§ 3.4 pm
§ Lord Waddington rose to move, That this House takes note of the situation in the Gulf.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
§ When the battle for the liberation of Kuwait began on Wednesday night, when the multinational force went into action, we all knew the great dangers our forces were going to face on our behalf and I do not believe there were many among those who knew anything of the size of Saddam Hussein's army and the weapons at his disposal who thought that it was all going to be over in a few days and it was going to be an easy and painless business.
§ We should not now underestimate for one moment the scale or the difficulty of the task which confronts our forces or the time it may take to complete. We are dealing with an enemy who, having invaded Kuwait, is now well dug in, has established extremely strong defensive positions manned by hundreds of thousands of men and is equipped with thousands of tanks and artillery pieces, together with substantial numbers of aircraft, helicopters and anti-aircraft defence.
§ We at home have watched in awe as the battle has developed and it is right that now the House should have the opportunity not just of hearing a report on the current situation—I doubt whether anything I say will add greatly to the information already in the hands of your Lordships because of the splendid coverage of events by the media—but of reaffirming our support for those who are upholding international law on our behalf and of expressing our views on recent events, including, no doubt, the blatant attempt by Iraq to widen the scope of the conflict by its missile attacks on Israel.
§ First, perhaps I may refer to the allied air operations which are the first phase of the campaign to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. Already seven nations from the coalition are involved: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Italy. Obviously, we do not know the result of every attack but we do know that damage has been on a number of important command and control facilities, airfield missile sites, nuclear, chemical and biological installations and other targets which enable Iraq to make war.
§ We must not expect the air campaign to end speedily. While it is clear that Iraqi air defences have been considerably weakened, they have not been eliminated. But, as more military targets are destroyed, the weight of the air campaign will shift increasingly to attacks on Iraqi ground forces in and around Kuwait. RAF Tornado and Jaguar ground attack aircraft, supported by Victor-VC10 tanker 11 aircraft, have played a key part in the battle. They have concentrated in particular on the particularly hazardous task of low-level attacks on airfields using the runway-cratering weapon.
§ Sadly, three RAF Tornados have been lost in action and their crews are missing. The House will be aware that Iraqi television apparently showed seven captured airmen yesterday among whom seem to be the crew of one of our Tornados. Such broadcasts are wholly objectionable in every respect. Today there has been reported threats to use the captured airmen as human shields. Such action would be inhuman, illegal and contrary to the Geneva Conventions. As regards the missing crewmen, I am sure that the whole House would wish to extend its expressions of sympathy to their wives and families.
§ As to those who have been taken prisoner, I can assure the House that we have reminded the Iraqis very forcefully indeed of their obligations under the Geneva Conventions. We shall hold them to that: and we have asked the Red Cross to seek access at the earliest opportunity to the two crewmen being held.
§ So far as our ground forces are concerned, they will move into action when the military commanders consider the moment is right and the British forces are ready to play their part in liberating Kuwait.
§ Now perhaps I may revert to the Scud attacks on Israel. They were without any possible justification, Israel not having laid a finger on Iraq. It is worth noting that although casualties were mercifully few and were not serious, these were indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population quite unlike the meticulous precision bombing carried out by our forces, which has been designed to minimise harm to the civilian population.
§ Since the first of the Scud attacks we have of course been in consultation with the Israeli Government along with the Americans. We can well understand the sense of outrage which must have been felt in Israel, and the Israelis would have been perfectly entitled to respond, exercising their right of self-defence. We welcome the restraint they have shown. As the House knows, it has been possible to send to Israel additional Patriot missiles to meet the threat within its own borders while allied operations have continued to eliminate the Scud sites.
§ In the days and weeks ahead there will undoubtedly be many calls for a pause in military operations to enable negotiations to take place. It will be said that negotiations should be given another chance and that compromise should be explored. We do not want the conflict to last a day longer than necessary. But a pause in the period up to 15th January was one thing. A pause now, when our forces are engaged, is another. Our prime consideration must be to protect them and avoid any unnecessary casualties. That we will do. We cannot agree to any suspension of hostilities which would allow Saddam Hussein to regroup and strengthen his position simply in the hope that this might lead to negotiations on the basis of some vague promise about his intentions. Hostilities cannot end —or pause—until we know that Iraqi forces are out of 12 Kuwait. There can be no other basis on which we can agree to explore any proposals for peace. Once again the matter is in Saddam Hussein's hands.
