On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I am sorry to interrupt, but before we start, I draw your attention to the fact that the Business Bulletin that was published this morning contains the questions that were debated at question time last week, not the questions that should be debated this week. I wonder whether you could look into the matter.
This debate is long overdue, as we are facing a humanitarian disaster in Iraq. We have witnessed the destruction of the infrastructure of an entire country. Its food supply and water supply have been affected and we are now seeing an increase in the incidence of malnutrition, especially among children. Parts of Iraq have been bombed out and reduced to rubble. The Lancet reports that in excess of 100,000 civilians—mainly women and children—have been killed in violent deaths.
On March 13 2003, we, as MSPs—or, rather, you, as MSPs—had the opportunity to register the Parliament's opposition to that action. You had a chance to put down your opposition and say "Not in my name."
Okay; some MSPs did, and I am coming to that.
MSPs had the chance to register their opposition by supporting a motion in the name of John Swinney. However, 62 members decided not to take that view and backed the action that we have seen over the past 19 months. Ignorance is absolutely no defence. Many voices across the world—including that of the Scottish Socialist Party—warned about the situation that we would find ourselves in. For us, where we are today in Iraq is absolutely no surprise. Millions took to the
Now we know that those who supported the war did so on the basis of lies and deceit—that is the basis of the occupation of Iraq. There are no weapons of mass destruction and there are no links with al-Qa'ida—or, at least, there were not before the invasion. The only line that people can cling to is the fig leaf of regime change. I presume that the regime-change argument expects us to believe that the invasion by United States and United Kingdom troops was doing the Iraqi people a favour. Well, I wonder how the children of Baghdad—the ones who were playing in the parks and playgrounds—see it. We saw those children days before the bombs dropped, in Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 9/11". Did we do them a favour? Did we do civilians a favour? Did we do the people of Fallujah a favour? Is what we did a favour in the name of regime change?
Let us make no bones about it: those who supported the war—those who put up their hands in Parliament—voted to drop bombs on the playgrounds, schools and homes of those children. Ignorance is not an excuse. How could they use napalm? Given all that we know about Vietnam, how could you support the use of napalm? Now that the US has admitted that it used napalm last year and now that the information is coming out about Fallujah, what are people trying to do? They are trying to cover it up and pretend that it did not happen. That is exactly what the amendments from Labour, the Liberals and the Tories do—they take out every reference in the motion to the use of napalm. That is an absolute disgrace, and you should be ashamed of yourselves. In this debate, I would like to hear some defence of that. If members do not think that napalm should have been used, they should condemn it openly. They should support our motion and not the amendments that attempt to take those references out.
Let me make it clear: US and UK troops are not liberators; they are an occupying army in a sovereign country. They broke international law by invading Iraq, so we should not be surprised that, throughout the 19-month occupation, they have continued to breach international law on human rights in prisons and in relation to utilities. They now stand condemned by the International Committee of the Red Cross of further breaches of human rights.
The incidence of malnutrition among children in Iraq has increased dramatically. One of the main reasons for that is the lack of clean water in which to cook food, yet in Fallujah, Samarra and Tell
This week, we have heard that the battle for hearts and minds has been lost and is being lost for good. We have read in the papers this week quotes from the report of the Defense Science Board—one of the top security advisory bodies in the US—which states:
"in the eyes of Muslims, American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering."
Has the occupation made the world a safer place? Is that what direct intervention in the Muslim world has achieved? The report makes the point:
"American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States".
That is no surprise to those of us who were on the anti-war campaign and spoke at meetings up and down the country. It was always clear—even Douglas Hurd made the point—that an American and British invasion force would never be seen as liberators and would always be seen as an occupying army. The Defense Science Board's report continues:
"American efforts have not only failed ... they may also have achieved the opposite of what they intended."
The conclusion that we must draw is that the world is a less safe place. After so much money has been spent on the war, after the civilian tragedy and the humanitarian disaster, nobody has benefited and the world is not a safer place. Those are not my words; they are the words of the advisers to Donald Rumsfeld. The report concludes that the actions of the US in Iraq have played right into the hands of al-Qa'ida.
Given the amendments from the Liberals, the Tories and Labour, I want to pose a question. They are all cheering on the sidelines for elections, and they probably hope that the elections will come along in January and save us from the quagmire.
I am about to do that, if Mr Raffan will have a little bit of patience.
The key issue now is the elections, which Mr Raffan's party hopes will bolster support for the war, but how on earth are we going to see free and fair elections in Iraq next month? Such is the lack of stability that the US is having to pour in more troops to try to hold the position in order to attempt elections. There will be the largest number of troops in Iraq since the invasion. Fifteen Sunni political parties and two Kurdish parties have banded together and said that the elections should be postponed. How can voter registration in Fallujah be carried out when 200,000 people have been displaced and are living in camps on the edge of civilisation, with temperatures going below zero and without proper food, water or sanitation? Where do we set up the ballot boxes?
The Association of Muslim Scholars, Iraq's highest Sunni religious authority, has demanded that all Sunnis boycott the electoral process. If that happens, the elections can in no way be seen as viable, fair or representative, no matter how much public relations effort is thrown at them—and the Americans and Blair will try to do that. There is no way that that can happen. If the Sunni population does not take part, nobody—unless they think that they are in the Ukraine—will be able to claim that the elections are democratic and representative.
The truth of the matter is that it is a mess, a disaster and a quagmire, and it is of Bush and Blair's making. All the time that the situation continues, civilian and military casualties are increasing. More than 25,000 troops have now been injured. The death rate in November was 140. That is the highest increase in the death rate among US or British troops since the invasion began 19 months ago, and it is set to escalate. As we go in deeper and deeper and throw more and more troops into Iraq, higher and higher casualties are what is in prospect for the invasion.
I am coming to that. The only option now is to withdraw British and US troops. The reason is that the existence of those troops is causing more and more damage. They are contributing more and more to the break-up of the country. They are causing greater problems, creating a bigger opposition movement and taking the country further towards civil war. They will not
The only solution—for which there are historical parallels—is to withdraw the troops as soon as possible. There are many sections of the troops who are demoralised, but it is not our arguments that are demoralising the troops in Iraq. What is demoralising them is the fact that they are there to fight a war based on lies and deceit. They are bombing and killing innocent civilians. They are involved in abuse of human rights and cutting off water. They were promised that they would be liberators, welcomed with flags in the streets, but they have been treated as an army of occupation and as a hostile force. The longer we keep them there, the bigger the mess is going to get, and it will be much more difficult to withdraw in the long term.
This was never about democracy. It was never about the people of Iraq. It was always about oil. Some people have benefited, but the world is not a safer place. We were right in our analysis of the invasion and, 19 months later, we will be right in our analysis that there will be a quagmire of civil war and the break-up of Iraq if we do not withdraw the troops now. We will also give massive support to al-Qa'ida and to the Islamic revolution. That is where Mr Rumbles and his colleagues have got us. At least they support us getting out of there now, but they should put up their hands and admit that they are ashamed of themselves for voting for the invasion in the first place.
That the Parliament notes with grave concern that Iraqi civilians have reported the use of napalm and/or phosphorous cluster bombs by US forces in their attack on the city of Fallujah, that the use of such weapons is banned by the United Nations international treaty to which the United Kingdom is a signatory and therefore utterly condemns any failure of the United States to abide by international treaties and the use of such weapons of mass destruction; notes the International Committee of the Red Cross's recent call to both parties to the conflict in Iraq which stated that it is prohibited to torture participants or to subject them to any form of inhuman, humiliating or degrading treatment and that both sides must do everything possible to help civilians caught up in the fighting obtain the basics of survival such as food, water and health care, notes that there were reliable reports of US forces cutting off water supplies to Fallujah prior to the assault and therefore, along with the Red Cross, believes that "for the parties to this conflict, complying with international humanitarian law is an obligation, not an option"; believes that the war in Iraq was based on deceit and lies and that far from ending terrorism "American actions have instead elevated the authority of the jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims" and that most Muslims think that "the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering", as stated by the Defence Science Board, notes that the war has resulted in a humanitarian disaster with as many as 100,000 Iraqis having lost their lives and malnutrition amongst Iraqi children having almost doubled
Who knows why the Scottish Socialist Party called this debate today? Some would say that Iraq is the only issue on which members of the SSP group still agree. Some would say that they are guilty of using the current situation in Iraq to further their own political ends. Most would say that the motion before us presents a simplistic view of the reality of the situation in Iraq today.
The SSP members are fully aware of the realities of the devolution settlement, as voted for by the Scottish people. That settlement recognises and respects the fact that defence and foreign affairs are policy areas reserved to the Westminster Parliament. In fact, I think that the Scottish Parliament has now debated Iraq more than the Westminster Parliament has done. In Westminster, Scotland's voice is rightly represented by our 72 MPs, none of whom, of course, is a member of the SSP.
The idea that we could simply bring all troops home for Christmas is not only simplistic but dangerous. To pull our troops out now would be to abandon the Iraqis to their fate at the hands of extremists and terrorists groups who are working to undermine democracy and freedom in Iraq.
No, thank you. We have heard enough from Frances Curran, and we are likely to hear more.
Whether we agree with the reasons for our actions in Iraq or not, we must recognise the realities of the current situation. Iraq is being run by the Iraqi people, preparations are being made for elections in just over a month and the British Army, as part of a multinational force, is working to build the stability that is needed to allow those elections to run smoothly.
I do not intend to rehash the old arguments about the pros and cons of the Iraqi war. I am here today to move the Labour party's amendment.
No, thank you.
I am here to move an amendment that is based on our objectives of peace in the middle east, a settlement in Palestine and security for Israel. Our key obligation in this Parliament is to support the political process in Iraq, as the Egyptians, the Arab
First, let us be clear about the realities of the situation in Iraq. On 28 June this year, responsibility for governing Iraq was handed to the Iraqi interim Government. That interim Government will continue until the formation of the transitional Government after the January elections. Prior to 28 June, the UN Security Council unanimously passed resolution 1546. We are part of the multinational force in Iraq that is authorised by that resolution, which specifies that the UN is to assist the people of Iraq to form their institutions, in particular to convene the national conference; to help with elections; and to promote national dialogue and consensus building on the constitution.
As the presence on the ground increases, our troops take on traditional UN roles, including humanitarian co-ordination and the protection of human rights. We are there with the agreement of the UN to support the Iraqi people in their efforts to establish a democratic Government, to enhance security, to provide humanitarian assistance and to facilitate economic reconstruction. If the SSP had the Iraqi people's interests at heart, it would support us in our efforts. Indeed, the Parliament should be clear in its support for all those efforts.
Iraqis clearly want elections and that is borne out in all Iraqi opinion polls.
No. I am trying to get through this.
