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Madam Deputy Speaker: Order.

5.47 pm

Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow): Since the appalling atrocities on 11 September, we have heard that our civilisation is under threat. We have even heard that the attack represents a clash of civilisations. In the short time available to me, I begin by rejecting that claim outright.

To speak of a clash of civilisations is to imply that one fanatic and his network, supported by another bunch of fanatics—the Taliban—represent a civilisation. Given their track record, the opposite is true. They represent the antithesis of civilisation. They represent destruction and

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degradation in all spheres—political, social and economic. It is true, however, that owing to the extreme nature of their barbarity, those fanatics might in the long run quicken the international community's determination to create and to police a world order based on the rule of law.

We achieved the rule of law and democracy in Britain only towards the end of the second millennium. The beginning of the third millennium marks the infancy of global democracy. The United Nations is only 52 years old—imagine when the UN is 300 years old, in 2249. Whether we reach that year will depend on the future success of the UN. British people looking back on us in that age will view us as being at the mediaeval stage of global governance and development. Whatever those British people survey in 2249, some small part—or possibly a large part—will have been shaped by our response to the events of 11 September 2001.

What will that response be? It must be a rules-based approach to international relations. That means strengthening our global institutions, nurturing global institutions that are rules-based and democratic, and reforming those that are not.

Incidentally, the World Trade Organisation is one of the most democratic and rules-based global institutions. Given the link that has been made by the symbolic attack on the World Trade Centre and the debate around globalisation, we would do well to remember that we must ensure that the economic rights of people in developing countries are tied into the response we put together.

I have been delighted to hear what our Prime Minister has had to say on that matter. Indeed, only a few days ago at the Labour party conference he spoke of the need to find security and justice within institutions and a global response that looks to and speaks to people in the developing world. He even mentioned conflicts that I have heard no one else mention recently, such as those in the Congo and Rwanda. He did so because until we start to look into some of the root causes of instability and insecurity around the world, we will not be able to deal with the threat of terrorism, which is cowardly and uses those problems as an excuse for its own appalling deeds.

If we are to create a rules-based response and to improve rules-based institutions, we must first look to the United Nations. I welcomed the Foreign Secretary's remarks when he said that a UN mandate for governing Afghanistan was an option that would be considered. We certainly need a UN peacekeeping force with a mandate to establish a transitional administration that is able to facilitate democratic elections at some point—the same type of force as that used in Cambodia and East Timor.

Again, if we are to strengthen a rules-based approach, Britain needs more influence over the global institutions that shape our world. I was pleased to hear this morning that the Security Council has invited Britain to chair a committee that will study the use of sanctions against members who do not uphold resolution 1373, which legally binds UN member states to

If we are talking about strengthening those international institutions, we cannot help but recognise that sub- international institutions—that is, regional institutions—have also grown in importance, which leads us inexorably towards the European Union. I certainly hope that there too, Britain will continue to increase and exercise its influence. Clearly, we can have more influence over those institutions

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only through participation not isolation. I hope that is one thing that the American Government will also consider in their response, which until this point has been extremely measured.

Everyone has said that everything has changed since 11 September. For me, it certainly has. Before 11 September, no one could have convinced me that I would ever have a shred of respect for President Bush, but today I do respect the response of the American Administration.

We also need to consider some of the reasons why so many people dislike and even distrust America—I speak as an American citizen who holds an American passport. One obvious reason that it is important to single out America is because it is the most powerful country on the planet. Perceived hypocrisy massively compounds the usual antagonisms that face a world superpower. Some people despise America because it is a superpower. Some people despise it because of its values—free speech, liberty and democracy; and some people despise it because they feel that much of its foreign policy since the second world war has made a mockery of those values—a mockery of free speech, liberty and democracy. There are many examples: Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, the Congo in 1960, Cuba in 1961, Chile in 1973 and Nicaragua between 1981 and 1986. There is no need to labour the sense of injustice that many people have felt about the perceived use of double standards in American foreign policy. As many speakers have said, nowhere is that more obvious than in Israel and Palestine.

My grandfather was in the British Army, and one Member spoke of how his Sikh grandfather wore a turban and beard and went to battle for king and country during the second world war—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order.

5.55 pm

Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight): I begin by relating something of which I am a bit ashamed. On the afternoon of Tuesday 11 September, I saw on the internet what had happened in New York and my thought immediately was "Israel". That was a small victory for Osama bin Laden. He had succeeded in part of what he had set out to do by bringing to my attention a situation that he believed was unjust. We must not delude ourselves that there is no reason behind the action that he has taken. That is not to say that we should yield or should negotiate even if it is clear that he has presented us with something to negotiate about. I am sure that something more than the problems in Israel lie behind his activities, and the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King) mentioned an example.

Over the next couple of days, like many hon. Members I developed an increased regard for President Bush. He had the uniquely difficult task of representing the view of a nation that had been attacked at home when it had never been attacked at home before. He had to bring together the feelings and demands for retribution, revenge and retaliation and turn them into something sensible, measured and concrete, and that, with the support of the international community, he could deliver. He has done just that. He has turned the immediate demand for revenge

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into a much more measured demand for justice and prevention. He has done so—I am sure in part—because he has surrounded himself with wise counsellors and has taken note of the views of the international community represented not least by the Prime Minister.

We need to address a couple of issues—I am sure that the Prime Minister and others may already have done so—in our reaction, but they have not, as far as I know, been mentioned in the debate. When I did a phone-in on Isle of Wight Radio recently, the most difficult questions I was asked were: "Why, given that you support the action whatever it is, are you not talking about introducing freedom and democracy to the Arab world? You say that the action is in defence of democracy, freedom and civilisation, so why are you not talking of introducing those virtues to the whole of the middle east, which is pretty short on freedom and democracy?"

I hope that I gave the right answer. I said that we have to respect other civilisations as well as our own. Liberal democracy is the best way to rule any country, but it is not within our power to impose liberal democracy out of the barrel of a gun on a nation or on a culture that believes in a different system of government. Whether it is a theocracy, autocracy or whatever kind of government, we must have respect, in delivering internationally agreed objectives, for the people of civilisations different from our own.

When we talk of defending "civilisation", I believe that we use that word in its widest possible sense. We are talking not just about the defence of western civilisation as represented by capitalism and liberal democracy, but about the civilisations of the Arab world and of the east, and we have perhaps done too much, insensitively, to undermine them in the past.

I believe that over the last century, indeed the last millennium, the United Kingdom, as a western european country, has brought untold benefits to other parts of the world. However, other parts of the world think differently now and we do not have the power that we used to have to impose our values on others. Therefore, I address, with just a little concern, the Prime Minister's aspirations expressed at his party conference on Tuesday. Of course, to reshape the world is a wonderful aspiration, but I wonder whether we have the right to do so.

I believe that we have the right to defend our values and to defend our civilisation when it is under attack. We also have the responsibility to defend other civilisations when they are under attack. Arab countries take a different view from us about the role of women in society and about the role of democracy. I believe that our responsibility, indeed our right, is limited to defending ourselves when under attack. We do not have the right to intervene in countries that rule themselves effectively, even though we may disagree to a considerable extent. Of course, it is a grey distinction. It is the distinction between the appalling atrocities of the Taliban, not least towards women, and the different approach to the role of women adopted by western civilisations.

Let us be unlimited in our ambitions but limited in our objectives to that which is achievable and legitimate. That far, we will support the Prime Minister and the United States in defending our interests and protecting our civilisation.

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6.3 pm

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