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26 Feb 2003 : Column 319—continued

3.59 pm

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): In 1991, I stood at the Opposition Dispatch Box and described what I had seen on the mountains of Iran and Iraq when the Kurds fled from the bombardment of Saddam Hussein. I am afraid that people have very short memories. The scenes were appalling and typical of the attacks made by the Iraqi regime on its own people. The victims include Arabs as well as Kurds. They also include Assyrians, Turkomans and the Shi'as in the south of the country who were forced to flee from the marshes into Iran.

I have spent the past two days travelling and I have come back for this debate so that I can tell the House what I have seen and heard. As the House knows, I have continually argued the case over the years for indicting the regime for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. I am grateful to 201 of my colleagues on both sides of the House who supported my proposal. I believe that the regime should be removed and that it could have been removed by using international law and indictment. It is a great regret to me that this country, which could have led the way, did not do so. After two years of our making the case and providing evidence from the victims of the regime, the Attorney-General felt that there was not sufficient evidence. I do not know how much evidence one needs, because it abounds. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have the evidence, and the Kurds captured documents from the torture centre that they eventually liberated. Thousands of their citizens died there.

On my latest visit, I opened the first genocide museum in Iraq. It was snowing and quite dark on that day and people had come from all over the area. Their relatives had died in that torture chamber. Inside the museum were photographs that the Kurds had taken. The images were of skulls and shreds of clothing, and of the type of thing that one sees in genocide museums elsewhere in the world. I have been to similar museums in Rwanda and Cambodia, and I have seen the holocaust exhibition in

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London, but I am afraid that, on this occasion, I just cried. I do not think that I have ever cried in public before, but I did so because the regime's victims were all around me. One old woman came up to me with a piece of plastic and pushed it into my hand. I unwrapped it and saw three photographs. They were of her husband and two sons who had died in that torture centre.

People had written things on the cell walls. Sometimes the writing was in blood and sometimes it was just marks to cross off the days of the week. Inside one cell is a statue of a Peshmerga, whose face looks upward towards a grill through which the light comes. I was told that that Peshmerga had died in that cell and that he was always looking towards the light, because he hoped that, one day, he would be out in the daylight again.

The victims were all around me, and I have been involved for 25 years—including before I became a politician—with the Iraqi opposition. For those 25 years, I have heard the tales of Saddam Hussein's regime and its repression of the Kurds and other minorities. People seem to think that that all came to an end in 1991, but that is a big mistake. Repression, torture and ethnic cleansing have continued throughout the time since then.

On my latest visit, I met some of the victims of torture who had, in the past few months, come out of the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad under the so-called amnesty. One man told me stories that I hardly like to repeat, but we at Indict have taken victims' statements over the past seven years. This victim was a youngish man who said that he had been in prison for eight years. He said that almost every day, people were executed at that prison—not one person, but hundreds. When there was an attack on Uday Hussein's life some time ago, 2,000 prisoners in the prison were executed on the same day. That is the reality of Saddam's Iraq. When I hear people calling for more time, I say "Who will speak up for those victims?"

I shall recount only two stories told by the same man. He told me that a university professor gave birth at the Abu Ghraib prison while he was there. Apparently, because of the very poor diet of thin soup and bread, she did not have enough milk to feed the baby when it was born. She begged the guards for milk, but they refused to give it and the baby died. She held that baby in her arms for three days and would not give up the body. At the end of the three days, because the temperature in the prison was very hot—some 60° C—the body began to smell. They took the woman and her dead baby away. I asked the former prisoner what happened to her and he said that she was killed.

The man then talked about a young boy aged 15 who had done something or other and was in the prison, and fainted during one of the torture sessions—he was beaten so hard that he fainted. The guards pinned him up to the frame of a window and crucified him on the window frame while he was still alive. When he came to, he was crying out for water, but nobody would give him water. One of the other prisoners threw water in his face, but that prisoner was himself taken away and beaten.

Ethnic cleansing goes on all the time. I visited a UN camp where there were hundreds of recent victims of ethnic cleansing who had been kicked out of Kirkuk. The men, women and little children in the camp had been told that they had 24 hours to get out of Kirkuk because they would not agree that they were not Kurds,

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but Arabs, as part of Arabisation. In other countries, we have taken action against people responsible for ethnic cleansing, so I say to my colleagues, please, who is to help the victims of Saddam Hussein's regime unless we do?

I believe in regime change. I say that without hesitation, and I will support the Government tonight because I think that they are doing a brave thing.