There is much more work to be done, but the interim Iraqi Government is committed to holding elections in January. The UN in Baghdad is confident that progress is on schedule and that elections are still on course for January.
Security for the elections is vital. We should make no mistake: forces are at work in Iraq that seek to undermine the freedoms that the Iraqi people have waited so long to enjoy. I acknowledge that there are insurgents in Iraq, but
Absolutely. We want to give such an opportunity to the Iraqi people, to give Iraq back to them.
The SSP should take note of the facts. The interim Iraqi Government is co-ordinating humanitarian and reconstruction work in Fallujah and it reports that there is no humanitarian crisis so far in Fallujah or the surrounding area. The International Red Cross, the Red Crescent Movement and UN agencies agree with that assessment. The UK Department for International Development's strategy in Iraq is set out in its interim country assistance plan. Its key priorities are to promote rapid, sustainable economic growth, to encourage effective and accountable governance, and to promote social and political cohesion and stability. Who could disagree with that strategy?
To that end, the Department for International Development has committed more than £333 million for humanitarian aid and reconstruction assistance, of which it has distributed £245 million so far. Two hundred and forty hospitals and 1,200 primary health centres are functioning in Iraq. Routine immunisation restarted in 2003 and national polio and measles vaccination programmes are now complete. There are more than 6 million pupils and 300,000 teachers in more than 20,000 schools, and 350,000 students and 50,000 employees in higher education. There has been major school refurbishment and there are 70 million new textbooks. Power regeneration is taking place and major repairs are under way to build a substantial power grid. The list goes on and on.
Of course, we recognise that people—our people and our service personnel—have paid the ultimate price for that progress. We all welcome and look forward to the homecoming of our boys—our troops—and we are proud of the role that they have played in returning Iraq to its people.
I move amendment S2M-2132.6, to leave out
"believes that there should be a peaceful and democratic Iraq and supports all those who are working for world peace and the extension of democracy; recognises the importance of international support for the people of Iraq in their efforts to achieve stability and democracy; reaffirms its support for a route map to peace in the Middle East which delivers a free and viable Palestinian state and security for Israel; 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; believes that the planned withdrawal of British forces should only occur at the first practicable opportunity after the establishment of a democratic government in Iraq; acknowledges that the United Nations should play the leading role in assisting the Iraqi people, in particular in the formation of institutions for representative government; continues to express its gratitude to UK service personnel and their families including those from Scotland, and offers its sincere sympathy to the families of those members of the armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country."
I apologise to members for arriving slightly late for the debate.
I want to concentrate on where we are at the present time, rather than go through the history. However, I put on record my party's belief that the invasion of Iraq was unjustified and illegal. It is sheer hypocrisy for the Labour party amendment to state that it
"affirms the importance of the principles of the rule of law", when Labour's own leadership has flouted international law in Iraq at every opportunity.
The fact of life is that the US-British invasion of Iraq was all about oil and the need for the US to find an alternative location to Saudi Arabia for its bases in the oil-producing part of the middle east, where its position has become increasingly untenable. Therefore, it was no accident that US and British forces stood by and allowed every ministry building in Baghdad to be trashed except for the Ministry of Oil, which had the full protection of the US and British forces.
The invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. It is clear that Bush and Blair knew that there were no longer any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That view on WMDs was subsequently supported by Robin Cook, Kofi Annan and Hans Blick. We are now dealing with the consequences of the disastrous decision to go to war with Iraq and we see those consequences day in and day out.
I find it ironic that Duncan McNeil boasts that the Department for International Development in London has made available £350 million for the reconstruction of Iraqi schools and hospitals. How does that compare with the £6 billion that the Ministry of Defence is using to destroy the schools
More than 100,000 civilian Iraqis have been killed, according to The Lancet, and more than 1,000 servicemen and women from the US, UK and other countries have been killed, including, most recently and tragically, five casualties from the Black Watch. Far from winning the hearts and minds of ordinary Iraqis, the continuing illegal occupation of Iraq by western forces is driving more and more Iraqis, particularly young Iraqis, into the hands of the terrorists, because they no longer have any faith in western so-called democracies.
Our position is clear: we had no truck with the invasion and we believe that the on-going, illegal occupation is morally wrong and totally unjustifiable in military and humanitarian terms. However, I say to Frances Curran and the SSP that, having made such a mess of Iraq, the west cannot now make matters 10 times worse with a precipitate, unilateral withdrawal of troops by Christmas. To do so would be sheer lunacy on an unprecedented scale. I believe that such a policy would create a cauldron of internal strife and civil war, and an even greater catastrophe than the current one.
With all due respect, I believe that advocating such a policy shows a total misunderstanding of the situation, because the greatest fear of ordinary Iraqis, and the Arab and Muslim community, is of Iraq becoming another Lebanon. The Sunni minority, which controlled the army and security forces under Saddam, has had its army disbanded, but not disarmed. The danger now is that a well-armed Sunni minority, fighting a well-armed Shia majority, possibly supported by Iran—not to mention the possible threat to and from the Kurds in the north—could plunge Iraq into a civil war similar to the one in the Lebanon in the 1980s. Iraq has desert borders with five other countries and it is not difficult to envisage the potential for insurgency on a grand scale from those five neighbouring states. If Iraq descends into a state of civil war, that would be disastrous not just for Iraq, but for the middle east and world peace.
I cannot, because I have little time left.
The only sensible solution is for all western forces to withdraw, on a graded programme, and be replaced by a wholly Muslim international force. That is the only chance of bringing peace and stability to Iraq. Without peace in Iraq, there will be no peace in the middle east and without peace in
Our position is clear. The war was illegal, immoral and unjustified, but we should not make the mess in which we find ourselves worse. Let us do the decent thing—let us withdraw our forces on a graded basis and replace them with a force that will have the moral authority to bring peace to the people of Iraq.
I move amendment S2M-2132.1, to leave out from "all for all" to end and insert:
"both Iraq and the international community that the United States of America, United Kingdom and other western forces be replaced as a matter of urgency by a force assembled under the auspices of the League of Arab States, with other appropriate international support."
Although I can agree with Carolyn Leckie's motion on some points, overall I find that it offers a totally distorted account of the situation. In today's world, our armed forces and those of the countries that we call our allies are open to unprecedented levels of scrutiny. I and most of my generation, together with subsequent generations, have been fortunate enough to avoid the necessity of going to war. Those who have gone to war have volunteered to do so. Our military leaders have opposed conscription since the early 1960s.
Few, if any, members have stood in the battle line and faced uncertainty, injury and death. How would we react on the spur of the moment in such circumstances? We cannot say, but I suspect that many instant decisions that are taken on the battlefield could be questioned by armchair judges and juries as they sit in front of their television screens in the comfort of their homes.
TV cameras from around the world have been with the allied troops in Iraq. The cameras were in Fallujah at the critical moments of the battle to clear out the assassins, terrorists and criminals who were sheltering there. To believe Ms Leckie's source would be to believe the people who have killed without mercy their own people and those from other lands who came to help the Iraqi citizens about whom Ms Leckie claims to care so much.
Phil Gallie said that although he could agree with some of the points in the motion, he disagrees with the majority of them. Does he accept that—apart from its final sentence, which calls for the withdrawal of troops—the body of the motion consists of statements of fact that have been made not by us, but by the Red Cross, the Defense Science Board and other agencies?
No, I do not. I will explain my position on the motion as I proceed.
Given the exposure that the western media gave to the unforgivable atrocities that were committed by a minute number of American service personnel in Abu Ghraib and by a few of our troops in Basra, I feel sure that, if weapons of mass destruction had been used in the way in which the motion suggests, it would not have been possible to hide such news.
It is fair that the motion points to the "chaos and suffering" that there has been and which remains, but it does not acknowledge the suffering, torture, injustice and sheer terror that existed under the regime that, thankfully, has been removed. The motion contains legitimate reference to "deceit and lies". I am particularly aware of that when I consider the speech that I made in the debate that was held in the Parliament in January 2003. I said:
"My platform is based on an acceptance that no democratically elected leader of our nation would act in any way that was detrimental to the principles and objectives of the democracy that we enjoy ... Although Tony Blair is not my choice as leader of our nation, he is still our Prime Minister. On this prime issue, we are all obliged to put faith in his judgment"—
I am quoting from the past. I went on to say that we
"should acknowledge that he has access to an array of information ... If the reports ... suggest danger building up for this generation or the next, the Prime Minister would be failing in his duty if he were simply to wring his hands and do nothing."—[Official Report, 16 January 2003; c 17026-7.]
Sadly, I misjudged Tony Blair. I believe that he did our democracy great harm. In my view, he deliberately misled the nation in a desperate attempt to get backing from his party members at Westminster. I suspect that I am not alone when I say that he will never enjoy my trust again.
Irrespective of the misinformation that was fed to us, my argument in March 2003 was that the war was inevitable, given the protracted presence of allied troops on the Iraqi border. The only resolution would have been for Saddam Hussein to step down. He and those who backed him had the opportunity to save his people from great misery, but they did not take it. If Saddam Hussein had been left in position at that point, Iraq would have become the fortress from which terrorism on an unprecedented scale would have been launched; it would have been a safe haven from which to operate. As a man who had challenged world order and won, Saddam would have become an icon.
Looking back at that debate, I note my criticism of Clare Short, who had resigned her position at the most crucial of times. Perhaps her decision
No, I will not. Mr Rumbles has disgraced himself by his behaviour.
I offer no apologies for having supported the removal of Saddam Hussein. My experience has showed me that the people who criticised the war were the very people who had urged United Kingdom involvement in Rwanda and who now feel that the people of Darfur are worthy of action, rather than just words of condemnation from the United Nations.
I look forward to a positive future for the citizens of Iraq in which they have a democratically elected Government that can speak for them with a respected voice on the world stage. That may take a little time to achieve, but in the meantime we should not abandon them to sink or swim. An idiotic aspect of the motion is its suggestion that we should withdraw our troops by Christmas. My vision of a positive future for Iraq in the longer term is dependent on our support in the short term.
I welcome the return home of the scarred but undeterred Black Watch, which is steeped in pride for a job that has been better than well done. Over the festive season, my thoughts will lie with our armed services who are on duty across the world, and especially with the Scots Guards, who are now in Iraq.
I find it unbelievable that the Labour Government intends to reduce our military strength when, in seven years, it has deployed our troops more times than has any other Government since the second world war. To cut back on our troops—the "boots on the ground", as Mr Hoon calls them—would be criminal, given the lessons of Iraq.
