotland. I knew little of their country and even less of the system that they were evidently relieved to have escaped. At the end of our discussion, I was left with two abiding memories. One was of bewilderment, not only that such a barbaric Government could be allowed to get away with systematic brutality, but that it clearly had support from the west. The other memory that I have is of the heartfelt pleas of those students and their insistence that if Britain and other western countries did not desist from supporting Saddam Hussein, the people of Iraq were destined to suffer even greater terror at his hands. Soon after that encounter, we learned of the massacre at Halabjah. My anger at the complicity of my country's then Government in turning a blind eye to that barbarism remains as strong today as it was then.
As time marched on, I attended more and more events at which Saddam was condemned and action called for to deal with his tyrannical regime, but still the west did nothing until Saddam threatened the oil supplies by invading Kuwait. Only then was action taken. Alas, that action was only about oil. As history tells us, we were still not interested enough in the people of Iraq to bring down the Baathist regime. The truth was—and I know that this flies in the face of the clichés about
I do not particularly care that we did not find weapons of mass destruction. We know that Saddam Hussein had them because he had used them previously and we knew that he would be capable of using them again. The only reason why he cannot do so now is not because he does not have them but because we now have him. I am confident that the four students that I met 20 years ago are glad about that. I am not so confident that they will be proud of this Parliament today as it discusses this tawdry piece of political opportunism.
If I follow the line of Mr McMahon's argument correctly, he is saying that going into Iraq was justified because of Saddam Hussein's evil regime. If that is the case, why did our Prime Minister not put that argument before us and allow us to express our views and make a decision based on it rather than on the clearly made-up reason that was presented to the nation time after time?
I heard that argument, even if Robin Harper did not.
This debate is not about principle, it is not about upholding international law and it is not about exposing deceit. It is about political point scoring, naked opportunism and blatant hypocrisy.
As a supporter of the Iraqi campaign, I am more than happy to face up to the difficult challenges now facing the Government. There were and are consequences of war. Equally, however, there and were and are consequences of not taking action. Will the SNP face up to that and tell us why it would have left the Iraqi people to suffer at Saddam Hussein's hands? The SNP should not tell us that all we needed was another UN resolution.
As for the SNP's position today, we can look to Rob Gibson who, in an SNP press release dated 28 February this year, said:
"The Blair Regime must be indicted for war crimes and the writ of British rule removed from our way of life."
Such extreme language leaves me in no doubt that the SNP's motion about removing an army of occupation is more to do with anti-British sentiment than anything else and that, as ever, it is using the prevailing situation in post-Saddam
No amount of crocodile tears for the plight of the Iraqi people will wash away the fact that the SNP is more interested in attacking Britain than it is in finding a way to help Iraq. If it believes that the answer is to withdraw, it has questions to answer about that. How could a Muslim-based UN force help and where would it be drawn from? What about Turkey or Iran? Would the Kurds and marsh Arabs want them on their soil? What about Saudi Arabia? If al-Qa'ida can target that country for its western links just now, just think what it could do if Saudi troops were in Iraq.
I believe that my Government was right to do what it did. I trust it to resolve the current problems. There will be differences across the chamber on this matter this afternoon, and they will be legitimate ones. We will not hide from our responsibility but I ask the SNP to take some responsibility for once and accept the consequences of the opportunism that it is exhibiting this afternoon.
I will start by addressing the question of why we should be having this debate right before an election. It is the point that is most often raised on the doorsteps and, quite frankly, I think that, in the run-up to an election, politicians have a particular duty to discuss major issues rather than avoid them.
Mr Kerr resorted to some semantics in his speech. He said that there was no occupation because the situation in Iraq is not in accordance with the UN definition of an occupation and that it is not a United States/United Kingdom coalition because there are relatively small contingents from umpteen countries—even though some of those contingents amount to only dozens of people. However, the point is that, to the Iraqi on the ground, it feels like a US occupation and looks like a US occupation and therefore is a US occupation, regardless of what we would like it to be seen as.
Another issue that has been raised is the treatment of prisoners and the behaviour of some coalition troops. I do not know how many troops, from which countries, have committed illegal acts, but I know that those who have were encouraged in their actions by the attitude to human rights of some of their leaders. When we saw the treatment of prisoners arriving at Guantanamo bay from Afghanistan—even the pictures that we were allowed to see on television—most of us thought that it was degrading and a betrayal of human rights. When it suited us, we made much of the
If Governments are prepared to overthrow the rule of law when it suits them, is it any wonder that some of the individual soldiers whom those Governments employ omit to obey the law when it suits them? In a dire emergency, any Government has the right to suspend some rights temporarily. However, we have done so too readily and too often and have sent entirely the wrong signals to our own people and to other countries in the world.
I will say a word about the role of the UN. The actions of the United States and the United Kingdom have served to diminish the prestige and influence of the UN. Every time that we as countries act unilaterally, rather than through the United Nations, we diminish the UN and make the world a less safe place in the long term. The US may be successful in some actions, in some place, at some stage in the future. One might think that it had enough force to make a success of such actions, although it is not doing so at present. However, that approach offers no long-term path to world security—it simply creates division.
