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The present Iraqi Government do not seem able to provide stability, which is what most Iraqis want. The United States Government seem to be attributing much of the unrest to the influence of Iran. While there are clearly religious connections with the Shia clerics in the south, there certainly does not appear to be a case for military action against the Iranian regime. It is a repressive regime, but there are signs of internal opposition, particularly among young people, to the heavy-handed rule of the mullahs. We should do whatever we can to assist the democratically inclined internal opposition. For that reason, I am surprised that our Government continue to proscribe the PMOI—the People’s Mujaheddin Organisation of Iran—a peaceable organisation supported by many women. A threat of military action against Iran, however, is more likely to strengthen the present fanatical regime than weaken it.

As far as Iraq is concerned, we should bring our troops home. We should not expose these young men and women to the dangers that they are facing for what seems to be an increasingly dubious outcome. In fact, if we were able to admit that the whole adventure had been a mistake and offer to compensate the Iraqis for what our intervention has done to their people and their country, it might well go some way to restoring our collapsed reputation throughout the Middle East. That, of course, is unlikely to happen, although it should. In the mean time, I support the idea of an inquiry. It might help us to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

2.49 pm

Lord Butler of Brockwell: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, for initiating this debate, and echo the congratulations to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Walker of Aldringham, on his maiden speech. It would have been apt in any circumstances, but it is particularly apt at the present time.

I should like to address my remarks principally to what has been said by the noble Lord, by opposition spokesmen in another place and by other noble Lords about a further privy counsellor review of the decision to go to war. I agree that there are further lessons to be learnt from our experience of the war. I also agree that the learning of those lessons may well require access to the confidential papers of government, which inquiry by a group of privy counsellors allows. But with great respect to the noble Lord, I must say that I doubt whether the scope for an inquiry goes as wide as he suggested. The lessons to be learnt concern the way in which plans were made—or, as everybody now acknowledges, not adequately made—for the situation in Iraq after the defeat of Saddam Hussein.

I doubt whether any further inquiry is needed into the reasons why the United States and the United Kingdom went to war or even into the machinery of government questions referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Owen. Like the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, I think that we, and increasingly the British public, know what happened about that. I have always believed that our Prime Minister had good reason for

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wishing to support the Americans in removing Saddam Hussein. But he had a problem. He had the clearest legal advice that military intervention solely for the purpose of regime change could not be justified in international law. The only justification for military intervention was to enforce the Security Council resolutions at the end of the first Gulf War prohibiting Iraq’s possession or acquisition of weapons of mass destruction.

I have also always accepted and continue to accept that the Prime Minister sincerely believed that Saddam possessed such weapons and was bent on acquiring more. Our intelligence community believed that, as did other countries’ intelligence communities, as well as Hans Blix when he first took UN observers back into Iraq. But here was the rub: neither the United Kingdom nor the United States had the intelligence that proved conclusively that Iraq had those weapons. The Prime Minister was disingenuous about that. The United Kingdom intelligence community told him on 23 August 2002 that,

The Prime Minister did not tell us that. Indeed, he told Parliament only just over a month later that the picture painted by our intelligence services was “extensive, detailed and authoritative”. Those words could simply not have been justified by the material that the intelligence community provided to him.

I remark in passing that the Prime Minister has come close to admitting that his reasons for continuing to support the war were reasons for which there was no legal justification. He has said that he apologises for the mistakes that were made, but he does not apologise for removing Saddam Hussein. But, absent WMD, there was no legal justification for military intervention to remove Saddam Hussein.

There can be no doubt that mistakes were also made in designing and carrying through the post-war strategy. Why were those mistakes made? First, it should be acknowledged that they were primarily American mistakes. The United States’ decisions on the post-war strategy in Iraq were flawed by what can only be described as naivety, ignorance and arrogance.

Why was Britain not more influential in influencing that strategy? Did we try to change it and fail or were we as naive and ignorant as the United States? Maybe that is the area where there is a case for further inquiry, but I suspect that, in this case too, we know the answer. We know that two factors contributed to our ineffectiveness. One was that the British Government were so focused on justifying the war and trying to secure Security Council agreement that they did not focus sufficiently on the post-war strategy. Even today, we have the evidence of Sir Jeremy Greenstock that the Government did not have their eye on that particular ball.

