|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): On Wednesday afternoon, my constituency chairman, Maureen Holding, learned that two of her cousins had almost certainly been killed in New York. They were a brother and sister. Christine Egan was 55 and had devoted her professional life to helping and caring for deprived communities in the United States and Canada. She was visiting her brother Michael Egan, who was 51.
Michael Egan phoned his wife after the impact of the plane in the tower of the World Trade Centre where he was working. He was a highly respected vice-president of an insurance company based there. He said that he hoped to be home soon. He had taken out two parties of his employees. He was just about to go back and fetch the last batch of employees, after which he hoped to return home. She never heard from him again: the building imploded shortly afterwards.
It is perhaps self-defeating and certainly pointless to talk publicly about what retaliation measures should be considered before they have been decided upon, let alone carried out. However, there has been too much concentration, especially in America, on purely technical methods of punishing aggressive groups, societies or even countries. It is not possible to wage counteraction or even counter-warfare without putting one's own armed forces and human lives at risk. That is why which measures to take will have to be the subject of careful consideration.
Matters that can be discussed publicly in advance are the measures that may be necessary to protect free and open societies against the sort of onslaught that we have seen in America and that may well be visited on the rest of us
During the last great conflict in which this country was involved, various severe restrictions had to be imposed on what are known today as civil rights or human rights. I believe that serious attention will now have to be given to several measures, one of which must be the introduction, by compulsion, of national identity cards. Consideration must be given to establishing a comprehensive DNA databasenot merely something to be employed when people stray into areas of illegality, but a resource that will enable the tracking of suspected terrorists from site to site, from den to den, and from safe house to the point at which they are ready to act. The Government must recognise that if an onslaught of the sort seen in America begins in this country, they might need emergency powers analogous to the internment powers used in previous conflicts.
When discussing the hijacking of aircraft, we should remember that the aircraft of one countryIsraelare never hijacked. That is in part because of greater security, but primarily because when hijacking was first attempted on Israel's aircraft the armed guards on the aircraft eliminated the hijackers on the spot. Israel's airliners are now probably the safest in which to travel. We have to have the powers to which I was delighted to hear the Foreign Secretary refer in his excellent speech todaypowers to ensure that if action has to be taken against someone who is in the process of hijacking an airliner, the Government will not be sued for infringing the human rights of the would-be murderer, shot to prevent him from committing his crime.
Bob Spink (Castle Point): My hon. Friend is aware that every day several thousand of my constituents travel to work in Canary wharf and the City. Does he accept that Scotland Yard and the various security forces now have the task of ensuring that such people's environment is safe?
When talking about an open society, I have regard to that great work of the late Sir Karl Popper, "The Open Society and its Enemies", in which he refers to something entitled "the paradox of tolerance". It states that in a free society we must tolerate all but the intolerant, because if we tolerate the intolerant the conditions for toleration disappear and the tolerant go with them.
An act of war has been perpetrated. We must consider carefully whether the measures in response should be judged by peacetime standards or the standards that pertain when a country is fighting to preserve its life. I was fascinated to hear the Taliban in Afghanistan say categorically that bin Laden could not have been responsible. If that is not a tacit admission that it knows of the things for which he is responsible, I do not know what is.
Has anyone else noted that 24 hours before the attack in America, General Masoud, the leading freedom fighter in Afghanistanfirst against the Soviets, then against the Talibanwas the victim of a suicide bomb attempt that was meticulously and skilfully planned? I do not believe that that was a coincidence. I am sure that there is a connection between that event and what followed a day later in New York.
I conclude by saying that if action is taken, it must be taken wholeheartedly and to the bitter end. We do not want another Gulf war that leaves the people responsible in power to continue to provide funds, to function and to commit evil through the medium of others.
Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Kelvin): I send my condolences to the great people of the United States of America, in particular to that great city, which I know and love, New Yorkso great they named it twice. I also send my condolences to New York's magnificent emergency services and its much maligned mayor, Rudi Giuliani, who has proved an admirable and excellent leader of that city's response. I am sure that New York will be back, as big and magnificent as ever.
I despise Osama bin Laden, the mediaeval obscurantist savage; the difference is that I have always despised him. I despised him when weapons, money, and political and diplomatic support were being stuffed down his throat faster than he could eat it. I said in this building on the eve of the victory of those whom the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) used to hail as holy warriors and freedom fighters that, although I might be the last man in this place prepared to say it, we were responsible for opening the gates to the barbarians and a long dark night would descend on Afghanistan. Never did I speak truer words.
I caution against use of the word "civilisation". There are many civilisations in our world. Viewed from some countries, western civilisation does not always look as benign as we see it. It would be much easier if this were truly a conflict between the forces of good and a helpfully turbaned and bearded Dr. Evil, and, if only we could ker-pow that mephistopholean genius in Action Man comic style, everything would be fine againbut it is not so. What we face is a hydra-headed phenomenon precisely because it arises from real conditions and has a real base of support.
Do not mistake the condemnation from Arab and Muslim Governments. It has arisen either from a dependent relationship with us and our friends or from the fear that if they do not say what is expected of them they will be attacked. Do not mistake that for the feeling of tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people in Arab and Muslim countries that we are responsible for monumental double standards and that we consider the lives of our own people and of our friends to have a fundamentally different order of value from the lives of those people.
The House may not wish to hear this, but I must say that I have walked in the ashes of cities under aerial attack. Buildings under aerial attack, people being crushed in falling masonry and steel or incinerated by fire from aerial attack look, sound and smell exactly the same whether they are in Beirut, the west bank, Baghdad or Manhattan.
The question is: what is to be done? We are the friends of the Americans. It is no service to a friend to write a blank cheque, singing, in the manner of "White Christmas", that "we'll follow the old man wherever he wants to go, wherever he wants to go." That would not do a service to the world or to the United States of America.
In Korea, the Attlee Government played a decisive role in restraining the United States of America from using nuclear weapons against Korea and the People's Republic of China. We played a decisive role in removing from the theatre of operations General MacArthur, precisely because he was likely to move out of control.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) that the only test that matters is whether action will make matters better or worse. If a devastating attack is launched on a Muslim country, killing thousands, it will make 10,000 bin Ladens rise up in the stead of the one whose head has been cut off. I do not know what could be bombed in Afghanistan, the stone age country that we helped to create. There is nothing there. Hardly a building stands. The only thing to hit in Afghanistan is people, and every slain Afghan will be a new banner for new bin Ladens.
Millions of Afghans5 million of them are starving todaywill spill over the borders to become refugees and asylum seekers on ships that western countries will turn away at the point of guns, as the Australian navy did just a week or so ago.
I do not have time to develop all the points that I want to make, nor is this the time to raise certain subjects, although I associate myself with others who have spoken on them, at least in this regard: if 5,000 people have died in Manhattan, and even if 10,000 have died in Manhattan and Washington and Pittsburgh, that represents less than the two-monthly total of the number of children who have died in Iraq in every month of every one of 11 years. Those figures come from the United Nations, not from me or from my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). The UN itself has told us that. The Muslims do not believe that we care about that. They do not believe that we care about the children being slaughtered by General Sharon, the butcher of Beirut, today as we are speaking. They do not believe that we care about them. In some respects, they are right and until this House and this country show that we care