I raise the issue of selectivity. Michael McMahon and Andy Kerr both talked about the evilness of the Iraqi regime under Saddam and the murders that were committed. I remember Kurds attending SNP conferences some 20 years ago and talking about that situation, so we were well aware of it. The problem with Michael McMahon's and Andy Kerr's approach is that it raises the question of when we stop, or rather start, being the world policeman on our own initiative. Today we had with us the Dalai Lama. We have seen the gradual suppression of the Tibetan race and the murders in Tibet, but where is our military intervention there? Earlier Phil Gallie said that we will need to start to examine the Tibetan question. We have examined it for 50 years and done absolutely nothing about it. We cannot pick and choose our opponents on the whim of the President of the United States.
Our readiness—or rather, the Government's readiness—to back the United States compares very unfavourably with the conduct of a previous Labour leader, Harold Wilson. The President of the United States at the time tried to cajole him into intervening in Vietnam, but he took a principled stance and refused to get involved, even though we were told that if the United States failed in Vietnam it would be the end of democracy in south-east Asia and all the other dominoes in the region would fall. We did not intervene, the
There is now no quick-fix solution for this problem, which is, significantly, a problem of our creation. However, I believe that the proposals in the SNP motion offer not a guarantee of success, but at least a possible way forward.
Having represented the Greens at meetings of the Scottish Coalition for Justice not War, I find it satisfying to debate these issues here today. I thank the SNP for lodging its motion.
Several members have mentioned the grasshopper debating tactics of members of the Government, who argued in favour of the war on Iraq. Robin Harper is right to say that if they had been honest, clear and consistent about the real reasons for the war, we would be in a different situation. Although I might still have opposed the war, I would have retained some shred of respect for the UK Government. However, every time that the Government was challenged on weapons of mass destruction it switched to the protection of Iraqi civilians—civilians whose bodies it stopped counting shortly after the invasion.
On the contrary—I said that most European and other developed nations in the world thought that there were weapons of mass destruction and that the Iraq survey group has not yet issued its report. Those were the points that I made—I did not ignore the issue entirely.
I am discussing Government ministers' arguments in favour of the war in Iraq in the lead-up to the war, when, in putting the case for war to the British people, they switched from WMD to the protection of civilians. Then, when an argument came forward about those issues, the defence became upholding the authority of the UN. As soon as that argument was questioned, we were informed that Saddam Hussein was just a brutal dictator and that that was the reason for the war. When reminded that opponents of the war had been saying precisely that for years but the west had never seemed troubled before, the argument went back to WMD.
In short, any argument was used to avoid saying the word "oil". Oil is the factor that decided the powerful clique who rule the US Administration to go to war with Iraq long before 11 September. The Greens argue, as do others, that if the British Government wants to do something about WMD and peace, it should start by ending the testing of depleted uranium weapons at Dundrennan and their use in combat; it should end the deployment of the illegal and immoral Trident nuclear submarine system from the Faslane base on the
I turn now to the amendments. Andy Kerr's amendment is unsupportable. We have all followed the machinations over the new UN resolution, to which Mr Kerr's amendment refers. However, it also refers to the
"formation of a sovereign interim government of Iraq and the end of the occupation by 30 June 2004".
That is untrue. Under the terms of the draft resolution, the occupation is due to continue until at least the end of 2005. Not only will the forces remain, they will be protected from the law and be immune from prosecution. If the Iraqi Government has been bred tame enough by the end of 2005, the occupation will be extended even further.
Mr Gallie's amendment also offers much with which to take issue. I could support his condemnation of false allegations of abuse if he had preceded it with a condemnation in the strongest terms of the actual abuse of which the coalition forces are guilty and of the policy context that has created a culture of human rights abuse among the occupying forces. As for the influential Scottish voice—
No, thank you.
As for the influential Scottish voice on the Security Council that Mr Gallie highly values, I reject any argument based on the current make-up of the Security Council. That we live in a world in which the body that is charged with achieving and maintaining world peace has a permanent seat at the table reserved for each of the world's five biggest arms dealers is beyond irony; it is corruption, plain and simple.
Jim Wallace's amendment refers to the motion that was agreed to on 13 March 2003, in which the Parliament asserted its belief that the authority of the UN is crucial to resolving conflicts in the middle east. However, in that debate, MSPs chose not to support Mr Wallace's amendment, which opposed military action without an explicit mandate. What value is there in asserting, endorsing, affirming and reaffirming a belief in the authority of the UN if that authority is ignored at every turn?
Let me once more recall the overwhelmingly peaceful and constructive atmosphere not only on the anti-war demonstrations but at the regular, big blockades at the home of British WMD—the
It is particularly poignant that we are debating the Iraq issue on a day when we have been fortunate enough to have been addressed by one of the world's leading advocates for peace, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
More than 19 months after the massive rallies for peace here and abroad and more than a year since the so-called end of the war in Iraq, we are living in a much more dangerous and unstable world. In true Orwellian style, war is peace in this new world order. The phrase "war against terrorism" is incongruous. What does it mean? Does it mean killing innocents because innocents were killed? Does it mean protecting western lives by sending western forces to their deaths? Does it mean bombing people to liberate them? Does it mean promoting democracy and freedom by the use of force and occupation? Does it mean ridding the world of WMD by using WMD?
