§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Boswell.]8.45 pm
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
My good fortune to begin an Adjournment debate at a quarter to 9 on the role of the United Nations in relation to the Gulf is tinged with just a little sadness. It is sadness that the House of Commons has allowed time to pass from 21 January, when the important questions that I am about to ask should have been asked. In the House of Commons to which I was first elected and of which the father of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs was a distinguished and powerful Member, those questions would have been asked not by a Back Bencher like me, but by Hugh Gaitskell from the Front Bench. These are major issues which belong to not an Adjournment debate but what should be a weekly major debate initiated by the Opposition party or the Government party in prime time.
Having said that, I should like to set some questions, talking quietly to the Minister, as we have the opportunity to do. The first is on the attitude to the United Nations of the Soviet Union. In his most recent statement, Mr. Gorbachev said:The events in the region of the Persian Gulf are assuming an increasingly alarming and dramatic turn. The fly-wheel"—the fly-wheel—of one of the major wars of recent decades is spinning free. The number of casualties, including among the civilian population, is multiplying. The military activity has already caused enormous material damage. Whole countries—first Kuwait and now Iraq and later possibly others—are under the threat of catastrophic destruction. The discharge of a gigantic amount of oil into the Persian Gulf may turn into the gravest ecological disaster.That is part of the latest Russian attitude.
The House will allow me one more quotation on the Russians. It comes from Mr. Brinkley's interview of Marshal Akhromeyev, the chief military adviser to President Gorbachev and the former Soviet chief of stall. Mr. Brinkley said:'Mr. Gorbachev has said recently, and again yesterday, that the alliance forces are in danger of exceeding the UN mandate, which is simply to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Is it your view, Marshall Akhromeyev, that by the tactics of comprehensive bombing in Iraq, the United States and its allies may be exceeding the UN mandate? And if so, what might the Soviet Union do about that?Marshal Akhromeyev replied:'You see, in life we sometimes come across such kind of situations. When a war has been started with just purposes, then it acquires a different kind of character.I stress those words.Something of this kind is taking place in the Gulf area today. Who knows?The Government asserted that the American and British force—for such in reality it ever was and has certainly now become—had Russian backing; does it still have Russian backing? What assessment have the Goverment made of the Soviet position? I hear from several sources—there is no reason to suppose that the reports are in any way exaggerated—that men are walking from Tadzhikistan, Uzbekistan, Azarbaijan, Kazakhstan—Muslims from those southern Russian republics—to offer their services to Saddam Hussein. That is an ingredient of an extremely dangerous situation.
What is the Government's assessment of the Soviet attitude now that we are in week 4 of a military situation, 813 the nature of which, as in most wars, has changed from the start of that war? The events of 1915 were very different from those surrounding the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Wars take on a momentum of their own.
My second question, which is linked with the Russians, is about the Government's assessment of the bombing. My question is direct. Can the Minister point out to me whereabouts in the United Nations resolutions there is authority for the pounding of Baghdad night after night after night? There may be that authority, but I have not found it.
Bluntly, an increasing number of people, not only in Arabic and Islamic countries or in third-world countries, but in this country and thoughout the world, are embarrassed and unhappy—many are vomit-stricken—by what is happening. To think that those huge B52s leave that lovely Gloucestershire village of Fairford to go to drop their bombs—I do not know how accurately, except that Ramsey Clark makes it quite clear, as a former American Attorney-General, that the casualties are now mounting. Did the United Nations ever authorise that? Did it authorise the B52s?
What would the Minister or any of us here—my hon. Friends the Members for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham), for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse), for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden), for Glasgow Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) and for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis)—do if we were subject to such bombing? If I had been bombed last year or in any year from 1979, I would have "got right behind Margaret Thatcher". It is human reaction to get behind the leader of the country when one is being attacked.
What is the Government's assessment of the reaction to the bombing of Baghdad? I suspect that the people of Baghdad are reacting in the same way as all human beings react, as Londoners in this city reacted in 1940 and as the people of Hamburg reacted in 1943. The people of that proud Hanseatic city did not like the Nazis or Hitler at all, but during the bombing they stepped up production. I cannot say that production is going up in Baghdad, but I suspect that that bombing makes people more determined, not less.
What is the Government's assessment of the effects of such bombing? Furthermore, what is the effect on the troops who are bombed? We may say that we are concentrating all our bombing on Kuwait, but are we sure that that does not make the troops more determined? I fear very much for a land battle, because that battle could be another Stalingrad. It could be a battle of hand-to-hand fighting, block by block. Are we sure that the United Nations authorises that?
I am aware that we have some time for this debate, but my speech will not be endless. I have a specific question about the attitude of the United Nations Secretary General. I drew to the attention of the Foreign Office a report by Leonard Doyle from New York that appeared in The Independent on Monday 11 February under the banner headline "UN 'has no role in running war'". Forgive me, but I thought that we were acting as the United Nations force. That is what I have been told 814 endlessly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). However, that report states:The United Nations Security Council is not running the war in the Gulr—who said that? —according to Javier Perez de Cuellar, the Secretary-General.It might be thought that he was in a position of some authority to pass comment on that.
Mr. Doyle reported that Mr. Perez de Cuellartold The Independent at the weekend that the council had handed control to the US, Britain and France and only learnt the outcome of military actions after they had taken place.If it is a United Nations war, it is a bit odd that the Secretary-General learned about military actions only after they had taken place. The report continues:Distancing himself from allegations that the strategic objectives of the US and its allies go beyond the liberation of Kuwait, Mr. Perez de Cuellar said he could not say whether particular military actions, like the sustained and massive bombing of Iraq's infra-structure, were consistent with the United Nations resolutions.We are entitled to ask, do the Government think that they are consistent with the United Nations resolutions? If the Secretary-General has doubts about it, the burden of proof is certainly on the Government to say how they think that the regular, nightly, massive unparalleled bombing, described by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) as 20 times nighly what Coventry received during the blitz, is consistent with UN resolutions.
The report goes on:But he"—that is, Mr. Perez de Cuellar—did express his distress that the UN is now associated with loss of human life caused by the war. 'This war is not a classic United Nations war in the sense that there is no United Nations control of the operations, no United Nations flag, [blue] helmets, or any engagement of the military staff committee', he said.'What we know about the war, which I prefer to call hostilities, is what we hear from the three members of the Security Council which are involved—Britain, France and the United States—which every two or three days report to the Council, after the actions have taken place.'This is different from Korea. I was not in Korea, but I did my national service at the time of Korea as tank crew in the Rhine Army. Many of those with whom I trained went to the King's Royal Irish Hussars and were shot up in Korea. I have a clear memory that it was all about the United Nations; it was certainly drummed into us that it was about the United Nations. The position in the Gulf in 1991 is different.
