§ 3.3 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Waddington) rose to move, That this House takes note of the situation in the Gulf.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
§ Today the UN Security Council deadline for complete and unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait runs out; but Iraq is still in Kuwait and shows no sign of leaving. It is right that your Lordships' House should debate the consequences of her defiance.
§ First, we should remind ourselves of the basic facts. On 2nd August Iraq marched into Kuwait, a member of the United Nations, a small law-abiding state whose only misfortune was to have a rapacious, unscrupulous neighbour. The attack was unprovoked. Iraq's feeble excuse then was that it had been invited 1089 in by local revolutionaries after they had toppled the Al Sabah family. It was feeble indeed because not a single quisling came forward to give substance to the story. But a puppet regime was installed and on 8th August Saddam Hussein, dispensing with any claim to legitimacy, annexed the country. Your Lordships will note that at that time Iraq and Saddam Hussein made no mention of Palestine. There was no suggestion then that in some convoluted way the rape of Kuwait was designed to help the Palestinian cause. That cant came later. In the early days Iraq made little attempt to disguise the fact that the invasion of Kuwait was for the greater glory of Saddam Hussein.
§ International condemnation was instant, comprehensive and unanimous. The Security Council met on the very day of the invasion and it demanded the total and unconditional withdrawal of Iraq and the restoration of the legitimate Government of Kuwait. That is still the demand today, and if Iraq implements the UN resolutions now she will not be attacked. If she refuses to implement them, she must face the consequences.
§ It has not been a case of the UN making demands and diplomacy thereafter playing no part. To suggest so would be a travesty. But the UN, the Arab League and the European Community were all rebuffed. So was Secretary Baker last Wednesday. So was Perez de Cuellar who, it was felt, with his uniquely high reputation around the world had a better chance than anyone else of making Saddam Hussein see sense. In Paris on his return journey he said, "I see no reason to have more hope than the day I left".
Yesterday, The Times summed up the problem neatly when it asked:
what further peace-making, short of capitulation to aggression, can those who oppose war possibly expect?".
So diplomatic efforts have proved fruitless; and they have proved fruitless even though backed up by the economic and military pressures which have been on Iraq over the last five-and-a-half months.
§ Some say that those economic pressures, sweeping economic sanctions agreed back in August, should be given more time to work. But again we must face the facts. In these last five-and-a-half months sanctions have been almost universally observed with Iraq's imports of industrial goods, semi-finished goods and raw materials down by more than 90 per cent. and her exports of oil, from which she earned 90 per cent. of her hard currency before the invasion of Kuwait, brought to a halt. But Saddam Hussein, with complete control of the media and impervious to public opinion, stays put. He has stayed put in spite of sanctions. He has stayed put in spite of the diplomatic and military pressure. He has stayed put in spite of the deadline set for withdrawal by the United Nations.
§ So one has to ask those people who say that sanctions must still be given more time to work why they think that they will work in six months or nine months or a year from now when they have not worked already, and how much more murder and pillage they are prepared to allow Saddam Hussein to 1090 practise in Kuwait in the meantime. If we fail to stick to one deadline for withdrawal why should Saddam Hussein take seriously any other?
§ The prospect of war is horrible. The cost in human and material terms would be great. But think of the cost of waiting for another six months in the hope that sanctions which have not worked now by some miracle will work then. Think of the cost already incurred by our having waited these past months. In that time the Kuwaitis have suffered dreadfully. In these past months the Iraqis have butchered and brutalised those innocent people. The very fabric of their society is being progressively and systematically destroyed.
§ In August there were 700,000 Kuwaitis in Kuwait. Now there are perhaps 250,000. Their country has been vandalised. Everything movable and valuable, from cars and buses to vital medical equipment in the hospitals, has been stolen and taken off to Baghdad. In the face of this dreadful oppression, the Kuwaitis have shown magnificent fortitude, but for how long can they be expected to endure? If we do not act quickly there will not be a viable country to save: it will have been turned into a wasteland.
§ War is always evil, but there may sometimes be a still greater evil, and Christian theologians have recognised it as a sad necessity if just men are not to be crushed by the wicked. Saddam Hussein is an evil man. If he goes unchecked, will he not attack again? If he is not stopped now, do we not risk before long an even more terrible war in the Middle East involving even more terrible weapons?
§ The international community has set out its objectives and also what it is prepared to do to secure them. We decided, East and West, North and South, that if Iraq defied the UN, force would be used. The world is watching to see if we keep our nerve; and if we lose it there will be a terrible price to pay.
§ We have perhaps a better chance today of fashioning a really effective system of collective security than at any time this century. In the 1930s we tried to build collective security. The problem was that everybody then talked about collective security, but talk was all it was. Mussolini swallowed Ethiopia. Hitler grabbed the Sudetenland. We did not stop Hitler and Mussolini in the early stages of their aggression. There was always an excuse for doing nothing. War was too high a price to pay whatever the evil perpetrated. And later the whole world paid the price. We must never forget that lesson.
§ Britain has more than 35,000 sailors, soldiers and airmen in the Gulf, and there is not a home in the country which is not thinking of them today. They do not want war. We do not want war. None of us wants war. But our troops, deployed in the knowledge that they might have to fight, and who by their presence have already helped to deter Iraq from pursuing its conquest further down the Gulf, are trained, equipped, and ready to fight if need be.
§ We can only hope that, as time runs out, Saddam Hussein is contemplating how powerful are the forces 1091 ranged against him and even at this late hour will realise he has made a grievous mistake in trying to defy the whole international community.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the situation in the Gulf—(Lord Waddington.)
§ 3.14 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, we are grateful for the opportunity to debate the Gulf crisis today and to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for his opening speech. A number of important events have taken place since we discussed the crisis on 17th December, notably on the diplomatic front. We must be grateful to all those who have made strenuous and genuine efforts to make contact with Saddam Hussein; that is, to get through to him and to his immediate advisers that war is really inevitable if he persists in treating the resolutions of the United Nations as if they are of no account, and that the consequences of that war would be disastrous not least for him and the unfortunate people whom he purports to represent.
If this crisis were a game of chess, it would have to be admitted that Saddam Hussein is a skilful opponent. He has made a number of astute moves whose purpose is to divert people's minds away from the cause of the crisis, referred to by the noble Lord, and the cruelties, miseries and worries which have followed, especially as regards the unfortunate people of Kuwait.
He has tried to portray himself as the leader of Islam in a holy war—a jihad. He has tried to blacken the West, especially the United States, depicting it as the enemy of Islam, concerned merely with oil and world domination. He has sought to connect the problems of Palestine with his invasion of Kuwait—the so-called linkage argument. However, if Amnesty International is to be believed—and it is a human rights organisation of the highest reputation —300,000 Kuwaiti citizens, including several thousand foreign residents, fled Kuwait with consequences which are still unclear. Amnesty International goes on to state that since the invasion on 2nd August, hundreds of unarmed Kuwaitis have been murdered, hundreds more have disappeared in detention and widespread torture of those unfortunate and innocent people is rife. The details are grim and sickening.
Let us face up to the truth. It is dishonest to say that all that is being done for the sake of finding a solution to the Palestinian problem. It is necessary to repeat those undisputed facts at the outset, for those facts prompted the Security Council of the United Nations to pass the resolutions condemning Saddam Hussein's actions and calling for the withdrawal of his army from Kuwait.
In all our debates on the matter I have made plain on behalf of my noble friends that we support those resolutions. We believe that the will of the United Nations must prevail. I repeat so that there may be no misunderstanding that unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait is the primary objective. Partial withdrawal, leaving Saddam Hussein with some of his spoils, will not be sufficient. As I said in our debate in 1092 September, that would enable him to claim victory. It would strengthen his regional power and standing and, most disturbing of all, weaken the position and significance of the United Nations. The longer-term consequences of that could be very grave indeed for the world.
We all abhor the possibility of war. No one of consequence or sense wants war. If the members of the United Nations who voted for the resolutions wanted war, they could have driven the Iraqi troops out of Kuwait before now and might have justified that on the authority of Article 51 of the United Nations. However, they have held back for five-and-a-half months. During that period several attempts have been made to arrange meetings with Saddam Hussein but it has been clear to everyone that that has not been easy. Nevertheless, we believe that all those efforts were fully justified and we should support any further serious moves to arrange talks with the Iraqi leadership.
We are deeply conscious of the significance of this particular day. I hope that the same can be said of Saddam Hussein and his colleagues in Baghdad at this moment. Today is the deadline. It is vital that we should be clear about its implications. Resolution 678 adopted on 29th November, partly at the instigation of the Soviet Union,authorises member states … unless Iraq on or before January 15th, 1991, fully implementsthe 11 preceding resolutionsto use all necessary means to uphold and implementthose resolutionsfor the maintenance and preservation of international peace and security".Therefore, that resolution gives authority for the use of force although it is not mandatory. It does not mean that military action must take place today. In other words, it is not an ultimatum date. On the other hand, it is equally true that a decision by the United Nations not to use force today or in the days to follow should not justify any belief or calculations that force is not to be used at all.
That brings me once again to the question of sanctions and their efficacy, which has been referred to at some length by the noble Lord. I have dealt with this subject at some length in previous speeches and I repeat today that we support the Security Council Resolution 660 which lays down that all states shall impose economic sanctions on Iraq. Incidentally, that is a mandatory resolution.
Once again I believe that everyone in this House would wish the objectives of the basic Resolution 660 to be achieved through effective sanctions and other pressures rather than by armed conflict with all its unpredictable cost in casualties, physical destruction and harm to the world's economies, not least the third world. The evidence we have been given showed that sanctions are having an effect on the Iraqi economy and the life of the community. We have been told that by Ministers at this Box and in another place, and by Ministers in the United States and also by other authorities.
1093 We have always argued that sanctions should be given the necessary time to work. On 17th December I referred to the strong body of opinion in the United States which includes Admiral William Crowe, General David Jones and others who take a similar view. They take that view because, like Mr. Edward Heath and my right honourable friend Mr. Denis Healey, they believe that giving sanctions more time to bite is preferable to the high cost of war in terms of casualties. I heard the two right honourable gentlemen make the same point on television once again yesterday.
Senator Sam Nunn, the chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee summed up that viewpoint in these words:The question is not whether military action is justified. I believe it is. The question is whether military action is wise at this time".Saturday's debates in Congress reflected the different views in the United States. It is right that we should at least take them into account at this time. For example, we are told that there is nothing sacrosanct about the five-and-a-half months between 2nd August and 15th January. Is there a limit to the amount of time sanctions are given to work and make the Iraqi leaden hip see sense? The noble Lord, the Leader of the House, gave the view—I have not heard it asserted so clearly or so definitively as he put it today—that sanctions have in fact failed.
I put it to the House that we have not had a sufficiently clear assessment and analysis of the working of sanctions so far. Are they so complete a failure as to justify military action from today onwards? I know the House will be grateful if, when the noble Earl replies, he will give the Government's measured view of that matter. It must have been considered most carefully when the resolution authorising sanctions was passed by the United Nations.
Another important point which has not been discussed in recent weeks and about which no information has been given is whether sanctions are being breached seriously to any extent and if so, by what countries. Which countries, if any, are making sanctions unsuccessful and ineffective? In so important a debate and on so immensely significant a day, we should be enlightened on that point.
The other question which is very much in our minds is whether the diplomatic initiatives of the past few days have brought these matters home to Saddam Hussein. Is he aware that if he does not withdraw, the consequences will be disastrous for him and his people? The talks between Mr. Baker and Mr. Tariq Aziz in Geneva were a dismal failure. Mr. Baker said that in the six hours they were together Mr. Aziz said nothing to give hope that the Iraqi Government would take any action to meet any of the UN resolutions.
It is quite plain that no Iraqi representative of whatever rank has the right to express a view or propose any course of action other than Saddam Hussein. Mr. Aziz would not even take the risk of carrying President Bush's letter back to him. Nevertheless, as he left the meeting Mr. Baker said, 1094The path to peace is still open",adding that the decision for peace rests with Iraq as all of us know.
We believe that Mr. Perez de Cuellar was absolutely right to fly to Baghdad to see Saddam Hussein personally. It was clear that he went with the goodwill of the entire international community. Unhappily, he was not welcomed by Saddam Hussein, and the talks have been described as inconclusive. It was a most regrettable rebuff to the Secretary General and to the United Nations.
Furthermore, can the noble Lord say whether today's deadline means that no further initiative can be taken to arrange talks with the Iraqi Government? I find that difficult to accept. I am thinking specifically of the possibility of a French initiative supported by Algiers and other friendly Arab countries which has been discussed in the press over the past few days, and a possible visit to Baghdad by the French foreign secretary, M. Dumas. We shall be grateful if the noble Earl will bring us up to date on that point.
Some are saying that the sands have run out; and, as all of us fear, that is indeed very possible. But if there is still an honourable possibility of avoiding war, then we should support the initiative. After all, France is our friend, our ally and our partner in the Community. It would be a mistake at this stage to turn away from her.
Finally, even in this time of tension and uncertainty, we must look ahead and seek to define objectives that we as a country can support in the Middle East. The immediate aim is to implement the United Nations resolutions. The consequences of failure would, as many have said from the start, be disastrous for the United Nations and the world.
I was most impressed with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, on 17th December when he dealt with the need to tackle and resolve the Palestinian problem. There is now a general commitment to hold a conference in order to try to set the wheels in motion. That can only come about after the UN resolutions have been accepted and observed by Iraq. Under no circumstances should Saddam Hussein be allowed to get away with the argument that he invaded Kuwait, plundered the country and killed its people in order to solve the Palestinian problem. That must be constantly borne in mind.
There have been references to the creation of a UN security system in the Gulf. I note that Mr. Douglas Hurd said that Britain might make a contribution to it. He then went on to use some important words,if it turned out to be what was wanted in the area".We must agree with that qualification, for it is the Arab states and Israel which must, as a coalition of interests, decide if and how they are to live together once the crisis is over. If there is to be a military presence, it should in the main be composed of forces from countries within the region. They should resolve their problem with the authority and support of the United Nations.
Before I conclude I must also take the opportunity to pay a very warm tribute to those who served in our 1095 embassies in Baghdad and Kuwait over the past five months. They served loyally with skill and devotion in immensely difficult circumstances, and we should be proud of them.
We also think of our soldiers, sailors and airmen in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. They are part of a historic enterprise in which 50 countries are taking part; 28 of those have forces in the region. Their presence there in itself should be sufficient to persuade the Iraqi leadership to yield to the United Nations. Let us hope and pray even at this late hour that common sense and compassion will prevail.
§ 3.29 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for his succinct opening. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and I have had to speak in both our two previous Gulf debates on 6th September and 17th December, as well as today. One has naturally looked back over those debates to obtain some perspective on how our thoughts have developed. In both of them I endeavoured to urge on the Government a policy that I would call restrained determination. By that I meant that we should be careful to act under the resolutions of the United Nations at all stages and not get isolated with the Americans and practically no one else.
I suggested in September that the necessary feat of statesmanship was to keep together the power of the United States and the moral authority of the United Nations. We should also pursue every possible diplomatic means of securing Saddam Hussein's withdrawal from Kuwait. We should certainly not forget that Part III of the original Security Council resolution specifically enjoined seeking a solution by such means. So long as the Government acted in accordance with those principles I said that they would have our support.
I believe that they have so acted and as we come, therefore, with foreboding to the difficult moment of decision and action, I continue to support them. I do it essentially because I believe that the whole future of the United Nations is at stake. If it failed to deal with Saddam Hussein's invasion at a time when there was no excuse of a great power split in the world, that would be the end of the UN as a world authority as opposed to a talking shop. There is something to be said for a talking shop, but not quite enough. It should not be forgotten just how unusual is the present opportunity and therefore just how great is the present test.
For 45 years the United Nations has been hobbled by a great power split. Miraculously, that has been absent for the past five months. Who can tell, in this dreadful January of disappointment and dismay, how long it will remain absent? If the UN failed to exert its will in such uniquely favourable circumstances a similar enterprise could never be mounted again. It so happens that the leadership role of the United States would also be destroyed. The United States may be imperfect—everybody is—as a world leader. However, the world has a great deal for which to be 1096 grateful to the United States. It is the only world leader that we have got. No one else shows the slightest desire to take over. So, as it were, both the material and the moral power in the world would go at the same time. The world would be left unstable, chaotic and highly combustible.
This issue seems to me to transcend even the risks which are involved. There are of course arguments which can be deployed against the course on which we are embarked. They are not so much invalid as disproportionate to the central point. There are criticisms which can be made, and which are being freely made at the present time, of the diplomatic handling of the issue. No doubt the American Embassy in Baghdad sent out the wrong signals in July, just as the British Government did before the Falkland invasion. Perhaps too sharp a focus was placed on the bilateralism of the Geneva meeting between Secretary Baker and Tariq Aziz.
But there are always diplomatic errors in any complicated series of events. No one can have observed the dejection of the wise and experienced Javier Perez de Cuellar, whose Iraqi connections were good and whose mission seemed well-timed before it took place, and still believe that a diplomatic solution was near to our grasp. As the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, has said, no doubt even at this twelfth hour any further possibility should be explored and the French initiative in particular, but there is not much room for being sanguine.
There is the argument that because the United Nations has not acted with equal firmness against acts of aggression in the past it should not do too much about Kuwait. That is a quietist and peculiarly pessimistic argument. It means that improvement should never be sought because it would be unfair to the past to do so. Nonetheless, in my view we have undoubtedly neglected the urgent need for a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East and of the Palestinian problem in particular. I would no longer be too worried about the problem of linkage. That can become an over-refined issue in a rough and crude situation. We desperately need a Palestinian peace conference on its own merits. In my view the time has gone by when there was a danger of appearing to give it in return for Saddam Hussein's aggression. He now faces dangers which transcend that.
Then there is the "sanctions must be given more time", argument associated with the view that the Americans and us have boxed ourselves into a corner by choosing the 15th January deadline. To fix that date in November when it seemed, if anything, dilatory, may or may not have been wise. However, that is minor compared with the central question of whether the United Nations' coalition and the forces on the ground could be held in position long enough for sanctions to run for a year or more without there being a near certainty that, at the end of the day, all the resolutions of the Security Council would dribble away into the sand.