The latest estimates put the fatalities at around 11,000 since the Iraq war began. Despite President Bush's proclamation last year that the war was over, made as he stood in front of a banner that declared, "Mission Accomplished", hundreds are still dying in Iraq—soldiers and civilians—just as hundreds of innocents died before this professed war of liberation from the sanctions that were imposed on Iraq, just as thousands died in Afghanistan in the first attack against the so-called axis of evil and just as hundreds are still dying in that country, seemingly forgotten by the west.
In the same way, the people of Cuba are suffering from a cruel regime of economic sanctions imposed by the USA and are now under threat, as President Bush showed last year when he said, "One thing we believe in in America is freedom for everybody. We love it for the people of Cuba. We love it for the people of Iraq. We love it for the people of Afghanistan." I think that people in Iraq and Afghanistan might question that idea of freedom and whether the end justifies the means. The Cubans certainly do not want it.
What was the mission and what has been accomplished? Well, where is the freedom for the people in Palestine, where is the freedom for trade
The war has meant attacks on civil liberties, including new proposals to arrest, detain and even find people guilty without proper recourse to our legal system. People, including British citizens, are still detained in Guantanamo bay, and there are draconian proposals for asylum seekers, with Government ministers referring last week to "illegal asylum seekers", when there is no such thing. Children and their families are still locked up, to Scotland's shame, in Dungavel. Mission accomplished?
We have witnessed a scramble to join the carpet-baggers descending on Iraq to get their hands on oil and reconstruction contracts—the spoils of war for the winners—but even those entrepreneurs are now having second thoughts as they are targeted in the unstable aftermath of the war, which has bred terrorist attacks. The troops are now increasingly viewed as an army of occupation, and that view is exacerbated by the reports of atrocities against prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison. Mission accomplished? So much for this brave new world. Like many people, I fear that what we are seeing is, in fact, the projection of a new American century.
People throughout the world are suffering and dying from the effects of rampant capitalism and the middle east is in turmoil. The world is more violent and unsafe than it was before the attack on the twin towers. How can it be safer, with cluster bombs, unexploded mines and depleted uranium littering the globe? How can we liberate people by waging war on them, bombing them and allowing them to suffer in the aftermath? Why are innocent civilians in the countries that we wage war on merely collateral damage? Why are innocent American lives worth more than innocent lives in the middle east? How do we teach our children that violence and terrorism are wrong while war is waged in our name using weapons of mass destruction against innocents?
Mission accomplished? There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq posing an imminent threat to us, and war cannot be justified on the
We have just heard one of the best speeches so far in this Parliament. I would like to associate myself with Elaine Smith's peroration, in particular what she said about few of the words in today's motion and amendments providing a satisfactory solution to the problem. I will come back to that later.
The mess that is British policy on Iraq and the wider middle east was predictable. Before the war, al-Qa'ida was a small organisation that was based mainly in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Now, it is estimated to number about 18,000 people and its offshoots are to be found in countries as widespread as Indonesia, Australia, the United Kingdom, Tunisia, Morocco, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey. That probably answers the only weak point in Michael McMahon's otherwise admirable speech. When we consider the list of countries that now harbour al-Qa'ida members, there can be no justification for our going into one country with whose regime we disagreed.
Bush and Blair lied—they lied about weapons of mass destruction and Blair either lied or showed incredible incompetence in claiming not to know that the rocket-delivery system that was supposed to threaten us here in Europe was, in fact, a battlefield weapon system and not an intercontinental one. That fact alone means that our credibility has been gravely damaged in the middle east.
The political incompetence of Bush and Blair is staggering. They support a double standard in international law, and the actions of the Americans in their treatment of prisoners and their methods of policing Iraq—with tanks and random fire killing thousands of Iraqis—border on the insane. While the Arab world watches on Aljazeera television as Americans shoot up a wedding party, it also sees Israeli bulldozers smash the houses and farms of
I want now to turn to the motion and the amendments, which Elaine Smith said were unsatisfactory. I agree with her. First of all, it is right that the SNP motion has been debated. I will be frank: in this context, I do not care whether there is a European election or not, and neither do other Scots—especially the 75 per cent of those who answered the BBC poll that was published today. Those people expressed their disapproval of what is being done in their name. The SNP motion is superficial in its analysis and in its remedy. As we have already heard, blithely to suggest a Muslim-only armed force is infantile.
The Tories' amendment is out of touch with Scottish opinion. I do not think that Phil Gallie speaks for Scotland when he appears to support ever more engagement in Iraq. However, I believe that the Tories could and should vote according to what they believe and according to their conscience. They were bounced into supporting Blair in his adventure because Iain Duncan Smith made a poor decision, which I glimpsed in some of Phil Gallie's remarks. If his decision was wrong then, it is wrong now.