The second factor was the Prime Minister’s centrist and informal approach to running the Government, which prevented all the resources available in departments on this aspect from being brought into play. We know that the Secretary of State for

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International Development at the time, Clare Short, tried repeatedly to get the Cabinet to focus on post-war Iraq and got short shrift for it. Even so, no doubt there are lessons to be learnt from this. But like the noble Lord, Lord Jay, I am less certain about the timing suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Hurd. It would be a mistake at this moment if we were to allow a preoccupation with the past to divert us from the present and the future. The main thrust of our energy must be forward-looking. We have to decide now what strategy will make the terrible situation in Iraq better and not worse.

As many other noble Lords have said, we must also ensure that inattention does not cause us to make the same sort of mistakes in relation to Iran as were made in Iraq. As I saw from the review that I conducted, as the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, will remember from the Scott inquiry and as I remember from the Falklands inquiry, which took place after the completion of the war, inquiries of this sort are hugely demanding on the resources of the very people in government who are also deeply involved in handling the current situation. Even in a non-partisan inquiry of the sort advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, the reputations of those concerned are closely at stake and they are bound to be concerned about that. The situation in the Middle East is so dangerous that the world cannot afford another blunder. In a no doubt well intentioned effort to learn from the past, let us not allow our attention to be diverted from the perils that lie before us.

2.57 pm

Lord Soley: My Lords, I start by complimenting the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Walker of Aldringham. At times like this, it is particularly appropriate to remind us that when war comes to an end the experience that people suffer in them continues. He has great knowledge of that and it is something that we should never let ourselves forget.

I congratulate again the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, for bringing forward this debate. It is an important one. I agree with him about the inquiry. I took the view early after the conflict that we ought to have an inquiry of the Falklands type and I dropped a note to the Prime Minister to that effect. However, it is too late now. This is not the right time for it in any event and I am not sure that the topic is right. I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Butler, that the areas have been well covered in the media and elsewhere, which enables us to know what the key mistakes were. I will return to those, but the core issue for me and for many of us—this was put well by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson—is that Iraq is not the beginning and end of this problem. It is part of a wider problem that has been growing and confronting us, particularly since the end of the Cold War: when and how we should intervene.

The noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, who is not here today, made an excellent speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies yesterday. It really bears reading by noble Lords. It addresses the issue that troubles some of my friends on this side—my noble friend Lady Turner would have been impressed by it.

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The issue is not whether it was a good idea to remove Saddam Hussein, although I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Butler, said about the legality of that. My view has always been that there is a case for regime change. We need to make that case. The problem is not just one for Britain and America: it is a problem for the European Union and also the United Nations.

Why is it a problem for the European Union? The noble Lord, Lord Hurd, will remember well that at the time of Bosnia, when he was a distinguished Foreign Secretary, many of us including myself called for intervention. I remember him saying very clearly, “I understand those people who are calling for something to be done, but the problem is they never say what”. I understand that—but let us recognise what was happening there. White European Muslims were being murdered, massacred and tortured by white European Christians and the white European Christians sat back and wrung their hands but did nothing. Then came Kosovo, where the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, worked very hard to get the United States involved.

Europe, with all the soft power that it exercises, which is very important and effective soft power, has neither the will nor the ability to deliver hard power. So we could not actually deal with Kosovo—we wanted the United States to come in and do it for us. We have to ask the question that if the United States is asked to come and sort out some of Europe’s problems, which we cannot deal with ourselves, where is the position of Europe in relation to the United States? That question goes beyond the present Administration in the United States. It is not impossible that we will have other Kosovo-type problems around the borders of Europe, so we really do need to think about this issue of intervention.

The noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, yesterday made the point that intervention involves a plan before, a plan during the military operation and a plan after it. I do not think that it is true to say that the United States or the British Government did not have a plan for post-conflict—they did. The trouble is—and the noble Lord, Lord Jay, made this point very well—that there was not enough focus on it here, for reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Butler, has given. But, more importantly, two key mistakes were made.

