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Lord Bramall: My Lords, like many other noble Lords, I get no great satisfaction from the events unfolding in Iraq, but many of us must feel that we have no alternative but to support selective military action by the Americans at this time. You cannot go on making threats and giving final warnings and not being as good as your word. I give everyone freely the benefit of the doubt that the timing has had more to do with the imminence of Ramadan, and perhaps other military factors, than with impeachment proceedings in Washington.
I naturally support our Armed Forces, some of whom, yet again, may have to put their lives at risk at the drop of a hat--the ultimate commitment. I hope that none of us forget that. We can only hope and pray that the Smart weapons of the United States will live up to expectations and surgically take out the relevant targets at which they are aimed.
Is it not high time that we tried to introduce a more positive side to our policy towards Iraq and the Iraqi people, as opposed to the clearly negative side of the necessary present air offensive? You cannot go on making a desert and calling it peace. Our military offensive may succeed in doing irreparable and irretrievable damage to Saddam Hussein's capacity to make weapons of mass destruction and then to employ them, but if with all the intelligence at our disposal we cannot do this, I cannot see much point in attempting it at all. Would this not be a good moment, having administered the stick and from a position of strength, to offer some carrot to the Iraqi people, with whom, as the noble Baroness said, we have no quarrel? This could be in the form of a pan-Arabian Marshall Plan or the full, partial or gradual withdrawal of sanctions. Yes, of course this may, at least for the time being, confirm Saddam's position; although no more, I suspect, than a stronger, non-Arab power with little risk to itself knocking hell out of a weaker Arab one with as yet little capacity to hit back.
I am quite convinced that, eventually, destiny and retribution will catch up with him. But at least such a move would give our policy in that part of the world some constructive end gain which I believe would be increasingly widely welcomed by Arab countries, by the third world, by some of our European partners and, above all, by the United Nations.
I remember so well, when I went out to the Middle East with a parliamentary delegation under the noble Lord, Lord Pym, soon after Iraq invaded Kuwait, how all the Arab governments were adamant that, however much they wanted Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and taught a lesson, they did not want Iraq broken up as a country. That for the moment meant, and may still mean, Saddam Hussein for a little longer. So I do hope that the Government can come up with some
Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne: My Lords, I call for pity for the Iraqi people. Tomorrow is Ramadan, when all serious Moslems fast from dawn to dusk to mark the sanctity of their faith. For the Iraqi people, Ramadan has lasted for more than seven years. Their starvation, lack of drugs and lack of clean water supplies have been laid bare in front of us as sanctions have continued. The tragedy is that they have been misled by those in their government.
I made great efforts recently to meet the Iraqi minister for health. I obtained an invitation to visit a World Health Organisation conference in which I had no part to play but where the Iraqi health minister was to be. With great efforts I managed to arrange a meeting with him. He did not want one at all. Your Lordships will be saddened to hear that when I offered millions of pounds of aid--in food, clothing, medicines, bedding and civil engineering projects to assist in creating clean water supplies and sewage treatment facilities--the health minister refused the lot. He said to me personally and before witnesses that the Iraqi people had no need of anything at all. Your Lordships can weep for the Iraqi people because of the evil people they have as their leaders.
As wars roll on and follow other wars, the victims of earlier tragedies are forgotten. Today I wish to place before your Lordships the plight of the prisoners of war from Kuwait. We rescued Kuwait, and a number of people were kidnapped by Iraqi forces as we drove them out of the city. Those people have never been seen or heard of again. I ask your Lordships: please do not forget them. Those prisoners of war from Kuwait have families who mourn for them.
Probably the next war in the Gulf will be over water. I draw the attention of the House to those poor people, the Marsh people of Mesopotamia, who have lost their water, their living, their capacity to survive. I have assisted in the caring for hundreds of thousands of those people and other Iraqi refugees inside the Islamic Republic of Iran. Their suffering is devastating.
During this debate noble Lords have called for solutions other than those of military assault. I see no other immediate solution. What can we do? Surely, even this assault cannot contain the biological weaponry. This is a dreadful man in charge of huge weaponry that can be used against us all.
I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, and other colleagues who assist in dialogue. Where the US is so suspected in the Gulf, Britain, as a leading member of the European Union, has a major role to play. AMAR and UNESCO have together been carrying out dialogue in recent days with 50 eminent thinkers on Islam. Here we can in the long run play a strong part in altering the hearts and minds of those inside Iraq and around Iraq in bridging the gap that has arisen between Islam and the European Union,
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm the proportion of Iraq's gross national product that is devoted to defence? Is it not the highest in modern history? Will my noble friend confirm that Iraq, with a population of barely 20 million, has almost a million people in full-time military service, with hundreds of thousands more in a reserve capacity? Is it not the case that the children of Iraq are in great need but that Iraq maintains 500 helicopters, over 300 combat aircraft, and 3,000 tanks and armoured vehicles? Does that not present a very serious threat to its neighbours? If the world were to allow that regime to develop the more horrifying weapons that Saddam Hussein wishes to develop, it would be madness.
Is it not the case that the natural wealth of Iraq, even with sanctions in place, provides it with a capacity to feed its children? Would it not be better for the children to be fed? Is it not the case that Iraq cannot maintain a literacy rate of 50 per cent? Would that not be a better use of its resources? Is it not the case that in Iraq three-fifths of children are denied secondary education? Would it not be a very good idea if those children had that opportunity, and an opportunity to live in peace, which is currently denied? Would it not be appropriate for us to remind the Middle East and those who are concerned, as we ought to be, about Ramadan, that Saddam Hussein and his executioners and torturers have never been particularly scrupulous in their observation of that festival? Would it not also be appropriate for us to remind Russia, China and those who are hesitant in relation to the Middle East that it would be better for them to act as statesmen rather than salesmen and to help us in seeking to secure peace and decency in that part of the world?
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, first, I wish to congratulate the Government and the Government of the United States on taking this decision. The decision to free Kuwait in the first stage was right. The decision to cease the Gulf War at the time we did was right. And the decision not to attack Saddam Hussein a few weeks ago was also right. I believe and hope it will be proved that the decision to attack him yesterday was right.
However, there are one or two matters which concern me, one of which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Craig: the objectives. I was a military man for a long time. The objectives are not all that clear, either politically or, so far as we understand, militarily. They need to be more clearly defined. I hope that that has already been done for the benefit of our servicemen on the ground.
Secondly, I am concerned about the real support we have had from our European partners. I believe that some people have an eye--and I have, because it is an interest of mine--on the Caspian Basin. It is close to Iraq and Iran and holds the core, the nub, for the future of the petrochemicals industry and petrochemicals of the world. Control of the Caspian Basin, not so much the minerals there but the routes out, is critical. I am not sure how much interest our European partners have in it, other than those on the Black Sea. I ask the Government to look over their shoulders to see whether the interest is perhaps--cynically--a little economical.
Lastly, having spoken to a few people today such as taxi drivers, I ask the Government to ensure that the reasoning behind the decision--which I and all noble Baronesses and noble Lords in the House support--is understood clearly. It has nothing to do with the timing of Mr. Clinton's problems in Washington. It is sad that it is Ramadan and Christmas. I understand the difficulties, as I am sure everyone in the House does. One question is: can we achieve what we want between now and Ramadan? Shall we take any notice of Ramadan as a religious festival starting tomorrow? Alternatively, shall we continue the war if we have not achieved our objectives? I hope the Minister will not answer if it is a security problem.
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