I do not think that the Tories should give any succour to the Labour Party's amendment, which says all the right things, except that the policy that it advocates is more of the same. That policy has failed to enthuse the other countries in the region, on whom the amendment says Iraq's security depends. None of the countries that border Iraq supports the policy. I think that there is also a small mistake in the Labour Party's amendment—it says that the UN should take "a leading role"; it does not say "the leading role". I wonder whether that is a mistake. Perhaps we will find out during the winding-up speeches.
The Liberal Democrats' amendment is consistent, but it fails to make a link to the Israeli Government's outrageous treatment of the Palestinians. That link cannot be ignored. In that respect, the SSP's amendment is superior but—unfortunately—it also calls for withdrawal "immediately" of British troops. If that is meant literally, I think that it would be impossible to achieve. If it means that it should be done as soon as possible, I might find it possible to vote for the
One thing that I refuse to do is to endorse the Labour amendment and have this Parliament cravenly and obscenely vote for something that most of us do not believe in.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the political decision to commit our troops to war in Iraq—in my view there were many wrongs—the fact is that the young men and women of our armed forces are in Iraq risking their lives on our behalf and are doing their duty well. I am surprised that, of the motion and amendments that have been lodged, only two amendments specifically recognise the bravery and professionalism of our armed forces in difficult and dangerous circumstances. The amendment in Jim Wallace's name makes it clear that Her Majesty's Government must not commit further troops unless they are requested specifically by our military commanders in Iraq, either to secure the safety of our forces or to fulfil our obligations to the people of Iraq. Our troops must not be used for any other reason.
I am appalled at the attitude of Mr Swinney, who clearly confused criticism of the politics that were involved in taking us into this disastrous war with the professionalism and dedication of our servicemen and women who are operating in the field. I hope that in winding up, the SNP will reflect on that misjudgement and I hope that by backing the Liberal Democrat amendment the Scottish Parliament can at least send a clear message of support to the young men and women who are doing a difficult and dangerous job to the very best of their ability.
Steady on—I will come to Labour members later.
I thank my friends in the Scottish Socialist Party for allowing me to contribute to the debate, which has been interesting. My good friend John Swinney, the leader of the Scottish National Party, made an interesting point when he said that to pull troops out of Iraq now would mean leaving Iraqis
Andy Kerr's speech was absolutely appalling; he was clearly going for the brown-noser of the year award. His slavish loyalty to the right-wing policies of new Labour was appropriately endorsed by the Tory party. It was interesting that Phil Gallie, on behalf of the Tories, admitted that he thought that it was right when it happened that we sold weapons to Saddam Hussein. Maybe at some other time he will explain why it was right.
This debate is about the international situation, but the international situation is, of course, for the Iraqi people a national situation that affects them daily. Over the past year, the people of Iraq have witnessed the illegal invasion of their country and an illegal war in their country. About 4,000 Iraqi children and about 20,000 Iraqi men and women have been killed by foreign military personnel. During the year since President Bush declared victory, the Iraqi people have experienced only death, destruction and degradation at the hands of an invading force. That is the reality for the Iraqi people and that is their perception of the international situation that we are discussing today.
The appointment yesterday of an interim president for Iraq was a step in a better direction, but it leaves questions to be answered about the extent of Iraqi sovereignty when the new Government takes control, about control over foreign military personnel on Iraqi soil and about the use of Iraqi oil revenues. There is still only a target date for withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraqi soil and December 2005 remains the date for permanent handover to an Iraqi Government. The statement that the interim Iraqi president made yesterday was significant. He said that the US-drafted UN resolution that sets out the handover plan gives the Iraqis too little control over foreign troops and Iraqi oil revenues.
I am pleased to support the SSP amendment because I think that it best describes how the people of Scotland feel about the invasion of Iraq and about the war and the current situation in Iraq. Also, crucially for me, it calls for the immediate withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.
It was bad enough that young Scots were sent to invade Iraq at the behest of an American President and in the interests of American oil corporations who wanted to get their hands on Iraqi oil reserves, but that wrong has been compounded by the fact that those young Scots still occupy Iraq, where they are in real danger every time they set foot on an Iraqi street. The reason why they are in real danger is that the
This international situation has come about because the American President and the British Prime Minister were prepared to lie to the people whom they are supposed to represent.
Certainly, but not to you.
The people of Britain were lied to by a Prime Minister who represented your unionist party. The people of Scotland were lied to by a Prime Minister who represented your unionist party. Iraq did not have chemical or biological weapons. Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. Iraq had no weapons other than those that it was sold by Britain and America when Saddam Hussein was our best pal because he was using the weapons to kill Iranians, who we did not like at the time. That is the reality.