The first mistake, to which a number of noble Lords have referred, was that there were not sufficient troops on the ground to police the situation. The other mistake was profoundly important. If you are going to make the assumption that we have lost Iraq, although I do not think we necessarily have, the period in which we lost it was between 16 and 23 May 2003. Why? Because on 16 May Paul Bremer, who was put in charge very suddenly by the United States, took the decision to get rid of the whole civil service in Iraq just because it was Ba’athist. Before that, of course, you could not get a job in the civil service in Iraq unless you were a member of the Ba’ath party—so there were good and bad people in that civil service structure. Then, on 23 May, the truly disastrous decision was to get rid of the Iraqi army, sending all those people with training and knowledge of weapons and who knew where the weapons were

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into long-term unemployment without any pay. At that stage, we lost control on the ground.

My answer to the question whether we should have intervened is yes. But if you are going to intervene you make sure that you have a pre-conflict plan, a plan for during the conflict and a post-conflict plan. We had a lot of that but the mistakes were of the type that I outlined. I do not think that any of this was done with bad intent—which was a point that was made by a number of noble Lords. All of it was done with good intent, but we are still struggling with the issue of how and when to intervene.

I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, will like this or not, but I have always seen him as one of the post-Treaty of Westphalia Foreign Secretaries. That treaty made the point, 400 years ago, that you should not intervene in the internal affairs of the nation state. That treaty was really at an early stage of the development of international relations. If you think about it, that treaty, which was held to for many years, was thrown out in 1944-45, because if we had held to it then we would have stopped attacking Nazi Germany when we reached its borders, having excluded it from all the countries that it had invaded. We would have let Hitler get on with governing the rest.

That is precisely what we did with Saddam Hussein in 1991—and at that stage we had Muslim countries on board with us. I understand why at that stage we made the decision not to carry on and remove him, because there was a fear of civil war—of what we have now, which is something very close to civil war. The words here are not important; we know that the killing is appalling and nobody wants to see it continue. But the issue then was that we had an opportunity to remove a despotic leader.

Another aspect of that argument is that we always underestimate how disastrous a long period of brutality is on a nation, although we got it right in Germany and, largely, with Japan, where again it is worth remembering that far from disbanding the Japanese army the British used it to police Vietnam and parts of Indonesia with British officers in charge. We administered it for six months to a year before the French came in again to take over. We knew what needed to be done in broad terms—but now things are infinitely more difficult.

The nature of modern weapons means—and the Prime Minister is absolutely right on this—that you cannot ignore problems elsewhere in the world. That is where the Treaty of Westphalia approach fails. That process, which held for 400 years, broke down in the 20th century and is certainly not appropriate now. We need ways in which to decide how and when to intervene. We should ask ourselves what would have happened if instead of just saying no to Britain and the United States having made a decision to go into Iraq the United Nations and the European Union had said, “Yes, but we want to make sure that we manage the post-conflict situation”. I venture to suggest that the situation would be significantly different and better, had that happened, because the European Union particularly is very good at post-conflict situations, as is the United Nations. By doing

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it without them we had the dreadful position of Europe being divided—and when people ask, as a couple of noble Lords have done today, whether the influence that the Prime Minister had in the United States could have been greater, the answer is that yes, it certainly could have been if Europe had been speaking with one voice. But it was speaking with two voices; it was weak and ineffectual—yet it is only 10 years after we pleaded with the United States to come in and use military force on our behalf in Europe. We have fallen into a double standard in that regard.

As someone who supported the war, I accept that it has not gone as planned, to put it mildly, but I actually believe that it could have done. The question is not whether you would have voted for it if you had known the outcome; the answer to that is no, because the loss of blood and life is too great. The real question is whether the intervention could have been done in a more unified and effective way, especially with regard to the post-conflict planning. The answer to that must be that it not only could and should have been done in that way, but we need to do it more effectively in future.

I am always struck that when people say that we should not have intervened in Iraq, in another conversation sometimes the same people—particularly if they come from a Conservative perspective—say that we should do something about Zimbabwe and take action to put Mugabe out of office. Other people, particularly on the left, will say that we have to do something about Darfur, remove the Janjaweed and stop the massacres and ethnic cleansing that are going on there. That goes back to what the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, would say when he was Foreign Secretary—people say that something should be done, but what should be done? The “what should be done” bit is the issue not so much for an inquiry but for an inspired and ongoing policy debate about when and how we intervene. That is the key question; the issue is not whether it was right or wrong to intervene to remove Saddam Hussein—as far as I am concerned, it was right. The issue is essentially how you manage that process.