4.7 pm

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): No one would doubt the sincerity and long-standing commitment of the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) to the Kurdish people. I only wish that I could believe that many of those who are planning military action have the same sincere concern about the hopes and aspirations of the Kurdish people. Although I oppose military action, as I am about to outline, I hope that the question of Turkish deployment in the Kurdish areas is well understood by the people who are planning military action, as well as the consequences that might follow.

There is one point on which I agree with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) and one on which I disagree with him strongly. The point of agreement is that, without any question, people should understand that this debate is going to be the crucial one as far as war is concerned. The shadow Foreign Secretary said—perhaps this admission would not have been made by the Foreign Secretary—that the resolution before the United Nations and the Government motion are cover resolutions. That is how he described them. I took that to mean that although they do not mention war or military action—even the new UK resolution at the Security Council does not do that and the Government's motion certainly does not do so—if they were passed at the Security Council and here, they would be taken as a green light for military action. No one who votes or does not vote tonight should be under any illusions that this is the opportunity to slow down the process if people want to do that. If that opportunity is not taken, it ain't going to come again.

There is another reason for that which we should understand as well. The procedures of this place do not always allow for the sort of vote that we are fortunate to have this evening. Not for the first time in his fairly short time as Speaker, our Speaker has taken an unusual course in selecting a genuine all-party amendment that gives hon. Members a chance to vote on an issue of principle that goes across the parties. I am proud to speak for my party and for Plaid Cymru in supporting and co-sponsoring the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith). That type of amendment will not necessarily be allowed to emerge again under our procedures, so let us make no mistake—this is the opportunity for hon. Members who wish to do so to vote to slow up the march to war.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin said some fairly savage things about President Bush. I do not agree. I can understand that view in terms of the policy of the American Administration, but I tend to look at the matter slightly differently. I see that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) is looking puzzled. He is probably the only Member who was a Member of Parliament when Barry Goldwater ran for

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President of the United States in 1964. He ran under the argument that America could win a pre-emptive war against the Soviet Union if it was strong enough in nuclear weapons. His slogan was, "In your heart, you know he's right". The Democrat reply was, "In your guts, you know he's nuts". Thankfully for all of us, the Democrats were successful in that election. I am not arguing that that is President Bush's position, but when I listen to Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle and other people who are central to that Administration, the words of the Democrat party in 1964 are very meaningful to me—in my guts I think they are nuts. They are trying to apply a management school theory about dominating companies and markets to international politics. They argue that America must exert its power in every sphere of influence, regardless of any consequences. That argument, which would have been regarded as extremism only a few years ago, now holds sway in key parts of the American Administration.

I differ with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin on the reason why that argument is central to the Administration. It is due not to a deep-laid plot by George W. Bush, but to the consequences of 11 September and the trauma and fear that has gripped the American people since then. This is not anti-Americanism. America is a country that was founded out of the intellectual strength of the Scottish enlightenment. [Laughter.] I hear some laughs. Hon. Members on both sides of the House should understand where the American constitution and its checks and balances came from. America understands it. The founding fathers would be birling in their graves, to use a Scottish phrase, if they could see what is being done in the name of America and the American constitution in terms of the pre-emptive, aggressive policy that is emanating from the American Administration. It is possible for that policy to become central to the Administration only in an atmosphere of fear.

That is where the Prime Minister is heavily culpable. As the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury told the Prime Minister yesterday in a telling intervention, it is the job of a candid friend to tell his friend the truth in times of crisis. That is particularly so in this case given that the friend, America, is gripped in the trauma of the aftermath of 11 September, 18 months ago. The fact that the Prime Minister has failed to do that is his central culpability, because he was in a position to put the brakes on that sort of policy, and he still is in such a position. Unfortunately, however, he has exchanged that position of influence to become a prisoner of the policies that emanate from some of the extreme people in the American Administration. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister is no longer in charge of these events and that events are controlling him. To return to the "Newsnight" interview that I mentioned earlier in an exchange with the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister was specific in front of a studio audience about there being one set of circumstances, and one only, in which he would argue for the use of force.

That was if the weapons inspectors said that their process had ended. According to the transcript, the Prime Minister said that if the majority of the Security Council adopted a second resolution and it was blocked by one country's unreasonable veto, he would consider

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the use of force. It is significant that neither the Prime Minister yesterday nor the Foreign Secretary today was prepared to stand even on that position. The Prime Minister is no longer in control of events; they are controlling him.

Let us consider morality. The Prime Minister is a religious man and I respect that. It does him great credit. I have nothing like his record of church going or observance. However, I, too, have faith and conviction. I believe that if an immoral and unjust war takes place, with thousands of casualties and the spilling of innocent blood, the person responsible for arguing for it will answer one day to a much higher authority than the House of Commons.

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