I cannot feel a lively conviction that sanctions will get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. The realistic 1097 alternatives, diplomacy having regrettably failed so far at any rate, are to act now or to let him keep Kuwait and defy the world. For the sake of some authority in the world, even though with a heavy heart, I choose to act now.
§ 3.37 p.m.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
My Lords, I have just come from a meeting of the House of Bishops of the Church of England which this morning gave sombre consideration to the grave crisis in the Gulf. It recognised, as I do, a responsibility to clarify the moral principles at stake and also the very pastoral responsibility of supporting those serving in the Gulf and their families. I am glad to say that it was able to reach an agreed statement which has now been issued.
I believe that in what I say briefly and personally I shall be reflecting the substance of the statement. My preoccupation with that meeting and my return to it means that, with the greatest regret, I shall be unable to stay until the end of the debate. When the House first debated the Gulf crisis on 6th September I said that we must be clear in our minds that this was not a clash between Christianity and Islam and neither was it anything to do with Islamic fundamentalism. It was to do with old-fashioned naked aggression. That remains my very firm view. It is a view which both Cardinal Hume and I expressed to the Prime Minister when we called on him last night. The cardinal and I stressed to the Prime Minister that we must all take special care to ensure that the substantial moslem minority in Britain does not become victim of any backlash that might arise if our politicians or our media carelessly confuse the Government of Iraq with Islam or Islamic fundamentalism.
I should perhaps add that while the Prime Minister was unable to give us cause for optimism, both the cardinal and I were deeply impressed by his cool, calm and responsible approach to the awesome decisions faced by him and the Government as a whole. We commend particularly the restrained words and tone used throughout the crisis by both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, in marked contrast to some of the more strident noises that have occasionally emanated from Washington. The British Government plainly understand that the British people earnestly pray for a peaceful solution but also reluctantly accept that it may be necessary to resort to war in the interests of justice and long-term peace.
In the debate in this House in September, I warmly endorsed the words of the then Prime Minister that sanctions must be given a few months to work. In a speech to the General Synod of my Church in November I argued that a year of sanctions would be far cheaper in every way than even the shortest war. But I went on to say that if, for whatever reason, it became clear that sanctions were not going to work, it would be foolish to rule out the use of force in the last resort.
The sanctions have undoubtedly been effective in the sense that Iraq is suffering a virtually complete blockade on both imports and exports. In that sense they have been an astonishing success. I hope we will 1098 hear no more nonsense about sanctions being only a pipedream of woolly, liberal-minded do-gooders. But we have to face the fact that even these comprehensive and effective sanctions have not so far produced the faintest glimmer of movement from President Saddam Hussein. His forces maintain their brutal occupation of Kuwait, and the language from Baghdad has if anything become more, not less, threatening.
Some argue that while this is true we must nevertheless give sanctions more time to work their full effect on Iraq; in the end, they are bound to work. If there were really a simple, uncomplicated choice between the continuation of sanctions for, say, another six months and resort to war, I would without hesitation plump for sanctions—and so, I believe, would other noble Lords. If we could be sure that a further six months would do the trick, there would be no doubt about it. But, of course, there is no such simple, uncomplicated choice. The situation is complicated by factors that are not within the control either of the United Nations Security Council or of the states contributing contingents to the allied forces in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.
There is first the continued brutal pillaging of Kuwait, confirmed beyond any doubt by, for example, the Amnesty International report, to which the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, referred. This is no small matter. But there are other telling factors: the volatility of the situation in the Soviet Union, for example, where no one can be sure what the situation will be even a month from now. This is a critically important matter when one remembers that it was the massively changed situation in the Soviet Union that made the United Nations Security Council intervention possible in the first place.
That is not all. There is also Israel, against which President Saddam makes blood-curdling threats. Can we be reasonably sure that Israel will continue its present unusually careful policy? I have to say that recent history suggests we cannot be absolutely sure. On top of it all, we must have regard to the internal situation in the states actively opposed to the Iraqi aggression and to the possibility—or probability—of Iraqi-sponsored terrorism.
I wish the choice was a simple, uncomplicated one between continued sanctions and resort to war. I firmly believe that the sanctions must be maintained and that we must continue to support every diplomatic channel that has any reasonable chance of success. But we cannot avoid the fact that it may well be necessary to resort to war in the interest of peace in the longer term. I too reach that conclusion with a very heavy heart indeed.
There are some who recognise that resort to war may be necessary but who argue that the allied powers must not make the first strike. I find that argument irrational. The first strike was made on 2nd August when Iraq invaded Kuwait. There has been something like a state of suspended war ever since, for the United Nations has repeatedly made clear that Iraq must unconditionally withdraw.
1099 Perhaps I may add a word about that last phrase. The demand of the United Nations resolutions is that Iraq must unconditionally withdraw from Kuwait, not that Iraq must unconditionally surrender. So we are not talking of the situation that arose in the last years of the Second World War. Many, and possibly most, people in retrospect—although there were those like Bishop Bell who said it at the time—believe that that was a serious mistake, not least because it virtually ruled out the possibility of internal revolt against the Nazi regime. The situation today is fundamentally different. We call for Iraq's unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait, not for the unconditional surrender of Iraq.
I have only two more points to make. The first is that we must never overlook the religious dimension in this crisis, even though we may imperfectly understand it. That is an important rider to add. As my fellow Primate, the Archbishop of York, said in the debate in this House on 17th December, the worst possible scenario could occur if we went to war in such a way as to engage religious feelings and make it seem to Moslems that it was a religious war. That would be a recipe for reckless self-sacrifice on the part of Iraqis. It would provoke widespread support for them. It would make the winning of such a war immeasurably harder and it would make the subsequent establishment of a just peace in the region virtually impossible.
My second point is closely related. It if comes to war we must set out to achieve the United Nations objectives with the minimum amount of force necessary to do the job. Of course, we must also have regard to the safety of our own forces and not put them in unnecessary peril. But surely we must eschew the barbarities of, for example, carpet bombing centres of population. We must also be seen to be respecting Islam by observing the sacred nature of the holy places in Iraq and protecting them as far as possible from air attack. I remind your Lordships that Rome was declared an open city in the Second World War.
I say all this conscious of the grave difficulties that war presents for all christian believers. It has the power to dehumanise. The line between what is permissible and what is not is pushed ever further back. In a war in which the use of chemical weapons by the enemy is certainly a possibility, we must be resolute in our refusal to dehumanise in the same way. Then, although we believe that our cause is just, we must not suppose that all evil is in our enemies and not also in ourselves. If we have to go to war it becomes a duty to cultivate qualities of mercy and compassion and seize opportunities to express them, especially when the fighting stops.
Our prayers as christian people in these days should be urgent: first for peace and a solution without recourse to war; secondly, for those on whom the burden of decisions lies; thirdly, for combatants and their families; and, finally, for the creation of conditions which allow not us but those who live in the Gulf to build a future with the cancer of aggression cut 1100 out. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and great friend of Bishop Bell (who was killed by the Nazis in the last days of the war) once said:God is among us in our lives, and not on any side".I believe that God works not by manipulating things from on high but in the end through our actions, words and prayers. It is for these I plead and for sympathy and understanding that we shall act with intentions of healing and justice.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Lord Pym
My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. I am certain that the House will appreciate his counsel and advice. In the emergency debate on the Gulf which took place in September and also in the debate on the humble Address, I stressed the overriding importance of international agreement and solidarity and of patience. Both have been plainly demonstrated. On the former, I pay tribute to the tireless work of our Foreign Secretary, Mr. Douglas Hurd, and of the United States Secretary of State, Mr. James Baker. Both men have been immensely diligent and thorough in their consultations with allies. Indeed, it has been a continuous process and as a result the allies are firmly united. Therefore, I give the Government my wholehearted support on that aspect of the matter.
Every possible endeavour has been made to persuade Saddam Hussein to withdraw voluntarily from Kuwait, but like all dictators he categorically refuses to do so. He is even dismissive of the Secretary General of the United Nations. He has ignored the sustained build-up of forces opposite him and is impervious to any outlook except his own. Not only has he annexed Kuwait in defiance of all civilised principles, but he has also inflicted the most horrendous cruelty and brutality on the Kuwaiti people. A more inhumane tyrant would be hard to name. After all the efforts which have been made to obtain a political solution and their total rejection, the moment has come for the use of force. The military commanders must choose the most opportune moment to set about the task of removing Saddam Hussein from Kuwait by force. I see no gain in further delay but only considerable disadvantage.
No one can predict how the course of the conflict will go, but those of us who have had the opportunity of visiting the Gulf have the fullest confidence in the allied forces and especially in the British contingent, the professionalism and training of which is second to none. Our forces will acquit themselves exceedingly well. Our hope for them in particular is that the task can be carried out quickly. There is a chance that that can be done. However, we cannot count upon it. Iraq is a ruthless, battle-hardened foe and remarkably insensitive to casualties. It will be a tough fight. But, as the three powerful opening speeches in the debate have shown, our nation will give our forces total support.
It goes without saying that the need for the use of force is regretted by everyone. But the world cannot become a peaceful, orderly place if dictators like Saddam Hussein are allowed licence to run loose. He 1101 cannot have noticed the huge change in the world between the time of his invasion of Iran and now. He cannot have noticed that the domination over the world by two rival super powers is now over. The Soviet Union has expressed itself no less appalled by the invasion of Kuwait than anyone else. At present it has huge problems of its own, but it has still given positive support to the 12 United Nations resolutions. It is that international accord that is the clearest possible expression of a major change in international relationships. Such a level of agreement has not been attained before. It is the maintenance of that degree of international agreement which is the top priority of diplomacy today.
For the first time since its inception, the United Nations has found itself, in the Gulf crisis, faced with a challenge which virtually the whole of the rest of the world condemned and demanded to be corrected. Faced with that challenge, the members voted overwhelmingly on 12 occasions to put the wrong right and by force if necessary. It has created a new international situation. The approach to war in recent days —in the interests of world order—has, if anything, strengthened world solidarity. That is largely due to the fact that the allies went the last mile for peace, as did this country during the Falklands crisis. When the overtures of the last mile are callously rejected, people everywhere understand that peaceful means to a solution are no longer available and that force has to be used.
I hope that the present crisis in the Gulf and the degree of unanimity about it in this House will bring home to those who have advocated the payment of a "peace dividend" the folly of paying it before it has been earned. I expressed warnings about this all last year, but I believe that the Treasury has now written the dividend into the public expenditure figures, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, explained so clearly in a recent letter to The Times. In my view that was an error and I trust and believe that it will be corrected in the next public expenditure round, especially in view of current events.
But, in any event, other dangers in the world are emerging all the time which may affect our defence requirements and those of our allies. Options for Change was dependent upon how world events unfolded—and, quite rightly so—but there is still a great deal of uncertainty about that—too much to make any final decisions on strategy possible. What matters today is that we give our forces all the backing they need. Not only is that crucial to their success in war, but it is also crucial to their morale. Therefore, I ask my noble friend who is to reply to the debate to give an absolute assurance that the requirements in the Gulf will be matched by all the necessary resources.
Whatever happens in the next few months, and however successful the allies are in ejecting Iraq from Kuwait, the problems and the antipathies in the Middle East will be very great and perhaps almost certainly worse than they are at present. The plight of the Palestinians remains a central issue which it seems to me impossible to resolve unless Israel changes its attitude, and there is no sign of that happening. I see 1102 every reason to support the concept of an international conference on the Middle East; that is, if the circumstances can be created whereby it may be successful, otherwise I remain sceptical as to what it is likely to achieve. Many attitudes need changing.
However, such major issues are for discussion after Kuwait has been freed and the legitimate government have been restored. What matters at the moment is the regaining of Kuwait as rapidly as possible and with as few casualties as possible.
We must destroy Iraq's capability of making chemical and biological weapons and also its potential nuclear capability so that such ghastly threats are removed for good. I should like to echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn. For the future we must see that the nation states in the Middle East establish a deterrent force of their own to protect their interests and the world's main oil supply.
There is massive support in this House, in another place and throughout the country for the way in which our Government, the United States and our numerous allies have handled the unforgiveable act of aggression by Iraq. We back our forces to the hilt and wish them well in their awesome task.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, I am indebted to the most reverend Primate for the quality of his speech. He knows the respect and admiration that I have for him. If we disagree, as I dare say we shall, on the general topic of the liability of war, I hope that the controversy will not be without a sense of fellowship. I intend to say something explicit about the quality of Christian behaviour which is generally called pacifism. I am encouraged so to do because in this Chamber we are invited to take note of what is happening.
In doing so, it would be wrong to exclude not only the position of would-be pacifists within the Church but a very large and increasing number of Christians, would-be Christians and morally sensible people. It is necessary to include the position of the pacifists in our consideration of this sombre issue. That is the justification that I offer.
I am well aware of the fact that unless I speak with due humility, I shall destroy the nature and substance of what I shall endeavour briefly to put before your Lordships.
I derive my belief in pacifism from the reading of the spirit and teaching of Jesus. I find it in the Gospels. Jesus was invited to become a resistance leader and he refused the violence which would accompany such a project. He told people to put their swords back into the sheaths and stated that those who practised swordsmanship would perish by the sword. I cannot reconcile the teaching of Jesus with the spirit in which he went to his cross, confounding for the time being his zealous adherents and disciples but proclaiming a way that was radically and fundamentally different from the arbitrament of violence, even to cherish the most desirable causes.
I believe that it is sound scholarship to record that the early Christian Church was pacifist in spirit and in action. There is a theological application to that 1103 decision which is vital. We believe that the attitude of the early Christian Church was inspired by the pentecostal experience of the grace of God. It is intolerable to think that the first thing that the Christian Church did was to forsake that spirit and teaching, as they found it in Jesus. I can understand why they did it—and that has been not only the opportunity but the tragedy of the Christian Church ever since.
I cannot avoid the conclusion that whatever the cost and difficulties of applying it, Christianity began in a non-violent endeavour to produce the quality which would not only enable people to live individually with one another but which would rid society of the final terror of war. There I stand. I can do no other. That is not a claim that I would make on my own piety but it is a view derived from a reading of the Gospel and from a situation which is increasingly violent. That is something that should be recorded in a debate such as this.
Inasmuch as I believe that what is morally wrong can never be politically right, although it may take some time to achieve that purpose, I believe that we are in great danger of using a word of three letters to describe the phenomenon that has so radically changed over the last centuries so as to be almost unrecognisable in terms of what it meant in the age of the bow and arrow or the primitive age of the use of gunpowder in the West.
Although I have tried to do so, I cannot understand those who look upon the prosecution of war in this difficult situation and the prospect of victory as if it were almost ordained, as irreversible. We live in a world where the terminal effect of armed violence has to be feared. It cannot be calculated. When I read the deliberations and statements of those who claim to be scientists as to the repercussions even of a war that started locally, I find no comfort in the prospect that we should win it. If we did win, the result would be a devastation much greater than that which could be produced by other less violent means.
It is not exhibitionism on the part of those who believe in Christianity to record the fact that there is no inherent prospect of the finality of God's purposes on this planet: sooner or later it will be blacked off. Therefore, what concerns me, and an increasing number of people that I come across, is the way in which we, as a species, are likely to follow the dinosaur. A bunch of locusts will eat almost anything except another bunch of locusts and in the same way, humanity is within a distance of mutually destroying itself. It is no calculated emotionalism to back that view with feeble argument. In my judgment it is an ever increasing fear of a great many people other than those who profess the Christian faith, that the prosecution of war carries with it results that are incalculable except for the inevitable prospect that once started it would inevitably spread.
The fundamental iniquity of going to war has been recognised as a complete evil and, I would add, a very necessary corrective. I stand by pacifisim. I do not lie down under it; I do not sit under it. I have nothing but 1104 contempt for those people who profess the non-violent cause and then rest on their laurels, if they are assumed to be laurels, which they are not. I wish that I could make a like contribution to the heroism and courage of those who will be compelled to go to war.
There has been a curious recognition that parsons should not go to war or at least not have anything to do with the fighting process. We must recognise that refusal to take part in war is the introduction that we have to make to a correlative attitude of compassion and understanding for other people. I know something about it. I have been talking in the open air for 60 years. I have made many mistakes. I am not proud of it, but I am well aware of the fact that time and time again I have been impressed by the increased recognition that there must be a way of solving our corporate problems other than repetitive war.
I remember it, coming out of college after the First World War. Then on Tower Hill and elsewhere during the Second World War. Here we are again. It frightens me. It frightens me because I find that the arguments that sustain what has been said may in principle be recognisable and true. They are. I have no sympathy with Saddam's attitude and programme. He is a rogue. He is doing a great deal of evil. I should like to see some way in which he could be curbed, if not dismissed. Therefore, I make the following propositions which I believe to be consistent with my faith.
First, we should recognise that we are all sinners. One can think of Saddam as an example of total depravity, if one likes. But there is a good deal of original sin on our side as well. Therefore, the assumption that we cannot go into a conference with a sinner but recognise his place for the due admonition of his sins and repentance is impudence.
I do not know much about the Ottoman Empire, but I know that the first thing that happens in a war, as Winston Churchill said, is lying. As he said, it is an indispensable ally. I deplore the fact that I know little about what is going on and therefore I have to resort in what I believe to be a faith. Your Lordships have been patient and have listened. A number of ordinary people have written and spoken to me, as they have to my friends in other Churches. They say, "Please do something to help us get rid of this haunting fear that we are in for a total disaster".
The only thing that I can finally say, if your Lordships will allow me to say it—I shall say it anyhow—is that if we are obedient to the spirit and teaching of Jesus that will open a window however many other doors are shut. Out of that faith and obedience ultimately will come our salvation. If that sounds like a sermon, I have no apology to offer.
I am in need of the grace of God. That grace of God comes to me through Jesus Christ. I believe that substantially and eternally. If we are prepared to turn away from war as the absolute evil, we shall be able to enter into the daylight of a better world. That is my testimony. I offer it at this eleventh hour. Whatever happens tomorrow and the days after, I hope that we shall still face the issue which I have put before your Lordships, however imperfectly. I pray that we shall 1105 do it as soon as possible, not just for our own sakes, but for the sakes of our children and our children's children. We are on a temporary planet on which eternal life begins. I believe that whatever happens here, continues hereafter.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, despite the deeply respected convictions of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, I believe that there is a consensus in the House that the United Nations resolutions on Kuwait must be implemented, if necessary by the use of force. There is also a consensus throughout the House on the cruelty, ruthlessness and dangerous irrationality of Saddam Hussein and on the need to give the utmost support to our armed forces in the Gulf.