I move amendment S2M-2132.3, to leave out from first "Iraqi" to end and insert:
"after the cessation of the Iraq war, deaths as a consequence of conflict continue albeit at a much reduced rate from that of proceeding years; deplores the continuing violence; trusts the Iraqi people to take a giant step towards democracy and peace in the forthcoming elections; pays tribute to the courageous, professional and effective manner in which British forces are responding to the serious security situation in Iraq; welcomes the return of soldiers from the Black Watch regiment and, in doing so, thanks them for their service to this country and the people of Iraq; wishes the Scots Guards well on their current tour of duty, and believes that at a time of international turbulence our regiments should be strengthened not disbanded."
It is a comment on the sorry state of the Conservative party that it was so gullible and so easily misled by the Prime Minister. Another comment on its sorry state is the fact that its only solution to the situation in Iraq is to bring back George Bush senior, John Major and Mrs Thatcher. I thought that we were trying to improve the situation. The Conservative party is politically bankrupt and policy bankrupt. At the next general election, it will be consigned to becoming the third party in the House of Commons.
The motion is completely lacking in logic and utterly irresponsible, but it legitimately quotes the International Committee of the Red Cross, in saying:
"both sides must do everything possible to help civilians caught up in the fighting obtain the basics of survival such as food, water and health care".
It also rightly states that
"the war has resulted in a humanitarian disaster with as many as 100,000"
Iraqi civilians killed and draws attention to
"malnutrition amongst Iraqi children having almost doubled".
What is the Scottish Socialist Party's solution for that appalling suffering, however? They believe that it would be in
"the best interests of all" for us to bring all our troops home for Christmas.
Would it be in the "best interests of all"? I doubt that the Iraqi people view our abandoning of them to ever-greater agony as being in their best interests. I doubt that the Iraqi people believe that troop withdrawal will make them less liable to violent death. I doubt that they believe that that solution would somehow, by some miracle, restore their supplies of clean water, food and adequate health care.
Of course the war was wrong; no party opposed it more consistently than did mine. Of course the war was completely unjustified; there was no
It would lead to the companies who are working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure—its hospitals, schools and roads—removing their employees from the country immediately.
I thought that the SSP was a party of international socialists. I thought that they believed in the brotherhood of man. I thought that their mantra was that no man is an island and that we are all part of the main. No political party with a modicum of common sense, a shred of compassion or any sense of moral responsibility would abandon the people of Iraq to the hellish fate that would await them if all the troops were to be brought home by Christmas.
We were wrong to invade, but now that we are there, we would be equally wrong to leave precipitately. Sudden withdrawal of our troops at this time would serve merely to undermine the country's fragile security still further and to make fair conduct of the elections in January utterly impossible.
Our troops must remain for now, and for the foreseeable future. They must do whatever they can to improve the security situation, to safeguard the current humanitarian effort and to make possible more help by the aid agencies. They must remain in the country so that the Iraqi security forces can be trained and made ready to take over. That is a far more sensible way to proceed than it would be to follow Mr Neil's ill-thought-out policy suggestion that we bring in troops from the League of Arab States. To be frank, some of those troops would be unacceptable to sections of the Iraqi people, particularly if Turkish or Saudi Arabian troops were brought in. It is far more important that we get the situation under control than that we seem to pander to the Muslim world in such an ill-considered way.
Our troops must remain in Iraq to ensure that the transitional national assembly elections on 30
Does the member accept that the western forces do not command the confidence of the Iraqi people? As long as they are in the country, is not there a real danger that we will create another Vietnam and that we could be there for years and years? Surely the ultimate outcome is further civil war in Iraq?
I disagree totally with Mr Neil. The forces that could be introduced into Iraq under the League of Arab States would not command any greater support among the Iraqi people than do the western troops. It is crucial that the Iraqi security forces are trained so that they can take over as quickly as possible. Only when both sets of elections have been conducted and Iraq has a democratically elected Government can we undertake, in conjunction with that Government, phased withdrawal of our forces.
The war was misconceived, but so is the motion. The British and American invasion has created enormous suffering and the British Government must do whatever it can to end it. If we were to pull out our troops by Christmas, it would not relieve suffering; it would aggravate it enormously. I oppose the motion.
I move amendment S2M-2132.5, to leave out from first "notes" to end and insert:
"deeply regrets that Her Majesty's Government took the United Kingdom into an unjustified war in Iraq; believes that it would be irresponsible to withdraw British troops until a fully democratically elected Parliament has been established in Iraq and that then a phased withdrawal of troops should begin; believes that the continued presence of multinational forces is essential in order to maintain stability and security prior to the January elections and to avoid even greater loss of life among the civilian population; believes that concerted action must be taken to improve the security situation and to ensure that Iraqi security forces are fully trained and equipped; recognises the bravery and professionalism of our armed forces serving in Iraq, not least those from the Black Watch, who operate in difficult and dangerous circumstances, but believes that no further troops should be committed to Iraq unless requested by United Kingdom commanders for force protection purposes or to fulfil our international obligations towards the people of Iraq; believes that all British forces should serve under British command, and believes that greater United Nations involvement is essential, particularly in the urgently-required humanitarian effort to provide clean water, food and adequate health care and also in economic reconstruction and stabilisation."
If we were to bring all our troops home today, we would cause continuing bloodshed, which would—again—serve only the powerful. We must now gather a United Nations peacekeeping force to
At the present time, the United Nations is keeping the peace in 14 countries, including in Cyprus, where it has been since 1964, Lebanon, the Golan heights, Haiti—another puppet economy that has been ravaged by the US—Western Sahara and the Indian-Pakistan border, where United Nations observers have helped to maintain peace since 1948.
The illegal invasion of Iraq has not demonstrated the weakness of the United Nations; it has demonstrated that the United Nations is crucial. Only the United Nations can secure the peace with justice that the Green party wishes for Iraq and her people. What is the role of the United Nations? What can it do? I quote from its website:
"These efforts range from demilitarization to building up national institutions, including police and judicial systems; promoting human rights; monitoring elections; encouraging formal and informal processes of political participation; providing sustainable sources of livelihood to demobilized combatants and returning refugees and displaced persons, through training programmes, the reactivation of the economy and the provision of social services".
What in that catalogue is not appropriate for Iraq?
I will try to answer the question by asking Helen Eadie to consider the situation in East Timor. In 1999, a campaign of violence, persecution and looting reigned in East Timor. The authorities agreed to call in the United Nations, just as the British and US Governments must now do in Iraq. In February 2000, the United Nations peacekeeping force took control of military operations in East Timor and, 14 months later, more than 90 per cent of the country went to the polls in a fair election to elect a transitional assembly. In 2002, the country elected its first independent Parliament. The United Nations downsized its troop presence, but remained to oversee stability until its mission was completed. For the first time in its history, East Timor is now a fully functioning democracy. That is a lesson that we should learn. We should compare the situation
The Labour party, hooray-Henryed on by the Tories, and with the Liberals silent at the time, sent our troops into an illegal invasion that was based on false information and that has resulted in death, carnage and horror.
I opposed the war right from the beginning. Mr Ballance should know that. Perhaps he should look at the Liberal Democrat website, as he seems to get all his information from websites.
What happens to our troops when they come home? I do not often quote the poet, Kipling, but he said it all in 1890, and nothing has changed. [ Interruption. ] I ask Mr Raffan to be quiet and to allow me to continue my speech. The title of the poem, "Tommy", refers to the ordinary British soldier, of course:
"For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Chuck him out, the brute!'
But it's 'Saviour of 'is country' when the guns begin to shoot".
They are our "glorious boys" when they get sent off to war, but when they come home and they complain of gulf war syndrome, the people who sent them there call them liars. When they complain about the effects of exposure to depleted uranium weapons, the people who sent them to war call them hysterical. When they come home, shellshocked and unable to function because of the horrors that they have witnessed, the people who sent them ignore them.
Why were the only representatives of this Parliament two Scottish Green Party MSPs. Shame on members. The Combat Stress centre is the only residential treatment centre in Scotland that is dedicated to
In July, I wrote to the First Minister to demand that he reconsider grant funding for Combat Stress. Tom McCabe replied that there would be no extra funding and that the £20,000 that the Executive was giving Combat Stress this year would decrease next year and again the year after. I wrote again in October. Again, the First Minister did not have the grace to reply. This time, it was Rhona Brankin's turn to say no.
Where are the Executive ministers today? Why are their seats empty? My amendment calls on the Executive to act in an area in which it has responsibility. Where are the ministers? The Labour Party and the Tory party might be gung-ho for war. Let them—please God—learn something about peace. The Scottish Green Party amendment presents the only way forward for Iraq.
I move amendment S2M-2132.4, to leave out from "it is in the best interests" to end and insert:
"the only way forward for peace and justice in Iraq is for the British and US governments to request the United Nations to bring in a peacekeeping force made up of soldiers from countries which did not support the invasion to replace British and US troops immediately, in order to allow civic society to re-establish itself in Iraq, and calls on the Scottish Executive to launch an inquiry into the physical and mental health of Scottish soldiers returning from Iraq and to prepare for an anticipated increase in combat stress-related conditions by increasing its support for the charity, Combat Stress, and its Hollybush House appeal."
I support the amendment in the name of my colleague, Duncan McNeil. I do so because his amendment best encapsulates the position in which we find ourselves. It reaffirms our support for a "peaceful and democratic Iraq".
A number of key issues are contained in the amendment. First, there is the issue of Palestine. Many members, particularly Labour members, have campaigned for many years to secure the establishment of a free and viable Palestinian state. That is an absolute must, which we reaffirm today. My colleague, Pauline McNeill, who is chair of the cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament
The second issue in Duncan McNeil's amendment is human rights. Every single member of the Labour group condemns abuses of human rights—we condemn them regardless of who carries them out. Unlike the SSP, we also condemn those who set roadside bombs or send in suicide bombers to blow up those Iraqis who—
Patrick Harvie should wake up and smell the coffee. We are talking about a very serious issue here. To draw a parallel between slopping out and the war in Iraq is absolutely ridiculous.
The third issue that is covered in our amendment is elections. We believe that elections are vital to the future of Iraq. I concur with many of the comments of my colleague, Keith Raffan, who was on top form this morning. The elections must be free and fair, although they will be difficult.
The elections will be difficult not because the Iraqi people will not be able to participate. On the whole, they are a very well-educated people, who want to participate in democracy and who want to elect their own Government. The elections will be difficult not because the infrastructure cannot be set up—it can and must be set up safely and securely to ensure confidence in the elections and to ensure that every individual has the right to cast their vote and elect a democratic Government. The elections will be difficult because elements of the old regime are still bent on trying to disrupt them. They will be content to disrupt the elections because they do not want democracy. Their history is of maintaining a dictatorship. I want to hear SSP members condemn those who blow up the Iraqis who are trying to form a police force, to become their country's army and to develop their country's infrastructure. I want to hear condemnation of those people as we heard condemnation of British and American troops.
The next issue in our amendment is the withdrawal of troops. In 1992, we withdrew the troops too early, condemning thousands to
No. Frances Curran should sit down.
