§ 7. Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
What assessment he has made of the military effects of bombing Baghdad.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon)
There has been no decision to take military action against Iraq. It is still not too late for Saddam Hussein to decide to accept United Nations resolutions and thereby avoid the necessity for any kind of military action.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I echo the tribute to George Younger.
Do not we have to think things through? Are not there three horrendous scenarios? The first is bombing on a Dresden scale, which would create unthinkable reverberations in the Arab world and destroy one of the world's great cities. The second, heaven help us, is street fighting in the alleys and sewers of Baghdad. Only those who, like me, have seen them can imagine the horrendous task of British and American forces in that situation, where the opponents know the sewers and alleyways. The third is the siege of Baghdad and, presumably, starvation of the population. If the Secretary of State knows any other scenarios, he should tell us because such matters should be thought through.
§ Mr. Hoon
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, at least for suggesting that we should think things through. That is precisely the British Government's position. I invite him to think through Iraq's history and its failure to comply with a series of international obligations, going back to the ceasefire provision that I mentioned earlier. It gave Saddam Hussein 15 days in which to co-operate with abandoning his programme of weapons of mass destruction. The process continues. There were some 26 United Nations obligations before what was described as the final opportunity for Iraq in resolution 1441 to comply with the will of the international community. It therefore remains up to Saddam Hussein and his regime in Iraq to comply with the decisions of the international community. I am sure that my hon. Friend would strongly support that.
§ Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon)
Given that our quarrel is not with the Iraqi people, but with their dictator, what discussions has the Secretary of State recently had with the Secretary of State for International Development to ensure that once the bombing of Baghdad has begun—and thereafter. we hope, quickly comes to an end—we can put in place an immediate humanitarian relief and rescue package to demonstrate our commitment to the Iraqi people?
§ Mr. Hoon
The hon. Gentleman is certainly right that we have no quarrel with the Iraqi people, and nor have we ever had. However, it is important that the regime in Baghdad accepts the will of the international community. We set out very recently the aims and objectives of our policy in relation to Iraq, which certainly include rebuilding and restoring in Iraq a degree of representative government, and that is something that we are determined to achieve. I do not want to go into details of aftermath planning of the kind that he mentions, because that implies the inevitability of military action. Military action is still neither inevitable nor imminent.
§ David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Should not the Secretary of State bear it in mind that the dire warning given by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow 559 (Mr. Dalyell) used exactly the same words that he used in relation to the liberation of the Falklands, to Kuwait 12 years ago, and, much more recently, to Kosovo? On all those issues, he was wrong and was proved to be wrong. If military action is to be avoided, is there not a need for Iraq's criminal and murderous regime to be far more honest about weapons of mass destruction? How many Members of Parliament, if my hon. Friend had to hazard a guess—
§ Mr. Hoon
I accept that there are those who are sincerely opposed to military action in any circumstances and those who are opposed to military action in most circumstances. I would put the Government into the second category. We want to avoid military action if at all possible. A political, diplomatic route remains available to Saddam Hussein, and we believe that he should take that route and comply with the wishes and decisions of the international community.
§ Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle)
May I pursue the point made by my friend and colleague of 40 years, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)? I am one of those who believe that, if it is definitely established that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and is in a position to use them, we will certainly have to disarm it, but I hope that all the tactical and strategic considerations will be borne in mind. Speaking as somebody who, as a very young officer, led patrols in a hostile Arab city much smaller than Baghdad 53 years ago, I put it to the Secretary of State that as Baghdad is a city of 5 million people, if Saddam Hussein withdraws, as I suspect that he will, his entire army inside Baghdad, so that the city has to be taken street by street and house by house, the casualties—not only on our side, but on the civilian side—will be absolutely enormous. Even the German army in 1871—
§ Mr. Dalyell
On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. In view of the fact that the issue of Baghdad needs more exploration, may I be considered for an Adjournment debate on that subject?