What is not so clear to me, speaking for myself, is whether the crisis has been, and is being, well handled by the American and British governments, and whether this is the right moment to launch an offensive against Iraq. The right response to the invasion of Kuwait should surely have been to dispatch troops to the Gulf to deter further aggression by Saddam Hussein; to launch a long-term campaign of sanctions, holding in reserve the threat of force as a final resort; and to use diplomacy in full to have the resolutions implemented.
That has not been the course followed by the American and British governments. To begin with, it is true, the aim of the dispatch of troops was deterrence. But that changed. On 9th November, apparently after no consultations with his senior advisers or his allies, President Bush announced the dispatch of enormous reinforcements to the Gulf and a change in posture from the defensive to the offensive. We were told at the time, by the British Government as well as by the United States Government, that it was a policy of peace —that this was the way to ensure a peaceful resolution of the Gulf crisis. If so, it was badly carried out and appears to have been a total failure.
We are bound to ask: if that was the aim of the two governments why was there an adamant refusal to contemplate any negotiations and an adamant public rejection of allowing Saddam Hussein any face saving? It is a strange way to go about peace. Why was there a refusal to make any move on Palestine, to which I shall refer again in a moment? Why were there public insults of President Saddam Hussein by President Bush? There were references to "kicking his ass", "a new Hitler", and so on. Why did the British and American governments systematically shut off all Saddam Hussein's possible avenues of retreat?
I am sure that in the future the United States' motives will be studied exhaustively by historians. They will pay tribute to the determination of many members of the United Nations to insist upon the insertion of the authority of the Security Council and the enforcement of its resolutions against a blatant act of aggression. But good historians have cold eyes. Some may also conclude that the Americans were, in 1106 addition, determined to eliminate, by force if necessary, the main threat to their oil supplies and to the security of their ally, Israel.
That conclusion is strengthened by the Americans' refusal of serious diplomacy—the refusal of any diplomacy at all indeed—and, in particular, their refusal, at this very minute, by opposing the French initiative, to make any forward move on the Palestine question. I agree with those who rightly say that Saddam Hussein's claim to support and speak for the Palestinians is completely bogus and had no part in his motivation for invading Kuwait. Nevertheless, the United States and the British governments seem gravely to have ignored the relevance of Palestine to the Kuwait crisis.
On 15th September I wrote to Mr. Waldegrave who was then in charge of Middle East affairs at the Foreign Office. I urged that the Security Council should take up the issue of Palestine, both on its own merits and because such a step would forestall the campaign on the issue that Saddam Hussein was bound to start. I wrote:Could we not bring forward, earlier than he intended, Bush's suggestion that the new "world order" should tackle the Israel/Palestine question? …The very launching of such an initiative—fully justified on its own merits—would surely have an immediate and profound effect on the Gulf crisis…It would greatly strengthen the unity and moral and political standing of the anti-Iraq coalition. Saddam Hussein's basic strategy would be undermined, and he might well decide to try to save face, arguing that Israel's withdrawal now justified his withdrawal from Kuwait".I am sorry to say that this appeal, made before Saddam Hussein began linking the Palestine and Kuwait problems, was given a very cold reception by the Government. Indeed I have to say that in spite of a telephone call to his office and a follow-up letter, I have to this day received no reply to my letter. The reason is fairly obvious, I think. As a man of courtesy with wide knowledge of the Middle East, Mr Waldegrave could think of no way of replying except to express his complete agreement.
However, the noble Earl who is to wind up took a different view. He did me the courtesy of writing to me on 26th November, 10 weeks later, answering the same appeal when I made it in one of our debates. He gave two reasons why the Government rejected the idea. He said:It would enable Saddam Hussein to claim credit for helping the Palestinians".The Government were prepared to refuse to do something justifiable on its own merits which might help to avert war because it would enable Saddam Hussein to claim credit for helping the Palestinians. That shows a strange sense of proportion. But it lies for example behind today's mistake by the Government in opposing the French initiative on Palestine, presumably for the same reason. They would say, "It might help to avert war and it might be justifiable on its merits but it would enable Saddam Hussein to claim credit for helping the Palestinians." That seems an indefensible position on the part of the Government.
1107 The second reason put forward by the noble Earl as official government policy was that my proposal would involve pressurising Israel. He said:I fully understand your concern to find a peaceful way out of the current confrontation, but we could not support the option which you outline. We have long maintained that if a solution to the Arab-Israel dispute is to be just and durable it must be freely accepted by all parties".That is to say, it must be freely accepted by the Shamir Government. In fact, it means that the Shamir Government have a veto. It means that while the Government say that proposals for ending Israel's occupation must be freely accepted by the Israeli Government the Security Council's proposals for ending Iraq's occupation must be imposed by sanctions and war. Such double standards may not be so familiar in the West. But every Arab and indeed the whole moslem world are keenly aware of them. A great part of Iraqi propaganda is rubbish. But that part of it which deals with the double standards of the United States and Britain on Palestine is valid and damaging. It weakens the claim of the two countries to loyalty to the Security Council resolutions. It helps Saddam Hussein's bogus claim to be a friend of the Palestinians; it helps him to loosen the cohesion of the coalition.
Whatever the outcome of war if, as seems likely, it comes, the double standards of the two governments on Palestine will haunt them for many years to come. Let us suppose that we have a complete military success. When the dust clears, what will the moslem world feel about two christian countries, with their superior western technology and with the political, if not the military, support of Israel, refusing to lift a finger to help the Palestinians and inflicting massive casualties, military and civilian, on an Arab and moslem country?
How far have the Government considered the consequences of what they are proposing to do? Have they worked out what their policy will be to the new regime, post-Saddam, in Iraq? Will they help it against the territorial claims which will come from Iran, from Syria and perhaps from Turkey? Will they help the new regime against the inevitable uprising of the Kurdish people? What will they do if the Israelis, with their much greater power, begin massive expulsions, as is quite possible, of West Bankers into Jordan? How will they handle the oil crisis and the worldwide economic collapse which is likely to follow? It is hard to believe that the Government have seriously weighed up the pros and cons of immediate offensive action against Iraq. If they had they would surely conclude, even at this eleventh hour, that the wisest course is to show restraint, to play the crisis long and cool, and to give sanctions and diplomacy the chance they have not yet had.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Lord Bramall
My Lords, as another Member of your Lordship's House who has been fortunate enough recently to have visited the Gulf and the splendid, well-equipped British forces out there, perhaps I may also offer a few observations on the 1108 very serious state of affairs we are discussing today. First, it does not surprise me at all that events have taken the course they have. We were, I believe, right to halt Saddam Hussein in his tracks, to gain consensus for our actions through the Security Council and to carry out the various deployments and the military and diplomatic pressures which we have done over the past few months.
However, given the fundamentally different perception of the criminality of the invasion of Kuwait between, on the one hand, the vast majority of the international community as reflected in the various United Nations resolutions and, on the other, President Saddam Hussein and his henchmen, driven on by his own equivalent of Mein Kampf, supported by extremists bent on confrontation with Israel and relishing the language if not the realities of a holy war, there could be little, if any, meeting of minds. Therefore, there could be no doubt that if Saddam Hussein, by force majeure, withdrew at all it would be at any time before five minutes to midnight, wrong-footing the alliance as much as he possibly could. By "midnight" I do not mean the somewhat arbitrary so-called deadline which is shortly about to expire. Still less do I mean that nebulous, quite indefinable and probably not even assessable future date when sanctions may be said to have worked. I mean when, and only when, Saddam Hussein believes that he is about to be struck by overwhelming and, in his perception, irresistible force; and he may still feel he has some time to run yet.
This is why it was highly unlikely that anything would come out of the Geneva meeting or, indeed, from the Secretary General's welcome but vain initiative. This is all the more so because for other practical reasons which have been fully explained by the noble Lord the Leader of the House—reasons of foreign policy—it was not deemed to be either right or feasible to link any Iraqi withdrawal to a simultaneous, let alone a before-the-event, conference on other outstanding United Nations resolutions on the area. That would be, I suppose, the one chance of a diplomatic breakthrough.
Of course, even a withdrawal at five minutes to midnight will produce its own problems, particularly if that withdrawal were to any extent staged, or only partial. However, it should not be beyond the wit of man, with so much at stake, even at that late hour to take advantage of such an undoubted step forward and then, from a position of increased strength, still backed by the alliance's formidable military power, to press for whatever further needed to be done in the interests of long-term stability in the area. So "five minutes to midnight" remains a possibility, provided Saddam Hussein is convinced that we are in earnest.
Unfortunately, it may well be that he actually wants some sort of conflict and that he does not have it in mind to withdraw until at least five minutes past midnight, after he has been attacked in strength. That would provide him with some excuse for his own people as to why, faced by the overwhelming power of outsiders and infidels and invoking the Israeli threat, real or imagined, he had been forced to throw in the 1109 towel and save his country and people from complete defeat and probable destruction. That may be the only way he feels that he can extricate himself with any honour. Therefore, we must also consider the possibility of that scenario. Of course, those "five minutes" could themselves be a highly dangerous period.
When we study the form book and note the assembled strength of the alliance with all its latest technology, particularly in the air and at night, we should not doubt that Saddam Hussein would find it very difficult once attacked, to control, supply, manoeuvre and even protect his forces in the open desert under the usually cloudless skies. His unsupported forces pounded from the air, frightened as they are bound to be in the face of such power and somewhat weary from an earlier encounter, could quickly be written down to manageable proportions. That would be the real incentive for him, or for someone else in Iraq, to call it a day if anything was to be salvaged from the wreck.
However, technology will triumph only if there is no complacency and if it is part and parcel of an effective strategic and tactical plan based on the well-tried principles of war; particularly surprise in timing and method and sufficient concentration of force to induce continuing confusion into the hearts of the enemy and its leadership. It would thus achieve its aim with the minimum of our own casualties—the whole controlled and directed at every level by highly professional and, on occasions, heroic leadership.
It also has to be faced that air supremacy by itself did not provide a panacea in Vietnam; though there, of course, the terrain was very different from the open desert. Even over the open hillsides of Korea and before that the rolling farmland of Normandy, despite the enormous value of unchallenged air interdiction without which victory might not have been possible, spirited ground resistance was still possible.
Therefore, although we are rightly putting great faith in the alliance air effort, if all goes exactly according to plan—in war, of course, it never does —the subsequent follow-up may be a great deal easier and quicker than some pessimists fear. But one cannot be certain that the whole operation will not take somewhat longer than extreme optimists may hope. As Winston Churchill once reminded us, you should never believe that war, any war, will be smooth, easy, or precisely controllable.
We should therefore, as I said in this House last September, be playing for high stakes, albeit in the pursuit of a most important principle. We therefore need, and I am sure we have assembled, the very best hand possible. Certainly, one of the Cabinet's most important responsibilities to the British people before hostilities actually start is, through our own chiefs of staff, to satisfy itself that the military plans of the alliance are sound and are likely to be achievable in a reasonable, sustainable period of time, and that the tasks given particularly to our own forces are consistent with their capabilities.
Here we must remember that there is a marked 1110 difference from the Falklands in that, instead of a clear-cut British chain of command combining the responsibilities for advice, planning and the carrying out of those plans, our chain of command in the Gulf above divisional level acts largely as adviser and observer to the United States decision-making process, with the main line of operational responsibility running from the United States headquarters in Saudi Arabia to Washington.
That is why it is more important than ever, as I suggested on 6th September, that our chiefs of staff and their supervisory commander-in-chief should keep in the closest touch on a personal and day-to-day basis with the United States joint chiefs of staff and their chairman, General Powell. This was common practice in World War II but, perhaps more significantly, it also occurred in a more comparable coalition war—Korea—when a very senior member of our own chiefs of staff (the late Lord Tedder who had only just handed over both as chief of the air staff and as chairman of the chiefs of staff committee) was sent to Washington to sit with the US joint chiefs to represent the British view, and vice versa.
That situation could be vital in the weeks ahead and I hope that the Government, in view of the large contribution that we are making to this operation, will consider something similar. After all, it would be no good in the unlikely event of things going wrong for the Government to say, "It wasn't our fault because it wasn't our plan." Nor could we default at the last moment if we were unhappy about certain orders given to our men. We have to get the planning and representation right in advance.
Of course, there is likely to be another important difference from the Falklands. The British people are likely to have to make more sacrifices and have the realities of war brought home to them more than they did in the Falklands, unless they, very sadly, lost relatives and loved ones in the battle. For, however long or brief the shooting war may last, there is bound to be a considerable impact on the economic life of this country, on oil prices, on financial markets generally, perhaps on taxation and on the smooth pursuit of business interests worldwide.
We may also have to face up to terrorist threats and action against British lives and property at home and abroad. But perhaps we should be satisfied that the burden of any armed struggle against tyranny, for the benefit of future collective peace and the preservation of international order and the United Nations, is borne more widely and not only by our professional fighting men far from home.
I expect that the Government will have made their appreciation of whether standing up to tyranny and blatant aggression now is better than facing it in other, perhaps worse, guises and situations in the future; whether doing just that merits the perhaps somewhat indefinable, but still inevitable, risks; and whether indeed we have gone the last mile for peace and explored every other practical alternative.
If the answer had been no to those questions, it would indeed have been right and still courageous to 1111 abandon any immediate thought of the use of force and to pursue the same objectives by some slower, less emphatic and, of course, much less certain means, however awkward that may be. But if the Cabinet's decision—and it is only the Cabinet, knowing all the facts and having all the information, which can take it —is to say yes to those questions, then I personally believe that there is now no practical alternative but to show the courage of our convictions. Then, at the proper moment, we should move up with confidence to that midnight point and, if still necessary, initiate warlike operations.
We must not flinch from the task, nor from the odd setback, as, incidentally, occurred early in the Falklands, nor in the face of a surely to be anticipated propaganda counter-attack against us and our allies perpetrated by every possible means—I hope not fuelled too much by our own media—nor from any terrorist activity aimed at British lives and property. We must be prepared to pursue our justified and military aims to a proper and reasonable conclusion. If the final decision is taken to use force to free Kuwait, the Government will be expected to show real leadership.
I hope it is not presumptuous to say that we heard a fine, fighting speech from the noble Lord the Leader of the House at the start of the debate. The nation will, not unnaturally, be extremely apprehensive and will, to a considerable extent, have to be geared up to war, however short we may hope that war will be. The nation will have to be rallied with the same sense of commitment, duty and confidence in the justice of our cause as Winston Churchill inspired the nation when power-hungry tyranny last had to be forcibly resisted, because the alternatives of not doing so were so much worse still.
I am completely certain of one thing knowing the Armed Forces as I do. I visited them recently together with the noble Lords, Lord Pym, Lord Mayhew and Lord Richard. I know that the Armed Forces when given the order—I hope that order will be based on a plan which reduces risks and our own casualties to a minimum—will act with the greatest resolution, courage and professional skill. They do not wish for a war in any way. They are the ones who would have most to suffer and most to lose. Nevertheless they will carry out their duty in an exemplary fashion and in a way which will make us feel immensely proud and not a little humble. In that context I wish to pick up on a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Pym. I hope that no one in Whitehall will be so remiss as to plan, let alone announce, severe future reductions in the Armed Forces while the outcome and aftermath of the Gulf crisis are still impossible to assess accurately. Not only would that be tactless and unfeeling beyond belief with so many servicemen prepared to give of their all to see us through, but with the situation in the Soviet Union also so confused, dangerous and uncertain it could also be highly irresponsible. There have in the past been too many similar instances of euphoria about peace in our time, which have so quickly proved to be false dawns, for us to be entirely 1112 comfortable about the way in which the so-called options for change seem to be developing. I trust that the House will receive some reassurance on that point from the Minister when he replies to the debate.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, we are deeply indebted, not for the first time, to the noble and gallant Lord who has just spoken for giving us a clear picture of what a military conflict would entail, and the desirable measures which would need to be taken by Her Majesty's Government and by the people. Having listened to the opening speeches of the debate, which is our third debate on the Gulf, I am moved to feel and to suggest that although there are a variety of views on the matter—no doubt others will be expressed—in practice, there is only one choice. Either we accept the sincere views which, not for the first time, have been put before us by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and say that war is the most unthinkable of evils and we must not wage it, or we must agree that it may well be necessary in order to fulfil the aims and purposes of the United Nations and of the allied governments to use the arbitrament of force.
I was moved, as I always am, by the sincerity of the noble Lord, Lord Soper. If we accept his view that means we accept, after these five and a half months, the annexation of Kuwait. One could argue that the Kuwaitis would be better off left under Iraqi tyranny and subject to continuous depredations upon their lives and property than they might be in the event of their country being the scene of a modern war. That is clearly not the view that our Kuwaiti friends tell us the Kuwaitis hold. However, if that is what the Kuwaitis feel, it is an argument which deserves respectful consideration. It may be that we ought to let Saddam Hussein have Kuwait. That is the ultimate consequence of the arguments that have been put forward which suggest that, under all circumstances, a modern war is something that we cannot fight. Or we have to say that the liberation of Kuwait, the defeating of aggression and the fortification of the strength and purposes of the United Nations are all important principles and that everything we do must be subordinate to them.