The troops also form part of the team that is training Iraqi forces; if they are withdrawn now, that will destabilise the move to democracy.
I take issue with the suggestion that a Muslim force should be formed. It is an interesting idea but, for me, it is somewhat confusing. Are we really saying that only Muslim troops may operate in Iraq? Are we saying that a nation's army should be constructed on the basis of religion? I condemn anyone who suggests that our army should operate in such a way. Such action would pander to prejudice, so I believe that we must reject the suggestion.
The final issue is that of our troops and their families. I have consistently supported the troops since they were engaged in the war. I cannot imagine what it is like to be a parent with a son in combat, not knowing whether he will come back. Those troops have served this country with distinction and honour in a very difficult situation. They have been ably supported by their families. And some of them have paid the ultimate price, sacrificing their lives in the service of this country. Parliament must pay tribute to them and must continue to give troops, wherever in the world they are stationed, our full support when they are sent in our name.
It is a truism to say that those who know nothing of history are condemned to repeat it. In his book, "A Mad World, My Masters", John Simpson tells of going to downtown Belgrade on 12 April 1999 to interview locals about the NATO-led action against the dictator, Milosevic. An angry crowd gathers, shouting their views at the BBC man. Spit lands on Simpson's face. The crowd said:
"We used to like everything from West. Now we hate you ... We are all for Milošević now, even if we didn't like him before ... You British are"—
"the 'eff-ing' slaves of 'eff-ing' America."
Simpson talks to the crowd and finds that they do not really hate us at all, but that they are frightened and resentful of the bombing. When people are bombed by those who they think are their friends, it is hard for them to love them. Democracy does not come from the barrel of a gun.
In Iraq, the actions of the US-UK coalition are teaching us that lesson again. We have increased the number of friends of Saddam Hussein, and we have increased the ferocity of the animus that is felt for us by the friends of Saddam Hussein. We have drawn into an already unstable middle east the dangerous and deranged zealots of extremist religious beliefs from around the world, and we have made extremists and enemies of those who could have been our friends.
When ordinary people are imprisoned in the grip of a ferocious dictator, there is a practical necessity and moral imperative for us to do all we can to help them. My father worked for a period in the late 1930s out of a bookshop in Brussels. He was there as part of a Christian mission to help the Jews, who we knew even then were being oppressed by the Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler. The Gestapo came to arrest my father and his companion on the steps of Cologne cathedral. He escaped and I am here; his companion did not and the sons he might have had are not here. Throughout Iraq, Saddam Hussein removed the future generation of mothers' sons who might have opposed him, but it hardly helps those who are left that we now, in substantially smaller but still significant measure, cull the remainder through carelessness or indifference. The course of action that is being pursued in Iraq mirrors that in Afghanistan.
I have got the point. I would be astonished if there were a single person in the chamber who supports genocide. I do not; I am implacably imposed to it and members should not rise to suggest that things are otherwise on the SNP benches.
What is happening in Iraq shows again that elections alone do not a democracy make. In
"not one of the world's great linguists" must not hide the fact that he has at least been big enough to admit some of his personal errors in making his case for war.
In September 2003 that radical left-wing magazine, The Economist, carried a photo of the PM on its cover with the words "In the dock" as its banner. Today the Prime Minister remains in the dock, because he cannot do what Bush has done in part and admit his errors. Errors denied means remedy denied.
Where are we now? If we simply withdraw our troops, as the motion demands, we will succumb to a selfish desire to protect our own. From a party that trudges dank left-wing extremist meetings around the world, supposedly in the cause of international working-class solidarity, that is an act of breathtaking hypocrisy. That party would cast off ordinary Iraqis, but we dare not do so.
The Liberal Democrats support our troops in their unenviable task of pacifying Iraq in readiness for the democratic elections that are due to take place next month.
There is no doubt that we have been proved right in our opposition to this illegal war. I remind Helen Eadie and others that the only ground for going to war without the explicit authority of the United Nations is to protect our country or our forces from the threat of an immediate attack.
That is quite clear in the terms of the United Nations charter and, given that the UK is a founder member of the United Nations, it saddens me that it joined in the attack on Iraq when we were under no such threat from it. Any
We must uphold the rule of law in international affairs; otherwise we will return to the law of the jungle. Might is not right and we cannot simply return to the 19th century Clausewitzian model of war as an instrument of foreign policy.
However, the Prime Minister gave the House of Commons the opportunity to vote on whether we should go to war. We can argue about whether he told the whole truth in persuading it to authorise war, but in my opinion, although his motives might not have been dishonourable, he clearly misled the Commons and the nation in entering the war. Nevertheless, the House of Commons voted to authorise the war and, in a democracy, we must respect that vote. Our soldiers were dispatched on our behalf and are acquitting themselves extremely well in the theatre of operations.
Despite our opposition to the war, Charles Kennedy, on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, made it clear that although we were unsuccessful in persuading the Government to change its mind—we did not just follow it blindly like the Tories did—we would nevertheless support our troops in the field, who are risking their lives on our behalf. That is an honourable position to take and we have supported our troops fully in their endeavours. I believe that we should pay tribute to their bravery and their continuing service on behalf of our country.
I am afraid to say that I could not disagree more with the position outlined in the SSP's motion that
"it is in the best interests of all for all troops to be brought home for Christmas."
I believe that, as Keith Raffan said, that would be a betrayal of the soldiers who have died in the service of their country trying to bring peace to Iraq in order for democratic elections to take place next month.
Talking of betrayal, I will focus on what I consider to be another betrayal. Just as the Black Watch is returning home from doing a magnificent and highly professional job, it faces disbandment. We find ourselves in a crazy situation in which the proposal to amalgamate the six infantry regiments of the Scottish division into one so-called super-sized regiment is imminent. I believe I may be the only member in the chamber who has had the privilege of serving with the Scottish division and I am proud to have done so for my first two years in the Army.
It does not make sense for Scotland to be treated simply as a region of the United Kingdom and to have our infantry regiments grouped on a so-called regional basis. There is no doubt in my
Such decisions, made without any real understanding of Scottish interest, drive people into the nationalist fold. It is another in a long line of mistakes made by both the Labour Government and the last Tory Government—I hope that it will indeed by the last Tory Government—when it disbanded the Gordon Highlanders and the Queen's Own Highlanders.
If we want to keep recruitment of Scottish soldiers at a reasonable level we need to keep our distinctive Scottish regiments. I believe that the decision has already been made. The Labour Government is determined to treat Scotland as though it were just another region of the United Kingdom. That fails to recognise the distinctive role of the Scottish infantry over the years and is a particularly despicable way to treat regiments such as the Black Watch, which has acquitted itself so well in the field of operations in Iraq.
I would like two things to happen. I would like all our troops brought home early next year, as soon as they have completed their work in paving the way for free and fair elections in Iraq; and I would like our unique Scottish regiments to be saved from General Jackson's perverse plans. Although I do not hold out much hope for the latter, as far as the former is concerned, our troops need to know that there is an effective exit strategy in place to get us out of Iraq once the job is done. I am not convinced that our Prime Minister has such a strategy. I urge members to support the Liberal Democrat amendment.
Little will persuade me of the case for war in Iraq. I stated my position when it was appropriate to do so and I say to Chris Ballance that that was before the invasion. Many Labour Party members opposed the action. It is an issue that divides the country so it is wrong for any party to say that it leads an anti-war movement. The continuing presence of troops and the daily diet of violence and death concern the whole country without exception. We want a peaceful solution; there is no going back.
There is apparent unity among the main parties here that the immediate withdrawal of forces would be an unmitigated disaster. What does the SSP think will happen after Christmas? The motion does not say. However, we should still argue for a peacekeeping force led by the UN. I make my position clear on that.
I do not accept the notion that jihad insurgents tend to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims. I acknowledge that most Muslims are against the war and have a particular view, but there is a mixed view. They are not so impressionable that they do not also want peace and democracy. I have many Iraqi friends who constantly lobby me for the UK not to leave Iraq. I disagree with their view, but they remind me of what happened in 1992, and there is a lot of distrust among Iraqis that, if we were to leave now, they would be left to clear up the mess.
I add my strong support to the statement in the Labour amendment on achieving a real settlement for the Palestinians.
Pauline McNeill makes her point about 1992, but will she take on board the point that I made about the decisions at that time not to go further into Iraq because of the likely outcome, which is the outcome that we are seeing now? The point that I was making was that there had to be great thought before we went in.
My point stands as I made it. I am simply telling the Parliament that there is an issue about what happened in 1992 and that that must be taken into account.
Alex Neil, Karen Gillon and others have said that it is important to recognise that peace in the middle east can only come about not only through establishing peace and democracy in Iraq, but by achieving a Palestinian state, which will be extremely hard to bring about. We demand it not only for Palestinians, but for Israeli citizens. Israel has steadily built and expanded settlements on land that it has occupied since 1967 in violation of international law, and an announcement that was made in August this year means that another 1,000 homes are to be built in the west bank and the occupied territories. If those settlements continue, the prospect of a viable state, which we talk about and call for, will be threatened.
It is important to record the reality of life in the occupied territories, where there is serious poverty. I will use some statistics from an excellent report that Christian Aid has put together. Poverty in the Gaza strip is believed to be above 80 per cent. Highways and roads continue to be built to connect the Israeli settlements, but Palestinians are not allowed to drive on them. Palestinian life is crippled by a checkpoint culture, a system that means that a simple doctor's appointment is extremely difficult for Palestinians to get to because of the various checkpoints that they have to pass. If a Palestinian happens to come to a checkpoint that requires documentation and they
The separation barrier that is referred to as the wall of shame—a 30ft wall that is built around the green line and designed to ensure that settlements fall within a future Israeli border—is of serious concern to us. Chris Patten condemned the Israeli Government for demolishing buildings that the UK and the European Union had funded through their aid agreements.
I have only a minute left; I do not know where time has gone.
If we are serious about calling for a viable Palestinian state, we must realise that time is running out and that Palestinians live in a separated state in which there are serious humanitarian issues. If we want a viable Palestinian state, we have to support a call for a freeze on settlements. There must be no new settlements in the occupied territories. We must also call for the pulling down of the wall of shame that separates Palestinian communities from their water supplies, for which they already have to have quotas because they are not allowed the same water supply as Israelis.
We believe in fair and free elections, and for such elections to take place, the checkpoints must be removed. There is a similar issue in the situation that we face in Iraq, because it is not possible to have fair and free elections unless people are free to move. If that principle is true for Iraq, it is true in the occupied territories. The road blocks must be lifted, and we must say to Israel that it is not acceptable for roads to be used only by Israelis.
For the sake of peace in the region for Palestinians and Israelis, we must start acting now. Otherwise, there will be no prospect of peace, because there will be no land left for the Palestinians to have a state.