The United Nations has to come away from the idea that you should never remove a despot. We should remember that most despots who have been removed have been removed without the consent of the United Nations. Pol Pot, Idi Amin and the East Pakistan Government before that region became Bangladesh were all removed by neighbouring states with force without the consent of the United Nations. That is also true of Kosovo. One of my primary reasons for supporting the action was not that of weapons of mass destruction. If you read the debate of 18 March 2003 in the House of Commons, in which I took part, you will see that most of us did not argue about the issue of WMD—the noble Lord, Lord Butler, was right about that; we argued about the United Nations becoming increasingly like the League of Nations, where it could not and would not act, the problem of bringing stability to the Middle East while you had someone like Saddam Hussein sitting in the middle of it all, and other issues. I do not

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pretend that WMD were not part of it, but they were not the key part of the debate. The debate now needs to move on to the crucial issue of when and how we intervene.

I am not in the business of plugging other people’s books, but if the book of the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, is anything like what he described yesterday, he is right. He comes to this matter with the experience of Bosnia and Kosovo. It is a matter that we all ought to consider carefully because this issue of intervention in failed and despotic states will not go away and will become profoundly more dangerous the easier it is to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

3.11 pm

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, this House has an extremely good record for mounting excellent debates about Iraq and this one has been no exception. I recall the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, which was of a magisterial nature and appealed for an inquiry, and the moving speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Walker, which we shall remember for a long time. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, was particularly interesting when he talked about government motives and preconceptions at the beginning of the war.

I do not think that I make special pleading if I say that if Her Majesty’s Government had listened more carefully, or read more carefully the report of the debates on Iraq on 28 November 2002 and 26 February 2003, we might not be in quite such a bad position as we are today. Those debates and this one are one more good reason to suppose that this Chamber does a very good job. Perhaps that is what my noble friend Lord Jay referred to when he thought that the role of Parliament in these matters should be discussed more carefully.

The fine speeches made by my noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall and my noble friend Lord Skidelsky on 28 November 2002 provide an ample justification for a Cross-Bench peerage. I also recall, if I am not making a mistake, a speech by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in which, just before the war, he said that if we were looking for monsters to destroy perhaps we should look—this is echoed in what the noble Lord, Lord Soley, said a few minutes ago—towards Zimbabwe rather than to Iraq. The phrase “monsters to destroy” is a quotation from the fifth president of the United States, John Quincy Adams, when he was Secretary of State, in which he advised the United States not to look for enemies and to be careful about entangling alliances—to use a phrase of the second president, President Jefferson.

However satisfactory it is to recall how wise we were in the past, we have to deal with the present situation. In thinking what to say on this subject, I was tempted to recall the previous time when this country was deeply involved in Iraq in the occupation from 1917 to 1921, as a mandatory power from 1917 to 1929 and as the paramount power from 1929 to 1958. I thought that I ought to talk about that since a Member of this House revealed to me that the present United States Secretary of State did not seem to know that we had been in that position in Iraq before. That

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was the time when, in the words of a book by Christopher Catherwood, Winston’s Folly, we were creating modern Iraq. That was the time when Mr Churchill, then Colonial Secretary, said that we were the greatest Mohammedan power. I suppose that was probably true after 1919, recalling our role in what was then India.

I was tempted to talk about the question of regime change, as touched on, interestingly, by the noble Lord, Lord Soley, recalling that President Theodore Roosevelt, in what was known as the corollary to the Monroe doctrine, thought that brutal wrong-doing was a justification for United States intervention in Latin America. Then I thought that perhaps this war in Iraq represents the Latin Americanisation of American foreign policy. I was tempted, too, to dwell on a point mentioned yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, in the discussion on Iraq when he referred to Mr Peter Galbraith’s suggestion for the partition of Iraq. However, I thought better of all this. I decided that the best contribution I could make would be to talk about what we should do and what we are doing about the ancient history of Iraq and the ancient culture that made such a major contribution to all our lives. I say this because what we know of what is happening at ancient sites in Iraq disquiets me. Many sites appear to have been damaged recently. I say “appear” because the facts are not known. Much has been stolen from all places since the guards have been removed.

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