Mr. Doyle's report of Mr. Perez de Cuellar's comments continues:'The Council, which has authorised all this, [is informed] only after the military actions have taken place. As I am not a military expert I cannot evaluate how necessary are the military actions taking place now,' he added.He was concerned most about the loss of human life, he said, 'because as Secretary-General of the United Nations I consider myself head of an organisation which is first of all a peaceful organisation and secondly a humanitarian organisation.That has to be explained, because the Secretary-General is saying that he disapproves—no other interpretation is possible from his statement—of the action which is being taken in the name of the United Nations of which he is the titular head.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
I am following my hon. Friend's speech with great interest. Does he not agree 815 that those people who claim that the action is to sustain the United Nations are wrong, because the war itself represents a failure of the United Nations? The United Nations is an international body, designed, instituted and committed by charter to resolve conflict by peaceful means, not by war.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I agree not only politely but from the depth of my heart with the sentiment that my hon. Friend expresses. Emotionally and otherwise, I deeply agree with the point that he has put, extremely succinctly.
Mr. Doyle's report goes on:While making a final appeal to Saddam Hussein to pull out of Kuwait 24 hours before the beginning of hostilities, Mr. Perez de Cuellar said that people on both sides did not want war.Signalling once again his displeasure with the turn of events, Mr. Perez de Cuellar, who is 71, said that even if asked by the Security Council to stay on as Secretary-General he would refuse to do so.Last week Tariq Aziz, Iraq's Foreign Minister, launched a bitter attack on Mr. Perez de Cuellar accusing him of remaining silent while the allied forces targeted civilians.So it goes on. Hon. Members can read the rest of the report for themselves. I simply ask the question: if that report or anything like it is true, what is Her Majesty's Government's view of the position of the Secretary-General?
I return to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). I want to read to the House a moving letter, pertinent to the point, from a friend of mine, Howard Kensett, of Eastbourne in Sussex. I have known him as a United Nations stalwart and enthusiast for many years, ever since he invited me to meetings in Sussex on United Nations ecologically related subjects. He says:The Gulf War is a blasphemy against the spirit and ideals set out in the United Nations Charter 45 years ago. The world appears to have learnt nothing.The inspiring preamble to the charter begins: 'We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.'.Mr. Kensett continued:As an enthusiastic member of the UN Association for over 30 years, I have been numbed by what has happened in the name of the only world-wide organisation to encompass so much of the world's concern for mankind. The Security Council, formed to resolve conflicts, has compounded the situation by permitting no negotiation or diplomacy except an ultimatum and deadline which offered no face-saving alternative. The Secretary General was given no specific role to play, and has complained that he only knew the war had started one and a half after zero.In September I attended, as a delegate of the Eastbourne branch of the UN Association, a peace messengers' conference at the UN in New York, where we were told that the Voluntary Trust Fund for the Promotion of Peace stood at $22,000. I said that this was a disgrace.Since then I have written to Mr. Major, Mr. Kinnock, and the Liberal Democrats. Mr. Hurd replied that 'the United Kingdom makes no contribution to the fund: we doubt its effectiveness and can make better use of its resources elsewhere. We do not intend to sponsor British delegates to future UN peace messengers for the same reason.' No money for peace, but billions—nay trillions, for war—what a comment on our civilisation.Mr. Kensett speaks for many. If the Minister or I—or any other hon. Member—were a poor Egyptian or Arab peasant and saw that money being given to the United States and the United Kingdom by the Emirates, Kuwait 816 or Saudi Arabia for war, we would begin to wonder why some of it did not come in our direction for economic development.
Page 2 of today's edition of The Guardian features a long article entitled "When UN resolutions met Iraqi resolve". It is, allegedly, a statement by the United Nations Secretary-General to the Security Council on 14 January 1991. Will the Minister comment on the following passages? If he wishes to give me a considered comment in writing, I shall make no fuss. The article states:Underlining a theme that had been emphasised during my meeting the previous evening with Foreign Minister Tang Aziz, the President said that it would not be possible in a single meeting to find 'ready solutions to such a complicated situation'. He noted that whereas resolution 598, which Iraq had accepted, set out a comprehensive approach to the issues addressed therein, the Security Council had not, regrettably, adopted a comprehensive approach in dealing with the present crisis.Does that represent the facts? If so, it means that the criteria laid down by St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas for a just war—that everything should be done to avoid it—have simply not been fulfilled.
The article continues:He pointed out that although Iraq had never accepted resolution 660, it had agreed, in the early days of the crisis, to attend a mini-summit in Jeddah and had begun to withdraw its troops from Kuwait. But those efforts, which he stated were aimed at achieving 'an Arab solution', were undermined by the introduction of foreign forces into the region, which heightened the threat posed to Iraq.Criticising what he called 'precipitous' actions by the Security Council, he stated that Iraq had been tried in absentia and his Foreign Minister had been denied the facilities he needed to be able to present his case. Further, he stated that on earlier occasions when the Council had called for the withdrawal of troops, this had been accompanied by a call for negotiations between the parties; withdrawal had not been set as a precondition for such negotiations.Moreover, he cited examples of Israeli occupation and annexation, noting that Israel had never been subjected to sanctions or outside military intervention as a means of ensuring compliance with Security Council resolutions.I should like the Government to comment on that.
The House will forgive me for being personal. I am not an Arabic speaker, but both my mother and my father were fluent Arabic speakers and I was brought up in the belief that one had to be patient with Arabs. The Texan oil executives, Mr. Baker and Mr. Bush, seem to have been extremely aggressive and impatient in all their dealings. I want to know whether all that is printed in The Guardian is true. Either it is untrue, in which case it should be refuted, or it is true, in which case a great many questions have to be asked about the British Government's knowledge of the United Nations activities.
The quote continues:On two separate occasions during our meeting, the President called on me to use my good offices, saying that if the other parties were to permit me to play a role in search of a solution, Iraq would facilitate my task and co-operate with me. In response to my comment that this idea would be a non-starter if the position of Iraq was irreversible on the subject of withdrawal from Kuwait, the President reacted by saying that that was not what he meant. He reiterated that I should try to engage the views of the parties, including Iraq, in order to make proposals that could lead to a solution.Is that or is that not true?
I quote now from extracts from the Iraqi transcript translated from the al-Dustour of Amman of 9 February. This is what is being said in the Arab world and this is what is believed in Jordan. A number of Jordanians have telephoned my hon. Friends and myself, including a 817 princess of Jordan, one of the ruling Hashemite family, who are exceedingly concerned about what has happened, for reasons that everyone knows. In Amman, it is published:Pérez de Cuéllar …'Now I do not want to argue with you, Your Excellency … but you have been the cause of this achievement for the Palestinian cause' …Saddam Hussein: … 'From the year 1963 to 1968 Iraq was ruled by two weak brothers, and during their rule the sheikhs of Kuwait marched into the territory once again from Mitla to here, and then during the war with Iran they expanded again and exploited oil fields knowing from the very start that they were within the pre-August 2 1990 Iraq'".That ties up with something that the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) has been saying —to which borders does one withdraw?