It is, to say the least, unfortunate that our Scottish Parliament does not have the power to respect the wishes of the majority of people in Scotland on the invasion and occupation of Iraq. If the Parliament had those powers, we would surely have listened to the people long ago and voted to have no part in the Blair-Bush project. We do not have that power, and therefore we have been dragged into a bloody, evil and illegal massacre.
The war and occupation are a massacre. The picture in Iraq today is extremely bleak. Some members have painted Iraq as some kind of wonderland, with books, schools and many other things. I do not know in which parallel universe that vision exists, but it is not my understanding—or that of many millions of people—of what is really happening in Iraq.
Frances Curran and other members mentioned the report in The Lancet that estimated that there have been 100,000 excess deaths due to the war and occupation. That figure is bad enough, but it would have been greater if Fallujah had been included in the sample. However, it was not, so there are many more than that. About 17,000 of those deaths are Iraqi civilians who were killed as a direct result of bombing and shooting. Of course, those include children, who are the most innocent—so much for smart bombs. The remaining numbers of dead are attributed to disruption caused by war, including disease, starvation and an inability to access care, all of which we are a part of. The United Nations Children's Fund reports that malnutrition among Iraqi children has doubled since the invasion. It is not the SSP that reports that, but UNICEF. Do we want to be part of that?
Do we want to be part of the breaches of the Geneva convention, such as wounded Iraqis being executed rather than taken prisoner, or the routine shelling and bombing of civilians? I say to Karen Gillon that civilians on both sides are being bombed. We do not condone suicide bombing, but it must be said that Bush and Blair have been the biggest recruiters imaginable for al-Qa'ida, which was not in Iraq previous to the invasion. [Interruption.]
I thank them anyway.
I ask Karen Gillon to bear in mind what I said. I have said it many times; I have said it on television and I have now said it in the Parliament.
Little or no distinction is made between civilians and insurgents. Frances Curran mentioned napalm, and we must concern ourselves with that. The Pentagon says that it has destroyed its stocks of napalm. Perhaps that is another lie, but it will admit to using MK-77 bombs, which are firebombs that include kerosene. The Pentagon says that the MK-77 is environmental friendly, but it is napalm by another name. It is a body-melting bomb, and there are melted bodies on the streets of Iraq. They have been seen and pictured; it is a fact. Do we really want to be a part of that?
Human rights abuses are there for all to see. In fact, the International Committee of the Red
The SSP is worried about Iraq and about our troops. Troops out! Too right, troops out. Those troops have been forced into an illegal and brutal war. We have heard about the losses of coalition troops. I believe that there were 140 losses during November and 1,100 wounded in that same period.
To date, 73 soldiers from Britain have died; Gordon Gentle was one of them. Some folk might say that soldiers step into a uniform and know what they are getting into, but they do not. Our young people are scooped up in training centres, schools and job centres and promised training, driving licences, a future and a wage, but they end up on the streets of Basra and end up dead. Those who joined the Army with the intention of fighting are now in an illegal and brutal war into which they have been dragged by so-called leaders. The Scottish Socialist Party is calling for the troops to come home. We want them to come home in planes, helicopters and ships; we want them home in anything other than body bags.
The war is about greed and resources, and the main winners are Halliburton, which will get contracts worth $6 billion to rebuild Iraq after its ex-chief executive ordered the country's destruction; the Bechtel corporation, which has been awarded contracts worth $680 million; DynCorp International, which has been awarded contracts worth $50 million; and Lockheed Martin, which has been awarded contracts worth uncountable millions. The same goes for Boeing and Raytheon, which supply the weapons of mass destruction. The list goes on. To any member who says that the socialists are not using their time to attack poverty, I say: oh yes, we are. We are attacking poverty of humanity, of justice and of decency. If we were not involved in a mega-expensive illegal war, we could use that money to address poverty in Scotland.
Rosie Kane had the longest last minute of a speech in history and ignored some of the fundamental debate that we need to have in favour of a litany of accusations about the role of the United States force and other forces in Iraq. The claims that have been made are not necessarily validated or verified by a process.
Like the previous debate about the international situation, today's debate concerns how the international community should best deal with a rogue state that clearly violated a series of United Nations resolutions, many of which the SSP would have opposed, irrespective of debate in this Parliament or the House of Commons. That rogue state rejected the international law that the socialists claim that they would uphold. It used and would have continued to use weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons against its own people and was developing the capacity to make interventions against other nations.
By any definition, that rogue state's leader was fascist, so I am surprised that members who claim to be socialists say that they would not oppose Saddam Hussein or take action with the international community to intervene to tackle him. That one-party state had a cult of the leader and a regime of terror, the elimination of opposition and the invasion of near neighbours.
Where were Frank McAveety and other Labour members campaigning when the Kurds were gassed in Fallujah? I know where I was—in the Halkevi centre with Kurdish protesters. I also campaigned to prevent the British Government from sending arms to Saddam Hussein. Where were all those who have come late to the issue?
May I continue, Presiding Officer? We are deliberating democracy.
UN Security Council resolutions 687, 707, 715, 1051, 1281 and 1441 were breached. Not just the United Kingdom Government or the United States Government arrived at the conclusions that I described; on the evidence that was available, the whole international community arrived at them.
As for critical resolution 1441, which was about weapons of mass destruction, the whole international community and all international intelligence services in the world recognised the threat from weapons of mass destruction. Even with the concession about the capacity to use weapons of mass destruction immediately, the Iraq survey group found that Saddam Hussein still had in his regime the production capability to ensure that weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons programmes could be resumed when the UN investigators were asked to leave.
I acknowledge the massive division over Iraq in my party, the Parliament and the country. However, that is not helped by moralising to everyone about positions that they held in the past or at which they—like me—arrived after much deliberation in the past few years about the need to intervene in Iraq because of the specific and unique nature of Saddam Hussein's regime, which I, at least, can argue that I consistently opposed from its development in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The reality today is that, when asked, most Iraqis say that they want democratic elections. Members should support that. I am not prepared to take lectures from the inheritors of the Leninist tradition. Lenin believed in terror and the execution of enemies and was willing to take part in systematic human rights abuses. Historically, that was never rejected by many individuals in socialist parties. I am not prepared to take lectures from them.
The issue is what we want for Iraq. We want the people of Iraq to have the right to develop a free and open democracy. The people who use weapons—the remnants of the Baathist regime or religious fundamentalists—oppose the establishment of democracy in Iraq. We need to ensure that the multiparty system that I believe that Iraq can develop is allowed to flourish.
In the past day or so, we have had interesting debates in the chamber. I have seen a poster that makes the great claim that we should have the right to free self-expression—the capacity and opportunity to express one's opinion. That right is more than just a slogan on a poster; it applies to the people of Iraq.
As Christmas approaches, when we in Scotland and throughout the world send greetings in cards and messages of good will to all men throughout the world, it is somewhat hypocritical of Bush and Blair still to wage war against Iraq. The war is illegal. I do not care what Frank McAveety or others say; it is illegal. A country that has no weapons of mass destruction and has proven that it does not have them should not be invaded.
I say to Duncan McNeil that I speak not only for myself, but for many constituents and many people in Scotland who have told me and other MSPs of their view. We are elected to advance those people's views and not just our own. Whether the subject is reserved or devolved does not matter. We are talking about humanitarian issues.
I am sorry; the time for my speech has been reduced to five minutes and others want to speak.
We have a right to speak about Iraq. I say again to Duncan McNeil that whether the subject is devolved or reserved does not matter. George Bush and Tony Blair do not care whether the war is legal or illegal, so we have a right to speak about whatever we wish.
When I think of people in Fallujah and other areas of Iraq, I think not only of civilians, but of soldiers, aid agency workers and other civilians who went there to help people in Iraq. My sympathies go to people who have suffered and to families who have seen those people paraded on the television, tortured and ultimately killed. I say to Karen Gillon that the SNP's amendment and the first part of the SSP's motion show that we take the part of the Red Cross, which condemns the actions of what may be called terrorist groups. I do not know whether they are groups of terrorists or just people who have come along to blackmail various countries' Governments to obtain money. We have sympathy with everyone who is killed in Iraq and throughout the world in an illegal war.
Numbers have been bandied about. Tony Blair says that about 15,000 people have been killed in Iraq, whereas a report in The Lancet says that more than 100,000 people have been killed. I know which figure I believe. Some Tory, Lib Dem and Labour members probably take Tony Blair's word for it, but before they condemn anyone, they should look at the letter that was signed by dignitaries, Helena Kennedy QC and a Lib Dem peer, Lord Garden. That letter asks Tony Blair to instigate an investigation into the many civilian deaths in Iraq and I ask members to support that. Alex Salmond of the SNP has tabled an early-day
The deaths in Iraq have occurred. People have said that we should not go over the past, but we must do that so that we know where we will go in future. As I said, we know that no weapons of mass destruction existed. We were told lies and international law was flouted. We must do and say something before Tony Blair and George Bush embark on another war in what Bush calls "the axis of evil". Which other countries will be involved in that war? He has also named Cuba as being in the so-called axis of evil. Instead of creating a more peaceful world, a much more dangerous world will be created if Bush and Blair get away with what they want to get away with.
There must be an international peacekeeping force in Iraq that is respected by the Iraqi people. Unfortunately, the actions of Bush and Blair have led to disrespect for the west and to Iraq being a dangerous place for our soldiers, as other members have said. Members should support Alex Neil's amendment. Something must be done. We must stop the killing in Iraq in the name of humanity and of God.
I welcome this opportunity to debate Iraq, not least because we again have the chance to expose the nonsense that is being peddled by the Scottish Socialist Party and its fellow travellers.
I am no supporter of Tony Blair or his Government, but we must be absolutely clear about one point. The people of Iraq are better off now than they were under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, who has an appalling record. He is awaiting trial, having been accused of, among other things, the Anfal campaign against the Kurds in the 1980s; gassing Kurds in Halabjah in 1988; the invasion of Kuwait in 1990; crushing Kurdish and Shia rebellions after the 1991 gulf war; killing political activists over a period of 30 years; massacring members of the Kurdish Barzani tribe in the 1980s; and killing religious leaders in 1974. He has a long history of murder, torture and oppression and is awaiting trial with the possibility of the hangman's noose in front of him. I can think of no better-deserving candidate for that in the modern history of mankind. Perhaps the Scottish Socialist Party would prefer Saddam Hussein to be still in power in Iraq.
We will not take any lessons about supporting dictatorships from a party that parades its support for the dictator of Cuba, Fidel Castro, whose record on human rights abuses is as long as my arm. Mr Sheridan will be well aware that the great majority—95 per cent—of the arms that were sold to Saddam Hussein were sold by Russia and France. A small element of British armaments went to Saddam Hussein, but that was in our interests at the time, in the same way that our running the north Atlantic convoys to Stalin during the second world war and supporting that evil regime was in our interests at the time. We make no apologies for that.