The position that was taken by the Labour leader of the United Kingdom Government was all lies and you supported it. Bush and Blair knew that it was all lies—I have a copy of the document "Rebuilding America's Defences: Strategies, Forces and Resources For A New Century", which was published by the Project for the New American Century in September 2000. That was four months before Bush stole the American presidency and a year before the atrocity at the World Trade Center. The document sets out the blueprint for an invasion of Iraq. A year before the attack on the World Trade Center, the Americans were determined to invade Iraq. The organisation that published the document included people like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Jeb Bush. The people who planned to invade Iraq are now in positions of power in the American Government—they lied to the American people and Blair supported their lies.
Last month, Geoff Hoon said that it costs £4 million a day to keep British troops in Iraq. The SSP amendment today says that that money should be used to bring about a lasting peace in the middle east. Let us stop spending £4 million a day on sending people to Iraq to kill Iraqi people. Let us start using it to build peace in the middle east.
We have had a very worthwhile debate today on a subject that is far more serous than most subjects that are debated routinely in this chamber or at Westminster. As Keith Raffan said, it is entirely right that we debate Iraq in the Scottish Parliament. The SNP can take some credit for affording us the opportunity to do so today.
We will come soon to decision time. We should consider carefully what the Scottish Parliament does on an issue for which the United Kingdom Government alone has responsibility. The chamber of the Scottish Parliament is not a university debating chamber, neither should it be treated as a place for a political rally nor provide an audience for a rant. The Scottish Parliament has to consider how and in what direction it may be able to influence things for the better and, in so doing, to speak for the people of Scotland.
There is a major fault line in the chamber and in the country between those who backed the war—primarily the Labour Party, the Labour Government and the Conservatives—and those who did not. I must confess that Andy Kerr showed considerable gall in upbraiding the SNP for picking and choosing which United Nations resolutions to support. The purpose and reason for our being in Iraq meant that we were there without United Nations sanction for our action at that time.
The huge demonstrations at the anti-war rallies in Glasgow and London all those months ago—which it would have done Mr Kerr considerable benefit to have attended—were not primarily staged by political activists, but by ordinary citizens who were worried and upset that this country of ours was being taken into a war for an uncertain cause in which they had no faith and for which they had considerable distaste. The question about why we are in Iraq has been asked. Why are we not in Korea? Why are we not in Tibet? Why are we not in Zimbabwe taking out Robert Mugabe? Why are we in Iraq?
We suspected then and we know now that there were no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and that there was no threat to the safety of the United Kingdom or the world community. The UN weapons inspectors should have had time to complete their job. We sympathised with the trauma of our friends in the United States over the events of 9/11, but we were not persuaded that those events had their origins in Iraq. Above all, we could not support a war that did not have the UN's sanction and we wondered how the many decent internationalists in the Labour Party could support it.
In the months since then, our worst fears have been realised. I do not want to go over them—they
There is no expression—in the weasel words of the Labour amendment or of the highly unsuitable and partisan speech of Andy Kerr in introducing it—of regret and no recognition of how we got where we are today. Liberal Democrats will be voting against the Labour amendment, as our colleagues did against similar sentiments in Westminster.
Of course, the Conservatives have been the main cheerleaders for Mr Blair, notwithstanding their transparent attempts to fish and to duck in the troubled waters of the Hutton and Butler inquiries. The rest of us, and at least eight Labour MSPs—enough to provide a majority in the chamber tonight—were against the war, but being against the war is not now a policy. Being against the war does not help us now. We are where we are and the question is how we will move forward.
Margo MacDonald lamented the lack of suitable and satisfactory solutions in the amendments today, and she was right; there are no satisfactory and suitable solutions to the problem. Immediate withdrawal would be as irresponsible as it would be dangerous. The coalition created a civil authority vacuum in Iraq. There must be no open-ended commitment, but the coalition must stay for long enough to help the interim Iraqi Government to clear up the mess and to ensure that there are free and fair elections.
It is one thing for one Government that contributes as small a contingent as the Spanish did to make the gesture of withdrawing, but it is another thing altogether for the whole of the coalition force in Iraq to withdraw without there being in place a civil authority that is capable of sustaining law and order.
Jim Wallace laid out the principles that we should apply in approaching the matter.
I am sorry, but I have to make progress.
Liberal Democrats and many others have stated throughout the piece that the United Nations holds the key. Its role must be expanded and enhanced and its authority built up, but the idea of having a blue beret force and a UN command structure, as was suggested by the SNP, is simplistic nonsense. Such a structure cannot be brought into being and it does not exist at present.
This is my final point, which I would like members to contemplate. There is a good chance that none of the propositions that are before Parliament will command the support of the chamber. The issue is whether we are to accept a sycophantic motion that supports Tony Blair, or an alternative that condemns the war, recognises the vital significance of the Palestine question, argues against further commitment of UK forces except in limited circumstances, and supports the need for effective UN authority in Iraq. That alternative can only be the Liberal Democrat amendment, which was supported by the SNP in the debate in the House of Commons, and which represents a principled and practical way forward for all those who are opposed to, and appalled by, the UK presence in Iraq. I seriously urge all members who were against the war in the first place to make their voices heard today and to send a message to the Prime Minister by backing the Liberal Democrat amendment.