I am afraid that I shall now go over ground which I went over in this House on the previous occasion that we discussed the Gulf. I find it difficult to accept the belief that sanctions, even if prolonged for months, could now do the trick. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition asked for more information on whether sanctions were working and whether some countries were in breach of sanctions. Those are matters which will be of interest to the future shapers of foreign policy or to future historians. However, they are not relevant to the problem that we now face. It is probably true that sanctions are working to a considerable extent. The Iraqi people are getting poorer, more miserable; and they are being deprived of more of the staples of life. That position will get worse. However, does that prove that that position will assist in the purpose of removing Saddam Hussein from Kuwait? If one relies on sanctions to bring pressure on the civilian population, one must rely on 1113 them also to produce an internal upheaval; that is, getting rid of the government who are at fault and instituting a government who are prepared to make peace. What we know about the situation in a country run by a closely-knit police regime makes that a wholly unlikely hypothesis. Therefore we must come back to the fact that the purpose of the threat of war, the original purpose of sanctions and the purpose of diplomacy, is to persuade Saddam Hussein to change his mind and to go back on what he has said with repeated vehemence over the past few months. That means that we are not, as in the textbooks, imposing sanctions against a country or a people. We are imposing sanctions against a man. We have no experience of the success of that tactic, and as far as I can see we have no reason to be optimistic.
There is furthermore the point which I believe I made during the previous debate on this subject. Even if we were to rely on sanctions for a further period of months, they would require the maintenance of something like the present forces in the Gulf. As the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, pointed out, although, strictly speaking, the present forces in the Gulf are more than would have been necessary to defend Saudi Arabia against further aggression, we cannot now, having got ourselves into this position, rule out the view that the further initiation of war is as likely to be undertaken by Saddam Hussein himself as by the allied forces. He will have, and has now, that option. He may exercise it against Israel; he may exercise it against one of our allies; he may exercise it against our own troops.
So long as we are involved in sanctions, we are acting in a hostile fashion. At the same time we are losing the initiative and handing it over to our adversary. That is quite apart from the strains which it is universally agreed would follow a long prolongation of the present stand-off, strains within allied countries—even within our own country and even more so in the United States—but more conspicuously among the countries of the region itself. Those strains would undoubtedly come to the fore and be exploited if there was seen to be the possibility of endless procrastination.
However, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, mentioned, there are other considerations which derive from the changes in the world scene since the United Nations originally met to deal with the situation at the beginning of August. At that time many people assumed—I was not among them—that perestroika and glasnost were here to stay, and that we could write off Europe as an area with which our armed forces need ever be concerned now or in the future. The events of the past few days have revealed the fact that whatever the outcome of the current problems in the Soviet Union—and it may be years before that outcome is clear—Europe is not an area of guaranteed stability. Therefore, it is undesirable that so much of the armed force of this country, the United States and to some extent of other Western European countries should be tied up a very long way away facing a third world dictator in a permanent stand-off.
1114 As the noble and gallant Lord rightly said, those are considerations which affect the budgetary attitude which Her Majesty's Government ought to take to the needs of the armed forces. They also have a direct implication for what is happening now, what should happen or what is likely to happen in the next few months.
In taking the view that we can accept either the attitude of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, or that of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, I should also take the view that we are making too much of the lack of diplomacy, as though the reason Saddam Hussein was still in Kuwait was that no one had politely asked him to leave or even offered him a suggestion that there might be something for him if he did. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, was particularly guilty of that. As the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, with his connections in the Arab world, well knows, there have not only been the much publicised meetings between Secretary Baker and Mr. Aziz, the journey of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and of various amateur intermediaries, there has also been a constant stream of messages to and fro between members of the Arab League and the Government of Iraq, much of which has been reported. There have been the efforts of the Algerians and others and even, latterly, of the Yemenis, to try to put in hand some form of negotiation.
In response, we have received no suggestion that if this or that were done to save Saddam's face there might be an evacuation but, on the contrary, the proclamation of a holy war. The most reverend Primate was right to caution us that under no circumstances if war comes should we regard it as a war of religion. Nevertheless, it has been proclaimed by Saddam Hussein as a war of religion, and that is a fact of which we have to take notice.
I am sure that there have been weaknesses in our diplomacy. There are always weaknesses in diplomacy. However, the idea that because of a commitment to Israel or for some other extraneous reasons the United States and this country have been unwilling to seek peace is not demonstrable on the facts of the case and cannot be sustained.
I should have no objection to M. Dumas going to Baghdad or President Mitterrand going to Baghdad if there were the possibility of a French-mediated withdrawal from Kuwait. The fact that it happened on the 16th or the 17th of January rather than the 15th would not I think unduly upset any of us. However, I believe that the real reason why there has been some scepticism about the French approach—and perhaps this will be confirmed by the noble Earl when he comes to reply—is that it is difficult to see that anything is on offer or could be offered that has not already been turned down by Saddam Hussein. Therefore, to adopt that approach would simply be to cast another stone into the whirlpool without altering the situation to any extent.
As I said at the beginning, I remain deeply moved by the view that possibly the noble Lord, Lord Soper, is right and that war must now at any rate, if not always, be wrong. It does not seem to me that that is 1115 for us to say. So long as we are asked by others to recover the liberty of Kuwait and to defend the position that the United Nations has adopted, I believe that it is not for a former private soldier like me to argue with the noble and gallant Lord.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, it may clarify the issue that we are debating today if I say straightaway that those of us who are critical of the general line that has been taken by the Government are debating the means only and not the end. The debate is primarily concerned with whether sanctions or war should be used in order to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. There is no question about our agreement on the end. I shall attempt later to meet head on the arguments which the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, has just put against the use of sanctions.
As part of the legislature of this country, when debating this issue we have a duty to weigh up the balance of the consequences of those two methods of securing the accepted end. We have a duty to our own fellow citizens now in the Gulf. We have a duty as members of the human race to the citizens throughout the world who will be affected by our decisions.
First, in weighing up those two alternatives we must ask the question: what will war bring? We may well agree that war is likely to get rid of Saddam Hussein and his forces in Kuwait. But what will be the consequences and what will be left there? We have heard a great deal—far too much—about war in this case being a clean strike, a surgical operation. Extending that metaphor further, it may very well be that that surgical operation will leave the patient dead. All the estimates of the means by which this war will be pursued suggest very strongly that few Kuwaitis will be left alive and little will be left of the past Kuwait.
I make no apology in going on from there to draw attention to the effects of the war, with its impact on oil prices and on the famine which now threatens at least 20 million people in Africa alone. They will be faced with death. We have to add to the casualties of war hundreds of thousands and possibly millions who will die in the third world as a result of the impact of war.
Much has been said about the effects on the environment and a new report on that subject has just been published by 10 scientists. I shall not go into it in detail. I believe that we all recognise that there is a very great danger that war in that territory will affect the environment not just of the area itself but of Europe, a great deal of Asia and possibly the world as a whole.
Then we must consider what will come out of the war. Nobody will argue that war in the Middle East will not lead to devastation in that area, followed almost certainly by another power struggle. Are we attempting to replace Saddam Hussein of Iraq with President Assad of Syria, the Turks or the Saudi Arabians? Are those regimes less brutal or less dictatorial than that of Iraq? Let us remember that the oft quoted United Nations Security Council 1116 Resolution 678 includes the objective: to restore international peace and security in the area. Is it possible that war can restore international peace and security in that area? I suggest that that is impossible.
There is one aspect of the consequences of war which has not been fully explored. I refer to the temptation that war, particularly if it removes Saddam Hussein, may very well give to nuclear proliferation. It would surely be quite logical for another dictator to say, "Before I go into my equivalent of Kuwait, I shall make certain that I have nuclear weapons because that is the only way in which I can guarantee that I shall be successful".
I ask the noble Earl who will wind up this debate to answer this question in the House. There have been reports that Saudi Arabia has already obtained nuclear weapons from the Chinese and that the defence ministry of Saudi Arabia is resisting the attempt of the United States to examine those weapons and the planes and missiles to which they will be attached. I do not know whether that is true. It has been so reported. I should like the noble Earl to clear up that issue and tell us whether the Saudis are believed to have nuclear weapons supplied by the Chinese.
But that is only an illustration of the danger that I perceive coming from the effects of the war. As has been mentioned on all sides, right across the world waves will be felt; economic waves, social waves and political waves, whose effects are incalculable. If we do get out Saddam Hussein by force of arms, what have we established? Yes, it is right to get him out, but if we have done it by force of arms surely we are accepting his own ethic that might is right, and thereby encouraging others to follow that ethic. If sanctions are abandoned and war is to be the alternative, will sanctions ever again be recognised as a means of solving international conflict? Will it not be the case —we have seen this already in the popular press and indeed at times in this House, even this afternoon—that the cause of sanctions will be discounted?
When one comes to consider the operation of sanctions, I say to the noble Lord the Leader of the House (perhaps my remarks will be passed on to him as he is not in his place at the moment) that his argument against sanctions does not hold up because sanctions have not yet been tried. At the beginning of this conflict, way back last August, and for some months afterwards it was said that the strategy was to use economic sanctions, a blockade and a military force used defensively. On 6th September the Foreign Office made the following statement. After talking about an adequate deterrent as essential to prevent further aggression it went on to say:We now have the machinery to ensure that sanctions work and there is very broad agreement that this is the right way forward. Only by ensuring that sanctions bite can we be optimistic of persuading Saddam Hussein to withdraw".That was the original strategy. It was said openly and authoritatively that in order to work sanctions would require at least 12 months before they could have the desired effect. That period has been modified into 12 to 18 months. On 8th November that policy was 1117 discarded, so far as I know unilaterally and without consultation with the British Government or any other government. It was discarded by the United States Administration. From then on the United Nations was hijacked by the United States Administration to follow the totally new policy which had been initiated on that date when the President declared that he intended virtually to double the number of American forces in the Gulf. That meant that there would be no rotation and—he said it openly —the American force was now to be regarded as an offensive and not a defensive force.
I must say that the debate on this issue has been much more open and informed in the United States than in this country. During the past few weeks we have seen noted Americans who cannot be accused of appeasement—men such as Senator Nunn, former Secretaries of State for Defense James Schlesinger and Robert MacNamara and, as my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition added, the two previous chairmen of the Chiefs in Staff of the United States before General Powell—claiming that sanctions must be given time to work. The CIA has estimated that by April the Iraqi airforce will be badly damaged by sanctions. Dick Cheney, Secretary of State for Defense, said that sanctions will work if they are given time. I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, that his opposition to sanctions has been met by distinguished Americans. I quote only one of many who could be quoted. When Robert MacNamara gave evidence before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee he said about sanctions:With the embargo continuing, Saddam's strength— economic, political and military—Saddam's strength will decline month by month. Holding our own military forces in place without action may lead to some reduction in our own military readiness, but the effect of the sanctions during such a period will, I believe, weaken the Iraqis' military capability far mote rapidly than the harsh conditions of a desert deployment will diminish ours"—
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, I am grateful for the words of Mr. MacNamara but I am afraid that they do not meet the point as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch. Robert MacNamara was saying that sanctions will weaken the military forces available to Saddam Hussein and perhaps the duration will weaken the military strength that we must put against him. That still leaves the prospect of a military confrontation. Mr. MacNamara does not say that at some point during sanctions Saddam Hussein will say that the game is up and leave Kuwait.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, strictly speaking that is not correct. Not only Robert MacNamara but many other Americans when testifying have suggested that in their opinion the weakening of the Iraqi military machine by sanctions will either lead Saddam Hussein to order a retreat from Kuwait or will lead to such weakness within the military force that it will itself turn against Saddam Hussein. That proposition has been put seriously by a number of experienced Americans. I suggest that we must not consider sanctions merely as a method of reducing the living standards of the Iraqi people. As I said in my previous speech on 17th December, they must also be assessed for their effect on the Iraqi military machine.
1118 I ask the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, to answer the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos. What is the Government's evidence of the failure of sanctions during the past six months? The British people and the world are entitled to know. We began with a policy based on sanctions which it was said would be successful only after at least 12 months. If it was right then why have the Government abandoned that policy? What evidence do they have to show not only that sanctions are having no effect but that they cannot have an effect during the period that was stated on both sides of the Atlantic as being necessary?
§ Lord Waddington
My Lords, I wish to make it plain that at no stage during the course of my speech did I say that sanctions have not worked in the sense of having a deleterious effect on the Iraqi economy. The question for this House is whether they have worked in making Saddam Hussein's position less secure.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (The Earl of Caithness)
My Lords, I know that the noble Lord does not wish to mislead the House. However, he continues to quote with authority the period of 12 months for sanctions to work. Can he tell the House from where he obtained that figure?
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, the quotation comes from the American Administration. Last September it was said there, as it was said here, that sanctions were to be used in addition to military defence; and it was said that it would take at least 12 months for sanctions to produce an effect.
I did not suggest that the noble Lord the Leader of the House had said that sanctions have had no effect. I am asking the Government to tell the House and the country of the evidence on which they base their assessment that, whatever effect sanctions have had in the first five months of operation, during a period of 12 to 18 months they cannot be successful in achieving the effect for which they were originally imposed. If that is the case, what was the point of the original strategy? Why from August to November were we and the whole world told that the allies and the forces under the United Nations were in position to defend Saudi Arabia and that sanctions, plus the presence of those forces, would achieve the objective of the United Nations resolutions? Was that said simply to deceive a sufficient number of people in order to establish the coalition? What was the purpose of saying that? We are entitled to have that information from the Government tonight.
My principal case remains as it was previously. I was surprised that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition introduced the issue of Mussolini and Abyssinia. The first public speech that I ever made as a schoolboy was in calling for sanctions against Mussolini because of his invasion of Abyssinia. Who were those who appeased Mussolini? Who were those who preferred the Hoare-Laval Pact to the imposition by the League of Nations of sanctions? They were the predecessors of the present members of the Government. Those of us who have always consistently supported the concept of the League of 1119 Nations and then of the United Nations have been calling continually for sanctions as an alternative to military force and to appeasement, and equally so. That is still the case today—
§ Lord Annan
My Lords, is it not a fact that the people whom the noble Lord is praising for their devotion to the League of Nations and collective security opposed re-armament and, therefore, left this country in a powerless condition in 1939?
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I cannot answer three people at once. Perhaps I may answer the noble Lord, Lord Annan—
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, was the noble Lord's first speech to his schoolfriends also 20 minutes in length?
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, I had a very close relationship with my father, who was a Member of the Cabinet in 1935. I can assure the noble Lord that our failure to intervene in the Abyssinian dispute was based on military considerations and not on any desire to appease Mussolini.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, perhaps I may just reply to that. Only the following year we were faced with the Hoare-Laval pact, which was concocted by in Britain a Conservative Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Secretary of the Republic of France.
I have now been interrupted five times and I wish to conclude with my central point. As the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, pointed out, the original strategy from the beginning of this issue was that sanctions plus defensive military force were to be used. We hoped that that would be accompanied by diplomacy. There have been diplomatic efforts by the United States, the United Nations, the Arabs and even President Kaunda but not, unfortunately, so far as I know by the British.
However, the alternative now is surely quite clear. If sanctions are to be discarded, as they have been since last November, and if military force is to take their place as the arbiter of political conflict, are we not destroying the hope which many of us had at the end of the cold war? We hoped for a new age and a new kind of world, a world in which we would strive for relations between nations to be based on the rule of law, a world in which national security would be a function of collective security supported by conflict resolution services and peace-keeping forces of multilateral institutions; for example, the United Nations and regional organisations using a new method of conflict resolution of sanctions rather than the old disastrous method of military force. As I pointed out, such force can and must bring catastrophe not only to the Middle East but also to the rest of the third world and to our world.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Lord Walston
My Lords, on two points I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hatch. I agree with him when he, the first among any of the speakers this evening, reminded us of the effect of the Gulf war on countless hungry people in the third world. That is something which we are far too inclined to forget. We concentrate on our own problems and do not realise the effect that this dispute is having not only on their food supplies but also on their general economic development and their efforts to bring their standard of living closer in line with that of the West. I am most grateful to the noble Lord for reminding us of that.
I agree also with the noble Lord's opening comments. I and those of my colleagues with whom I have discussed this matter are in full agreement that the decision which must now be taken is the decision between whether to allow sanctions to continue for an indeterminate period or whether it is now time to resort to force of arms.
My own view is that on that matter we must be guided—and I say this without any undue humility —by those who have access to all the information which is necessary before reaching such a decision. For private individuals, as are most of your Lordships, that is denied. We do not have, and it is correct that we should not have, such information. Therefore, I will go along happily with the decision of those in this country, the United States and the Security Council to resort now, at some suitable period after midnight, to force of arms.
My criticism of what has happened so far is nothing to do with that but is to do with what can briefly be described as honesty. I have a nasty feeling that we are not being honest with ourselves or with the world at large in our reasons for going to war in the Gulf. Unfortunately, I did not note the words of the noble Lord the Leader of the House; but he spoke very movingly of the attack upon an innocent, harmless, defenceless, small country by its great neighbour. Undoubtedly that is something which we do not like, approve of or condone in any way. However, I do not believe—and I hope that I am right in not believing —that our foreign policy is based on emotions of that kind. It would be delightful if that were possible, but foreign policy must be based on pragmatism and on real facts.
If we look back not too many years, we did not take much action when Hungary was invaded by the Soviet Union. We did not take action over the West Bank. We did not take action over the virtual genocide of the Kurds. We are now showing no signs of taking any action over the movement of Soviet tanks in Lithuania. I am not saying that we should have done that, but it must be quite clear that we are not motivated by those high moral beliefs of dashing to the defence of the damsel in distress. Rather we are motivated by what is best for our own country, for the EC and, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, reminded us, for the United Nations.
In view of the fact that this country and western Europe as a whole are no longer great world powers 1121 —and it is rather doubtful as to whether there are any great world powers—the United Nations is now our greatest and possibly only hope of establishing a new world order. That is the justification for supporting the action approved by the United Nations of using force in the Gulf at present. Therefore, I beg the Government not to try to obfuscate the issue by speaking of the moral need to go to the help of a poor, defenceless country. Rather it is the economic necessity of ensuring that the Middle East becomes once again a peaceful and prosperous area because of its importance to the whole of the western world and the third world also.
That leads me on to the second point that when a war is fought, there must be war aims. I am not very clear what are our war aims at present. Listening to most of the speeches—in fact, I think all the speeches—one would believe that our war aims would be satisfied once Iraq has moved out of Kuwait. It has been suggested by some that our war aims will be satisfied only if the war potential of Iraq has been destroyed. However, as yet, nobody has suggested how that could be achieved.
I again urge the Government to define our war aims so that when the war effort is successful, as we are all sure that it will be—though there is some dispute as to how long it will take—we shall know what we are hoping to achieve and we shall aim to achieve it.