I quote again:Pérez de Cuéllar: 'If you have this good case, you can go to the International Court of Justice.'Saddam: 'We have said, and we still reiterate, that we desire peace and we are ready to bear our responsibilities as part of the international family of the UN, but are others ready to shoulder their responsibilities on the same grounds? Are they ready to respect international legitimacy and international law on the Middle East problem according to its background and to do justice to each issue?'Notice what the American President said, that he speaks of formalties and does not touch on substantial issues which concern us as oppressed nations. He talks about the possibility of the withdrawal of ground forces after the crisis is over and does not mention anything about the withdrawal of naval and air forces.Pérez de Cuéllar: 'These are not my resolutions. They are the resolutions of the Security Council.'Saddam: 'These are American resolutions … it is the era of America. What America wants today is what happens, and not what the Security Council wants.'Pérez de Cuéllar: 'I support you as far as the issue concerns me.'Did the Secretary-General of the United Nations actually say:I support you as far as the issue concerns me"?Whether that is true or untrue, the House of Commons should know.
The interview continued in this way:Saddam: 'Let us go back to the law and how a member of this family'"—he means the United Nations—is converted into the accused without listening to his defence.You are the Secretary-General of the United Nations and despite this you have not been able to make it possible for the Iraqi Foreign Minister's aeroplane to land in the United States so that he may attend and defend the Iraqi point of view.Some of us have been unhappy for a long time about the United Nations being physically in the United States. There is now a case for moving it elsewhere.
Perez de Cuellar's reply was:I tried … and I said that this is a violation of the headquarters agreement with the United States.Did the Secretary-General really say this? If he did, it raises serious issues.
My next subject is the Government's assessment of many of the members of the United Nations whose Governments, to put it mildly, are under the most acute pressure. It is said in the Arab world that, if Saddam Hussein can stand against the might of the world for 40 days, he must be right. The war probably looks rather 818 different from Cairo or from Damascus. I am told that we have achieved the near-impossible—bringing together the left in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood.
I am not making this up. Let me quote from that impeccable Labour newspaper, The Daily Telegraph. Alan Philps, of the foreign staff, wrote this:In non-combatant countries, the Saddam cult is becoming a focus for grievances against the government.In Bangladesh the campaign for the general election scheduled for Feb 27 has been dominated by Gulf war agitation.My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West, who represents many Bangladeshis, knows that that is true. The article continues:The Iraqi embassy in Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh, has claimed to have handed out 1,000 poster portraits of Saddam to marchers …In Malaysia, where more than half the population is Muslim, police found a home-made bomb containing nails and broken glass planted outside the American Airlines office in Kuala Lumpur …Tension is also rising in Nigeria, where there have been pro-Iraqi demonstrations in the Muslim north of the country, particularly the city of Kano and the town of Kaduna …The smaller Muslim nations of Africa—Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone—which have sent token contingents to Saudi Arabia, now find themselves open to accusations of being bribed by the Saudis.I was chosen by Mr. Speaker to lead a parliamentary delegation to Zaire because of rain forest interests—hon. Friends of the Minister were members of the delegation—where we met the Zaire Foreign Minister, who was full of a meeting he had had with James Baker three days before. I asked him why Zaire was so definitely siding with the Americans. It was quite clear to all of us that it had nothing whatsoever to do with a judgment on the rights or wrongs of the situation in the middle east. It was all about Zaire's perception of obliging the Americans, so that a ban on aid to Zaire would be lifted—a ban which had been imposed because of that country's appalling human rights record. In a sense, that is corruption of the United Nations Security Council, and the same story could be told about the Ivory Coast vote in the United Nations Security Council.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
This American-led war has been based upon mercenary and corrupt actions from the beginning. America did not pay its subs to the United Nations—it owed $135 million—until the day that it wanted a resolution passed about the 15 January start date for the war. The United States also bailed out Egypt, to the tune of $2.5 million, writing off its debts, and told Yemen that, if it voted with America, it would get other aid. The United States got money from Saudi Arabia and laundered it to Russia, so that the United States would keep its mouth shut while Russia did what it liked in Lithuania. The United States has been trying to cadge money from Germany and Japan, the two countries which supposedly lost the war in 1945. That tells us something about wars—the winners are not always winners for ever.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I must candidly tell the Minister that, when I first head my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) shout across the House that the war was "mercenary", I thought that he had gone over the top. After the past weekend I believe that, as so often before, my hon. Friend's insights were spot on. At the weekend, I said to my wife, "Dennis Skinner was right after all." Having thought that he was exaggerating, even I have now 819 come to the conclusion that the mercenary issue is very serious, but I shall not pursue it tonight, because I know that some of my hon. Friends wish to speak.
I am very worried about Tuwaitha, the nuclear facility in Iraq. For 24 years, I have been a weekly columnist of the New Scientist and I do not throw scientific facts around carelessly. As far as I know, it has never been satisfactorily explained what happens when a nuclear facility is bombed. I have always believed that, if one bombed nuclear reactors or certain types of nuclear research establishments, some sort of radiation would result.
I am told that no one in the west knows for certain what has happened in Iraq. There has been no monitoring. How do we know? I am not saying that this has happened, but how do we know that the most appalling Chernobyl-like effects have not resulted from the bombing of those nuclear facilities? People who drop bombs on nuclear facilities had better be clear what they are doing.
I am also worried about the bombing of Samarra, Kerbala and Najaf. I know perfectly well that Saddam Hussein probably put his chemical factories near to Samarra on purpose, and that there may well be missile boosting equipment near Najaf. However, they are holy places, and there is said to have been destruction.
I wrote to the Foreign Secretary about the damage and he replied that the Iraqis might well say that there had been damage when there was none. However, we have now seen pictures, apparently of Najaf—that has not been denied —showing considerable damage.
What is the Government's assessment of the effect on the Shi'ites? I shall leave any related matters pertaining to the Hajj to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West, who knows more about them than I do; but there is, I think, considerable concern about the holy places, and also about Babylon and Ur of the Chaldees. I have asked questions about that. If the Minister doubts what I have said, he should consider what he, as an art lover, would say if Durham, Stonehenge, Salisbury or Wells were destroyed by bombing. What would that do to the British?
Hon. Members may say that I am confining my examples to the Muslim world. I could choose the third world, but I can also choose our West German colleagues in the Social Democratic party. With, presumably, his party's authority, Karsten Voigt, a member of the Bundestag and foreign affairs spokesman for the SPD, has said:In the present situation, the SPD calls upon all responsible parties to cease hostilities in order to recreate room for a political solution.I feel no embarrassment about calling for a ceasefire, at least to give space for discussion. There may be military disadvantages, but there do not seem to many of us to be any military advantages in the current inhuman bombing.
It is not just the inhuman bombing, however. On 5 December, I asked General Colin Powell—upstairs, in Committee Room 14—about his view of the much-repeated ecological figures from the King of Jordan. Part of his reply was, "Well, they will set fire to the trenches. We know from our satellites that they are pouring in oil which can be ignited, using artesian methods. My tanks will have to go through canalised fire."