I do not for one minute underestimate the difficulties in Iraq today and the seriousness of the security situation, but there is the prospect of democratic elections in January and an on-going drive to create a stable peace for the benefit of all Iraq's citizens. The Iraqis now have one thing that they never had under Saddam Hussein: hope. They have been given hope for the future and we should not apologise for that.
That is not to say that we should be uncritical of the Prime Minister's actions in the run-up to the declaration of war. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister misled the House of Commons and the British people about weapons of mass destruction. It is now clear that the situation was nothing like as clear-cut as it was presented by Tony Blair. The Government has a terrible reputation for spin and distortion of the truth, and the Prime Minister's conduct must be judged against that background. The Government can also rightly be criticised for its failure to set out a post-conflict strategy for Iraq with a humanitarian, economic and political impact.
People in Britain will have the opportunity to make up their minds on all those issues in the near future, as we have the advantage of living in a democracy. That means that, in the coming general election, people will decide whether they want Tony Blair to remain as Prime Minister or whether they want to replace him. We have been trying to give the people in Iraq the same freedoms and opportunities that we have and we should not apologise for doing so, even though we might be uneasy about how we ended up in the current situation.
Our amendment rightly refers to the involvement of British troops in Iraq. In particular, I pay tribute
Against that background and the background of increased military commitments by the Government, it makes no sense at all for the Government to consider cutting the size of our armed forces. I have argued that many times in the past and do so again today. For the Government to promote—as we believe that it is doing—the merger of the Scottish regiments into one super-regiment with the loss of one battalion is not only military madness, but a huge betrayal of those who have fought hard in Iraq and elsewhere on orders by the self-same politicians. We know that the Black Watch has suffered casualties and we have seen the funerals in Perth and Fife of those who died in Iraq. What a legacy for the families of those servicemen to know that the Labour Government's reward for the sacrifice of their sons is to merge the regiment out of existence. We should have no hesitation in saying that that is totally unacceptable.
Notwithstanding what the SSP says, the people of Iraq are better off now than they were under Saddam Hussein. The professionalism of our British soldiers and our Scottish regiments deserves to be celebrated by the Parliament.
On 14 September 2001, George W Bush made one of the most ominous declarations of his presidency. He said:
"Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history, but our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil."
Of course, history has shown us that some of the worst manifestations of evil since then have resulted directly from the United States Administration's efforts to rid the world of evil. The SSP's motion outlines some of those efforts. George Bush's allegedly selfless undertaking to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq and Tony Blair's quest to rid the world of other people's weapons of mass destruction have resulted in widespread bloodshed, chaos, suffering and terror. With estimates suggesting that as many as 100,000 civilians have died and calls this week for an independent public inquiry into those deaths, can we really be expected to view the carnage as a necessary sacrifice for the greater good? We
First, there is the lying. Two years on, we have not seen any evidence of the supposed threat that was given to us as the premise for the war. Then there is the hypocrisy. I note that a Dutch national this week faces charges of supplying chemical materials to Saddam Hussein. That is certainly a heinous crime and, if the allegations are true, the matter should be dealt with accordingly. However, according to a Campaign Against the Arms Trade report on the supply of British military equipment to Iraq between 1979 and 1990, 13 UK companies—including, I say to Murdo Fraser, British Aerospace—attended Iraq's first major arms fair in Baghdad in April 1989. That was one year after Saddam Hussein's forces dropped chemical weapons on Halabjah. Should we expect the British establishment to show repentance about that at any point soon?
There has been torture. The calculated abuse of prisoners by the US military at Abu Ghraib caused outrage everywhere and in the Arab world in particular. Last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross was reported to have berated the US Administration for overseeing the intentional physical and psychological torture of prisoners who are being held at Guantanamo bay.
There has been profiteering from misery. Before the war even began, I spoke about my disgust that the US had already handed out contracts to US companies for the rebuilding of Iraq. At the time, Tam Dalyell MP described that as "vomit making".
According to the American Centre for Public Integrity, contracts worth almost $11.5 billion have been awarded since 2000 to Kellogg Brown and Root, which is a subsidiary of Halliburton, for services to the US military and the rebuilding of the oil industry in Iraq. Of course, Halliburton is the multinational company of which Vice-President Dick Cheney was chief executive officer until 2000.
On the killing of children, UNICEF stated in a 1996 report:
"It is the singular characteristic of warfare in our time that children suffer most."
At the start of the war, children under the age of 15 comprised 42 per cent of the population of Iraq. Will we ever know how many have died? The US military refuses to track civilian casualties. That is the reality of the 21st century war against terror and evil, as championed by George Bush.
What has been achieved for the people of Iraq? Since the occupation, the US has failed to address properly the basics such as power shortages, sewerage floods, the 70 per cent unemployment
Saddam has been toppled by his former friends, but with every passing day of the occupation, every civilian death, and every display of arrogant American imperialism, more and more Iraqi citizens are seeing the coalition forces as occupiers and not liberators. A realistic date to end the occupation must be set so that there is a target to work towards. A UN peacekeeping force must be considered as a solution to ending occupation and insuring against civil war.
Of course, we are where we are, and the withdrawal must now take place after the January elections. However, if those elections do not take place, a planned withdrawal must proceed anyway.
There is not much wrong with any of the positions that members have taken today, but none provides an answer. Whether in the Parliament or outwith it, if we do not keep expressing our opposition to pre-emptive wars, where will it be next? Iran? Syria? Cuba? What of Palestine? Where is the commitment to ending the evil and atrocities that are happening there?
It is quite clear that the war was waged to further the aims of a neo-liberal US Administration that is hell-bent on furthering its imperialist, capitalist and exploitative agenda. This pre-emptive, illegal war has been a disaster for the UN, a tragedy for the families of the coalition troops who have died, and a catastrophe for the Iraqi people. The policy of combating evil by unleashing more evil has clearly failed. It is now the task of us all to bring the conflict in Iraq to a swift and peaceful solution. That must mean a planned end to the occupation at the first practicable opportunity.
To understand what is happening in Iraq today, we have to understand the real reason for the war. To get to the real reason for the war in Iraq, we have to go back to September 2000—four months before George Bush was elected as the American president and a full year before the aircraft were flown into the World Trade Centre.
In September 2000, an American organisation called the Project for the New American Century published a document called "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century". That document contains a blueprint for an American invasion of Iraq; America was always going to invade Iraq. Bush and Blair knew about the document. There is no way that they could not have known about it,
Tony Blair knew full well that that was the reason for America going into a war in Iraq, but he was still prepared to send young British troops to kill and die in an illegal, immoral and imperialist American war. British troops were sent to Iraq, and are still there, to establish an American presence in the middle east so that America can organise and govern that area of the world and American interests. That is why Iraq was invaded.
Now that we know why the war happened, what are its consequences? Far from being a safer place, the world is much more dangerous. Thanks to the actions of the British Government, Britain has become a target for terrorists. Thousands of Iraqi men, women and children have been killed in their homes. The infrastructure has been all but destroyed. Those are the consequences of the American and British invasion of that country. As Alex Neil said, hundreds, if not thousands, of young Iraqis have been driven into the arms of fanatical organisations that they would not have gone near before their country was invaded. While all that is happening, ordinary Iraqis are witnessing the American occupiers selling off their country and Iraq's assets to western, mainly American, corporations.
Now that we know that the war did not take place because of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction—even Tony Blair accepts that that was never true—we are being asked to believe that the war was still legitimate because it brought about regime change. We removed Saddam Hussein because he was a dictator and he had to go. It is true, of course, that Saddam Hussein was a dictator, but he was a dictator back in the 1980s when he was supported, financed and armed by western countries including Britain and America. He was a dictator back then but no action was taken back then, so there is a wee problem with the Government's current line that the war was legitimate because it brought about regime change.
That wee problem was probably best summed up by Tony Blair in October 2002, in an interview with the BBC Radio 4 "Today" programme, when he was asked what Saddam had to do to prevent being attacked by Britain and America. Blair said that Saddam had to disarm of his weapons of mass destruction. However, he went on to say that attack was not inevitable:
"he can have his conventional weapons, he can have his army, he can have his air force, he can have his navy, he
Tony Blair was prepared for Saddam Hussein to remain in power with all his conventional weapons. It was not about regime change, or weapons of mass destruction, or Iraq being a threat to the United Kingdom, which it never was. The document that was published in September 2000 told us what it was all about when it referred to America having full-spectrum control. In case anyone is under any illusion about what that phrase means, it means American world domination.
Let us bring our troops home. We know why they were sent into an illegal war. Bring our troops home. Stop killing Iraqis. Let us support the United Nations. Let us build a better Iraq and let us build a lasting peace in the middle east.
My regrets go to the remaining members who wanted to speak, but because of the number of amendments, we have to go to closing speeches earlier than would normally be the case.
I welcome the debate. I know that some members feel that we have debated the subject before and perhaps too often. However, these are the most important global issues that we face and it is important for any Parliament, even a mere devolved Parliament, to debate them.
The one thing that has brought the debate down for me, as it has on previous such occasions, is that again we have had an Executive boycott. There might have been a brief sighting of a minister somewhere near the front of the chamber for a few minutes, but that is all. There has been not a word from the Executive.
As soon as the Scottish Coalition for Justice not War was formed, which was not long after the appalling attack on America, the Scottish Green Party became an active member. We have opposed this war from the beginning. We opposed the war that preceded it, and we continue to oppose the way in which the US and UK Administrations are conducting current operations.
I will not give way to the member yet; I want to have a go first.
I welcome much of what Frances Curran said in her speech. She drew our attention to the complete lack of credibility of the pro-war case, even for those who supported it at the time. Those supporters would grasshopper from weapons of mass destruction to humanitarian intervention to international terrorism to regional stability to
Duncan McNeil takes an astonishingly optimistic view of peace, democracy, and the prospect of free and fair elections in the next two months. The United States cannot even hold free and fair elections in its own country. His idea that Iraq is running its own affairs already is a bizarre assertion given the puppet nature of the Government, the limited nature of its operations, the rapid privatisation and the huge profits that are being gained and set up for the future. Of course work is being done on the infrastructure—on schools, hospitals, roads and telecommunications. None of that is to be regretted, but none of it relates to the subjects that the SSP has brought for debate: the bankrupt arguments for the invasion, the occupation tactics, the choice of weapons and the treatment of prisoners. I say to Karen Gillon that there is a serious, deep connection between the treatment of prisoners here and abroad by our Government and the way in which we judge other Governments' human rights records.
Alex Neil began his speech with great clarity. He spoke about the illegal and immoral nature of the war and about oil as the motivation for it. I am grateful to him for his comments.