§ While we are engaged in this conflict, which may continue for some considerable time to come, we must be thinking of future security arrangements in the area which will prevent anything like this happening again. Clearly, it is for the Arab Governments themselves to give a lead in devising such arrangements and in providing the forces to sustain them. The Gulf states are far from reaching conclusions about this, but they need to give attention to the matter now so that when Saddam Hussein is defeated the necessary arrangements can be instituted rapidly and effectively. These will almost certainly involve a contribution from countries outside the area; and, if the Gulf states want it, we are ready to play our part.
§ We shall play our part too in vigorous efforts to solve the Arab/Israel problem, which the international community will need to renew once the war is over and Saddam Hussein is out of Kuwait. What Saddam Hussein has done in invading Kuwait and now in attacking Israel has made a solution not easier but harder to achieve. But once the war is over there will be a general recognition by all parties to the Arab/Israel dispute that the time has come for some new thinking. We shall do everything we can to promote this.
§ Nobody with any sense looks upon armed conflict with enthusiasm but there are few now who doubt the rightness of our cause. In the list of countries actively engaged in the operations against Iraq are two Arab countries, and many more are giving their support. One cannot say too often that this is no war waged by the West against the Arabs but action to uphold international law. I hope that today a very clear and unequivocal message of appreciation will go out from the House for the skill and courage of our armed forces and for what they are doing on our behalf. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the situation in the Gulf.—(Lord Waddington.)
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, this debate, on the fifth day of the conflict in the Gulf, gives us the opportunity to try to assess developments there and to look a little to the future, although that is not easy. The noble Lord the Leader of the House has given us an up-to-date summary of events and we are grateful to him.
Much of the news that comes to us is encouraging. We pay the warmest tribute to the airmen of the allied forces and of the Royal Air Force, who have played an important part in the air offensive. There has been a danger, as the Prime Minister has warned, that we might become euphoric. The United States commander in chief, General Schwarzkopf, said last Friday:We are exactly where we expected to be at this stage, 36 hours into the campaign".He was confident—and no doubt he had reason to be so—but people are now realising, as the noble Lord reminded us, that this war will be a longer haul than many thought would be the case, although the general 13 gave a hint that a ground war might be averted. His remark resulted in a good deal of discussion over the weekend. Perhaps the noble Earl who is to reply will give us the latest government view.
The noble Lord the Leader of the House has described the potential strength of the Iraqi army. We have, even so, been deeply impressed in these early days by the skill and courage of our airmen and by the accuracy of the pinpoint bombing which has by all accounts substantially diminished the Iraqi casualties in Baghdad and elsewhere. The noble Lord mentioned the loss of three aircraft. Their crews have been very much in the thoughts of all of us. We are glad that some are alive in Baghdad; and as the noble Lord said, we expect them to be treated strictly according to the rules of the Geneva Convention. Any breach of the rules would need to be dealt with when the war is over. That must be made plain now to the Iraqi Government.
The noble Lord referred to the position of Israel, following the Scud missile attacks on Tel Aviv and other towns. Saddam Hussein sought to involve Israel in this war with the so-called linkage argument which he advanced earlier on. This was another more cruel, more unscrupulous attempt to bring Israel into the conflict in the hope that that would fragment the United Nations coalition. We were not surprised that he took this action. A man who has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of his own people as well as countless moslems in Iran and Kuwait would not be concerned by the death of civilians in Israel. We would have understood it if Israel had retaliated. It is immensely to the credit of the Israeli Government that they have not done so thus far, although they have reserved their position for the future. It is also noteworthy that the coalition has stood firm and that Egypt and Syria have indicated that they would not leave it. The prompt action of the United States in sending the Patriot anti-missile batteries to Israel has also helped to stabilise the position there.
I should be grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Arran, if, when he comes to reply, he can tell us whether we know the extent of the damage to the Iraqi airforce and missiles and, equally important, to Iraqi airfields. We have heard that some of these are bigger than Heathrow. One of the questions people are asking is: where are the Iraqi aeroplanes? There are reports that the Iraqi airforce flew north, that they are dispersed, which is probably the case, that they are kept in reserve somewhere underground but will make an appearance as soon as the ground war develops. We take all this as speculation, but the use of Turkish airfields by United States aircraft to attack strategic positions in northern Iraq has given the war a new dimension.