I suggest that it is inevitable that there must be some peaceful settlement of the many troubled areas in the Middle East. That settlement should be largely directed and influenced by the Arab nations with the minimum of interference from the outside world; in other words, a Middle East peace conference. Whether or not that will enable Saddam Hussein to say, "Look what I achieved. Without me this would never have happened", is irrelevant when we are discussing war and peace, the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and the welfare of tens of millions of people. If he claims some form of victory, so be it. I suspect that his words and claims will have lost a great deal of credibility by that time.
It is essential that we enunciate what the war aims are. I am speaking not only of the United Kingdom but also of the allied forces and the United Nations. If that includes, as I believe it must, a conference on a peaceful settlement of disputes in the Arab countries, let us say so now as clearly and as loudly as we can. If that leads to Saddam Hussein claiming victory and withdrawing, many lives will be saved. If, as I suspect, it has no effect on him, then we must go ahead. But we shall know in which direction we are going and what we wish to achieve when we eventually arrive.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Lord Pearson of Rannoch
My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and my noble friend Lord Beloff, have already drawn your Lordships' attention to an important government policy affecting the morale of our troops in the Gulf: Options for Change. The effect is extremely negative. I hope to support what was said by adding some material from a slightly different angle.
1122 First, for the record, I shall give some background. Options for Change is a discussion document which was issued by the Ministry of Defence in July 1990 before Iraq invaded Kuwait. It was conceived in around March 1990 in response to demands for payment of what was called a "peace dividend", following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and of some of the communist regimes of Eastern Europe.
The expression, "peace dividend" meant a cut in arms expenditure to reflect the reduced threat from the Soviet Union and its satellites as perceived at the time. I understand that the Government have not reached any conclusion as to exactly what the cuts in the military budget should be, or exactly where they should fall. But I have spoken to a number of senior serving soldiers whose perception of the Government's intention in this exercise—a perception shared widely by the men under their command— must be very bad for their morale at this time.
Perhaps I may refer particularly to the Army. The perception is that around one third of it is soon to be cut. It was originally suggested that the cuts should take place in 1995. Recently, for some reason that nobody can quite fathom, the date has been brought forward to 1993. I am afraid I must say that means men may be going into action in the Gulf who feel that they have as good as got their redundancy notices in their pockets. I would have thought from that dishonourable prospect alone that the Government should announce that the entire Options for Change exercise had been shelved indefinitely.
There is another reason why any of the options so far considered for change, or reduction of our armed forces, are unlikely to be wise; that reason is the situation which exists in the Soviet Union today. Surely events in Lithuania and Latvia must convince us of one of only two possibilities. Either Mr. Gorbachev, despite having taken more power than Stalin ever had, has lost control of the Soviet Union, or, he never was the man so many people in the West trusted him to be.
Of those two possibilities, the second would have the most serious implications for any proposed cut in our armed forces. I do not have time in this debate on the Gulf to detail the whole case which suggests that Mr. Gorbachev has always been more the servant and saviour of the Soviet communist system than its master intent on moving it towards democracy, as we understand that word. I should perhaps pick out a few points for your Lordships to consider.
The troops which have just gone into Riga are Spetznaz troops, under the command of the Ministry of the Interior. Even if Mr. Gorbachev was too busy over lunch to talk to Mr. Landsbergis of Lithuania two days before the army carried out its brutal murders in Vilnius—which may suggest that Mr. Gorbachev had lost control of the army—there can he no such excuse when Spetznaz troops are used in Riga. I repeat that Spetznaz troops are under his direct control and that of his interior minister, whom he has just appointed.
1123 One should perhaps ask why some 300 million dollars worth of food and other supplies per month are still being airlifted by Moscow to the regime in Afghanistan. One could also ask why the 12 billion deutschmarks paid by the new Germany to the Soviet Union to help it rehouse the 380,000 Soviet troops stationed in East Germany, appears to have been deflected to build military installations in the Western Ukraine. Why, also, did the Soviet Union approve a 20 per cent. increase in its military budget only two months ago?
Even if we leave those distressing military doubts aside, the signs of what is going on in Moscow are now very disturbing. The Interfax news agency in Moscow was forcibly closed two days ago, cutting off one of the main vehicles which the unofficial press had been using to communicate with the outside world. Mr. Sacha Podrabinek, the editor of Express Chronica, one of the most effective publications of the unofficial press, was attacked two days ago by the KGB while photographing its activity in crowd control. That attack would have been unthinkable even three months ago.
As I said, this is not the time to detail the whole picture from the Soviet Union today. Perhaps it might be helpful to do so on another occasion. But I hope I have said enough to show that not only is the continued existence of the Options for Change exercise in any form at all extremely damaging to the morale of our troops, it is also certain to be misconceived in its strategic detail in view of what is now happening in the Soviet Union.
I therefore join the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and my noble friend Lord Beloff in submitting a must urgent plea to the Government to say as soon as possible—which I am afraid means immediately—that Options for Change is an idea of the past.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe
My Lords, perhaps I may begin by apologising to the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal. I was not able to hear his speech due to a previous engagement. I apologise also to my noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos as I was not able to hear his entire speech.
I grew up during the war between 1939 and 1945. It is time that somebody said we should express our appreciation to the United States of America which, despite a great temptation to go into an isolationist stance with its enormous resources, area and population, has stood by the rest of the world during the course of this century. We would now be in a grave situation if it were not prepared to risk transient unpopularity for taking a stance on a matter of principle.
I was disappointed with the remarks of one or two noble Lords who introduced a rather cynical note into our reasons for taking strong action in the Gulf. I remind your Lordships that when this country moved into the Falklands after the Argentinians invaded, there was no substantial deposit of oil there. There are 1124 a few sheep and, I understand, a few shrimps offshore. There were no substantial mineral or other resources. We went into the Falklands on the principle that nobody should get away with aggression. That lesson has been learnt and we should remember it.
A number of noble Lords said that there should be an international conference on the Middle East. In that context the Palestinian problem has been mentioned. The conference must have a wider agenda than that: the plight of the Jews in Syria and the Christians in the Lebanon would certainly be worth a place. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Walston. The plight of the Kurds should also be mentioned. What has been done to them in Iraq by Saddam Hussein is quite disgraceful and well documented.
My noble friend Lord Hatch mentioned the famine which is hitting the whole of the eastern region of Africa. If it is thought that the way through the problem is to have an international conference then it should debate far wider issues of much greater import than the comparatively narrow one put forward so far. On previous occasions in this House I have drawn attention to the problems of the Sudan where a fundamentalist military regime with a very narrow political and ideological view is jeopardising the welfare of the Sudanese people. Not only is the civil war endangering their lives; there is also a very real threat of famine and possible starvation facing millions this year.
It is a critical situation. On more than one occasion I have drawn your Lordships' attention to the plight of the very substantial Christian minority in the Sudan. There are very serious problems there as in neighbouring Ethiopia. I went to that country some years ago before the first very substantial famine. The writing was on the wall then. There is wide scale death and destruction caused by these factors. The ongoing civil war is consuming a very substantial part of the budget. The Relief Society of Tigray estimates that about two-thirds of the country's crop deficit has been caused by the war. In addition, since the fall of Massawa last month to the rebel group, the EPLF says that there is now only one port available for food aid to come into this handicapped country.
There are similar problems in Eritrea, reflected in the dreadful situation there. Famine, drought and economic insecurity reign. People are trapped in the enclave around Asmara because of the February takeover. There is a lack of water, food and power supplies which add to the difficulties. These three countries, with the addition of Somalia in the Horn of Africa, deserve international attention.
Apart from the difficulties of war in Somalia there is severe drought and potential famine. Somalia is becoming one of the most deeply divided African nations with inter-tribal difficulties. It is feared that even if the Barre regime should fall there will be a substantial outbreak of tribal war. Since war broke out in May 1988 it has been estimated that between 500,000 and 600,000 people have died, most of them unarmed civilians, killed by government bombs and 1125 execution squads. The Red Berets, Barre's personal body guard and likened to the Romanian Securitate, has been responsible for a number of atrocities.
These countries are adjacent to Saudi Arabia and the Middle East region which is the subject of today's debate. There are very serious problems here which should be attended to. How has the United Nations, representing the world community, responded over the past 10 years? Resolutions taken in the General Assembly of the United Nations over the past 10 years show that Ethiopia has merited four although it has an area of 50 times that of Israel. There has not been one resolution relating to the Kurds despite the atrocities perpetrated on them by the Iraqis in terms of the chemical and bacteriological warfare which has been referred to. There have been no resolutions on Eritrea. There have been three resolutions concerning Somalia, which has an area 30 times that of Israel, and two concerning the Sudan, an area 100 times that of Israel. There has been one joint resolution on the whole region over a period of 10 years.
When considering Israel and the Palestinian problem, in the same 10-year period there have been 19 resolutions concerning Israel including armaments and nuclear weapons. There have been 10 resolutions concerning Palestine. With Israel and Palestine broadly classified as the Middle East, there have been 16 resolutions. In effect we have had 45 resolutions on the Israeli-Palestine problem relating to an area the size of Wales with a population of fewer than 4 million. Over the same 10-year period, the entire Horn of Africa has merited 10 resolutions. When are we going to get a sense of perspective into this matter? When are we really going to tackle these problems as a world community? I entirely support the Government's actions concerning the Gulf and their deployment of forces. Much though I regret it, if it comes to the use of force, then they have my entire support. I hope that, in the fullness of time, these other problems to which I have referred will be addressed.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Lord Ashbourne
My Lords, I reflected very carefully before deciding to speak this evening because it seemed to me that so many of your Lordships have much greater experience than I in the field of foreign affairs. I doubted whether I had anything meaningful to say which had not been said already. However, in view of gravity of the situation I felt it important to state briefly my support for the actions of Her Majesty's Government within the framework of the overall United Nations' position.
Already President Saddam Hussein has set his snare. He announced to the world that all hostages would be released: a ploy calculated to demonstrate that he is a reasonable man with whom the United Nations can do business. King Hussein his ever-faithful mouthpiece, was telling interviewers that all Saddam wants is a peaceful solution to Iraq's problems with Kuwait and the Palestinians' problems with Israel.
1126 When the House debated the Gulf situation on 17th December, the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition asked:can the Minister say whether the Government now believe that sanctions supported by Resolution 670, which authorises measures to tighten air embargo and deny entry to ships, are working well enough to justify a stay of military action?" —[Official Report, 17/12/90; col. 655.]That was the question which perceptive Members of your Lordships' House were eager to hear answered because upon the answer your Lordships could reasonably make a balanced evaluation of what is likely to happen in the future.
I have searched through Hansard with great vigour and I cannot find an answer to that question. If I have overlooked it I apologise to Her Majesty's Government. I urge most earnestly the noble Earl who is to wind up this evening to answer that question with as much accuracy as he can because it is central to what we are debating this evening. If he does not answer it the only conclusion we can draw is that the Government cannot do so and are incapable of making a realistic evaluation of how sanctions are working. I hope that that is not the case. If it is, I urge the noble Earl to take immediate action to make sure that this grievous shortfall is rectified.
The proponents of sanctions like to conjure up the image of a noose steadily tightening around Saddam Hussein's neck; but it is unlikely to work that way. A more accurate image is that of a noose slowly fraying over time to the point where Saddam Hussein slips the knot. Experts like Mr. Robert Inman, former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, believe that sanctions will strangle Iraq's air force and air defence capability within five to eight months, or somewhere between January and April of this year. But, says Mr. Inman, the history of sanctions in peace time is that, after some initial pain, the longer they continue the more the target adjusts. Noble Lords will judge for themselves the credibility of that view. I believe it to be a very accurate assessment of how sanctions work in practice, leaving the United Nations facing the stark choice of either going to war or letting the aggressor win. I believe that the allies have no option but to go to war, having exhausted every diplomatic option, and I commend to the House the resolution of Her Majesty's Government.
Finally, I wish to quote two verses of scripture from St. Mark, chapter 13, verses 7 and 8. About 2,000 years ago the Saviour of the World said:When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains".Noble Lords will judge for themselves the validity or otherwise of those verses and the relevance of them to the situation in the Gulf today.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, as it seems to me, Saddam Hussein has made his ultimate objectives completely clear. They are by one means or another to eject American forces from the Gulf and then to 1127 concentrate on the elimination of the Saudi regime, which he regards as traitorous to the Islamic cause. Indeed he has himself been talking of the necessity for a jihad, or holy war, for this purpose. Before a multitude of his supporters he has also gone so far as implicitly to accept the title of a modern Saladin. If he achieves this eminence he will no doubt also attempt to follow the example of his hero and throw the Israelis, in their capacity as Westerners, into the sea.
All this may, to some extent, be regarded as bravado, but whether or not it is, one thing is certain: he is now challenging the authority of the United Nations as the ultimate preserver of peace. It is quite true that the United Nations is, as was its precursor, the League of Nations, essentially a Western invention and has consisted increasingly of a number of new states resulting from the break-up of various empires; originally the Portuguese, the Spanish and the Ottoman, but, more recently, the British, the Dutch, the Belgian and the French. These new states can hardly be said, in the large majority, to be democratic. The majority have some kind of dictatorship or are one-party states, and it is perhaps unlikely that they will ever become democracies in the Western sense. If so, the United Nations is unlikely to work in a manner completely in accord with Western interests.
It follows, for instance, that the nature of the regime of any victim of aggression, however repulsive by Western standards, should have no bearing on the necessity of United Nations support if it is attacked. That may seem to some to be unjust, but it is the principle on which the world organisation must necessarily rest for so long as it consists of a number of independent sovereign states. It follows also that the United Nations must, in effect, preserve the status quo except in so far as it may be altered by peaceful means. It is finally clear that the United Nations, if it is to function at all in the sphere of security, must act on the basis of unanimity on the part of the five permanent members of the Security Council, even if their internal regimes differ substantially.
All this is not admittedly an ideal system. It remains true, however, that the failure of the United Nations to impose its authority in the case of aggression would result in a free-for-all, leading to a number of wars which could hardly be controlled. So far as can be seen, such a failure in the Middle East could well mean an attempt to form some kind of new expansive Islamic power based on the predominance of one of the existing Arab states, a kind of new Caliphate which would seek, above all, to combat Western values and reduce Western influence on the world as a whole.
The policy followed by the Government, therefore, commands my full support. Given Saddam's obvious intentions, it must be clear that he would not be induced to abandon them even if sanctions were maintained for another six months or a year, by which time of course the ability of the allies to induce him to do so by other means would have been seriously impaired. The moment to confront him with the use of force —even if this should result in war, which we 1128 must still all hope will be avoided, possibly by Saddam's unconditional acceptance of the latest French plan—is therefore here and now.
It may perhaps be said that it is unseemly for old men, who can only stay comfortably at home, to speak out in favour of a policy which may result in some of their young contemporaries dying in battle. I can only say that in 1918 I was in the army and was just about to go to France when the armistice came. I remember thinking that if I had to die it would at least be in an admirable cause. I can only hope that young men in a rather similar position today will also feel that they are risking their lives in a noble cause —in their case in support of the only organisation which is likely to ensure the future peace of the world. In other words, the only genuine war aim, for which the noble Lord, Lord Walston, asked, is an assurance that the United Nations will still be in a position to settle the frightful problems that will certainly present themselves when hostilities cease.
§ 6 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, we have just heard the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, say that he was present during the Armistice of 1918. We also know that he was very much involved in the foundation of the United Nations in 1945. I hope that it gives him some satisfaction to see the United Nations working rather better now than it has for a long time.
For an immensely short time—if that is not a contradiction in terms—I should like to suggest to your Lordships why sanctions have failed. I can think of three instances of sanctions in the history of the United Kingdom. The first was at the siege of Calais in, I think, 1347 which was finally backed up by military force. Secondly, it is said by Admiral Mahan in his great book on sea power that Napoleon's armies were brought to an end by those storm-bound ships upon which the Grand Army's eyes never set. Thirdly, there was the great naval blockade of the 1914–18 war. All of those sanction policies—and a sanction policy is, after all, a blockade—eventually had to be backed up and enforced by military means. Sanctions kill women and children. They starve the poor and they make citizens suffer hardship for very much longer.
As I said in the previous debate, and as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, just said, it is very unpleasant for fat middle-aged men to encourage the use of war. During that last debate I told your Lordships that my wife has a godson who will be going to the Gulf. He is a young man. He is 23 year of age and he will be leaving tomorrow. His elder sister died and his mother is a very old and dear friend of ours. I spoke on the telephone to his mother this morning. I said with a certain amount of temerity that I would speak to your Lordships today on the matter. She said, "Please tell them that he goes to war not for glory but for peace and order in this world, and that he goes with my blessing." She hates to say that because he is her only son. My wife's godson is a beau sabreur of a young man. He is wonderful, good looking and dashing. He talks about the number of cans of beer which are put in the barrels of tanks before they are shipped out to Saudi Arabia in order to get round the no-drink rules. 1129 He also talks about a certain regiment, not a million miles away from here, having filled up jerricans full of Scotch whisky, and about all of those lovely things which P. G. Wodehouse would call "brutal and licentious" but which have been going on for a long time. Long may those harmless pranks continue. However, he is a good young man and his mother is absolutely satisfied that the reason he is going to the Gulf is justified. She believes that we must all give him and his colleagues our support.
That knowledge has made my support for Her Majesty's Government much stronger. I believe they have done about as much as it is possible to do in their slightly junior position in the coalition. However, it is a senior-junior position—if one can use that term—in which they can help the Americans who also do not want to go to war. Indeed, no one wants to go to war, but the threat is so great that it must be done.
There is a splendid piece in Livy's Book 6 about the siege of Saguntum, which is when the second Punic war began. The Roman ambassador goes to the Carthaginian general—I think it was Hasdrubal—and says, "I have in the sleeves of my toga peace or war; take the bit which pleases you (quid placet tibi)." Above all, we have tried to avoid war. None of us wants war, but we must do nothing other than give Her Majesty's Government, the United Nations, the President of the United States, and especially our own fighting, men, the maximum amount of support and good will that we possibly can.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, I have already spoken once or twice on the subject in this House and especially on 17th December. I do not wish to take up your Lordships' time with a repetition of my personal views, to which the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, kindly referred, but I should like to make a few additional points.