I take no joy in this, but what I predicted in the first part of my Consolidated Fund debate on 19 December has come true. As can be seen in column 403 of Hansard, I specifically drew attention to the awful oil slicks that are now threatening the Bahrainis, and also threatening the 820 coral atolls that produce the larvae to feed the fish that provide a permanent supply of food for the people living around the Gulf. Let me ask—in brackets, as it were—what is happening to Qaruh and Umm A1 Maradim, the coral atolls. The ecological disaster is simply enormous.
I may have spoken for longer than I should have, for some of my hon. Friends wish to speak as well. I beg the Minister, in these quiet circumstances, to try to provide answers to these urgent and extremely worrying questions.
§ Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) on securing tonight's debate and on his persistence in the face of all the difficulties involved in continuing to present this issue to the House.
In all seriousness, and with no sense of irony, let me also congratulate Mr. Perez de Cuellar on his sheer frankness and honesty. When he admitted to the world at large that he had not even known that war had begun until an hour and a half after the commencement of hostilities, we had to admire his candour. In the world of politics, at almost every level, there is always a great temptation for people to pretend that they know what is going on when they do not, lest they are thought to be less knowledgeable and powerful than they are. That man's honesty will go into the history books: people in future will ask, "What on earth was going on in the Gulf war?"—the "United Nations war" which was nothing of the kind, as the facts that unroll day by day are proving. It is farcical that a war allegedly waged in the name of the United Nations has been going on for three weeks, during which time the United Nations has not even met.
General Schwarzkopf, in his fairly frequent press interviews, has referred to his political masters in the United States. He has never referred to what the United Nations might have to say about the war. Well down a lengthy article in the Evening Standard, General Schwarzkopf was asked whether it was possible that, if Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons, the west would respond with nuclear weapons. He replied that there had been no consultation with the Allies. He did not even mention the United Nations. He said that President Bush would not be able to rule anything out. I do not know whether he intended to frighten the Iraqis, but he certainly frightened me.
The United Nations is certainly not in charge of this war. Various developments are unfolding. I ask the Government not merely to answer my questions but to take action on them. One arises out of a letter in today's Glasgow Herald. It was written by Canon Kenyon Wright, a man who has won a great deal of respect in Scotland, for various reasons. He mentions a letter that he had received from Church relief workers in Jordan. They told him that children in Jordan need baby milk powder but that they are not getting it. Three cargoes of baby milk powder had failed to reach those infants in Jordan because the American forces are not letting them through.
The writer of the letter to Canon Wright said that that is illegal. Due to the sheer confusion of war and battle, mistakes can be made. I hope the Government will take up that matter with their United States colleagues and get them to allow the supplies of baby milk powder to reach the infants in Jordan. We must ensure that the sad effects 821 and casualties of war are reduced as far as possible. When people are so gung-ho that they start to think in Star and Sun headlines, they seem to forget about human needs.
I wonder also whether the Government will take up a question that I understand American congressmen have taken up with their Government. We have not heard a cheep about it in the House of Commons. To this day, the United States is funding people who are carrying out acts of terrorism in E1 Salvador. Many United States senators and congressmen have said that they can hardly go about proclaiming that they care about human rights in Kuwait when acts of terrorism are being carried out against the people of E1 Salvador. They have at least the honesty and goodness to recognise the anomaly. Some members of the United States Government have responded to those criticisms, but I have yet to hear a cheep from any member of this Government about that. Are they not interested in human rights in central America?
We ought to think seriously about trying to find a way out of the war. There is no point in saying that we are right and that history will prove that we are right. We must endeavour to resolve the conflict as well as possible. The United Nations ought to keep on meeting until a way is found to resolve the conflict. We ought to be trying to find some way, under United Nations authority, of organising a ceasefire under conditions that all concerned find acceptable. The United Nations should keep on meeting until a solution is worked out. The alternative is for everyone to sit back and let the war rip. Death, casualties and carnage will then go on and on until someone is declared a winner. In the name of common sense, would it not be preferable to discuss continuously in the United Nations the issues that concern the warring nations, in an effort to resolve the conflict?
Arrangements ought to be put in hand for an international conference—a conference involving not just the nations concerned but the peoples concerned, such as the Kurds and the Palestinians—to make sure that at the end of this episode some kind of settlement will be worked out. We need a settlement that will not merely stop the fighting but will achieve lasting justice in the middle east. If we simply allow the war to continue, and a victor to emerge, we shall end up with the conditions to inspire another war in the future, just as the second world war followed the first.
I hope that the Government will listen to what some newspapers are pleased to call the peacemongers. I regard those people as the ones who are actually thinking about finding constructive ways out of the dreadful mess into which the Government have got this country.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)
The whole House is once again greatly indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who initiated this important debate. This is the 27th day of the Gulf war. For every minute of those 27 days, there has been a bombing raid on Iraq. It has become very clear indeed, as each of those days has gone by, that this war has very little to do with freedom or democracy, but a great deal to do with America's determination to defend its oil interests and its ambition to extend its political influence in the region—political influence, so aptly described by the right hon. 822 Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) as the new imperialism. It is indeed the new imperialism that we have seen so graphically demonstrated in the Gulf during the last 27 days.
It has been much more difficult to detect the underlying reasons for the turmoil that has gripped the Gulf—indeed, the whole of the middle east—in recent years. Clearly, those reasons are the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people for a homeland and for independence, and the recognition by millions upon millions of poor Arabs that, in many Arab countries, the wealth deriving from oil is very unequally distributed. It is important to note that tonight, as during the past 27 days, British forces are seeking to defend one feudal family in Saudi Arabia and are fighting to restore another to Kuwait. If we believe in freedom and democracy, we must commit ourselves to ensuring that freedom and democracy will come to those Gulf countries one day.
Over the past 27 days we have been told that this war is approved, even sponsored, by the United Nations. Again it is becoming clearer and clearer that America hijacked the United Nations, that this war is American-inspired, American-led and American-dominated. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow referred to leaked documents that reveal the extent to which, before 15 January, Perez de Cuellar and the United Nations were marginalised and manipulated. It is very important to recall that, as my hon. Friend has mentioned, it was hours after the attack on Iraq had taken place that the United Nations Secretary-General was informed of it. [Interruption.]
I do not know why the Minister is getting so annoyed. Could it be because this is the first debate on the Gulf and the United Nations initiated by my hon. Friend? The consensus between the Government and the official Opposition amounts to a conspiracy of silence to ensure that the House will not have an opportunity to speak out in the names of the 10 million or 11 million British citizens who are totally opposed to this war. Could it be that the Minister is upset because he is required, at the end of this debate, to come to the Dispatch Box and defend the war—defend it in the name of the House of Commons, which during the past 27 days has been denied any genuine opportunity to debate it?