I do not press for precise answers, but these are matters which are being discussed in the press and on the media. One example was the heading of a well argued article by Major-General Julian Thomson which appeared in yesterday's Observer and which carried the heading, "Iraq gambles on 'do nothing' air 14 strategy". It was a most interesting theme, but I am sure that it will help noble Lords if the noble Earl, Lord Arran, can enlarge upon the matter in his reply.
As the noble Lord the Leader of the House said, the main object of the war is to drive the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait so that it may once more be occupied by its people and by its legitimate government. I do not think that anyone in this House doubts that that will happen. It is essential in the interest of Kuwait and its people and in the interests of free countries and small countries throughout the world; it is in the interests of the maintenance of some form of rule of law in the world and, finally, of the survival of the United Nations. The hope of a better world for people of all religious beliefs depends upon that.
We must hope and pray that the ground offensive to recover Kuwait will be successful—speedily and decisively. When that repossession is complete, people will ask, "Is that the end of it?" That will depend on a number of factors, not least whether Saddam Hussein still occupies his presidential chair. I shall not pursue that argument further in this debate, but it is a matter that the Government, and others who are involved in this war, will have to consider very soon. We shall return to it in future debates in this House.
I have said that I believe a strong United Nations based securely on the principles of its charter is not only desirable but essential to every country in the world. The aims of this war are contained in the resolutions of the United Nations. Some argue that the purpose of the war is to safeguard the oil in the region and to enable the United States to control it, while some try to link it to Israel and the Palestinian problem. Of course oil is a significant factor and the Palestine problem is also of the utmost importance as we look to the future. But these have for the moment ceased to be the primary arguments. Young men and women are in the Gulf ready to sacrifice their lives for a higher ideal; that is, the creation of a more peaceful world under the United Nations.
In the past few months it has been possible to say that the international community, including the majority of the Arab nations, has joined to condemn the aggression of Iraq. But, at the same time, it has been sad to note the support which Saddam Hussein appears to enjoy in some Arab countries. He appears to draw substantial support in some areas and, unfortunately, the PLO are partly responsible for this.
This propaganda, which appears to be having some success—namely, that Saddam Hussein is the champion of Islam—must be dealt with. I assume that the Government agree that this can be carried out most effectively by the Arab members of the coalition. If Saddam Hussein is allowed to assume the mantle of a hero of Islam, then a future permanent settlement will be made far more difficult to achieve. I also assume that the one great objective after the war is ended is the conference to which the noble Lord referred and a determined effort to reach a settlement of Middle East problems.
Perhaps I may draw attention to the reasoned and balanced reaction of the British moslem community to 15 the crisis. As is natural, it has shown a sympathy for Kuwait and support for the Security Council. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in his moving speech in this House last Tuesday called for a balanced and tolerant approach to the religious implications of the war. I know that we all fully support him in that appeal.
The United Nations force comprises moslem troops and troops from Europe and America. They stand there shoulder to shoulder and their aim is to free a small moslem state from the clutches of a tyrant. This debate gives us the opportunity to show our complete support for them.
We, and our colleagues in another place, support the UN resolutions because we believe the cause to be a just one. In this debate we cannot look to the future in too great detail; there will be other debates when the war is ended and the United Nations, with our support, must assume the responsibility to tackle those problems which brought about the war. If that is not done, then lives will be lost in vain. Today our thoughts are with those who face the terrors of war and with their families. We hope and pray that it will be over very soon and that, as a result, the Middle East and the wider world will be better places in which to live.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, I should also like to thank the noble Lord the Leader of the House for his speech and for the information he gave. I doubt whether this debate will add greatly to the conduct of the war in the Gulf. However, I have no doubt that your Lordships' House will give the unequivocal support for which the noble Lord asked. The debate provides us with an opportunity to pay tribute to the courage and professionalism of our armed forces in the Gulf and to the manner in which the Prime Minister has led the country. By his conduct over the past few days the Prime Minister has managed to convey the sombre reluctance with which we entered into the war together with the determination which we all share to bring it to a successful conclusion.
The noble Lord the Leader of the House referred to the developments which have taken place since we last debated the Gulf crisis, especially the unprovoked and indiscriminate attacks on Israel which all of us must deplore. I am sure that we all admire the restraint which Israel has shown in the face of such provocation. I endorse everything the noble Lord said as regards the threat to prisoners of war which, as he declared, is in breach of every convention, legal and otherwise, and must be deplored. We join in condemnation of that threat. The reaction of the moslem community in this country, I would have thought, has been somewhat more mixed than that described by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos. I shall return to that matter later.
