Mar 2003; Alex Salmond’s contribution to the debate
Fundamentally, the debate is not about Iraq, Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction or even oil, though oil is certainly a factor. The debate is about new world order, with an unrivalled superpower adopting a doctrine of pre-emptive strike, and how we accommodate that and come to terms with that new world order. Eighteen months ago the United States had an atrocity committed against it and it is still in trauma. The point was made a few minutes ago, and it is undoubtedly correct.
On 12 September 2001, the day after the attack on the twin towers, the United States was at its most powerful. In its moment of greatest extremity, the United States was at its zenith. In addition to its unrivalled military might, it carried total moral authority throughout the world. A hundred or more nations signed messages of sympathy, support or solidarity with the extremity that the United States had suffered.
Now, 18 months later, that enormous world coalition has been dissipated. I do not take the position that it was only a gang of four who gathered in the Azores. I accept that there are more countries—or at least countries’ Governments who are signed up, but the coalition of the willing for the campaign against Iraq is very narrowly based. Anyone who wants confirmation of that should just count the troops: 300,000 United States and British troops, and I understand that 1,000 Australians have been asked for, and 100 Poles have been offered. That is a very narrowly based coalition indeed.
The Prime Minister believes that the way to accommodate the situation is to accept that the United States will be predominant and that the rest must fall into line. They can try to restrain it, but they will have to fall into line with the views of the United States Administration. That is a wrong-headed policy, and it is taking people into ridiculous positions.
In his undoubtedly powerful speech today, the Prime Minister argued that the weapons inspection process had never worked. He came close to saying that it had all been a waste of time. I remember a speech in October last year at the Labour conference in which another powerful speaker went into enormous detail to show how successful the weapons inspection process had been in the 1990s and how it had led to the destruction of chemical weapons, the chemicals used to make weapons, the armed warheads and the biological weapons facility. He concluded that “the inspections were working even when he(Saddam Hussein) was trying to thwart them.”
I watched that speech on television as did many others. The speaker was President Bill Clinton. The television was doing cutaways to Ministers, including the Prime Minister who all nodded vigorously when President Clinton said that through the 1990s that policy worked and destroyed far more weapons of mass destruction than were destroyed, for example, in the Gulf war. The Prime Minister is now denying what he accepted only last October.
We are told that the majority of the Security Council would have voted for the second resolution if it had not been for the nasty French coming in at the last minute and scuppering the whole process. Let us get real. Have we listened to what other countries were saying? The Chileans proposed an extension of three weeks, but they were told by the United States that that was not on. In the debate in the General Assembly, country after country expressed their anxieties about not letting the weapons inspectors have a chance to do their work. They were told that the nasty French—I am not sure whether the Conservative party dislikes the French more than the Liberals, or vice versa were being extremely unreasonable, but the French position, and the Chinese position in order to become acceptable, resolution 1441 had to be amended. Everything has been consistent in the opposition of countries that are against a rush to military action.
Somebody should speak up for the French because their position has been consistent, as has that of the Russians and the Chinese. The Chinese, the French and the Russians issued a declaration on the passage of resolution 1441. It sets out exactly how the British and the United States ambassadors agreed that it was not a trigger for war. The reason that those countries did not want a second resolution was not that it would be a pathway to peace I wonder who dreamed that up in Downing Street. The reason was that they saw it as a passport to war, so obviously they opposed a resolution drawn in those terms. The majority of smaller countries in the Security Council and the General Assembly countries did not want to rush to war because they saw that there remained an alternative to taking military action at this stage of the inspection process.
We are told that the Attorney General has described the war as legal. We could go into the legalities and quote professor after professor who has said the opposite, but one thing is certain: when the Secretary-General of the United Nations doubts the authorisation of military action without a second resolution, people can say many things about that action, but they cannot say that it is being taken in the name of the United Nations. (1)
The argument is that it will be a salutary lesson, that a dictator will be taught a lesson and that that will help us in dealing with other dictators. I suspect that the cost of the action — I do not doubt the military outcome for a second will be so high in a number of ways that it will not provide a platform for an assault on North Korea or Iran, which form the rest of the “axis of evil”. I do not think that the policy of teaching one dictator a lesson and then moving on to other dictators can work. Most of us know that it will be a breeding ground for a future generation of terrorists. That is not the case because people like Saddam Hussein. The images that will be shown throughout the Muslim world will not feature him, although, without any question, he will be more attractive as a martyr when he is dead than he has ever been while alive. The images that will be shown are those of the innocents who will undoubtedly die in a conflict that will be a breeding ground for terrorism.