In particular, I hope that the Minister will comment on the war aims of Her Majesty's Government, remembering that we are embroiled in this venture on the coat-tails of the new imperialism that the United States of America seems determined to introduce in the Gulf region.
We are worried about the war aims, which seem to be confused and contradictory. The Secretary of State for Defence said some time ago that this war would be short, sharp and quick. Yet 27 days later, he said on BBC Radio:If Saddam and his forces merely withdraw to the border and we did see the liberation of Kuwait, but all the Iraqi guns and all the military machines were left on the other side of the border merely to repeat the exercise as soon as the allies went away,. that would simply not see the achievement of that resolution. I think people understand that it has to be right after all the effort, all the cost and all the pain that we've been involved in. We can't leave it half finished with a continuing menace continuing to threaten other states in the area.Those are the war aims spelled out by the Secretary of State for Defence on 27 January. He repeated them precisely two days later, during Defence Question Time. Following that, the Prime Minister, when asked, said that 823 our war aims were entirely in line with the United Nations resolution, and he uttered no word of repudiation of what the Secretary of State for Defence had said.
We have heard some different war aims from the Foreign Secretary. His character is gentler and more civilised than that of the Secretary of State for Defence, and his war aims are significantly different. It is not without significance that Labour's shadow Foreign Secretary prefers the war aims of the Foreign Secretary.
Let there be no misunderstanding that what is happening is the destruction of Iraq. As my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow said, power stations are being obliterated, as are water supplies and all the needs of everyday life. Imagine what will happen in a few weeks, in the heat of the summer in temperatures of 100 deg or 120 deg F. Think of the illness and disease that will sweep Iraq at that time.
We should think also of how much Arab opinion is already alienated from America, Britain and the other states in the coalition. We all know that the coalition is America and, in a secondary way, Britain. We should think how difficult it will be for Arab states inside and outside the coalition to maintain their stability because of the alienation that grows deeper every day that the war continues.
In my view, now is the time for the United Nations to exert itself. The Security Council should have been in permanent session since the start of the war. It should have been picking up all the initiatives that have been made by Iran, India, the non-aligned nations, the Maghreb countries and Russia. All those initiatives have been taken in the past few days in an effort to achieve peace. We need a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement. We all know En our hearts that, if that peace is to be real and genuine and to lead to peace and stability in the Gulf region, it has to be worked out by Arabs. It cannot be imposed by external forces—and most of all, it cannot be imposed by the new imperialists.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)
Words have lost their meaning, and values and ideas have been stood on their head by the operation of the war. Those of us who favour bringing British troops home are said not to support the troops, when, in reality, we are the people who wish to save their lives. Those of us who have all along stood by the principles for which the United Nations stands are said to be anti-United Nations because we have voted against the Government, who claim that resolution 678 is a mandate from the United Nations to take the action that they are taking in the Gulf. I object strongly to being called anti-United Nations.
Clause IV(7) of the Labour party constitution spells out our commitment to international principles and stands by the United Nations. It states that its objectives areto co-operate with the labour and socialist organisation in other countries and to support the United Nations Organisation and its various agencies and other international organisations for the promotion of peace, the adjustment and settlement of international disputes by conciliation or judicial arbitration, the establishment and defence of human rights, and the improvement of the social and economic standards and conditions of work of the people of the world.There is no way in which the action taken by the allied coalition forces could be said to be in keeping with any of 824 those principles. I do not believe that allied forces are acting in conformity with the resolutions passed by the United Nations.
Resolution 678 states that in certain circumstances all necessary means can be used. We are using wholly unnecessary and counter-productive means in the present circumstances. Resolution 678 also endorses all the previous United Nations resolutions on the Gulf crisis, including resolution 666, which calls for foodstuffs and medical supplies to be made available in Iraq and Kuwait in certain circumstances. Those circumstances were envisaged to be the application of the sanctions. Sanctions still apply, but in the context of a massive bombardment of the Iraqi people. Those circumstances are endorsed by resolution 678.
I shall quote from and explain the early-day motion on United Nations resolution 666 which I tabled today. It states:That this House notes that the much-quoted Resolution 678 of the United Nations reaffirms all previous United Nations Resolutions on the Gulf crisis, including Resolution 666.Conservative Members may say, "resolution 660", but there are a number of resolutions, and resolution 666 happens to be one of them. The early-day motioncalls for particular attention to 'be paid to such categories of persons who might suffer specially, such as the children under 15 years of age, expectant mothers, maternity cases, the sick and the elderly' and recognises 'that circumstances may arise in which it will be necessary for foodstuffs to be supplied to the civilian population in Iraq or Kuwait in order to relieve human suffering', plus medical supplies; and also notes that Resolution 678 is ambiguous about the means it sanctions to ensure that Iraqi Armed Forces withdraw from Kuwait, but recognises that this element of the Resolution has been interpreted by the governments forming the coalition of Allied Forces to justify a continuous massive bombing raid on Iraq and Kuwait and that the situation has thereby been created whereby Resolution 666 should now engage world attention, and that the supply of foodstuffs and medical supplies to the categories of people mentioned above can only meaningfully be undertaken given an end, or at least a pause, to mass bombing.Presumably, resolution 666 is as significant in terms of the Gulf crisis as resolution 678. We should now be forced to find a means of pursuing resolution 666 and looking after the groups of people who have been sorely treated in the massive bombing throughout Iraq—especially in areas in the south such as Basra, of which we hear little, but where ports, docks, marshalling yards and railway stations are intimately linked to residential areas, schools and hospitals and where the destruction must be phenomenal. That should be a matter of the greatest concern to us. We should be finding out what is happening and taking steps to overcome the problems.
Fortunately, the United Nations is doing something at least in that direction. The United Nations Children's Fund and the World Health Organisation have set up a mission to send emergency medical supplies to children and mothers in Iraq. It will start with Baghdad, but I hope that, when its members get there and discover what the position is, they will try to find out what is going on in other areas of Iraq, including Basra—an area in which. I have a specific interest.
Another idea that has been turned on its head is the position that people such as I have adopted towards the British troops. I served for two years in Basra and I hope that I therefore have some sympathy for the British troops and an understanding of their circumstances, as well as some concern for the Iraqi citizens—the people with whom 825 I mixed and with whom I worked while I was serving with an RAF movements unit there. I worked closely with people in the docks and railways and in shipping. It is those people and their children who have been severely hit by the action.
§ Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)
My hon. Friend mentioned his position regarding the troops in the Gulf. I wrote to every one of the troops who were mentioned in my local evening paper—which gave an address and asked people to write—offering my support and pledging that we were trying to find a peaceful solution. I am now receiving letters back from those troops, every single one of whom supports our position. They are wonderful letters and I promise to let my hon. Friend see them. He will then be as convinced as I am that we are absolutely right to try to spare them a terrible fate.