I wish to reiterate what I said during the last debate; namely, that it is impossible to isolate the crisis in the Gulf from the other events taking place in the world today. The history of the crisis has been one 16 of the consequences of concentrating our political vision on one issue to the exclusion of others. It was for that reason—or so it would seem—that Washington, and I believe this country, failed to appreciate the intentions of Iraq. We misinterpreted the signals which were sent because we were concentrating almost exclusively on East-West issues. That is a mistake which we must not make in reverse.
Although it is impossible to compare the Baltic states with Kuwait or to say that one situation is more important or significant than the other, it is the case that both raise the same issue of principle in the same form. That fact was well expressed in our debate on 15th January by my noble friend Lord Gladwyn. I refer to the principle of the right of states to be protected from aggression and the importance of our seizing the opportunity which we have been given for establishing the authority of the United Nations, acting on the basis of unanimity on the part of the five permanent members of the Security Council.
Perhaps I may turn briefly to the position of those who criticise the action taken by Her Majesty's Government. It must be said once more in answer to those critics that the position of Kuwait, which has been attacked, occupied and looted, is different and special in that, in addition to those outrages, it has been abolished as a state. It is therefore distinct from Grenada or Panama whether or not one approves of what the United States did on those occasions. It is distinct from the position of Israel.
When the United States invaded Grenada and Panama—I am not necessarily defending the action, I am merely distinguishing it from the present situation —it intervened to change governments which had been installed and maintained by force. It did not intervene to abolish the states of Grenada and Panama altogether.
By the same token, it can be argued that when Israel occupied Gaza, the Golan Heights and the West Bank, it was acting in self defence. The invasion of Kuwait is, in that sense, altogether different. The last occasion I can recall when a country wiped out a previously independent state by military force—abolished its existence—was in 1940 when the USSR invaded and absorbed within itself the three Baltic states. That makes clear the distinction we face: other positions are sometimes agglomerated with it. If that is accepted, or even if it is not, and if it is true, as Clausewitz said:War is merely the continuation of politics by other means",then the outbreak of war does not mean the end of politics or diplomacy. Hence we must now consider what we do next—our next step. I greatly welcome the remarks of the noble Lord the Leader of the House and of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos. They focused upon what we do after we have secured compliance with the United Nations resolutions. We should be turning our attention to our war aims. It is worth considering what those aims are not.
We are not there to secure British interests in the Middle East; we are not there to secure our oil supplies; we are not there to overthrow the 17 Government of Saddam; and we are not there to redraw the boundaries of Iraq. We are there to secure compliance with the United Nations resolutions, and, if having done so, we do not make a strenuous effort to secure a stable peace in that dangerous area, much blood and treasure will have been wasted with criminal negligence.
To achieve that settlement, we must have a peace conference. What has been known as linkage (the position of the Palestinians and the security of Israel) has to be taken into account and must be central to any such conference, which would also include such issues as the problem of Lebanon, the position of minorities in the region, such as the Kurds, and the implementation of United Nations Resolution 242 which relates to the occupied Arab lands.
It is encouraging that those matters are already being discussed in the United States. The most useful contribution the debate in your Lordships' House today may make is to open the discussion here and now of those important and crucial issues. It should be the aim of any such conference to leave the stability of the region, if it can possibly be so managed, in the hands of those living in the region. For that to be achieved it may well be necessary for others to guarantee Israel's security; for the Security Council to guarantee the terms of the settlement; for disarmament in the region and control of arms to the region to be set in place; and for United Nations peace keeping forces to be involved. The formulation of such war aims and the declaration by the Security Council that it would be calling a conference to achieve them would greatly strengthen the alliance and consolidate its members.
The inclusion of a Palestinian settlement on the agenda would make it more difficult for Saddam to play the Palestinian card and, I suspect, would help allay the fears of members of the moslem community in this country. In addition, it would provide the 15 nations involved in the war with the opportunity to work together not just for the liberation of Kuwait but for a common, constructive purpose: to bring a peaceful settlement to a region which, for all too many years, has represented a deadly threat to itself and to its members and to the rest of the world.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Lord Carver
My Lords, I have maintained a vow of silence on this subject in the House and outside since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait apart from a brief reference to it in the debate on the Address on 13th November. At a time when military operations were not taking place but when they could soon be, it seemed to me that I could only offer platitudes or indulge in speculation. Not being a politician, I am averse to platitudes. As a soldier, I dislike speculation. As I said in that debate, public speculation by retired senior officers about what might or should happen is seldom helpful. If it is wrong it is misleading; if it is right it may help the enemy. The same applies to speculation about what is happening.
