Entry: "Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction - 24 September 2002"

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We are here to discuss the possibility of war: No decision can weigh more heavily on democratically elected politicians.

We must consider 4 points:

• Firstly, whether the risks posed by Saddam’s possession of nuclear and biological weapons would be greater than the risks of military action.

• Secondly, how we uphold international law and the credibility of the UN; and related to that how we address the startling double standards currently crippling international relations

• Thirdly, the implications of the paradigm shift in American foreign policy from deterrence to pre-emption.

• And fourthly, how we deal with the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction(WMD) not just in Iraq but globally.

Beginning with the first issue,- the current threat posed by Saddam;

• The dossier published today shows that WMDs are the lynchpin of Saddam’s military arsenal.

• It confirms Iraq has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, in breach of the UN Secretary Council Resolutions.

• It reveals Saddam is covertly continuing his plans to acquire the technology and materials needed to create a nuclear bomb.

Part 3 outlines some of the human rights abuses conducted by the regime:

• The massive chemical weapons attack in Halabja, killing 5,000.

• Summary executions.

• Torture of the most hideous kind.

One prisoner at the Abu Ghraib Jail reported:

‘Pieces of our bodies started falling off from the beatings . I ate pieces of my own
body. No one, not Pushkin, not anyone can describe what happened to us.’

Now although I have campaigned against human rights abuses for fifteen years and I
chair the APG on genocide Prevention, I have to say that human rights abuses are not
the key issue:

• If they were , we should be bombing China, Burma, Sudan,
Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Iran maybe Pakistan, the list goes on and on.

• The cruelty of Saddam towards his own people is not in doubt, but it is also not the issue. The issue is the threat he poses to the region and the world.

• It is clear that Saddam does not view Weapons of Mass Destruction as a last resort. He has proved willing to use them, and for this reason, the U.N. has been attempting to disarm him diplomatically for 11 years.

- It hasn’t worked.

- Sadam remains in breach of 23 of the 27 UN obligations.

So the question is this, and it brings me to the second point:

- How do we uphold the credibility and the authority of the UN when its will is flouted?

- How do we enforce security council resolutions if Saddam ignores them?

There are three options:

1 Enforce the resolutions thru use of force via the UN

2 Enforce the resolutions thru use of force outside the UN

3 Do nothing .

In my view, if we do nothing to uphold the authority of the UN and thus the
architecture of international law- we will start to undo the gains that have been made in the area of multilateral conflict resolution since 1945.

Does the fact that the UN has been unable to enforce its will in other areas – most
notably the Middle East and Israel – does that mean we should ignore the threat
posed by Saddam?

- I don’t think so. But I do think that a new UN resolution on this subject must be tough enough, as the FT put it, to disarm both Saddam Hussein and the American hawks around Bush. As the member for Hampstead and Highgate said , call Saddam’s bluff: send the inspectors in.

- Most people , even if they don’t support military action in any circumstances, accept the evidence that Saddam currently has WMD, and that he would only be months away from assembling a nuclear bomb if he obtained fissile material abroad,(that is highly enriched uranium or plutonium).

- We know now that he has tried to buy significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

• So a sensible , objective person must accept that, without further action to prevent him doing so, Saddam is likely to get his hands on a nuclear bomb. I accept that fact.

• It is a terrible choice. I might vote to do nothing, in which case I would have the deaths of 1000s – possibly millions- of people on my conscience if Saddam acquired and deployed a nuclear weapon.


- I could vote to do something, to take military action, which could also result in 1000s or 100s of 1000s of deaths. Neither choice occupies the moral high ground.

Let me take the worst case scenario of military action:

- We attack Iraq, Saddam uses chemical or biological weapons in response, possibly aimed at Israel.

- Saudi Arabia and Egypt are engulfed

- The war stirs further anti-western hatred, undermining muslim moderates and strenghterning extremists, leading to new terrorist bombings in the U.S.,Israel and possibly the UK

- Israel uses a nuclear weapon in response.

That is the worst case scenario of military action, it is our responsibility not to shrink
from it.

Now the best –case scenario: it is very simple

- Iraq gives unconditional access to inspectors and is subsequently disarmed. War is averted.
But we have to learn some lessons, and the lesson of the last 11 years is that Saddam has done everything in his power to prevent UN inspectors from doing their job.

And the worst-case scenario of inaction is not only Saddam acquiring and deploying a
Nuclear weapon, and 1000s or millions dying: It is more than that: it is a possibly
fatal blow to the UN, and all that entails. The Un could collapse. International law
would wither. International peace-keeping forces would disappear. Internally
displaced persons or refugees fleeing persecution could be left to fend for themselves
in humanitarian catastrophes.

I believe this cannot happen. Therefore any action should be taken through the U.N.