Dictators have a convenient way of committing their long-term aims to paper. Hitler did so in Mein Kampf and he was not taken sufficiently seriously. Saddam Hussein has also done so. We are reminded of that by an interesting letter which appeared recently in The Times written by Mr. Aubrey Jones. He quoted Saddam as having said 10 years ago:we do not look on this piece of land (Iraq) as the ultimate limit of our struggle. It is a part of a larger area and broader aims—the area of the Arab homeland and the aims of the Arab struggle".That is the statement of his ambition and it is one which is not without favourable reception in certain parts of the area. I believe that three factors follow from his words. They are, first, that he is obviously highly unlikely to withdraw from Kuwait without a fight. If he is compelled to do so, and survives, he will return to his ultimate aim in due time. Last August he thought that he could get away with a quick snatch and he has been encouraged to hold fast to his position by the confusion and disarray among his opponents.
Secondly, the United Nations Security Council must be the arena in which the alliance policy should be concentrated and decided. Individual initiatives, whether they be Algerian, French or whatever, should 1130 be brought together in the United Nations. It is too soon to comment upon the French plan—I do not know how much of a surprise it was to the other member of the Community—but the discussion and arguments upon it should be centred in the Security Council.
The third factor to be derived from Saddam's remarks is quite clear. In my view it is a mistake to go on pretending that there is no link between the invasion of Kuwait and the Palestinian problem. Israel has been, and is, a threat to Saddam's ambitions. I agree with the French that a conference on Palestine should be promised; but only after Saddam's physical withdrawal from Kuwait. A statement of his intention to withdraw is simply not enough. The promise of a conference should be made now and embodied in a resolution of the United Nations Security Council. That would be reassuring for moderate Arab opinion. One must sympathise with the dilemma of Israel, but it has flouted world opinion for an unreasonable length of time. A solution to the long-term middle East problems, not only those of Palestine, must be tackled if long-term world peace is being sought. A conference would appear to be the best way of starting that long process after Saddam has withdrawn from the whole of Kuwait.
I should now like to turn to an entirely different subject and ask two questions of the Minister who is to wind up. Is the Ministry of Defence satisfied with the understanding that it has reached with the media here concerning the reporting of the war? I remember attending a post mortem at the Imperial Defence College after the Falklands War when journalists and defence personnel went over the ground to their mutual dissatisfaction. Judging by the remarks of one of the leading editors of the papers here, the press expects further trouble now and gives the impression that it will welcome the opportunity of scoring off the military establishment. I hope that if that is the case, in the area of conflict the authorities there will follow the punitive actions of Field-Marshal Sir Gerald Templer during the Malaya emergency.
I should like to ask the Minister whether it is correct that television presenters and crews from the alliance will remain in Baghdad during the war. They must inescapably become instruments of Saddam. I wonder whether that is a situation that we should tolerate.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I have two reasons for addressing your Lordships. The first is that slightly over 30 years ago in June 1958 I was sent in the ship that I had the privilege to command, H.M.S. "Cossack", from Singapore to Bahrain as an advance force of the Far East Fleet to safeguard Kuwait from being invaded by Iraq. This is not a new story, as I am sure your Lordships are well aware. On that occasion we experienced some difficulties. We were in such a hurry to get going that although we stocked up with ammunition, we did not take in all of the food that we should have done. It was an embarrassment to those 1131 who were there when we arrived to have to provide us with enough food to keep going in July and August 1958. However, that is by the way.
This is the first real chance for the United Nations to enforce its will against a dictator who has grabbed another nation. That situation was never possible in the days of the League of Nations and it has not until now been possible for this United Nations.
Secondly, I should like to congratulate our Government for having been so consistent in supporting the United States in its leadership of all the nations towards a coherent stance, firstly of protection of the other Gulf Arab states in the early days and latterly to demonstrate that the United Nations means what it says. The Government have behaved remarkably skilfully under two leaders without fumbling at any stage, and they should be specially congratulated
Having steadily moved to a position of unambiguous insistence on Saddam Hussein relinquishing Kuwait, using force if necessary, the United Nations must not fumble the final stages. At this point it is terribly important that we are not misled in any way by factors that may not exist but which people would like to see in existence.
I sympathise with those who ask that sanctions should be given time to work. But how can we tell when that would be? Experience over history has shown that blockades, however comprehensive, take a very long time before the blockaded countries admit that they are inconvenienced. That is the problem. I suggest that dictators, who are often misinformed by their lackeys, are less likely than democratic governments to know when sanctions are becoming intolerable. Therefore, how can we be sure that Saddam Hussein will ever admit that sanctions have been effective, that he understands that the United Nations means what it says, and that he will tamely order the evacuation of Kuwait? All the evidence shows that the dictator of Iraq will never make such an admission and certainly not during the next six months, which was the period mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch.
To my mind, the key moment for any rational man to have admitted that he had got to do something and tamely to order the evacuation of Kuwait would have been when the United States Congress voted to authorise its President to go to war when he thought fit. That must have been the most telling moment of all. One wonders whether he even knows that that has happened. He was not allowed to see the letter from President Bush. We do not know what he knows and what he does not know—and I do not suppose that he does either. Sadly, the sooner we take action, the better.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, I have spoken on a previous occasion and I have listened to the fascinating contributions that have been made this 1132 afternoon. There is very little left to say, but I should like to make a few brief observations on submissions that have been made.
I have not changed my mind since the last time that I spoke. Anyone who invades, rapes and murders the members of a small country must be resisted. While I have been quite critical of the United Nations, it is remarkable that it has been able to muster forces in the desert with the Desert Shield. It has shown itself to be a real force.
As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, wisely stated, for 30 years the United States of America pursued a virulent anti-Arab policy and shut its eyes to the irregularities and vulgarities, and the killing and slaying by the Israelis. The United Nations created the Israeli nation and it has a right to exist. Anyone who threatens Israel threatens the United Nations. However, Israel must also fall in and observe resolutions of the United Nations that call on it to get out of the Gaza Strip and lands that they occupy.
Having come from Wales to oppose Moseley and his fascists because of their anti-Simetic policies, which I found positively disgusting and so much like those of the late unlamented Adolf Hitler, after the Second World War I was shattered that many of the soldiers in my command who went out to the Middle East were slain by Israeli terrorists. Their parents and grandparents did not forget that matter.
As the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, said, if we do not ensure that Resolution 242, moved by Lord Caradon—a great Member of your Lordships' House—is given the same status as the United Nations resolutions on Saddam Hussein, the United Nations, America and Great Britain will be guilty of a touch of hypocrisy. As the noble Lords, Lord Greenhill of Harrow and Lord Mayhew, said, while we and our American allies try to make Saddam Hussein leave Kuwait and ensure that he does not threaten anyone else, we must at the same time see that Israel is not allowed to threaten anyone. That is only fair.
I am worried about my countrymen and women in uniform who form part of Desert Shield. If anyone does anything stupid in the House, in another place or in any part of the world to endanger them and make their job more difficult, I shall be against them tooth and nail. I hope that Israel will behave itself.
In the United States and some parts of Australia people rightly demonstrate with banners. I have been to Australia. The Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Hawke, and the Australian Foreign Secretary, Mr. Evans, support the Americans and the British Government over Desert Shield. That is wonderful. There are people who do not agree with the American, British and Australian Governments. I ask them why they do not want the people of Kuwait and Iraq also to be able to protest at what their governments are doing. They might think about that a little more deeply. It will be a wonderful day when this is all over and people in the Middle East can protest in the same way. At the moment that right is unknown.
The people who protest in this country have every right to do so. People also have every right to protest 1133 in the United States of America. They should understand that one of the fundamental things we are doing it the moment is to create that right for the people of Kuwait. Kuwait has been lost, but it has not been abandoned. That is what irritates Saddam Hussein. When this is over, I hope that we shall do all that we can to promote democracy in some of the Arab states where it is needed. That will be a good thing.
I hope that we shall see that nothing is said or done in any way to imperil the contributions being made in the Gulf by the British forces, our American allies and all our other allies. Some Arab states have made big sacrifices. I am talking about Jordan and one or two others. They are now suffering economically. I hope that the Minister will tell us what may be done to help them.
The one thing we can perhaps be thankful for above all else is that we do not now need a massive army on the edge of Eastern Europe, because if we did we and the Americans would be in a terrible position. I therefore hope that we will not too easily condemn Mr. Gorbachev, who has been mentioned today. I am hurt and a little angry about what has happened in Lithuania; but at the moment Mr. Gorbachev is on my side and therefore he is on the side of the uniformed men and women who form part of Desert Shield. I may not be especially sensible when I praise Mr. Gorbachev. I do so merely because my colleagues in the Gulf, in the Army, Air Force and Navy are my top priority. Winston Churchill has been often quoted. But he once said that he would be prepared to sup with the Devil on behalf of our democratic forces. I am in that category.
The most reverend Primate made a good speech. It was balanced and understandable. I hope everyone realises that sanctions have already made a contribution towards helping our soldiers, sailors and airmen, and they have in no meagre way weakened our potential enemy. Let us not criticise their effects too much.
I was proud to have served this nation as a young territorial in 1938. I went right through the war until 1946. I am aware that that applies to many Members of your Lordships' House. My country and its allies, the United States of America, are committed to removing Saddam Hussein. Kuwait is lost but not abandoned. We should see that Kuwait goes back to its proffer owners, and that its people one day have a proper democracy. Our people in the desert must know that the overwhelming majority of parliamentarians and the people of this nation have absolute confidence in them and are 100 per cent. behind them. I go so far as to say that I hope the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Defence, and the noble Lord the Leader of the House will say to our Desert Shield commanders that from tomorrow, in collaboration with our American allies, they can decide when to act. They will know when the time is right to recapture Kuwait and remove Saddam Hussein in the name of democracy, at the least possible sad cost in injury and death.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Viscount Mountgarret
My Lords, last September when we debated this topic I was one of those who commented that the longer our troops stayed out in the uncomfortable and unpalatable conditions of the desert the more their morale would be tested, and the sooner one took action against that evil man the better. Although that was possibly the right thinking at the time, I believe that it has been proved to be incorrect. Enormous efforts have been made by the Government, America and many other countries to show that the United Nations stands firmly behind its resolutions. They have been seen by the world to be trying every possible avenue to secure a peaceful solution to the crisis. That will stand the sane world in good stead when it becomes necessary, as I believe it now is, to evict that man from Kuwait.
Three points have been of concern to me. The first relates to our friends, if I may call them that—they sometimes are our friends—in the media. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, mentioned this point. It is right to repeat it. They have a powerful role to play. I have been disappointed to see that even the British—I emphasise "British"—Broadcasting Corporation has been somewhat reluctant to accept the Government's suggestions on how it reports the issues that might be before us in the next few days and weeks. That is rather sad. They have a tremendous responsibility. The freedom of the press is something treasured not only by the press themselves but by the country as a whole. However, freedom can only be exercised and enjoyed provided that it is exercised and enjoyed in a thoroughly responsible fashion.
If we were to see perpetrated through the media the euphoric examples of—dare I say it?—the body bags being brought home to the landing quays and so on, thereby generating concern among the relatives at home, the sweethearts and so on, that would sap the morale of our countrymen, of the Americans and of everyone taking part. If you sap morale at home you are going to sap the morale of the boys, and of course the girls, who are doing their best for freedom in the Gulf. I hope therefore that the Government will do everything possible to get the co-operation of the media and help them to understand that they have a very responsible role to play in the forthcoming days. Forget the selling of newspapers, forget the extra pennies they may make; it goes wider than that. I think the more responsibly they are seen to behave the more their standing will go up and the more newspapers they will sell in the future.
The other point which gives me some concern is the rather strange behaviour of our partners—is that the right word? —in Europe. We seem to have taken the attitude over the last few years that the be-all and end-all of life is to join our partners in Europe, economically, side by side and so on. It seems logical, of course. We are just an island off the edge of Europe, but I have been very disappointed over two specific things that have happened just recently. I hope very much that our Government and Ministers will think quite seriously after all this is over—and I hope it will be over soon—just how far down the road we go.
1135 Two weeks ago it was suggested—I do not think it would be appropriate to ask a specific question at this point but I suppose I ought to expect an answer—that ammunition supplies for our forces were at a rather low ebb. Perhaps it would not be appropriate to conduct an inquiry into that, but that being the case it seemed necessary to seek assistance from various countries in Europe, Belgium being one. I think I am right in saying, unless the reports in the newspapers were entirely incorrect, that Belgium turned round and said, "We are not sure that we are going to help you very much because we don't want to have this ammunition used in the Gulf." I think Belgium would do well to remember who went to war in 1939 to help that country.
I find that incident disappointing and I find the answer disappointing. I also find it disappointing that France should suddenly set up an initiative. The Secretary General of the United Nations, who after all represents the whole of the free world trying to deal with the problem, has just done the last thing he could do. He went to see Saddam Hussein, and was rebuffed. However sympathetic one may be to the principle of trying to go the extra mile, yard or whatever it is for peace—which I would of course support —it is quite wrong for France, as a member of a community, namely the United Nations, to go off on their own tangent and come up with ideas which may compromise the resolutions that have been taken. I find that a dangerous situation. If it were not for the tremendous United Nations support, on which I congratulate the Government and thank the Opposition and indeed all parties, the Americans would have had enormous difficulty in being able to lend support as they were requested to do by the Saudi Arabian Government. One has to consider whether or not this country and the free world are better served through being closely associated with that great continent and country across the Atlantic, as during the 1939–45 war. We should not forget that.
My last point concerns the present structure of our forces, referred to by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. The idea at the moment of a reduction, or combination, of regiments must be misguided, to say the least. I heard at lunchtime today—it is only hearsay and may be wrong and, if so, I apologise for misleading your Lordships—that the Brigade of Guards, of which I have the privilege of being a member, was concerned that one company of the first battalion of the Grenadier Guards has been uplifted, for want of a better word, out of normal regimental life and sent to the Gulf to assist some other regiment.
In principle, there is nothing wrong with that. But it shows the condition of our existing regiments. At the end of the day a battle or war is won by infantry, by men on the spot. You have your navy and other services to do other things. But at the end of the day it is the people on the spot, such as the infantry, who can win a war. It is only achieved by esprit de corps. If you take away the esprit de corps and the "family" you join and with whom you live you undermine the very morale that is so necessary. It is a dangerous step to 1136 take. It is necessary at the moment, when battalions and regiments are under strength. They cannot carry out their tactics in accordance with correct military procedure because they do not have sufficient men and therefore need additional help.
This must be the most inopportune moment for the Government even to consider reduction or combination of regiments. It is not only the Gulf with which we may be concerned. We do not know what events, regrettably, may occur in Russia for example. However, that is not a subject for today. We must try to keep the band of brothers, the regiment and its esprit de corps together. If we are going to win battles out there we want the maximum support and morale, together with the maximum "brotherhood" among those who are fighting for the benefit of the free world.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, that we need to maintain our relationship with the United States. I disagree with his reflections on the French initiative. It seems to me that this initiative, although taken at a very late stage, deserves our full support, and for this reason. It is exploring a possibility that we could, if the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, is right, be dealing with a man who is likely to act at five minutes to midnight or five minutes after midnight, and the French initiative would be exploring the possibility of holding out at the very last moment a way out for Saddam Hussein.
I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, and also with the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, when they say that you cannot readily dismiss the obvious link, in Middle Eastern eyes at least, with the problems of Palestine and a solution which involves dealing with Saddam Hussein because he has been built up, and has built himself up, for many years in the Middle East as a champion of Palestinian rights and so on. I shall come back to the French initiative in a moment, but when the noble Earl replies to this debate I think he owes it to the House to tell us what the British Government's reaction is to the French initiative at the United Nations.
It seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, was quite right when he suggested that there was no halfway stage between the approach adumbrated in his dramatic way by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, the pacifist view, which I admired enormously as did the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and the view expressed by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, as to the practical steps to be taken at the present juncture. If the worst comes to the worst, I adopt the approach of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. It seems to me that the United Nations, which is a human organisation, depends in the end, like all human organisations, on some form of sanction, and even the application of a sanction depends upon the application of force, because there have to be warships and interference with normal traffic.
Surely at the present time we must consider whether there is any possible way of avoiding war, because the 1137 consequences of modern war, whether one is a pacifist or not, are dreadful to think of. We have heard today cogent and very strong arguments in favour of immediate war. All I say is that there are better arguments for trying to avoid it if we possibly can. We are concerned in the Middle East with an area that is relatively unstable and where there is a good deal of insecurity, and the possibility of establishing stability and security in the Middle East will be infinitely more difficult after a war than before.
I think it was the most reverend Primate who put forward the view, with which I entirely agreed, that if it comes we must not let war be depicted as a religious war. In the eyes of the Middle East, it will be very difficult to avoid any war that comes being depicted as a religious war. It is said that we should take great care at the present time to get this over with as soon as we can, because we do not know what insecurity may occur in Europe due to the uncertainties now applying in the Soviet Union.
The United States may find itself in great difficulty in the Middle East. It is one thing to put your foot down, as the late Nye Bevan once said about Suez. It is a very difficult proposition to pull it up again afterwards, and the United States may find that a great many of its forces will be tied down in the Middle East for far longer than it ever anticipated. That could affect the balance of power in Europe as well if there is uncertainty in the Soviet Union. That is why it is so important to explore every possibility of avoiding war.
I do not believe that sanctions alone will do the trick for the simple reason that the timetable for sanctions has in no way been co-ordinated with the timetable for offensive action in war. Given the character, the personality and the track record of Saddam Hussein, everything indicates that he is a ruthless and determined gambler. He plays for high stakes and is willing to gamble a great deal with human life, which he disregards. Given that personality on one side and on the other side the strict timetable introduced by the United States which virtually ruled out any diplomacy save the Molotov-Vishinsky diplomacy of no and the doubling of the United States forces in a massive response in the middle of November, which showed that it was taking a certain view, war has been virtually inevitable since the middle of November.