I deplore the tendency to insist upon public comment, on an hourly basis, about military 18 operations. It is not helpful to those who have to conduct them or to those who have to give higher political instructions. I cannot believe that it is welcome to those who carry out the operations or to their anxious relations and friends far away either in this country or, as a large proportion are, in Germany.
I should not have welcomed being asked, immediately after an operation, what my feelings were and having them broadcast all over the world. Neither am I convinced that the general public wants that. I suspect that the principal motive behind it is competition in the media. I hope that as the days, weeks, or possibly months go by, the media will recover from their over-excitement and restrain themselves.
I felt inclined to speak today because I thought that my experience of military operations and my study of war might make some comment helpful. The operations which are taking place, and those which may develop, resemble those I experienced during the Second World War more closely than any in which our armed forces have been engaged since then. The Korean war was more like the First World War. Of course there are great differences, both in the sophistication of the equipment and the nature of the enemy; but there are similarities. I experienced successful and unsuccessful battles and phases of campaigns, many of them in the desert. I am aware of the stresses and strains of both.
First, I strongly endorse the warnings against excessive euphoria given by the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary which have been repeated in the House today by the noble Lord the Leader of the House. It is a warning that the American leaders have also given. Both history and my own experience show that first reports of success can be disappointing. That applies more often than in any other instance to the effect of air operations. Cautious optimism is the best attitude to adopt, and in that the Government have set an excellent example. The tone adopted by that impressive trio—the Prime Minister and the Foreign and Defence Secretaries—has been, in my opinion, just right. It must have reinforced the confidence, engendered by their handling of events leading up to the outbreak of hostilities, which our forces in the Gulf have in their political direction.
The skill, resolution and patience which have already been demonstrated will be needed in the days, weeks and perhaps even months to come. The difficult phase of operations has not yet started. I am not suggesting that its task has been easy but such a degree of supremacy has been so rapidly established that the air force is not now seriously challenged. However, experience from the Spanish civil war onwards shows that air action by itself has almost never been decisive. It can harden rather than weaken the will to resist. It draws those who are subjected to it together. The fatalism characteristic of Islamic culture may reinforce that.
We are land animals and the final act of war,The dialectic of two opposing wills, using force to resolve their dispute19 as the distinguished French general Beaufre described it, has to be on land. The alliance in the Gulf does not have the superiority in land forces over the Iraqi army that it enjoys over the Iraqi air force. One of the main aims of our air forces is to reduce the capability of that army and to weaken its morale. Let us hope that they are successful. However, we must not forget that our air supremacy in Normandy in 1944 was as great as, if not greater than, that now established by the allied air forces over Iraq. It took very tough fighting by the land forces before the German army was forced to withdraw. I do not suggest that the Iraqi army is of the calibre that the German army was. The point I wish to make is that tough fighting may lie ahead; that it may take some time; and that we need to develop the calm resolution to see it through and not be unduly influenced by news about every day's, let alone every hour's, events.
That leads me to another warning. Events in war tend to develop their own momentum. If things do not go as hoped, both sides tend to move towards methods which they had not originally envisaged. That has happened countless times. In doing so they tend to forget why they originally went to war, which was probably to achieve a limited aim. This momentum of war tends to drag them not only to more extreme methods but to more extreme aims, until the balance of advantage and disadvantage in resorting to war becomes distorted. In the debate on the Address, I said:The political aim must be clear if the military are to be given a clear strategic or operational aim. That must be something that will achieve the political aim, and is itself attainable with the resources made available. History abounds with examples of failure when these principles have not been observed". [Official Report, 13/11/90; col 252.]So far, I am glad to say, they have been observed. In his article in The Times last Friday, the Foreign Secretary explained those aims with admirable clarity. However, voices are already heard—one was the Cassandra-like voice of Mr. Conor Cruise O'Brien on the same page of The Times the following day—urging wider and more extensive aims which would not, I believe, be within the capability of the allied armed forces to achieve, either by military or political means.