I agree with Robert Brown that, whatever debates we have had in the past, we must move on. I am glad to speak to Phil Gallie's amendment. I mention an interest: I am associated with No 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron and I have been an army reservist for many years.
Like Phil Gallie and Mike Rumbles, I believe that maximum support should be given to the British armed services, which are performing with great ability in difficult and sensitive circumstances. I pay tribute to those who work in the regular armed services and to those who have served for prolonged periods as volunteers. We recommend strongly that the British Government support British commanders in whatever requests they make for equipment or manpower in order to fulfil their duties. We also urge the Government to make sufficient provision of the necessary resources to ensure that the job is well done and that there is sufficient humanitarian and economic assistance. Our determination is that the matter be seen through to a successful conclusion, which would be that the people of Iraq determine their
This afternoon's debate takes place against a background of volatility in Iraq. If we were, with the Americans, to withdraw immediately, the outcome would almost certainly be civil war, which is not the outcome that we seek. Of course, it is desirable to involve the United Nations, which is why President Bush set out five steps to achieving freedom of democracy on 24 May. He wants the handover of authority to a sovereign Iraqi government, stability and security, a rebuilt infrastructure, more international support and movement towards free national elections. The new US and United Kingdom draft resolution that has been put before the UN Security Council calls for the endorsement of a sovereign government of Iraq, a commitment by the United Nations to help with elections, the interim Government to control Iraqi oil funds under international supervision and support for a US-led multinational force.
Michael Howard said:
"We fully support the continuing deployment of British troops in Iraq ... Notwithstanding the very great difficulties that are clearly present in Iraq today, I agree with the Government that it is essential that we see this through; and, like the Prime Minister, I reject the criticism of those who suggest that we should now pull out."—[Official Report, House of Commons, 19 April 2004; c 23.]
No. I have great respect for Douglas Hurd, but I disagree with him on that point. We are a liberating country and we must never be ambushed into becoming an army of occupation; that is not and must never be our purpose. We are in Iraq as part of a process of transition. We have a moral obligation to hand over the reins of power to the new Iraqi Government with responsibility, good order, speed and efficiency. We must remember that Saddam Hussein posed a considerable threat. He killed thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of Shia Muslims and dropped weapons of mass destruction on Halabjah. The threat that was posed by him and his regime has gone, but other problems have arisen. People are concerned that the transition to democracy is proving to be extremely turbulent, but that should not deter us from the goal of achieving a democratic outcome.
"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
A full democratic solution must be put in place, with the people of Iraq firmly in control. When that is achieved, our servicemen and women will come home in the certain knowledge that theirs has been a job well done. It follows that we should act with consistency, courage and conviction to make certain, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, that
"government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth."
Most people in Scotland would probably prefer us to pay more attention to debating the issues that fall within the Parliament's responsibility. We have wide-ranging powers and I am not sure that people are terribly impressed by the frequent debates on foreign affairs that the Opposition initiates. However, as a British citizen, I am very happy to have my say on the problems that face the world today and I am happy to take part in the debate on that basis. I take the opportunity to restate my strong support for Scotland's powerful and positive role in the United Kingdom and our foreign policy. In particular, I express my strong support for the effective and essential contribution that Scotland makes to the United Kingdom's strong and disciplined armed forces.
I am proud of and grateful to the Scottish service personnel who are deployed in Iraq and I was delighted to welcome the men of the Royal Scots regiment back to my constituency last month after their deployment in the Basra area. I hope that we all share the objectives of establishing a secure, independent and democratic Iraq and of getting all foreign forces out of that country as soon as possible. Much has been said about armies of occupation, but the big difference with the army of occupation in Iraq is that our objective is to get out of Iraq and hand power back to its people. I welcome the important steps that were made towards that objective yesterday.
The situation in Iraq is obviously extremely difficult, but, to put the point simply, it would not be a good idea to walk away and let Saddam Hussein return to power.
Mr Sheridan says that it is nonsense, but if we were to leave a vacuum we would create a phenomenally dangerous situation—even Mr Sheridan must be able to grasp that point. The job will have to be completed with the active involvement of the United Nations.
The crisis in Iraq is inextricably linked with the other middle-east problem. I will say a few words about my experiences last month as a volunteer in Palestine with Edinburgh Direct Aid.
Sorry, I thought that Carolyn Leckie was going to say something sensible.
I will say a word or two about Palestine because it is important. Edinburgh Direct Aid has a lot of experience of working in areas of conflict and areas of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo. We went to the area around Ramallah to deliver aid from Scotland and to learn about the situation in the west bank. We have all read about the occupation of the west bank and Gaza since 1967, we are familiar with the term "intifada" and we know about the horrors of suicide bombings in Israeli towns, but nothing prepared me for the scale and intensity of the systematic strangulation of what is left of Palestine by the Likud Government in Israel with the open consent of the world's only superpower.
