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Patrick Mercer: Not for a moment would I compare the security forces in Northern Ireland with the execrable behaviour of the Protestant paramilitaries. None the less, we the English establishment—

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): British.

Patrick Mercer: Yes, the English establishment used the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment—in other words, indigenous forces—to prosecute the war over there. The majority of the casualties, of course, came from Irish sources, rather than—I use the term advisedly—English sources.

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but in making it he must understand the clear distinction between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and, for instance, General Dostum, who is pressed to our service. Not even in the wildest accusations against the RUC, of which I am a considerable supporter, has anyone suggested that it uses methods such as tying people to tank traps and driving them round the yard until they are reduced to mincemeat, which is the chosen method of punishment of one of our finest friends in the Northern Alliance.

We would never have contemplated the course that I have described because, first, we know full well that it has no sounding in morality and, secondly, if one sows that wind, one reaps a whirlwind more terrible than one can possibly say. We are far away from Afghanistan, and we will not reap the immediate whirlwind, but whirlwind there will undoubtedly be, and at its vortex are the tens of warlords who now reign supreme in Afghanistan.

I can see a certain amount of shifting on the Front Bench, so I shall deal with the point that is implicit. The diplomatic effort has been worth it, and there has been a limited amount of perceived success. Before we count those chitties, however, let us reflect on the fact that one reason why agreement has been reached in those talks may well be that £4 billion of foreign aid is contingent on a form of agreement. That may well be a motivating factor at least as powerful among the warlords of Afghanistan as the concept of international peace.

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I turn now to one another matter, which would lead me, if there were a vote, to continue in my opposition. It concerns not Afghanistan, but America. On 13 November, the President of the United States, by unilateral edict and decree, without consulting Congress or the Supreme Court, passed into law a system of American military tribunals. It is the single greatest abnegation of civil liberty since the signing of the American constitution. Military tribunals have been set up which will try people in secret, with no rules of evidence, right to representation or burden of proof, and with two thirds of the court able to pass verdict and to pass a sentence of death. Those tribunals are the ultimate irony in America herself as she fights the war for freedom in which many of us support her.

The one point about the tribunals that is more important than anything else is that they are for foreign nationals only. American civilians, no matter how bestial the acts of terrorism in which they are implicated, retain all the rights of the constitution, to jury trial, representation, the burden of proof and, ultimately, the verdict of their peers. Within America, two laws have been set up: one for Americans and one for everybody else, which, incidentally, includes British citizens. In doing that, America unhappily has now contained within her own jurisprudence the double standards that make her, as she well knows or ought to know, vilified throughout the world, to the despair of her friends, among whom I would name myself without question.

Until America gives up this lamentable legacy of operating by satraps and agents of this kind of reputation, from the Kosovo Liberation Army to the Contras, and from the dictators of Latin America to the dictators of south-east Asia, and until she learns the lessons of this form of foreign policy, all the work we do in Afghanistan and all the success of our policies and our speed in achieving them will be rendered absolutely negligible in the annals of international terrorism.

5.54 pm

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): I would be inclined to agree with some of the points made by the hon. and learned Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall- Andrews) were it not for the fact that the result of using indigenous peoples and forces, in some of the recent campaigns that he opposed, has been not only the success of the campaign but the introduction of a system of democracy where none existed before. All the signs are that, despite what the hon. and learned Gentleman has just said, we will see a relatively democratic regime emerge in Afghanistan. All the signs are that, despite what he said about the KLA, we will see a relatively democratic regime in Kosovo. And all the signs are that, despite what he has just said, we are seeing a relatively democratic regime in Serbia.

The lesson was also learned right back in 1982 when, in spite of the same sort of objections expressed with the same sort of motives by the same sort of people on the same part of the political spectrum, we saw not only military success in the Falkland Islands but the emergence of democracy in Argentina itself. The only area in which our policy has so far failed was in the Gulf in 1990–91, when half-measures were employed in the case of Iraq, and we did not go to the assistance of those people locally

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who might have overthrown Saddam Hussein, which might have led to the emergence of a relatively democratic system there as well.

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: I know that the hon. Gentleman will accept that many of us supported the war in the Falklands and the war in Kuwait as being necessary. Will he accept, however, that the KLA did not win the war in Kosovo? The end of that war was brokered by the Russians after 78 days of bombing. Will he also accept that as a result of what happened in Kosovo, although there are the stems of democracy, the KLA is now the most widely feared drug-running terrorist organisation within the Kosovan and Albanian borders?

Dr. Lewis: I will not accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's analysis. I believe that it was important that the Russians did not actively support the Serbs, and that was one of several factors in the successful outcome. What really mattered, however, was not the bombing campaign alone, as the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) seemed to imply, if I heard him correctly, but the fact that it was allied to the threat that ground forces would indeed be used.

Mr. Bradshaw indicated assent.

Dr. Lewis: I am delighted to see some support from the Government in that analysis. It follows that one of three options will be taken: the first is to take no military action at all against such countries; the second is to take indiscriminate military action involving bombing alone, which will not work; the third is to do the one thing that has a chance of working, which is a combination of bombing and the use of ground forces—either one's own, in a threat or in actual invasion, or indigenous ground forces. Without ground forces of one sort or another, a military campaign will not be successful.

Several hon. Members rose

Dr. Lewis: I give way first to the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon).

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the North Atlantic Assembly, to which I am a delegate, was told by Interpol that in 1998 the KLA had very strong links with Osama bin Laden and, indeed, that he visited Albania to meet other terrorists? Does the hon. Gentleman not think it ironic that as the allies were acting as the air force for the KLA, those very same terrorists may have been plotting the twin towers tragedy?

Dr. Lewis: If that is correct, and I have no reason to doubt it, my answer is that one can only deal with one problem at a time. If, when one has dealt with the proximate problem—which at that time was Serbian aggression—subordinate problems emerge, one can deal with those as well. I have every confidence that the Americans, under President Bush, and—I am proud to say this as a member of the loyal Opposition—the Government, if they continue on the path that they have consistently followed since 11 September, will prove equal to the occasion. I pay that compliment to the Government and hope that they will acknowledge that they have had unflinching support from the Conservatives, if not from other Opposition parties and

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some Labour Members. Our support has been given generously and wholeheartedly. We are happy to endorse the Government's actions so far and the success that they have met so far.

Mr. Dalyell: It so happened that last night I was at the annual dinner of my national service regiment, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, who have returned for the second time from Kosovo. I stayed with them during their first tour of duty there. I asked them what the difference is now, and every one of those people who have just come back from Kosovo said that there is a terrible problem, not with the Serbs, as there was during their first tour of duty, but with KLA extremists. They are the problem facing British troops.

Dr. Lewis: I assure the hon. Gentleman, who knows that I greatly respect his views although I sometimes disagree with them, that I entirely endorse what he has just said. I visited Kosovo as a member of the Select Committee on Defence. My point is that we are now in a far better position to deal with the problems in Kosovo—even if the boot is now on the other foot, as unjustifiably as it was when on the Serbian foot—than we would have been had we not dealt firmly with Milosevic's aggression.

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