However, if we are to keep, as I believe we should, to the limited military and political aim of regaining the territory of Kuwait and re-establishing its legitimate government, we must face the problems of how thereafter to maintain that position and ensure the security of the whole area, including its oil reserves. It will be both a political and a military problem. The situation we now face was caused by a lack of balance of power, although it was partly caused by the attempt to build up Iraq's power to balance that of Iran.
History shows that it is much more difficult to stop a war at the right moment than to start one. We must be careful to see that the momentum of war itself does not lead us to extend its scope beyond the point at which military action may prejudice the possibility of reaching an acceptable solution by political means. It will not be the ideal solution. That is never possible in international affairs. If we fail in that, we shall sacrifice 20 lives in vain. We owe it to the splendid young men and women of our armed forces in the Gulf who have shown exemplary patience, resolution and courage, and to their relatives and friends that we do not do that.
I feel a special affinity with them, as one of the two armoured brigades there is the one that I commanded from Normandy to the Baltic 46 years ago. Its commander is in my own regiment, the Royal Tank Regiment. As a colonel commandant 26 years ago, I interviewed him when he was a cadet at Sandhurst and a candidate for a commission in the regiment. Not unnaturally my thoughts are with our forces day and night.
I have one other point to make. In the debate last Tuesday several speakers suggested that the Ministry of Defence should drop the reorganisation proposals resulting from the Options for Change study, or at least postpone them. I certainly do not agree that they should drop them. The disappearance of the Soviet threat to Europe, however matters may develop within the Soviet Union, has radically altered our defence needs. The problems caused by the dispatch of what is only a very small part of the army and the other services to the Gulf and those which its maintenance there for any length of time will pose, particularly if it suffers a significant number of casualties, prove that the army's organisation is in need of a thorough overall. This is particularly true of the organisation of the infantry and of the cavalry element of the Royal Armoured Corps. The delicate problem of announcing changes which could affect units serving in the Gulf has to be balanced against the disadvantage of prolonging the period of anxious uncertainty throughout the army. No doubt also this applies to the other services.
It is not an easy decision. Some postponement of the consultation process, which will result in the proposed changes becoming known, would probably be wise. However, the period of uncertainty should not be allowed to last too long. The worst effect on morale would be leaks arising through the consultation process which could not be confirmed or denied. My own experience in these matters is that the sooner firm decisions are made and known, the better. The serving soldier soon adjusts to them. It is the old and bold retired ones of all ranks who cause all the fuss. The Ministry of Defence tends to pay too much attention to them, particularly if they happen to have political connections. I trust that the Secretary of State for Defence will find a satisfactory solution to the dilemma.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ Baroness Park of Monmouth
My Lords, I find myself in some difficulty because one of the points which I wished to make has already been much better made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. On the other point, I am afraid that I shall have the temerity nevertheless to argue a little against him.
I wish to reiterate two points. The first concerns the treatment of the war by the media. I admire and respect the courage and the high professional 21 standards being demonstrated by our correspondents in the Gulf: Kate Adie, John and Bob Simpson, lately in Baghdad, Sandy Gall and many others. I wish to pay the warmest tribute to their performance.
However, I wish that some of the armchair strategists at home who seem to regard the war as a cross between a private game of Monopoly and their chance to audition for the job of the Minister of Defence would emulate them and show some of their sense of thoughtful responsibility. In the last war there was the slogan, "Careless talk costs lives". Some of today's interviewers need to think of that when they press their line of questioning too far in the name of today's slogan, "The public has a right to know". The public today includes a watchful enemy looking at the same TV programmes.
My other point relates to the larger issues of defence. We are at war in the Gulf and that must be our first concern. However, other threats have not quite gone away. I share the concern expressed so trenchantly by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and others in the previous debate about the Government's continued intention to implement the proposals set out in Options for Change. I welcomed the statement made on 16th January about the Goverment's policy in Lithuania and today's statement about Latvia. It is vital for the future of relations between Poland, Czechoslovakia and other newly freed countries that they should see us ready to stand firm in exerting all the appropriate pressures open to us to prevent any recurrence of the hateful events in Lithuania.