§ Mr. Barnes
Every hon. Member must have at least 50 people from his constituency among the troops in the Gulf; in my case, it is probably more. I object to the nonsense that is appearing in the Daily Star to the effect that we are anti-troops. The troops and their parents and relatives in this country may be in need of all kinds of assistance and may need their Member of Parliament to deal with officialdom on their behalf. They may be deterred from seeking our advice by the nonsense that is appearing in the mass media. That is a dangerous state of affairs. We need to take action and to say that we are their representatives and that British troops and their relatives can turn to us perhaps more readily than they can turn to those hon. Members who regard the troops merely as cannon fodder and who are not interested in their lives and well-being.
It is imperative that we start to push the United Nations to try to overcome the problems and to move towards periods of ceasefire, so that we can put a stop to this nonsense.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
Hon. Members such as those present tonight who ask critical questions on the Gulf war do not intend any reflection whatever on our forces in the Gulf. It is a foul and wicked lie for anyone to use that argument against those of us who talk about peace and a ceasefire so that the men and women in the forces do not have to face the possibility of death and mutilation for an instant longer than is made necessary by the force of the prevailing circumstances.
The Congress of the United States dealt with the Gulf war far and away more openly and better than did the mother of Parliaments. There was an agreement and a conspiracy in the House to have a joint resolution of the House. No alternative vote or voice was permitted by joint consensus. It is amazing that, in the debate on 21 January, certain hon. Members were called, when the overwhelming body of opinion among Opposition Members who wanted to speak was against the war. That expression of opinion was denied by that self-same shabby conspiracy. There is no question about that in my mind.
The supporters of this dreadful war talk about supporting the authority of the United Nations. But the authority of the United Nations has been weakened. The United Nations was established to resolve international 826 conflicts by peaceful means. If a country goes to war with the authority of the United Nations, which the Americans claim to have, that is a failure. But we know that to declare war is an important and serious decision. That decision was not made under the required terms of concurrence of all the parties, because China abstained. Technically, it meant that the decision was not in conformity with the United Nations charter. It was an illegality—the sort of argument that could be pored over by international lawyers and courts. But the illegality was shoved to one side and we went to this dreadful war.
Of course, the United States bribed certain nations, such as the Soviet Union, to stay out of the war and others, such as Egypt, to stay in the war. The idea that this is a war of principle is a mischievous deception on our nation and the rest of the world. What is the war for? Of course we oppose the invasion of Kuwait, but when we liberate Kuwait shall we liberate the working men and women of Kuwait? Of course not. We shall restore a feudal autocracy which, shortly before the dispute began suspended Parliament and suppressed student expression of discontent with excessive brutality and zeal.
The Government talk about the authority of the United Nations. The Minister can tell us about it tonight. He will have half an hour, which is as much as a Minister has in a full day's debate. He will have until half-past ten. If the Government care about the United Nations, do they intend to honour the United Nations nuclear nonproliferation treaty to which Iraq is a signatory and which Iraq has honoured? The Minister knows that maintaining Polaris—thank God Holy Loch is to be closed—and purchasing Trident is in clear breach of the United Nations treaty. If the Government are willing to support the United Nations over Kuwait, they should support it on other matters. I am talking about double standards. It is convenient to support the United Nations in the Gulf, but it is not convenient to support the United Nations in its bid to get rid of nuclear weapons. However, that should be done.
There will be no winners from the war. Millions of people in the middle east will feel nothing but contempt and hatred for the United States, and—alack, alas—for the United Kingdom, which has a special relationship with the United States. That special relationship means that we do the bidding of the United States. We have been sucked unnecessarily into this war and we shall face vitriol and hatred from many millions of people throughout the Muslim world. I do not say that as a person who accepts the view of the Muslim world uncritically.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Question again proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Greg Knight.]
§ Mr. Cryer
I do not accept the views of the Muslim world uncritically, as those who know my record on the publication of "The Satanic Verses" and the attack on Salman Rushdie will testify. However, Muslims have a right to their religion, their holy places, their cohesion and commonality on the planet. This war will divide nations, not unite them. It will deepen hatreds and divisions between peoples of the world, and that can only be to our harm.
The General Assembly, not just the Security Council, of the United Nations must be invoked so that it can once again wrest control of the terrible conflict from the hands 827 of the United States and put it back where it belongs. When that happens, the United Nations should also issue a clear commitment to bring the conflict to an end and to produce satisfactory peace terms.
§ 10.1 pm
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) got the Adjournment debate tonight, and I also compliment those people who managed to collapse the previous debates to allow more than one or two hon. Members to speak in this one. No doubt the Tory Whips will have their knuckles rapped for allowing the debate to collapse—
§ Mr. Skinner
The hon. Gentleman, who is not supposed to speak, tells me that I have got it wrong, but the truth is that the Tory Whips allowed the business to collapse and that has enabled—
§ Mr. Skinner
This is not the supper club—this is supposed to be democracy. This is where we speak in the open, talk to one another, in the hope that we transmit some information to the world outside so that those opinion polls that have been twisted can reflect more fairly the views not only of those in the House, but the people outside.
Tomorrow, the United Nations should have its session in public. Tomorrow's meeting should not be secret, but I have no doubt that that suits the Americans who are leading the war and those who are tagging along such as the new Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Defence and all the rest of them. They are little more than American poodles, because nearly everyone in the street knows what this war is about. It is not about democracy for, if it was, what the hell are we doing having British troops risking their lives on the desert sand while the Kuwaiti royal family are in the gambling dens and the casinos, gallivanting around the world and living in hotels in Cairo? According to newspapers, those hotels are costing $3,000 a month. They are lapping it up and one of the Kuwaitis in those hotels said, "Well, Kuwait is not really a country, it is a country club." They are watching the war on television. While our people are risking their lives, they are having a great time. Those people, 25 of them with the same surname, will be back in Parliament in Kuwait when it is free.
The war is not about democracy, or principle. If it were, why would the British Prime Minister be racing about with others from the Tory Government begging money from anyone they meet in the street? If one were fighting a war about principle, one would not be money grubbing. This is a mercenary war. If money of that scale had been asked for 10 or 15 years ago for South Africa, everyone would have said that that was a mercenary war and "Mad Mike" Hoare would have been running it.
This war is all about America. It has seen that Russia has problems of its own with nationalism and economic troubles. It knows that it has a chance to move into a part of the world where it has never had an opportunity to be since the end of the second world war. The power vacuum in the middle east enabled the United States to move in 828 while Russia has troubles of its own. It launders money from Saudi Arabia and says to Russia, "Here is $4 billion to keep your mouth shut," and to Egypt, "Here is $3.5 billion to write off your third-world debts." It says, "Anybody else want money?" It begs off Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and launders the money to different countries. Then it has the cheek to tell us that it is all about a great principle. It is not about a great principle at all.