The only question that arises is whether, if the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, is right and Saddam Hussein is a kind of five minutes to midnight merchant, there is anything in the proposition now being put forward by France, which is the last opportunity to enable him in some way to get off the hook without total humiliation. It seems to me that when you have a gambler of this kind who has taken matters to the brink, he has probably come to the conclusion—because everybody assures me that he is a highly intelligent man, who must have very good military information at his disposal and who has been through a long war—that his life is forfeit anyway unless something dramatic happens and unless he makes a gesture which he has so far refused to make.
1138 If he is faced with total humiliation it is the end of him, because if he withdraws he will almost certainly not survive in Iraq itself. If on the other hand he has come to the conclusion that it is better to be an Arab martyr and he is willing to sacrifice himself together with a good deal of his nation and the flower of its manhood, the world is indeed faced with a very difficult situation.
Therefore, when Saddam Hussein said recently—this was quoted on television last evening by a distinguished diplomat; it was the first time I had heard it—that the whiff of the perfume of paradise was in his nostrils, it tended to confirm the view that he had cast himself in the role of martyr and was willing to take this step. That is a highly probable attitude of mind. It is a suicidal attitude of mind; it may be in his eyes a heroic state of mind. But it has tremendous consequences for us.
Therefore it is essential to explore the French initiative. From what I have heard on the radio and on television, the French have introduced the concept that the United Nations should announce that after a complete withdrawal from Kuwait there definitely will be a peace conference on the Middle East. As I said earlier, I entirely agree with the views already expressed that there is a linkage in Middle Eastern eyes, if not in ours.
Therefore it seems to me, the consequences of war being what they are, with its unpredictability and unforeseen situations—and I am a great believer in the accident of history theory—that wars rarely result in what the perpetrators or the defenders intend. The consequences are very different. So for all our sakes I do not think it is possible to avoid war if Saddam Hussein is determined on it. But it is very important that our Government give full backing to the last possible initiative which has been taken by France within the United Nations. If that is rejected, there is no other course open except that put up by the Government.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Baroness Strange
My Lords, leaving Scotland yesterday in deep snow, there was not very much that I could bring in the way of flowers to grace your Lordships' House. So I brought what I could claw up from under the snow—some rather frosted Christmas roses and some good going sprays of bay leaves which did not seem to mind the cold. In the language of flowers, bay leaves represent victory and Christmas roses represent peace. We all want peace. The whole world wants peace except, it appears, Saddam Hussein who is a distinctly wily oriental gentleman. I feel that even he, for all his talk of fire, blood and death must sometimes have visions of peace in his heart. If this peace can only be achieved by victory, that must be our way towards it.
Last night I attended a meeting held by the organisation Free Kuwait. We were shown pictures of schools and universities that had been built in Kuwait and of beautiful artifacts collected in its museums, 1139 now all destroyed or dispersed. They told us of the suffering of their people. All this has been caused by Saddam's invasion of Kuwait.
In November I went to Bangladesh on a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association visit. Bangladesh is a beautiful country filled—or rather over filled, but, that is a problem they are attempting to resolve—with kind friendly Bengalis. Apart from over-population, the Bengalis suffer from lack of natural resources and a tendency to attract natural disasters. Flood, famine, storms and sickness are never far away. Bangladesh was just beginning to recover from the terrible floods of 1988 when it was hit by the effects of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Not only have their oil prices shot up disastrously as they have for everyone, but there were 100,000 Bengalis employed in Kuwait, whose send-home earnings were virtually, with the help of international aid, keeping their country ticking over economically. Now, at a stroke, their earnings have ceased and most of the rice winners are now back home as unemployed rice eaters. All that has been caused by Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait.
We no longer have a British empire which acts as the peace keeper of the world, nor indeed are the Americans acting unilaterally in this matter. We are all part of a force of men of all nations and creeds acting under United Nations Resolution No. 678. I can tell my noble friend Lord Mountgarret that there is a Grenadier presence in the Gulf. However, when my noble friend said that we supported Belgium in 1939, I believe he meant to say 1914, as in 1939, of course, we supported Poland.
At this late hour our hearts are close to all our men in all three services who are waiting to fight for peace out there in the desert. They are ready and we can only send them our prayers to implement their high resolve, and to keep them safe. My prayer must be that of the 91st Psalm which states that the Lord,is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday… There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways".
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, as on the previous occasion that we debated this matter, I shall argue for delay. Before doing that, I hope I may state the obvious point that I detest and deplore Saddam and his regime as much as anyone. I do not believe that we should never fight on this issue. If we fight at any time that the Government judge to be right but that I judge to be wrong, I shall naturally show as full a support for our troops in the Gulf as anyone else. Delay is not the same thing as saying that we should not fight. I am for fighting if it is necessary; but not now.
1140 The United Nations resolution permits us to go to war, but it does not instruct, bind or enjoin its members to go to war at this or any other time. It simply authorises war to be undertaken by those members who judge it right to undertake it. If we go to war, it will not be a UN war. The distinction is rather obvious. There have been two major UN wars in the history of the Organisation: the Korean war and the Congo war of 1960. In both those wars tens of thousands of troops from multinational forces went into battle under United Nations command. In this war, if and when it comes, the troops will not be under United Nations command. They could have been and they could still be, but it does not look as if that will be the case. Each country must therefore judge for itself when it thinks it right to go to war, and must seek to persuade the others that the time it thinks right is the best time.
It is of course a United States led force that is in the region and the diplomacy of recent months, if one can call it diplomacy, has been led by the United States. The same position would apply in the event of a war. In recent months the United States has said one thing above all others and has said it loudly and clearly. The United States has said that it will not discuss anything with Saddam. The Americans have been ready to go anywhere at any time with or without notice in order to state once again what the United Nations resolution states; that Saddam Hussein must get out of Kuwait unconditionally. The Americans have given no hint that anything is going on behind the scenes. That may have been a mistake.
I turn now to sanctions. The Prime Minister has said today that sanctions are working well. However, he went on to say that they are not working well enough and that we must go to war because they are not working well enough. The Prime Minister has said that sanctions are working well. Let us remember that. How long is it reasonable to leave sanctions to work if they are working well? I must say that I have never heard anyone arguing in the abstract, when discussing the phenomenon of sanctions, that four or five months would be a long enough period to test them. I must say that it never occurred to me personally to think that a period of four or five months could ever be long enough to test sanctions. At the moment there is rather a large number of ex-secretaries of defence in the United States. I believe there are seven who are active in retirement. I may have that figure wrong, but all but one of those gave evidence to a Senate Committee on what should be done in this matter. All but one of them argued for a longer period to test sanctions. I agree with that position. I do not consider that a craven or a timid position. I believe that in adopting that position those men were drawing on their own experience which, God knows, is wider and graver than anything that has ever fallen to any of us, including Members of our governments. We should mark that position.
Would the sanctions not have more effect if allowed to continue? Did the Government ever have an estimate, before they agreed to impose sanctions in the first place, of what would constitute a reasonable 1141 length of time to test them? Did the Government decide that a period of four or five months would be about right, and that if sanctions did not work in that time, then bang! we would have to go to war? I have a rather concrete question to put to the noble Earl. I hope that it is not too late in the debate for him to answer it. Did the Government ever stipulate a period of four, or eight, or two, or 14 months to test sanctions? Will the Government share that knowledge with us? I believe that in an open democracy that would be a good thing. The Government obviously cannot have said that sanctions would never work, because if that had been their conviction they would have gone to war at once and urged the United States to do the same. As they believe that sanctions can work, and as the Prime Minister has told us that they are working, what is the reason for adopting a period of four or five months bearing in mind that the UN resolution does not enjoin war?
Today has been marked by the so-called French plan. I have not yet had an opportunity to see the full text but I understand that the main point is that linkage exists; it is not just a foolish and mischievous invention of Saddam Hussein, it is a fact. If Saddam Hussein's main objection to getting out of Kuwait is that the allies will not call a peace conference, then it is worth exploring that point further. I am at one with the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, in believing that it would now be right for the United States, this country and others to say to Saddam that if he gets out of Kuwait we shall do all that we can to achieve a peace conference. We would not do so before he leaves Kuwait, but we would do so after. I hope that I have not misinterpreted what the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, said, on the basis of his lifetime's experience. I learn from that, and from the experience of those American former secretaries of defence.
I have heard on the radio today that the Soviet Union supports the French plan. I have also heard —and ask the noble Earl whether he can confirm—that Saudi Arabia supports the plan. If that is the case, the question must arise whether we can launch an attack on Iraq from Saudi Arabia? We all remember that President Bush himself undertook not to launch an attack on Iraq from Saudi Arabia. Most of us read that to mean that he was not committing himself against launching an attack on Kuwait from Saudi Arabia. He was not committing himself not to launch an attack by sea, or by air from Turkey, for example.
Lastly, there is the question of the peace conference itself. The United Nations has been in favour of a peace conference since 1956—or it may even be since 1948. By definition, the Arab League favours a peace conference on the overall question of the Middle East, by which we mean in this context the Israel-Arab war. The European Community became committed to a peace conference very visibly and audibly through the Venice Declaration of 1981 or 1982. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the Thatcher Government and it was he who did so much to bring that about. This country is committed to a peace conference.
1142 One then considers the position of the United States, which is not formally committed to a peace conference. However, in recent days, since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, there has been a shift in its position. Mr. Baker has said publicly, in the context of the possibility of America backing a peace conference, that Israel has to talk seriously to the PLO and to her neighbours. He said that the Israelis have the telephone number of the White House and when they are ready to do business they should ring up. That virtually signalled an end to friendly communications between the United States and Israel for the moment.
That seems to be the main condition that Saddam is now putting forward for getting out of Kuwait. Should we not count ourselves lucky that his main condition is something that has been our policy for decades? Does it not seem strange that simply because he has made it a precondition of leaving Kuwait, we should abandon what has been the policy of the UN, the European Community and this Government as a member of the European Community since the early 'eighties? Surely we cannot seem to be fighting simply to avoid calling a peace conference because it would involve righting two wrongs instead of one; because it would involve righting the wrong of Israel as well as righting the wrong of Iraq?
For all those reasons, I join with that shining host of American former defence secretaries in saying: "not yet."
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, today we have traversed well-trodden ground. At the end of this fairly extensive debate I am sure that your Lordships will not be surprised if I do not say anything very new.
In response to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, I simply say that, although there is a strong argument for us agreeing to a peace conference after Saddam Hussein has left Kuwait in accordance with the proposals made by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, it is exaggerating the potentiality of such a peace conference to pretend that it will necessarily solve all the problems. The idea that Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in order to achieve a peace conference is one of the least convincing that I have yet heard adumbrated.
The other point which has emerged from the debate and which we should bear in mind is that the Gulf crisis cannot be considered in isolation. It is not the only crisis which we face in the world. We are, after all, in a world on the edge of an economic recession. The crisis in Central and Eastern Europe still confronts us and the crisis in the Soviet Union grows more serious and alarming every day, particularly in its impact on the Baltic states, and is all too reminiscent of the events which occurred in Hungary at the time of Suez.
The trouble is that each of those crises works on the others. A sharp rise in the price of oil makes the prospect of a world recession even greater. It adds to the continuing economic problems of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe. As I indicated, the crisis 1143 in the Gulf has made it far more difficult for the West to confront the USSR on the alarming events which are occurring in the Baltic.
The danger is that the drama and importance of the Gulf crisis will lead us to neglect the importance of the others. We cannot allow it to jeopardise the reforms which have taken place in Eastern Europe. We cannot allow it to halt the momentum towards a European single market, not least because European prosperity provides the best hope of avoiding a world recession. Nor, however, can we allow the United Nations to be defeated by Saddam Hussein.
It is easy to have sympathy with those who see the war as a worst option, who plead for more time to allow sanctions to work, who argue that no one can foresee the outcome of a war once it has been embarked upon and that our failure to act in the past to enforce UN resolutions, in particular those concerning the Palestinians and with reference to Israel, in some way disqualifies us from acting now. I agree with my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead that however delinquent we may have been in the past that does not justify our continuing on that course of error. The fact that we did not prevent Mussolini from invading Abyssinia did not relieve us of the obligation, under more difficult circumstances and very late in the day to resist Hitler. The fact that at the time of Suez we could do nothing to help Hungary does not relieve us—the United States and the European Community —of the obligation to do all that we can to avoid a repetition of that tragedy in the Baltic.
We have to consider—and it seems to me that some of those who have contributed to this debate have not considered it —what happens if Saddam Hussein wins. What will happen, unless he is persuaded by diplomacy or force to withdraw from Kuwait in accordance with successive United Nations resolutions? If we do not succeed in achieving that objective, the bright morning of 1989–90 will have been merely the prelude to a fateful and threatening evening.
The consequences of such a failure, which I do not think can be overestimated, would be truly devastating. Once again in the words of my noble friend Lord Jenkins, both the United Nations in those circumstances and the United States of America would be "fallen idols". The trend toward isolationism in the United States would undoubtedly be strengthened. The future of Israel would be in jeopardy. The price of oil would go up and in the face of that there is the likelihood of a world economic recession, with all its obvious consequences on the third world and Central and Eastern Europe.
But if as a result of the consequences of failure we have to contemplate the prospect of war we must be clear about our aims in that war. In that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Walston. In our debate on 17th December, the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, set forth seven aims (as I calculated) which we should seek to achieve. I shall not repeat them. But we must repeat again and again that we are acting to enforce United Nations resolutions, to liberate Kuwait and not to 1144 overturn Saddam and to secure compensation for those people who have been monstrously ill treated and have suffered great loss to themselves.
In addition, I agree with many noble Lords that we should commit ourselves to a general Middle East peace conference. I also agree with those noble Lords who believe that the French initiative should not be rejected out of hand and should be pursued. But the purpose of the conference would be to establish a long-term structure for peace in that area, which would be guaranteed by the Security Council and would involve the establishment of a UN peacekeeping force in the area. That may well be described as linkage. If so, I do not object to linkage. It seems to me, considering the situation that we face in the Middle East, that it is frankly impossible to exclude Lebanese and Palestinian problems from our calculations. In my opinion it is neither sensible, constructive nor wise to deny a connection which clearly exists and which all of us know exists.
Faced therefore with the prospect which I think almost all noble Lords, with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, have accepted—namely, that force may have to be used—I return to a matter which I raised in the earlier debate and about which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, remarked in his speech today. I refer to the command structure, and in particular under whose command British troops will serve. To my question in the debate on the 17th December I received an answer which I can only regard as unsatisfactory. The noble Earl the Minister said:The British forces remain under ultimate UK command. The UK forces may be under the tactical control of the US commander where this makes military sense. Equally, the 1st Armoured Division may have a United States' brigade assigned to its tactical control. Within this context the Saudi Government's position as host will of course be respected. In accordance with normal practice between host states and allies use of British forces in combat operations would be the subject of joint decisions".—[Official Report, 17/12/90; col. 720–721.]To me that is as clear as mud.
In addition, in last Saturday's Daily Telegraph there was a report by its defence correspondent which read:British troops in Saudi Arabia are in the middle of an internal dispute between the Ministry of Defence and the Pentagon over who will command them in an attack".At this stage that seems to me to be a profoundly unsatisfactory situation. I should like to be told rather more explicitly than in the noble Earl's answer to my question on 17th December, first, what is meant in practice by respect for the Saudi Government's position as host, and, secondly, what is meant by:use of British forces in combat operations would be the subject of joint decisions".I find the idea of joint decision-making in battle rather disturbing. I hope that the Minister will reassure me that it does not mean a divided command and that the dispute between the Pentagon and the Ministry of Defence has been satisfactorily settled. Those matters may be rather remote from the main thrust of this debate. Nonetheless, arriving as we do at this situation, I feel that they demand clarification.
1145 I end by saying that the situation to be faced, as other noble Lords have said, presents the United Nations with a unique opportunity to assert its authority. If it fails to do so, we shall suffer grave consequences. I agree most wholeheartedly with the most reverend Primate's words today, namely, that we may have to resort to war in the interests of preserving peace.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, this has been a sombre debate, as indeed one would have expected it to be. It has ranged widely from the severely practical speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, to the more idealistic pacifism of my noble friend Lord Soper. However, it is right to say at the end of the day that the overwhelming flavour of the House—if I may put it that way—is to support the Government in their present policy.
I regard this as a sad day. It is a sad day for all but particularly so, if I may remind the House, for the people who live in the region and the armed forces who now face each other there. I do not think that we should forget that it is the Iraqi people who will have to beat the brunt of the use of force and that when we in Westminster perhaps somewhat cosily talk about "necessary use of force" or how it is important to "take him out of Kuwait", we are in fact speaking of imposing upon the civilian population of a developing country in the Middle East a degree of hardship and suffering in that we are urging war upon them. That is what we are talking about and whether or not we are justified in doing so.
I am glad too that in this debate there has been far less talk of surgical strikes. What we have been talking about is not a surgical strike at all; if anything, it is a massive retaliation. With the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and the parliamentary delegation I went to Saudi Arabia in the early part of December. Like the noble and gallant Lord—let me echo what he said—I believe that no one who has been there, seen and talked with our armed forces could fail to be impressed by two things. One is their professionalism. That was clear to all. Secondly, there is what I would call their calm realism in the face of the task which at that time they certainly thought they would be called upon to perform. Let it be perfectly clear too that if war breaks out, as I now fear that it will, our armed forces will have the full and total support of the Labour Party and the Opposition in their endeavours. They are entitled to it, they deserve it and, so far as this party is concerned, they will get it.
I said that this had fittingly been a sombre debate and it could hardly be otherwise. It is true to say that for the most part the House has avoided any excess of enthusiasm for the coming battles. Wellington once said that there is no more mournful sight than a battle lost unless it be a battle won. How right he was! I have no enthusiasm for what is to come. On the contrary, I am appalled at the prospect. I am appalled too by the way in which some of the press have sought to treat the coming war. It is not an extension of the World Cup and should not be regarded as such. It is a dreadful task that this country and its allies are taking 1146 upon themselves. We have been discussing as grave a set of issues as any that has come before Parliament for decades.
I wish to examine two aspects briefly tonight. The first is the diplomatic manoeuvrings of the past few months and the question of whether there is any mileage left in the continuation of diplomatic efforts. Secondly, I wish to follow the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, in examining the possibility of sanctions.