People in the United States and Europe must acknowledge the fact—although it may be difficult to believe it in a world that is still celebrating the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of apartheid in South Africa—that another wall is being built and that racial apartheid has been reinvented in the middle east. Palestinian Arabs are subject to pass laws that randomly prevent them from going to work, school, college or even hospital and they are subject to random detention. On 9 May, I saw two people being forced to kneel for more than an hour in blazing sunshine with their hands tied behind their backs while armed Israeli soldiers kicked and punched them at the Qalandiya checkpoint.
That is not all. The 30ft-high, Berlin-style wall is being constructed many miles outside the borders of the state of Israel to secure even more land and the best water supplies in the area for new Israeli settlements and to cut off Palestinians from their land and neighbours. For example, the wall cuts across roads and goes through the sports ground of the Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. I also met
Many Israelis are horrified at what is being done in their name. In particular, 400 Israeli women in Machsom Watch are actively monitoring the conduct of soldiers at checkpoints in the occupied territories as part of a campaign for peace with their neighbours. They deserve our support.
The wall and the systematic suppression of the people of Palestine can only be a recipe for endless conflict in the middle east and is poisoning relations between Muslims and the rest of the world.
I do not disagree with a word that the member has said about the situation for the Palestinians, but I would like him to explain why there is no mention of it in the Labour amendment and what on earth his Government is doing about it. Given that it has the power to do something, why is it doing nothing?
I was just coming to that important point. Last year, before the intervention in Iraq, our Prime Minister sought and obtained undertakings from the President of the United States that a fair settlement for Palestine would be linked to British support for the action in Iraq. The Prime Minister's Labour colleagues accepted those assurances in good faith, but, one year later, the situation in Palestine is going from bad to worse. There have been more deaths and more demolitions in the latest incursions into Gaza, another massive section of the concrete wall will have been erected while I have been speaking and people throughout the west bank and Gaza are being subjected to apartheid-style restrictions, detentions, demolitions, beatings and worse.
We all want the restoration of sovereignty and security in Iraq as soon as possible, but there will be no security for anyone until there is a fair settlement for the running sore in Palestine. The promises given to the British Government last year about action to deliver the road map for peace must be fulfilled, primarily to achieve long-delayed justice for the people of Palestine, but also to achieve real security for Israel. The fulfilment of those promises is an absolutely essential basis for civilised relations between the Arab world and the rest of the world. That is the important point.
On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I wonder whether you can give us guidance on the standards and the procedures that should be followed in relation to members speaking to the subject of amendments. Obviously the previous speaker did not speak to the amendment and he was supposed to be summing up.
The purpose of a closing speech is to respond to the debate. I have been here since 4 o'clock and, given that several members have discussed Palestine, it seems reasonable, in the encompassing spirit of the debate, that Palestine was referred to in the closing speech. It is entirely a matter for the member to decide which material to select.
I think that you were being just a little kind there, Presiding Officer. While I was listening to John Home Robertson, I wondered whether he had wandered in from another debate that was taking place elsewhere. It sounded to me as if we got nine or seven minutes—whatever it was—of a justification for an invasion of Israel. I am sure that that is not what he was arguing for, but it sure as heck sounded like it.
I had hoped that the debate would show the Parliament at its best. Did that happen? Well it could have happened, but then Andy Kerr got to his feet. His contribution from the Labour front bench was an absolutely pitiful failure to rise to the occasion. He talked about integrity but showed throughout his speech that he does not know the meaning of the word.
There are things about which we can be in no doubt and on which we will all agree. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who carried out numerous atrocities against his own people, not least the Iraqi Kurds, with whom the SNP feels a strong affinity. Like my colleague Alasdair Morgan, I remember as long as 20 years ago the flag of Kurdistan being unfurled on our conference platform when the likes of Donald Rumsfeld were doing deals direct with the butcher of Baghdad and when the UK and US Governments were supporting his atrocities against Iran. At least Michael McMahon had the grace to acknowledge that, even though I did not agree with everything that he said in his speech.
It goes without saying that we welcome all visitors to the Parliament.
Those who want to lecture us on the evils of Saddam will get short shrift from me, but I accept that there can come a point in international affairs when it becomes necessary for the international community to tell an individual dictator or Government that enough is enough. Only a
However, the overriding issue is that the basis on which we act must stay within international law. Just as our criminal justice system at home does not permit individuals to take the law into their own hands, so on the international stage we cannot allow individual states to go off on their own by ignoring the rule of law and engaging in the international equivalent of getting up a posse and setting out as a lynch mob.
Let us be quite clear: the war was illegal and it was based on a lie. It was illegal because there was no UN mandate for the use of force or an armed invasion of Iraq. Given everything that we were told about stockpiles of banned weapons, chemical facilities, mobile laboratories and nuclear programmes, the truth is now clear: at worst, what we were told was all a tissue of lies; at best, it was a paranoid self-delusion, brought on by a political interpretation of intelligence that was manipulated to provide a justification for war.