Of course, there is another factor. When elected President of the United States, George Bush was regarded as a wimp. Everybody knew him to be a wimp. He wanted to be Rambo; he wanted to be macho. This enables him to have an opportunity to change his image in the United States in order to get re-elected. In the process, thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, will be slaughtered, but it will not be Bush, it will not be Stormin' Norman, it will not be Colin Powell. It will not be all the armchair generals who tell us about the war. It will not be the Tory MPs in the Government and the Cabinet. They will not lose their lives, they will not put on flak jackets as the Secretary of State for the Environment did once before. He was the man who did his national service but who bought himself out after a few months. They march through the Lobby saying, "We are prepared to send our troops to the battlefield in order to fight for Kuwait and hand it back to the royal family."
Then we see the bombs and read about the shells. We see all the Tornados going under. We count the cost—£21 million for a Tornado, £750,000 for a Tomahawk missile. When I see that, I say to myself that that is the peace dividend gone. We talked about the ending of the cold war and what we would do with the money. The Tories said that they would cut defence expenditure. The Liberals as usual said that they would cut defence expenditure. The Labour party said, "When in government we will cut defence expenditure." Everybody looked forward to more hospitals, more homes to get rid of cardboard city, and proper cold weather payments week in and week out without pensioners having to beg for them. Then we pick up the newpapers every day and see all those munitions being fired in Kuwait and in the desert. The peace dividend is being blasted into smithereens in the Persian Gulf.
We are supposed to accept that. I have not been sent to Parliament to send people to die for these feudal dynasties in the middle east. At the end of it, what happens? People say that war is quick. Sometimes it ain't. The trouble is that some people in this building remember only the Falklands; that is all they remember. It was a short war. There were a few explosions here and there and a few hundred were killed, more Argentines than Britons. There were great celebrations at the dock side.
This might be a long war. If it is, there will be a lot more casualties and people will have different perspectives about it. The jingoism may change if it drags on through a long hot summer. What will happen? The views of people who said, "Let's get stuck in and get this finished," may change. Too many people think that sanctions would have lasted too long, but what about a war that lasts too long?
Of course, after a war people finish up victorious, but what does it do to a generation of young people? It gives them the impression that the way to resolve problems in the world is not by diplomacy, negotiation or the use of tact and skill, but by killing people. It will educate another generation into the belief that that is the way to do things. Yet people tell me that when it is all over we can have a 829 new world order—a new world order based upon killing, brutality and the massacre of innocent men, women and children out there in the middle east. I do not believe that.
That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow was right to raise the matter. That is why it is important to study the views of other people. It is important to raise these issues. Much could be said about the war, but one thing is certain: everyone who sold arms to Saddam is as guilty as everyone else—the whole lot of them. If they did not sell the arms, they provided them with the machine tools to make them, and with all the equipment. Right up to the nether end, they were writing off Iraq's debts and increasing the Export Credits Guarantee Department's money to about £400 million. They did everything possible to build up that monster, Saddam Hussein.
Then they have the cheek to tell us that we cannot have the motion put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), to say that, although we support people who will lay down their lives in the desert, we prefer peace. The opposite to war is not appeasement —in our language, it is peace, and it is time that we gave it a chance.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
My speech will be exceedingly brief. Further to a comment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) about the supply of arms to Saddam Hussein, there is no doubt on either side of the House that Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to benefit from his occupation of Kuwait. That is unarguable. Saddam Hussein is an evil and wicked person. There are many such people in the world, but he qualifies as one of the worst.
However, Labour Members were telling the Government for many years just how evil that man was. We were telling them that he was evil when Ministers were going to Baghdad, were being pictured with Saddam Hussein, and were encouraging him to take up trade credits. Britain was at the Baghdad international trade fair. It is amazing that we are now being told that that man is a monster. We accept that, but why, when we were saying so, were we ignored or laughed at and then told cynically by Ministers, "Well, if we don't provide the technology, if we don't trade with him, someone else will"? We do not need to be lectured by the Government about how evil Saddam Hussein is.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover mentioned arms. The current edition of Time magazine on the Gulf war sets out graphically the armaments available to Saddam Hussein. An American first lieutenant, Alan Leclerc—a US marine pilot who flies daily—used a poignant phrase when he said:It angers me. Countries of the world need to be a little more discreet about whom they sell weapons to, and that includes us.Those American, British and French pilots who have been risking their lives realise that they are facing weaponry that was provided by their own countries. The list of weapons is a list of shame.
The missiles were provided by the Soviet Union; France provided the Exocet missiles that are still there, perhaps poised, waiting to strike at our troops. The tanks were provided by the Soviet Union; the artillery—apparently some of the finest in the world—was provided by South 830 Africa. The aircraft were provided by France and the Soviet Union. Mines were provided by the Soviet Union, Taiwan, Italy and others. Brazil provided fire-controlled radars; Britain provided training and equipment; France provided point defence radars.
We were still training Iraqi troops in this country until a few months ago and now we are told that Saddam Hussein is a monster. When we said so, we were ignored. I do not like the Government's hypocrisy. They now accuse us of being appeasers or, as some of the gutter press suggest, traitors. We have been loyal to the British people from the beginning and have always wanted to ensure that no British military person should lose his life in this shabby war.
As for principles, President Bush would not know a principle if it were stuck on the end of an Exocet and smashed straight through his head. That great, principled politician ordered the invasion of Panama. We do not want to hear about principles but about peace, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover said. We want to ensure that the United Nations is used to resolve those regional conflicts by peaceful means. Surely the new world order is that we talk peacefully and in a civilised fashion about how we reconcile our differences, not how we throw our young people against each other and see them killed and maimed.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd)
This has been a highly charged debate, and I recognise the feelings that have been expressed. I realise that some hon. Members have been kind enough to refrain from speaking in order to give me an opportunity to reply, and that is important in any democratic assembly. I was fearful earlier that I would not have an opportunity to state the Government's position.
Let me make one or two general points fundamentally clear at the outset. Our objectives and the objectives of the alliance, and our actions in the hostilities, are all conducted under the authority of United Nations Security Council resolutions. Hon. Members who have waxed strong and indignant have failed to recognise the import and meaning of resolution 678, which authorises the use of all necessary means to seek the objectives of resolution 660.
Hon. Members have argued that hostilities were not necessary; that hostilities should not have been indulged in. But if Saddam Hussein would not respect United Nations resolutions under the relentless bombing that his armed forces have undoubtedly suffered, under the relentless attack on his armed forces and their installations that he has undoubtedly suffered, how does any hon. Member imagine that he might have left Kuwait under the pressure of sanctions?
There are one or two matters which might have been mentioned amidst all the moral indignation and fervour expressed by Labour Members. The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) said that our objective was merely to restore a feudal autocracy. He made no mention of the size of the gigantic Iraqi war machine, which has been so amply demonstrated in recent weeks, or why he felt that that war machine had been assembled. No hon. Member mentioned the rape of Kuwait, Amnesty International's report, the enormous bloodshed that has 831 been caused to the people of Kuwait, the allegations that we have all heard about the incubators and the dreadful suffering that was caused to Kuwaiti citizens.