Although I disagree with much of Phil Gallie's amendment, he began his speech with reference to the troops, the impact of the war on their lives and the dedication with which they undertake their duties. I hope that he will consider seriously the amendment from Chris Ballance, which describes the tragic way in which we are failing the troops on their return.
Keith Raffan acknowledged the legitimacy of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which, unfortunately, Phil Gallie chose to question. Keith Raffan recognised the factual content of much of the motion. However, his claim that no party has opposed the war as consistently as the Liberal Democrats have must be challenged. At all the meetings of the Scottish Coalition for Justice not War that I attended over many months—I was the Greens' representative on the coalition for about 18 months—I remember seeing not one Liberal Democrat representative. At all the public meetings, rallies and demonstrations that were called by the coalition, I remember hearing only one Liberal Democrat speaker, who spent his time explaining why he wanted another UN resolution to justify the war, to salve his conscience and to gain his support for the invasion of Iraq.
I thank the member for reminding us of Charles Kennedy's contribution. I remind the chamber of what Charles Kennedy said at the time—what he now calls strenuous opposition to the war. A month before the war began, he said:
"We are not the all-out anti-war party."
He used phrases such as "not at the present time" and "difficult to justify". Those are the words that are now called strenuous opposition. Is that what strenuous means to the Liberal Democrats? The party may have opposed the war at times in the House of Commons and in the media, but it was not prepared to work with other parties—the Greens, the Scottish socialists, the Scottish nationalists and anti-war Labour members—or with the unions, campaign groups, religious organisations and others to build a coalition in the country to oppose the war.
Pauline McNeill made a measured, thoughtful speech that reminded us that there are many anti-war activists in the Labour movement. The speech also reminded us of the central importance of the Palestinian issue to the middle east and the wider world. If Pauline McNeill's leader has the credibility in America to challenge it to change its policies on Palestine and the other global issues, I wish her well in strengthening his case. However, if he does not, I can only wish her well in campaigning to replace him, both as leader of the Labour Party and as Prime Minister.
In winding up for the Liberal Democrats, I do not need to waste much time responding to the Greens. Just now I was outside the chamber speaking to a senior journalist—no particular friend of the Liberal Democrats—who said, "You can say many things about the Liberal Democrats, but you can't say that they have not consistently and strongly opposed the war." It is rather sad for the Greens that they have come to this. I always wondered what planet they were on, but now I wonder what solar system they are in. Clearly, they do not watch "Newsnight" and see my colleague Sir Menzies Campbell, who is highly respected by all parties in the House of Commons.
Patrick Harvie should sit down, as he is a waste of time.
Sir Menzies Campbell has shown consistent, strong opposition to the war and has presented a very reasoned policy on how we should go forward from here. Obviously, Green members are buried in their internet websites, but they should start to watch "Newsnight", where they would see the very constructive contribution that my highly respected colleague Sir Menzies Campbell has made on this issue. The contributions from both Mr Ballance and Mr Harvie were remarkably silly.
Mr Gallie has a solution to the Iraq war—which is more than the Greens have—but it is to bring back Mrs Thatcher, George Bush senior and John Major. That wonderful troika would go into Iraq—I suppose that that would amount to another invasion of the country—to help the situation. I wish that Mr Gallie had quoted instead the eminently responsible and intelligent contributions that have been made in the House of Lords by two former distinguished Conservative Foreign Secretaries, Douglas Hurd and Geoffrey Howe, both of whom oppose the war.
Murdo Fraser said that things are infinitely better now than they were under Saddam Hussein. In my view, those who called this week for an inquiry into civilian deaths in Iraq were right to do so. That inquiry should be held, especially after the survey that was carried out courageously by doctors in Iraq and published in The Lancet. The survey estimated the number of civilian deaths as 98,000, half of which were of women and children. I do not think that things are any better in Iraq. I was surprised that Conservative members did not spend more time discussing the humanitarian effort and how it could be improved.
There is a touch of hyperbole in Mr Raffan's comments. I did not say that things are infinitely better than they were under Saddam Hussein. However, let us be clear about the Liberal Democrat position. Do the Liberal Democrats believe that it is better in Iraq today than it was under Saddam Hussein or do they believe that it is worse?
It was appalling under Saddam Hussein and it is now completely chaotic and anarchic. The worst thing that we could do would be to withdraw troops, as the Scottish socialists absurdly suggest, which would lead to a trebling or quadrupling—if not more—of civilian deaths. That was a rather silly intervention from Mr Fraser. I expect more of him, but obviously my expectations will not be realised.
The craven loyalty of the Tories to Tony Blair's line was exemplified by their former leader Iain Duncan Smith—I cannot remember which leader
I am sorry that I have got SNP members in a good mood, because I am about to respond to their points. Mr Neil called for the western forces to be replaced as a matter of urgency by a force assembled under the auspices of the League of Arab States. Clearly, the SNP has not consulted the League of Arab States, which resolved in September this year not to intervene in Iraq. The SNP must sort itself out. I do not know when Mr Neil last spoke to Tunisia, Bahrain, Dubai and the League of Arab States and asked them to establish a presence in Iraq to fulfil SNP policy. The answer is that the league is not prepared to do that. However, it is prepared to train Iraq's armed forces and police and to supply equipment, which is exactly what we are saying it should do. That is a role that it can perform eminently well.
The invasion of Iraq has led to huge loss of life and has alienated moderate Muslims. The Labour Government has caused havoc not only in Iraq, but worldwide. It has seriously undermined the United Nations and seriously damaged relations with European Union partners. Last night Labour members showed a talent for rebellion—one that we did not know they had. I hope that they will continue to show that talent today and support the excellent Lib Dem amendment.
The Iraq war has proved to be highly emotive, and rightly so. The decision to go to war is never, and should never be, taken lightly. It should always be taken as a last resort after other routes, such as those of diplomacy and UN intervention, have been exhausted.
On the basis of the information before us, we believe that, with a great deal of supporting
The Butler report highlighted serious flaws in the Government's use of intelligence material, which we deplore. In the light of such revelations, it is right that the validity of the motions that MPs and MSPs voted on should be closely examined.
I want to get on.
Nonetheless, we believe that action had to be taken as Saddam Hussein had launched wars of aggression against Iran and Kuwait and had used weapons of mass destruction against the Kurds in Halabjah. In anyone's view, he was an extremely dangerous dictator on whose orders many thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands, of people lost their lives. All the evidence points to the fact that he remained a considerable threat.
The report of the Iraq survey group said:
"The former regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of W.M.D. after sanctions. Neither was there an identifiable group of W.M.D. policy makers or planners separate from Saddam."
How does Lord James respond to that statement?
The simple answer is that, on the basis of the information that was put before the nation, we believe that Saddam Hussein was a considerable threat. As Phil Gallie said, with reference to the Prime Minister not giving the correct facts to the House of Commons, we will never give the Prime Minister our trust again. That remains the position. He should have been much more frank and deliberate in putting the reservations expressed to him by the intelligence service before the nation.
We agree with the thought expressed in the SSP motion that everything should be done in accordance with international law to ensure that civilians are not targeted and that casualties are kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, it is a reality that civilians can be and often are adversely affected by conflict. In any case, we are aware of the barbarism recorded on video of civilians being cruelly beheaded by bloodthirsty terrorists. The British Army's policy is not to reply in kind, but to restore law and order and to win over the hearts and minds of local people.
Like Murdo Fraser, I am full of unqualified admiration for the superb professionalism, courage and valour of the soldiers of the Black Watch and their colleagues in the armed services. As it happens, British forces have much experience of internal security operations. After all, they sought to confront terrorist actions while trying to protect local communities during their tours of duty in Northern Ireland. Mike Rumbles served there and, although I have not served operationally, I was an infantry officer in the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) Territorial Army for nearly 10 years.
We are eager that Britain should play a leading role in helping to create a stable, democratic and prosperous Iraq that will become a positive influence in the region. However, we have criticised the Government for its failure to set out clearly the post-conflict strategy for Iraq in terms of humanitarian, economic and political progress. We support requests from British commanders on the ground for further equipment and manpower to enable them properly to carry out difficult tasks. We agree strongly with Murdo Fraser's comments that the Government should not try to reduce our military strength at a time when it is asking our young men and women to put their lives on the line for this country.
I agree with Duncan McNeil, Pauline McNeill and Karen Gillon that we cannot and will not scuttle and run. Ultimately, we recognise the concerns that many people continue to have, but we are in a situation in which it is essential that the people of Iraq can and will make decisions freely and not under duress. Iraq's future must belong to the Iraqis and not to would-be dictators.
We are against dictators. I quote the words of a distinguished politician:
"Something may be said for Dictatorships, in periods of change and storm; but in these cases the Dictator rises in true relation to the whole moving throng of events. He rides the whirlwind because he is part of it. He is the monstrous child of emergency. He may well possess the force and quality to dominate the minds of millions and sway the course of history. He should pass with the crisis. To make a permanent system of Dictatorship, hereditary or not, is to prepare a new cataclysm."
Needless to say, those were the words of Winston Churchill. President Woodrow Wilson put it even more succinctly:
"The ultimate failures of Dictatorship cost humanity far more than any failures of democracy."
We will oppose the motion. We support our own amendment and have considerable sympathy with Duncan McNeil's amendment.
In any debate, and certainly in a debate as important for
As my colleague Stewart Stevenson said, those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. It is clear that we need to learn lessons—we need to take on board how the situation in Iraq happened, why it happened and, perhaps most important of all, how to ensure that it never happens again.
However, we are where we are. We do not wish to be here, but this is where we are at the present moment: with military and civilian casualties; with a country devastated; with a world endangered; and with the major institution of peace for the globe—the United Nations—damaged and tarnished. That is the situation that we face.
We cannot simply condemn Bush and Blair, although their crimes and culpability are clear for all to see. We need to have a route map, if that is what we wish to call it, or an agenda for withdrawing our troops, sustaining and rebuilding Iraq, restoring faith in international institutions and ensuring peace for all humanity.
Our objection to the SSP motion is that it has no future and its simple suggestion that we remove troops by Christmas is a counsel of despair. However, we cannot accept the amendment from the Labour Party, which many of its leading members spoke to, although not Pauline McNeill and others. In a debate such as this, the Labour Party must remember that we cannot forget the past and that we must learn from it, as well as look forward to the future, as Stewart Stevenson said.
Frank McAveety made reference to rogue states. Like me, Mr McAveety is a known bibliophile. I suggest that if he wishes to learn about such states, he should read Chomsky's "Rogue States" to find out where the real problem lies.
We have to remember, and we will never let the people of this country forget, that we were brought into the war not just on a false premise, but on falsehoods. There were no weapons of mass destruction and Tony Blair lied to the British and Scottish people.