I am sorry, although not surprised, to discover that some MSPs are still prepared to provide that self-same justification, but there are others who have not been prepared to do so. I commend among others Keith Raffan—with whom I do not always agree, but who made a commendable speech today—and Elaine Smith, whose speech was inspired. Equally, I commend Robert Brown for the admirable comments that he made in closing for the Liberal Democrats.
However, we also heard some very silly speeches, from Pauline McNeill and Irene Oldfather, about which party has had which debates and when and where those have taken place. It is crystal clear that Tony Blair and new Labour do not want to debate this issue. The SNP has initiated today's debate because of the 30 June deadline, but that appears to have escaped the notice of Labour back benchers.
For Irene Oldfather's information, the SNP and Plaid Cymru are allowed a debate in the House of Commons on only one day each year. On 9 March last year, the subject that they chose to debate was the need for the Attorney General to publish his advice on the legality of the war. Irene Oldfather said that she wanted to put politics aside, but she seemed not to want to do so without attacking the SNP.
We have heard a lot of sound and fury from the Executive benches in today's debate, so I want to take some time to address the claims that have been made. We have, of course, heard precious little intervention from Labour ministers other than Andy Kerr. According to the opinion poll on the BBC today, Scotland is the part of the UK that is
The general line appears to have been that it is valid for party members to hold a range of views unless the party to which they belong happens to be the SNP, the SSP or the Greens, for whom a range of views is not valid. The empty Labour, Liberal Democrat and Tory benches that we have seen throughout this afternoon are testament to the collective failure of those parties to understand the importance of today's debate to ordinary Scots, who are appalled at the failure of politicians to reflect their views. The Conservative voice was rather muted, but I suspect that that reflects the uncertainty that now exists at the top of their party.
I am not sure whether the member sits on the SNP shadow Cabinet, but if she has always been so clear, coherent and fixed in her argument, can she clarify what no other SNP member whom I have asked has been able to do by explaining why Mr Swinney wobbled all over the place at meetings of his Cabinet?
When the Executive is prepared to disclose the detailed discussions that take place at its Cabinet, we will disclose the discussions that take place at ours.
The war was declared to have been won and Saddam was ousted, but nobody was in any doubt about that outcome, which was virtually guaranteed by the technical and logistical superiority of the US forces in particular. However, as we have warned from the very start, the peace has proved much harder to secure. The actions of Bush and Blair in Iraq have not sorted out an international problem but exacerbated it and they have contributed to a massive increase in global instability.
Fear levels have increased dramatically among ordinary people who go about their daily lives around the world. Once upon a time, we were all terrified of nuclear explosions, but now it is the terrorist bomb that fills us with dread. Despite what the US intelligence services would have us believe, there was no link between al-Qa'ida and Iraq before the war, but there sure as heck is now. John Swinney mentioned a report that describes the occupation of Iraq as
"a potent global recruitment pretext" for Osama bin Laden. That translates into, "We improved their recruitment figures." What an own goal. Insurgency in Iraq continues and it shows no sign of abating or being brought under control—no wonder, when the coalition forces are seen more as an army of occupation than as an army of liberation.
Continued reports and horrifying evidence of prisoner abuse continue to appal us in Scotland; I cannot imagine their impact in Iraq. The lives of British soldiers in Iraq are further endangered with every incident that is uncovered. I say with considerable regret that the truth of the allegations is probably now immaterial. The fact is that people believe that such incidents are happening in Iraq and around the world. The UK is so closely linked to the US that our soldiers cannot escape being linked to the admitted abuses that have been carried out by US troops and indeed by private contractors.
In that light, I learned with a heavy heart that the Black Watch, the regiment from my constituency and from John Swinney's constituency, is to be sent back to Iraq, having already performed one tour of duty, during which it lost one of its comrades, Lance-Corporal Barry Stephen of Perth, who was the first Scottish casualty of the war. Many of my constituents will be extremely concerned as their loved ones prepare to head out to Iraq and our thoughts are very much with them as we debate the issue today. For Mike Rumbles to suggest otherwise was unworthy of him.
If the situation is to be turned around and we are to start contributing to a safer Iraq and a safer world, we must ensure that the transfer of sovereignty is on track and on time and that it is seen to be a true transfer of power rather than the installation of a puppet regime.
Given the plan that we have seen today, people must remember that armed intervention in Vietnam was always at the carefully orchestrated behest of the south Vietnamese Government. The way in which we are proceeding will not necessarily solve the problem. The debate should be all about legitimacy. I say to the minister that there are many examples around the world of Islamic troops undertaking peacekeeping roles and it is a disgrace for him to suggest that they are not capable of doing that.
I say to the SSP and others that the SNP has always looked to the UN to mandate action and we will always do so, but that means accepting the decisions that the UN makes—one cannot pick and choose whether to go with the UN. Nor is it responsible politics to call for overnight withdrawal,
We know that the vast majority of Scots are opposed to the war and we have seen that again today. Their voice deserves to be heard and it is an indictment of the paucity of vision in the Executive, in particular, that these matters are only ever discussed in the chamber at the instigation of the Opposition. The UK Government does not speak for Scotland and the Executive does not seem to want to. This Parliament must.