One further thing of which there has been no mention amidst all the moral indignation is the outrageous treatment of our 10 prisoners of war. Not one hon. Member suggested any indignation that those poor men should have been paraded in their state on television contrary to the Geneva convention. Not one person expressed any outrage or indignation at the fact that there has been no access to them, not even by the Red Cross, and no list has been provided of who they are or there whereabouts.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
No, I shall not give way. This has been a long debate. Hon. Members have had an opportunity to speak, and I really must have an opportunity to reply.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) mentioned one thing that I shall pick up, because it is of personal interest to me. He said that he was not an Arabic speaker but that his parents were. I am, in some way, an Arabic speaker. I believe that I am the only Arabic speaker in the House. When I hear all the expressions of outrage and feeling about Palestinians and Jordan, I would only say that I have been to Jordan on more occasions than I can count. I have lived there, and I honestly think that I know it fairly well and that I can claim as much knowledge of it as any other hon. Memer—or at least, I did once. I count many Jordanians and Palestinians as my friends.
Hon. Members will be aware that the Foreign Office is not without its Arabists. One of the impressions that I have gained over the few months that I have been in the Foreign Office is that, to a man, the Arabists recognise, albeit reluctantly and unhappily—as we all do, because we all regret war—that ultimately it was necessary that hostilities were used under the authority of the United Nations resolution 678. It could not be avoided.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
No, I will not give way. I have only 10 minutes to reply to the debate; the right hon. Gentleman must respect that.
I have a few words to say about the resolutions of the Security Council. The first of the Council's resolutions—660—was adopted within hours of the invasion. There were no votes against and no abstentions. It condemned the invasion and called for immediate and unconditional Iraqi withdrawal.
The second resolution followed only four days later. Resolution 661 imposed comprehensive trade and financial sanctions on Iraq and occupied Kuwait. It also established a sanctions committee. Three days later, resolution 662 was adopted unanimously, declaring that Iraq's purported annexation of Kuwait was null and void.
The test of whether sanctions worked was whether they brought Saddam Hussein to change his policies and withdraw from Kuwait as the Security Council demanded. They did not. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary concluded on 15 January, sanctions would not achieve such a decisive rundown of Saddam Hussein's military machine that he would leave Kuwait. Meanwhile, five months had elapsed and his brutal occupation of 832 Kuwait continued. The atrocities committed by the Iraqi forces in Kuwait have been well documented by Amnesty International and others. Waiting longer for sanctions to work was therefore not an option.
I have to reiterate that it was the international community which decided that sanctions were not enough, when the Security Council adopted its resolution 678 on 29 November. To remind hon. Members, this authorised member states to use "all necessary means" to implement earlier relevant resolutions of the Council in the absence of Iraqi compliance by 15 January. Despite this 45-day pause of good will, Iraq ignored the deadline completely. Consequently, with the full authority of the United Nations, the allied coalition embarked on military operations against Iraq.
The Government's position is clear. Allied operations have been directed against Iraq's massive military machine sustaining the illegal occupation of Kuwait. Any such attacks, if necessary for the purposes specified in resolution 678, are fully within the authorisation granted by that resolution. It is absurd to suggest that these operations could be confined in a modern war to the geographical territory of Kuwait. That would not deal effectively with Iraqi aggression. We have made it amply clear that our objectives are to get Iraq out of Kuwait completely, to see the legitimate Kuwaiti Government restored, to uphold the authority of the United Nations, and to re-establish international peace and security in the area. This does not entail the destruction, occupation or dismemberment of Iraq. It is not for us to decide who governs Iraq.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow referred to the pounding of Baghdad. I think that he might have been intending to refer to the pounding of the Iraqi forces in Kuwait. It has been the clearest possible intention of all allied operations to avoid civilian casualties. We have also made it clear that we are doing everything possible to keep civilian casualties to a minimum, and to avoid damaging sites of religious and cultural significance. We have reported as much to the Security Council, in a series of reports since hostilities began. The military action will end as soon as the purposes laid down by the Security Council have been achieved.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow referred to Babylon, Ur of the Chaldees, Najaf and Kerbek. There is no evidence that those sites have been struck. I remind him that, had there been evidence, it would have been available in photographic form, and we should surely have seen it. Would he not consider contrasting that lack of evidence with the terror tactics deployed by the Iraqis in launching Scud missiles on innocent civilians and the risks to mosques and holy places occasioned by such indiscriminate attacks?
The 12 Security Council resolutions form a landmark in UN history. They have all been adopted with overwhelming majorities. They have been characterised by the closest co-operation between the five members of the Council.
I am very glad that we have had this debate, because it allows me, on behalf of the Government, to express our clear view of the importance of the United Nations in handling this major international crisis. Iraq has chosen, at every opportunity, to react to the UN action with invective in denying the authority of the Council—a sea change indeed from the time, during the Iran-Iraq war, when the Iraqis claimed to be its most fervent supporters.
833 The invective has been directed not only against the council but also against the UN Secretary-General. I am sure that the House will join me in paying tribute to Mr. Perez de Cuellar, who has time and again made every effort to act as a messenger and peace broker.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow called for a ceasefire, as have other hon. Members. Others have called for the Security Council or the UN Secretary-General now to call for a ceasefire or a pause in hostilities, to allow Saddam Hussein a chance to respond. But what evidence do we have that Saddam Hussein is prepared to listen? What evidence is there that he is now more prepared than before to heed the demands reflected in all these resolutions? The abuse of the Security Council and the Secretary-General in Tariq Aziz's two letters make it clear that nothing has changed. Saddam Hussein continues to thumb his nose at international opinion, international law and humanitarian obligations.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear on 20 January, we do not want the conflict to continue a day longer than necessary. We do not wish to risk the lives of our forces, if implementation of the Security Council resolutions can be achieved by peaceful means. But we do not favour a pause or a ceasefire. We had a pause for good will until 15 January.
834 Our forces are now engaged. We cannot agree to any suspension of hostilities which would allow Saddam Hussein to regroup and strengthen his position, simply in the hope that this might lead to negotiations. Hostilities cannot end—or pause—until we know that all Iraqi forces are out of Kuwait. The United Nations should not settle for less.
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
When this debate is read in future, it will be seen to have been the beginning of the end of the United Nations, because of the use made of it by the American and British Governments. This Government left UNESCO because they did not agree with the UN. The Americans left UNESCO. The American and British Governments have brought the Security Council in, and now the most murderous bombing of innocent men, women and children in Iraq is being done in the name of the United Nations.
Tonight, the House has reflected more faithfully the concerns of decent people, who believe in the United Nations, than all the speeches made by the Conservative party since the crisis began. I warn the Minister that, if this is the way in which the Government aims to use the United Nations, we shall indeed fall back into the barbarism from which the UN was intended to rescue us.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at half-past Ten o'clock.