Looking at what has happened in the past few months it appears to me that, at a diplomatic and political level, the tragedy is that both sides have boxed themselves in. One has done so perhaps by vain glory and the other perhaps almost deliberately. Today the Guardian described the diplomatic efforts during the past few months as "febrile". That is putting the matter a little high; but, nevertheless, there are unanswered questions. Until they are answered, it will be difficult for us to obtain a true picture of what has been going on.
I ask the noble Earl why the policy changed in November? Until then the forces in the Gulf were there in a defensive strategy. That is what we were told. In September and October we were told that sanctions was the path that we were to pursue. Indeed, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, today the Prime Minister said that sanctions are working well. At the end of October and the beginning of November what was it that suddenly caused the change from the defensive to the offensive strategy? I assume that Her Majesty's Government were consulted and in that case the decision is ours as much as the Americans. What was the change on the ground that had caused such a change in policy?
Perhaps as important, because the two are related, is the question: why was there a deadline in Resolution 678 of the Security Council? Inevitably deadlines cause intense problems if they are reached and passed. The difficulty is that if one passes the deadline and nothing has happened, the pressure to do something becomes almost irresistible: and in some ways that is the situation in which we now find ourselves. As a means of exerting pressure deadlines may be useful but not when they become the determinants of our whole approach and policy.
Surely our approach must have been based upon some appreciation of Saddam Hussein and his likely reaction. If so, that appreciation was patently wrong. Of course, one looks for some rationality on the part of the other side's leadership in any negotiations. At least one looks for rationality at the most basic level; that is the survival of his country. In that respect, we all appear to have been totally wrong. I confess that I do not understand Saddam Hussein's reactions. I do not profess to be able to work out what makes the man tick. If one looks at the situation even as late as last week all the elements for a settlement of the dispute appeared to exist and could have been put in place.
It is interesting to reflect on what was on offer when Mr. Baker and Tariq Aziz met in Geneva. In return for withdrawal from Kuwait, there were in reality (though perhaps not in formality; everyone says that 1147 there was no linkage but in reality knows that there was) the following propositions on the table for Saddam Hussein to pick up. First, there was a commitment to work for a Palestinian settlement via a UN-sponsored conference. He has told us that he is anxious to try to achieve that. Secondly, there was an undertaking that Iraq would not be attacked. Again, that is a matter that had been exercising his mind.
Not only was there that undertaking but when Perez de Cuellar went to Baghdad, the undertaking was buttressed by the offer of the interposition of a UN force in order to make sure that he would not be attacked. Thirdly, there was the question of negotiation of access into the Gulf. I find it impossible to believe that if Saddam Hussein had said that he would withdraw from Kuwait some accommodation could not have been reached. An arrangement such as a lease-back on the islands or one whereby he could obtain access into the Gulf was surely available. Fourthly on the table last week was the renunciation of Iraq's debts to Kuwait—debts which Iraq had run up because Kuwait was helping to finance the Iraqi effort in the Iran-Iraq war. Finally, there was an offer of greater consultation in the future on oil production in the area.
On the face of it, that should have been an attractive proposition. If one was standing back and trying to look at the matter objectively, it was a package which one would have believed anyone in Saddam Hussein's position last week would have been prepared to accept. That was particularly so when it was coupled with the most attractive proposition of all; that there would be no war. Yet he turned it down. Why? I cannot answer the question. He should have accepted the proposition, but he did not. I cannot fully answer the question as to why he turned it down but one reason might be that by then both sides were so over-committed that it was not possible for him to accept. The exits had been closed.
I am, too, slightly sceptical about the French initiative. It appears to show an enthusiasm for Gallic flexibility that is excessive even in our most immediate neighbours but there it is. If it is a runner the Government should be supporting it. If at this hour there is even a chance that we might be able to avoid war I do not mind whether it is wrapped up in the Tricolour or in any other flag. I therefore ask the Government for their opinion of the French initiative. Do they support it?
I seem to find myself in the position of asking the Minister a series of questions before he speaks. I apologise; but, given the nature of our proceedings and procedures, it is difficult to see how I can do otherwise. There are now two major questions that I should like him to answer. First, why the change at the beginning of November? Secondly, what do the Government think of the French initiative?
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware of the announcement that the French Embassy in Baghdad has been closed? Therefore, it appears that there is no longer a French initiative.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I did not know that. If that is the thinking behind the closure of the embassy then, clearly, the French initiative is dead. If that is not the thinking behind it but they are merely trying to protect their own nationals perhaps the initiative is still alive in New York. We shall see.
During my brief connection with the Foreign Office, I was taught that there are two basic principles of diplomacy. First, never box yourself into a corner with no exit behind you; and, secondly, just as important is that you should never box in the other side, unless you want to. I fear that the events of the past few months may be seen as the ultimate failure of Western diplomacy in this crisis. I have been irresistibly reminded—as I suspect have others —of July and August 1914: diplomatic negotiations, and a mobilisation of forces which seemed to take on a momentum of their own so that no politician of a major country was able to do what the Duke of York perhaps very sensibly did in the eighteenth century. He marched his soldiers up, and then marched them down again. At least he did not immediately fight a war.
Perhaps I may now turn to the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, as regards sanctions and whether they would have worked. We have been told that 97 per cent. of Iraqi exports have been stopped. We are told that cash is drying up, food is becoming tighter and military spare parts are no longer available. Perhaps it is now a matter for the history books but if one action killed the policy of sanctions, it was the imposition of the deadline in resolution 678. The relationship of that deadline to a policy of sanctions, which up to November apparently was going well, in my view created immediate difficulty.
Realistically, the object of the sanctions policy was to produce a frame of mind in Saddam Hussein in which he would be prepared to negotiate sensibly and in return for his withdrawal from Kuwait, although there would be no formal linkage, there could have been an understanding along the lines I referred to
I should have preferred to see the continuation of that policy for the time being and I frankly regret the change. I remind noble Lords that in September we all said that sanctions would take a long time to work; that it would not be a quick policy; and that we should have to give them time to take effect. In September we did not envisage that time would have run out as early as January. I do not understand why a policy which was considered successful in October becomes impossible in November. Perhaps that too is now a matter for the history books, since in nine-and-a half hours' time the deadline will have passed and we may be at war.
I conclude regretfully that once one has changed the policy and ruled out the further use of sanctions, and a deadline has been imposed, I cannot see how it becomes possible to secure a successful outcome to this affair by diplomatic negotiations. The history of the past month has shown such a degree of intransigence and irrationality that I do not see how negotiations will succeed.
1149 But again let there be no mistake about it. Whatever may be the Labour Party's views about the continuation of a policy of sanctions and whether or not the Government were right to change that policy in November, if war takes place then our forces will have our complete and total support.
§ 7.32 p.m.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, today's debate comes at a moment of great tension. For five-and-a-half months we in the international community have done all in our power peacefully to resolve the crisis in the Gulf. The peaceful pressure was increased when the United Nations set a deadline back in November after which the international community would be empowered to use all necessary means to get Iraq out of Kuwait. That deadline expires tonight.
Your Lordships' House has shown great resolve today. We have shown that we will not accept Iraq's brazen and brutal aggression. We will not lose our nerve at this crucial moment. We will fight if we have to.
Of course there is much agonising when such a momentous decision has to be taken. We are rightly conscious of the seriousness of the situation, of the factors which might lead us to delay. These factors have been thoroughly aired today.
Many of your Lordships asked whether we had given peaceful pressures enough time to work. I remind the House that those pressures have been in place since the first days of the crisis. They have been in place for a full five-and-a-half months. On 2nd August the Security Council unanimously condemned Iraq. The noble Lord, Lord Walston, will recall that the council set out its first and basic demands: complete and unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait and the restoration of the legitimate government of Kuwait. Those remain our objectives. Thus the diplomatic initiative began immediately. For that reason I totally reject the somewhat surprising accusation by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, that we have refused diplomacy.
This was backed up by economic and military pressure. On 6th August the members of the Security Council agreed some of the most sweeping sanctions in the history of the United Nations. They have been almost universally observed. Iraq, for example, has not been able to export its oil. Before the invasion Iraq earned 95 per cent. of its hard currency from oil exports. But now Iraq is not able even to give its oil away. The offer made by Saddam Hussein to third world countries of free oil for anyone prepared to break the UN embargo was spurned. It was no doubt a tempting offer, but not one country took advantage. International opposition to Saddam Hussein has been rock solid. There is little evidence of leakage but—and this is the important point—there is no evidence that sanctions alone will achieve their primary objective: to get Iraq out of Kuwait.
Economic pressure was backed up by the threat of military action. At the request of the Government of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other states in the area, on 8th August Britain announced that we would send 1150 troops to Saudi Arabia to help in its defence and to deter further Iraqi aggression. The United States made a similar announcement the same day. Since then we have built up our British forces in the area to about 35,000. Having invaded and taken Kuwait through what the most reverend Primate called old fashioned and naked aggression, who could be sure that Saddam Hussein would not now be in Saudi Arabia if we had not acted so quickly?
The noble Lords, Lord Hatch and Lord Walston, and my noble friend Lady Strange asked us to consider the effect of Saddam Hussein's action on third world countries. In doing that we should ponder, and ponder deeply, what would have been the effect, for example, on the countries mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cocks, if Saddam Hussein had taken the Saudi oilfields.
The multinational force now comprises over ½ million men and women. On 27th November the Security Council—and let me emphasise that it was the Security Council and not merely the United States and the United Kingdom, about which there seems to have been some confusion by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew—decided to set a deadline for Iraq's withdrawal. After today the multinational force will be empowered to take military action.
When it adopted Resolution 678 the Security Council gave Saddam Hussein seven weeks to consider his position. It was intended to focus his mind powerfully. Five weeks after the UN vote there was no evidence that the message was sinking in and having an effect. President Bush decided in his effort to go that "extra mile for peace" that there should be direct talks with the Baghdad regime—a meeting intended for communication, not negotiation. Last Wednesday Secretary Baker met Tariq Aziz in Geneva. The meeting lasted six and a half hours with no positive result. As my noble friend Lord Mottistone reminded the House, Tariq Aziz even refused to take President Bush's personal letter to Saddam Hussein. The Iraqis were not prepared to move one inch.
The peaceful pressures—diplomatic, economic and military —became most intense in the last few days, immediately before the deadline expired. I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and others who have mentioned the point that there was no change in policy. There have always been three planks to the policy: diplomatic isolation, economic pressure and a threat of military action. I am sure that the House will agree that to be effective the threat of military action must be credible. That was the purpose behind our deployment of forces. It had to be recognised that if Saddam Hussein refused to withdraw force may have to be used.
The peaceful pressures went on. The United Nations Secretary-General the standard bearer of the international community, and a world statesman of uniquely high reputation —went to Baghdad in a last ditch attempt for peace. He saw Saddam Hussein. His brief was the 12 resolutions adopted by the Security Council between August and November. Saddam Hussein would not listen. In his talks with the 1151 Secretary-General he displayed an irresponsible calm. Even as the deadline was running out he would concede nothing.
Having heard the Secretary-General's account of his meetings in Baghdad, M. Poos, the Luxembourg Foreign Minister, presided over a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in the Community. It is worth repeating some of the conclusions of that council; I shall make a full copy available in the Library. One of them was that through the presidency statement of 4th January 1991, the Twelve had clearly indicated that if the resolutions of the Security Council were fully and unconditionally implemented, Iraq should receive assurance that it would not be subject to a military intervention.
A further conclusion was that on the occasion of the Rome European Council meeting on 15th December 1990 the European Community and its member states indicated that they remained completely in favour of convening an international peace conference on the Middle East at the appropriate moment. A further conclusion was that, sadly, the conditions for a new European initiative did not exist at that moment. Perhaps the fourth and most important point, which has not been mentioned, is that the invitation to Mr. Tariq Aziz to meet the ministerial troika remains on the table.
That takes me to a point mentioned by many noble Lords this afternoon regarding what has become known as the French initiative, and particularly what was said by the noble Lords, Lord Hooson, Lord Molloy and Lord Richard, and by my noble friend Lord Mountgarret. It was put forward a few hours after the EC Foreign Ministers' meeting and the conclusions that were agreed, of which I have mentioned but a few. The clear impression which the Prime Minister took from his discussions with President Mitterrand yesterday was that, like all of us, the President still hoped that hostilities could be avoided, but that, particularly in the wake of Iraq's totally negative response to the UN Secretary-General, there was no realistic prospect that Iraq could now be persuaded to take the essential step of withdrawing from Kuwait. Nevertheless we would entirely support a final appeal to Saddam Hussein to comply with the resolutions of the Security Council and withdraw from Kuwait.
Negotiations are under way at this moment in New York and it would be wrong of me to pre-empt their outcome. Our anxiety, which I am sure is shared by all noble Lords in this House, is the need to be sure that any new initiative is wholly consistent with the UN Security Council resolutions and that it is likely to result in Iraq complying with them rather than taking the pressure off Saddam Hussein and his government.
I have further news which is not terribly good. They are but press reports and I have no final confirmation. One point, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Onslow, is that the French are pulling out of Baghdad. The second is that the French have had no response from Baghdad to their initiative. I cannot confirm that. They are merely press reports. It appears that all 1152 peaceful efforts have been fruitless. Some noble Lords argued that more time was needed to allow sanctions to work. Such arguments may sound neat and tidy but they ignore the terrible costs of further delay. Today we heard tribute paid to the courage and suffering of the Kuwaitis. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, mentioned the Amnesty International report. It is essential reading for anyone interested in this subject. They have tried to withstand the Iraqi aggressor with great courage and dignity. Even in their hardship they gave food and shelter to foreigners in hiding in their country. But Kuwaiti bravery will not be enough to save the country from obliteration. Already their currency has been abolished and all their documents annulled. If action is not taken soon there will be nothing left to rescue.
Despite the force of that argument some noble Lords questioned whether we should wait a further length of time. As my noble friend Lord Beloff reminded the House, there is a link between sanctions and their enforcement by military means. Thus, we should be quite clear that extending the waiting period would mean abandoning much of the credibility of that military threat. If we miss our first deadline will Saddam Hussein take a second UN deadline any more seriously? That would mean relying almost completely on economic sanctions; but sanctions have not yet worked. They have been in full force for five months. It is becoming clearer that they will take a very long time to work. Let us not ignore the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. He told the House that there are also risks in that their implementation might dribble away and the sanctions be weakened. As my noble friend Lord Ashbourne said, Saddam Hussein would then slip the knot.
It is also becoming clearer that as long as Saddam Hussein can intimidate his people and keep his army going he will stay in Kuwait. I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, who summed up the present situation so well. He said that we are at a uniquely crucial time. If we fail the test before us the future of the UN as a world authority is at stake. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, with his vast experience, also stressed that important point.
In what I felt was a thoughtful and deeply moving contribution the most reverend Primate supported all necessary means in such a situation in order to protect the interests of peace in the longer term. I say to the most reverend Primate and the noble Lord, Lord Soper—whose views I respect but which I do not agree with—that we do not welcome the prospect of hostilities. War is grim. Our aim is to keep suffering to a minimum. We only wish we could rely on Saddam Hussein to play by the accepted rules of international behaviour and thus obviate the need for force.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and my noble friend Lord Pearson asked specifically about Options for Change. It remains our intention to proceed with the restructuring of the Armed Forces along the lines envisaged by Options for Change. Naturally we are giving further thought and consideration to the detailed planning of the 1153 implementation of the proposed reductions. I shall draw to the attention of my right honourable friend the remarks I have heard today.
If we need to use force I can assure my noble friend Lord Pym that our forces in the Gulf will receive the support they need to see the job through. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, with his considerable experience, paid tribute to the excellence of our forces. In particular he stressed their resolution, courage and professional skills. I am sure that the whole House joins with the noble and gallant Lord in support of his words. There can be no household in this country that is not thinking of them and their families. Many noble Lords, like my noble friend Lord Onslow, have relations and friends in the Gulf. We wish them well.
Another point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, was the work done by our embassies in Kuwait and Baghdad. Once again we should pay enormous tribute to the work of our ambassadors and the Foreign Office staff, both UK-based and locally engaged, for their considerable work under difficult circumstances, especially the removal of the hostages in that crucial period.
The noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, asked two important questions regarding the media. The first was whether the MoD should follow the strict line of reporting it has done in the past. I appreciate the concerns of the noble Lord. The Ministry of Defence discussed carefully with reporters and editors those subject s which, if reported, would threaten the safety of our troops. The guidelines reflect that. We trust that the editors and journalists concerned will show due sense of responsibility. The other point which the noble Lord mentioned is equally important; namely, the television crews in Baghdad. We again appreciate the concern that news organisations in Baghdad may transmit Iraqi propaganda. We encourage those concerned to make clear the constraints and censorship under which their reports are filed. We cannot oblige British citizens to leave Iraq and Kuwait, but for their own safety we urge the people and organisations concerned to do so as soon as possible.
As we face the prospect of war we should be in no doubt about who is to blame. Saddam Hussein is the only aggressor. We should not forget that since 2nd August he has been waging war cruelly and continuously on Kuwait. Our objective is to reverse that aggression and to put right the crime committed by Saddam Hussein. We have continuously tried to reason with him. In that we have failed, for he has not listened nor shown any willingness to do so. For five and a half months Saddam Hussein has challenged collective security. With the deadline expired and Iraq still in possession of Kuwait, we must meet that challenge. If we do not, the world will be a much more dangerous place.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, the noble Earl has not answered many specific questions put from this side of the House. He raised one point in his speech which I would like him to ponder and answer. He denied what has been said by a number of noble Lords on this side of the House—that there has been a 1154 change of policy since last August. He said that the policy was based on three platforms. Is it not the case that last September the British Government said that forces were not being sent to the Gulf to fight either Iraq or Kuwait? How does that fit in with the noble Earl's claim that there has been no change in policy and that the military policy was established from the start?
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, the noble Lord is right to say that I have not answered some of the detailed points. As usual, I shall write to the noble Lords concerned. In connection with the specific point he raised I shall of course ponder what I said at such a moment as this. Our intention has been to get Iraq out of Kuwait. That has been the reason for the three parts of our policy; the sanctions, the diplomacy and the military threat. It was to support that that we took the actions we did.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.