Will the nation-building work? The record of the United States has not been impressive. Let me say something about one of the other countries that are being reviled at present Germany, which commits far more troops as a percentage of its armed forces to helping to secure the peace in the various trouble spots of the world for the United Nations.
We are told that the Prime Minister, (this is the essence of his case) will try to restrain some elements in the United States Administration and make them take a multilateral approach, but that, if that does not happen, when push comes to shove he has to go along with their policy. I say that there is a broader United States of America than the United States Government. I believe that many sections of opinion in America would welcome a vote from this Parliament today that says “Not in our name” because the real America wants to see a stand for peace, not a rush for war.
(1) The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan said that if the US and GB went ahead with an invasion of Iraq it would be in breach of the United Nations charter.
Extracts from other contributions to the debate
Dr. el-Baradei and his teams of inspectors reported to the UN that Iraq did not possess nuclear weapons and its biological and chemical weapons stocks and productivity was severely diminished. This being the case from where is the immediate intent to attack the United Kingdom, the United States, neighbouring states or other states to come from?
It has been suggested that Iraq might not intend to attack anyone but that it could pass them to terrorist organisations. But George Tennet, on behalf of the CIA said: “it is important when talking about what connections countries have with terrorism to distinguish between unconditional terrorist organisations, which would be liable to wish to use weapons of mass destruction, and political terrorist organisations, such as the Mujaheddin-e Khalq Organisation and Hamas, of which there is evidence that Iraq has had connections, would not have a purpose in doing so. And there is no verifiable evidence of any connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.”
Blair said the question is how Britain and the world face security threats of the 21st century which is a weird statement since in the context of the debate he was referring to weapons of mass destruction and the political belief of UK parties is that such matters should be resolved through non-proliferation and multilateral disarmament.
The Bush Administration has adopted a strategy of counter-proliferation. Saying; “It is okay if our friends develop nuclear weapons, but not if our enemies do,” and they choose who are the friends and who are the enemies. In this context, it needs to be remembered that Iraq was regarded as a friend and was supplied with weapons and munitions by the US and the UK during the 1980s.
Of more concern is that the policy of the Bush Administration says; “We can develop new nuclear weapons or try to make nuclear weapons more usable, and we can decide to breach the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the security assurance that we gave under that treaty.” That is a serious aspect of the overall problem of weapons of mass destruction, especially when it is added to the doctrine of pre-emptive war.
Blair made the point that war on Iraq was not on his agenda when he became Prime Minister in 1997, and he said that George W. Bush had told him that two days before 11 September it was not on his agenda. It was on other people’s agenda namely, that of the hawks that George Bush appointed to his Administration.
Blair said that the UK needed to view the US as a major power and partner. But there are major misgivings if it means that the United States takes the decision and the UK is expected to follow suit. That is not a partnership.
If the House of Commons votes for a pre-emptive war against Iraq, the question of precedence needs to be first discussed and resolved because the hawks of the Bush administration have already said that there are plans for other pre-emptive divisive wars. The US plan of the world of the future identifies closely with the vision set out by Blair in Brighton in 2001, when he spoke of, “the moral power of a world acting as a community”.
President Clinton’s Powerful Speech to the labour party Conference in Blackpool October 2002, (6 months before the invasion of Iraq
His advice, readily embraced at the time by Tony Blair and all of his ministers was ignored in the rush to war. Bush and Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the terrible consequences of this have been visited upon many nations of the World, (in particular Afghanistan and the Middle East).
Blair and Bush are now retired and very wealthy earning financial fortunes from speeches, advisory activities in support of many governments around the world and other businesses.
But many thousands of our armed forces were killed or returned home maimed through physical and or mental injury. The remaining years of their lives will be spent in pain and poverty as will the many thousands of families who lost their sons and daughters.
But Blair got his reward from the Queen. Now, Lord Blair is readying himself for a return to government should the Labour Party displace the Tories at the next General Election.