That incidentally is the view of 80% of the American public.

• Such action must have the very highest regard for the minimisation of civilian casualties.

• Nonetheless, it is unfortunate that Saddam Hussein will be the man to decide whether his civilians suffer the horror of war. He can either comply with U.N. demands or not.

• We will have concern here about safety of British Service men and women. Can you imagine the concern we would have as Iraqi civilians – already oppressed by Saddam and now facing the prospect of being bombed by the West? Let us never forget the luxury we have sitting here, debating the issue on there green benches?

- There is every indication that he will have no regard for the fate of his people and will then instead take illogical and disastrous decisions resulting in his own destruction.

- It is this illogical and self-destructive streak that is precisely why we cannot risk him continuing his nuclear weapons programme.

- If he succumbs to the logic of self preservation and disarms his nuclear arsenal, then we win.

- If he doesn’t succumb to the logic of self preservation, then we have an urgent responsibility to disarm him and we are right to take action.

* The other threat we face comes not from a failing state , but from an
unfettered superpower.

- The reluctance I have in supporting military action thru the UN is two-fold:

• Firstly the humanitarian consequences

• Secondly, the conviction that America is persuing a conflict with Iraq, not due to the acceptable concerns I outlined above (although they no doubt agree with them) but due to the unacceptable desire of the current US President to finish his father’s business. That, and oil interests.

This leads to the fear that even if Iraq complied fully with the U.N. the US would still attack. I look to this Government to ensure America does not manouvre itself into this position.

And still, we cannot escape the repercussions of the appalling double standards
evident in American foreign policy.

- Israel can flout all the UN resolutions in the world, develop nuclear weapons, invade its neighbour’s territory, and it doesn’t even get a ticking off from the U.S.

- The American Government must realise how corrosive its behaviour is to all decent-minded observers, not least those in the Muslim world. I say that as one of the MPs in this house with dual citizenship and with an American family.

One American wrote to lobby me. He said:

“ It goes without saying that Hussein should have been overthrown after he invaded
Kuwait in 1990. he wasn’t. So now let sleeping dogs lie. Erect a fence around him.
Do not starve his young. If we can wait out the Soviets, Castro, China etc. etc.,
what makes Saddam so different? If he can command support in the ‘Arab street’
due to our ridiculous, inept and grotesquely unjust Middle East posture, then let’s
try more to correct that posture. Let’s not pretend he’s the reason for it, or that
skewering him will remedy it.”

That American is my father, who wrote to me from Atlanta. Whilst I don’t agree with
him entirely, and for reasons I have already set out, I think that to let sleeping dogs lie
could cause more deaths and insecurity in the long run. He nonetheless underlines the
point that has been made forcefully in this debate: vast numbers of Americans reject
their Government’s double standards.

Combining America’s double standards with the third point I raised at the beginning,
the American security paradigm shift from deterrence to pre-emption, risks setting
disastrous precedent.

• If unilateral action is taken outside international law, it will fatally undermine global multi-lateralism.

• The US has, unfortunately, already done more than any other country to damage multi-laterilism, by rejecting the:

ABM Treaty
Biological Weapons Convention
WTO Provisions
International Criminal Court
Kyoto Agreement

Not to mention the fact it didn’t pay its UN subscription for years. You could say it’s
a bit rich for them to embrace multi-lateralism now and that they’re doing it only for
their own interests . I’d agree.

But that’s the point, this debate is about whether we can get the most powerful
country’s in the world to submit itself to due process and to recognise that due
process is in its own interests and not imagine how the future might unfold.

- In my view, the British Prime minister has done more than any other person in trying to get the U.S. to work through the U.N., and I sincerely hope this policy works.

- If it doesn’t, and if we move away from a position of multilateral deterrence towards unilateral pre-emption, then we move from the rule of law towards the law of the jungle.

Finally, the over-arching issue of nuclear proliferation: The British American Securit
Information Council says:

“America’s new National Security Strategy poses grave threats to the global arms
control architecture that has taken years to put in place”

• How do we improve the decommissioning and destruction of nuclear weapons?

• How do we get a comprehensive ban on nuclear testing?

• Shouldn’t all countries with a real or suspected nuclear capability be subjected to unconditional inspections?

• How do we tighten current international agreements?

• How do we reduce the stockpiles of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium?

• How do we improve the monitoring and safety precautions around radioactive materials?

The British Government is taking action on these issues and has committed money to
them but we must move faster and with more urgency.

In the past , the only constituents who have consistently raised these issues with me
are members of CND.

If this debate on Iraq teaches us anything, it is that nuclear proliferation is not an issue
that fizzled out in the 1980s, and is no longer relevant:

- Rather I hope we realise that our success or failure in tackling nuclear
proliferation is likely to be the single most important issue that shapes the safety of
our future.