Absolutely. As I said earlier, we have made a more dangerous world, and far from dealing with only one dictator in Saddam Hussein, as Mr McAveety seemed to suggest, Kim Il-sung and others go on regardless.
The war in Iraq was not a war to create a more stable world—as I said, the likes of Kim Il-sung
The same points were not only made in previous speeches. In his book, American academic Chalmers Johnson makes the point that Saudi Arabia will be lost to the American hegemony and, accordingly, America will require to access oil in other places—particularly Iraq. So that is where we are at.
We accept the points made by Pauline McNeill and others that we require to address the problem of the Palestinian state—there can be no peace unless we do.
However, we must also remember where we are—some members have disappointed today in that regard. This is the Parliament for the Scottish people; it is not simply an extension of the pavement in front of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, where people can chant their mantras and slogans and shout "Troops out!", whether or not the slogan is legitimate. Nor is the Scottish Parliament a Strathclyde Regional Council writ large, where we can say, "This is not part of our game; it is no responsibility of ours and it is for our elders, betters and wisers in a different place." The Scottish Parliament is a magnificent institution and it is the responsibility of those who are privileged to be elected to it to speak up on issues that affect the people of Scotland.
Some front-bench members of the Labour Party privately talk about how the Baghdad bounce has benefited them, which is absurd. They should have had the dignity to come to the chamber for this debate. Although the Scottish Parliament does not have the right to order the withdrawal of our troops or to deploy them in the first place, it must address the consequences of such actions. Members of the Scottish Parliament, whether they are on regional lists or represent constituencies, must meet the grieving families who have lost loved ones; they must address the communities who will have to bolster the troops who return; and they must deal with the economic problems that an endangered world brings, whether they relate to a decline in tourism from the USA or to other matters.
We have a duty to raise our game and to address not just the wrongs of the past but the way out. I disagree with Mr Raffan about that, although I agree with many of his points and I regret the Greens' spat with him. We should be creating a coalition against the war that is as
The subject of the debate could not be more serious, but Frances Curran did not do justice to the people of Iraq, let alone to Scottish servicemen and their families, when she raised the issue in the way that she did, at this time and in this Parliament. How can we take seriously a motion that describes soldiers of the Black Watch battle group as "occupiers rather than liberators"? The soldiers have done a magnificent job in bringing peace and stability to southern Iraq and they have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect Iraqi people and the Iraqi civilian police from suicide bombers in central Iraq.
There is a compendium of quotes in the motion, which is one of the things that is wrong with it. The issue should be taken far more seriously. People outside the Parliament are listening: the Iraqi people and, more particularly, the families of Scottish services personnel are listening, and we should rise to the occasion. In fairness, most members have done so.
The SSP motion concludes by calling for the withdrawal of the vital British component of the international security force on the eve of the elections that should herald a decent, democratic future for the long-suffering people of Iraq. The motion is at best insensitive to the memory of the countless victims of Saddam Hussein and it is offensive to Scottish soldiers, who deserve our support on the difficult, dangerous and honourable mission that they are undertaking in Iraq.
There has been and remains a perfectly legitimate debate about whether we should have intervened in Iraq in the first place. The point has
I am sorry, but I am pushed for time.
I am well aware that there are a number of murderous and oppressive regimes around the world. Like Pauline McNeill I have witnessed the situation in Palestine—I was there earlier this year. I long for the day when a stronger, more effective UN can deal with all those evils, instead of just passing well-intentioned resolutions. Meanwhile, it is better to deal with some of those evils instead of just wringing our hands because everything is terribly difficult. I agree with Frank McAveety, Karen Gillon and others that it is a good thing that Saddam Hussein is behind bars, just as it is a good thing that Slobodan Milosevic is currently standing trial in The Hague. British armed forces and thousands of Scots who served with great distinction in those British forces helped to achieve peace, security and democracy in Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone, and the achievement of our forces in southern Iraq is a credit to each and every one of them. It is an unmitigated tragedy when an innocent civilian or peacekeeping soldier is killed or wounded on such military missions. However, it would surely be the ultimate insult to those people and their families to abandon the mission at this stage, to abort the elections and the democracy that people in Iraq crave and deserve and to surrender Iraq to a future of chaos, anarchy and crime. That would be the wrong thing to do.
I understand and respect the position of colleagues who opposed the intervention in Iraq because they had serious misgivings about the motives of the US President and the lack of specific UN authority for the action. Liberal Democrat colleagues and others have expressed those misgivings and their position is legitimate. However, I have rather less respect for people
We all want to get our Scottish troops safely home to their families. The right thing to do is to support British forces to the hilt in their mission to achieve security for the Iraqi people up to and beyond the elections in January. Most members and most parties agree that we should stay the course and support Scottish troops and the rest of the peacekeeping operation in Iraq in seeing their essential mission through to completion. We should not cut and run or suggest that our troops should do so. I urge colleagues to support the amendment in Duncan McNeil's name.
I am glad to see that two Executive ministers have turned up, albeit belatedly.
I start with the attempts by the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats to remove reality from our motion. They deny the use of napalm and phosphorous weapons of mass destruction, which were the only weapons of mass destruction that were used in Iraq. They deny the sight of melted bodies on the streets of Fallujah but they forget that the United States of America admitted in August 2003 that it used napalm and phosphorous bombs in the blitz of Baghdad, so the idea that it used them in Fallujah is not too far to travel. ITN briefly reported that napalm had been used in Fallujah but the story was quickly removed. I wonder whether a defence advisory notice was issued to avoid that uncomfortable fact. Do the Executive parties have absolutely nothing to say? Will they not condemn the use of napalm and phosphorous bombs?
Normally, the International Committee of the Red Cross does not state its concerns publicly. When it does so, that means that it has evidence that the Geneva convention and other international humanitarian treaties have been breached. We should remind ourselves of those treaties, which three parties in the chamber wish to delete from history.
The Lancet estimates that there have been more than 100,000 civilian deaths, most of which are attributed to bombing. No wonder General Tommy
The member is supporting the continuation. The photos that I have here are from last week, not last year.
There have been further breaches, with water supplies to civilian populations being cut off, wounded insurgents being executed, hospitals being occupied and bombed and aid agencies being denied access to Fallujah. I would have more respect for the Executive parties' arguments if they were prepared to base them on an acknowledgment of the truth and the facts, but instead they seek to remove the truth from the motion. Their amendments even remove the quotes from the Pentagon report, which acknowledges that the occupation has lost the battle for hearts and minds and has acted as a recruitment campaign for terrorists and extreme fundamentalist organisations.
The Executive parties do exactly what the report concludes needs to be done: they cover the truth with more effective propaganda. According to the Pentagon, the invasion and occupation have made Iraq and the world more dangerous, but the answer is to increase the amount of propaganda. The Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems accepted the Pentagon's orders and are acting as its propagandists by seeking to remove the truth from the motion.
I will deal with the ruse of the Labour amendment. Labour members delude themselves that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has aided, or will aid, the cause of the Palestinians, but the Palestinian road map to peace is a fiction. It is a fig leaf that President Bush cast to Tony Blair so that Labour representatives can cover themselves and support the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. The truth is that the Iraq war has been a disaster for the Palestinians. The Israelis used the cover of the Iraq war to build an apartheid wall and annex yet more land that rightfully belongs to the Palestinians. Perhaps we can excuse Labour members for having been duped 18 months ago but now there is absolutely no excuse.
The arguments that were made today against the withdrawal of troops have been made before to justify imperialist adventures in retrospect. They were made in relation to Vietnam and to the Soviet
The United States is sustaining more and more casualties. November alone cost the US 10 per cent of its total losses in a war that was supposed to have been won on 1 May 2003. In November, the coalition lost double the average monthly number of casualties. Since the invasion, terrorism has increased in Iraq and around the world. The number of deaths due to war has increased, not decreased, and so have starvation, homelessness and insecurity. Some 200,000 refugees were created by the bombardment of Fallujah and there are melted bodies on the streets. The occupation is the cause of the chaos and the increased risk of civil war. Troops are part of the problem—they are not part of the solution. The idea that invaders can be the salvation of the invaded is ignorance and delusion beyond comprehension. [Interruption.] Presiding Officer, I got into trouble earlier and I would like a bit of consistency.
The idea that invaders can be the salvation of the invaded is ignorance and delusion beyond comprehension—I repeat that in case members did not hear it the first time. The invaders are having to pile more and more forces into a war that they are not winning. Bush promised that they would be home by last Christmas. Would the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems advise a failing business to borrow more and more money to prop up a venture that is clearly failing? Would they advise a gambler who has lost a month's wages in a casino to pile more and more chips on the roulette table? No, they would not, yet they support the piling in of more troops and the piling up of more bodies.
The war was wrong, illegal and unjust. It should not have started, and it should stop. The waste of lives and the hanging on to the coat tails of the neo-Cons in the White House must stop. The waging of a war that is based on lies must stop. Not another drop of blood should be spilled for George W Bush. Saddam Hussein has been removed, but are members clear that they have argued that the capture of one guilty man is worth 100,000 civilian lives? If all the dictators in the world who have been propped up and supplied and supported with arms by the US and Britain were removed at the same cost, there would be millions of corpses throughout the world. Members talk about Saddam Hussein, but what about Pinochet, Suharto or Ariel Sharon? Not a bloody word. [Interruption.]
The occupation was never about the Iraqi people and it is not about them now. It is about Halliburton's profits—Rosie Kane referred to the millions and billions of pounds that it has gained and benefited from because of the war. It is that company that has won, not the Iraqi people.
Keith Raffan mentioned the brotherhood of man—I notice that he left out women and children, but that is no surprise. Are bombing, starving and burning his idea of solidarity? We should make no mistake: the Liberal Democrats are the phoney anti-war party. [Interruption.] They are fakes.
Is the SNP serious about the recruitment of troops from Arab nations? Iraqis are being blown up in queues to join security forces. Is the SNP suggesting that recruits from Jordan, Egypt, Libya and Iran would be safe while queueing up to volunteer?
I am sure that the refugees outside Fallujah—all 200,000 of them—will be grateful for a ballot paper. We did not cause this mess. Elections do not create democracy—democracy creates elections. It is time to stop the patronising piffle and time to stop the bombing and the human rights abuses. That is what members should be talking about. It is time to pile in aid and money but bring the troops out now. Iraq belongs to the Iraqis and the future of Iraq is up to them. The troops must come home now for their sake as well as that of the Iraqis.
As Jack McConnell is now in the chamber, I say to him that the blood of Iraqi children is on his hands. I challenge him to look at the document that I am holding because if the children can suffer what they suffer, he should be able to look them in the eye. He is not prepared to do that because he does not have the courage to face up to the photographs, to face up to his complicity or to face up to George W Bush in the White House. Jack McConnell is prepared to murder and cause mayhem on his behalf.