Andrei Sakharov in his lifetime repeatedly warned, first, that the system (that is, the party) had a high degree of internal stability. He said:The less free a system the greater ordinarily its ability to sustain itself".Speaking of arms reductions he said:What is at issue is not moving the missiles beyond the Urals but destroying them. Rebasing is too reversible".He would not have been surprised by the so-called new naval units.
I would therefore urge the Government to see and treat with Mr. Gorbachev as he is and not as what we want him to be. We should regard him as a convinced and battle-hardened communist—Andropov's protégé, who combines an unusually sophisticated perception of Western hopes with a vested interest in power in the USSR—and power exercised through, not against, the KGB and the army. He is a loyal member of the party, which lays down that:the dictatorship of the proletariat will in no circumstances allow anyone to enfeeble or destroy that dictatorship by the strategy of 'peaceful evolution', to commit the country bit by bit to the path of bourgeois liberalism or of a return to capitalism. The dictatorship of the proletariat must be violence against counter-revolutionaries or exploiters who refuse to be re-educated and must therefore ensure the consolidation of the people's democratic state's apparatus of repression".That is exactly what Mr. Gorbachev finds himself doing.
Mr. Shevardnadze and Mr. Yakovlev, among others, have given us clear indications that they now 22 view him with somewhat different eyes. We should continue to believe that both Mr. Gorbachev and the present Soviet establishment would indeed prefer to retain the new relationship with the West both in the United Nations and in Europe—and very valuable it could be both to them and to us. But we shall retain their respect and our own power to influence events only if we retain a credible strength. Is it therefore reasonable of us to make drastic cuts when the peace-loving Russians have just given a massively increased military budget to the army—an army which must be learning very useful lessons from observing our performance in the Gulf? Let us remember that, as Andrei Gromyko is reported to have said,Mr. Gorbachev has a nice smile but teeth of steel".
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, I am in difficulty taking part in the debate. It so happens that I am due at a dinner tonight at which I am the guest of honour and so I may not be able to stay until the end. However, I thought it right to participate because of my involvement over many years with the Royal Air Force.
If I might disagree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, it is true that you cannot win a war without fighting on land but you certainly could have lost both the last war and the war before at sea had it not been for the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. Only a year ago I helped to unveil a memorial at St. Eval. I thought then that the situation of aircraft coming back or not coming back, with the airmen's wives wondering what had happened, would never happen again. Therefore it is obvious to me, as no doubt it will be to all your Lordships, that there is a great feeling of discomfort, of regret and of sympathy—indeed almost loving affection—for the courage of those young men. Their appearance in front of the television cameras, whether or not it was desirable, was very moving. It is natural for the public to want to know as much as they can, although I do not suggest that there should not be great restraint in what is said.
My other reason for joining in the debate is this. I have heard many people say there were alternatives to the course that our Government and the Americans have followed, and they have attributed motives such as concern with oil. There is concern over oil, but we ought to pay a tribute to the Americans for their commitment. Their country is far away from the centre of these terrible events and to suggest a lack of integrity, for want of a better word, is unjustified. The same applies to the decisions of Her Majesty's Government. There have been suggestions that there was another course open. Since I may not be here when the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, has another go in the House, I am bound to say that, unfortunately, I find it very difficult to see what way out there was for Saddam Hussein which did not abandon the purpose of the whole operation. The presence of the armed forces in Saudi Arabia was not initially to menace Iraq but to protect Saudi Arabia.
23 However, very soon it was obvious that the main objective must be—and perhaps the Government have not been frank enough in saying this—to get rid of Saddam Hussein. I believe there is no doubt that this must be the main purpose, and anything short of that would deny the justification for the men risking their lives in the Gulf war.
I do not know how long this will go on. I hope and pray, as I am sure we all do, that it will not be a very long war and that the number of lives lost will be small; but at the end at least there is an opportunity for a hopeful development. Those who foresee the consequences as wholly wrong and wholly incapable of being dealt with may come to see that this may be the great opportunity of bringing peace to the Middle East, of solving the problems of the West Bank and areas such as the Yemen. The United Nations will have been given, with a major agreement among Arab countries as well as others, the capacity to wage war and to enforce its decisions. In the end this may lead to a more peaceful Middle East than we have known.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Lord Bramall
My Lords, I shall be brief because I spoke at some length in the debate last week. I believe that most of what I said is still relevant and I hope not unhelpful. I also hope that the introductory remarks of my noble and gallant friend and my erstwhile commander, Lord Carver, were not aimed directly at me, because in fact I agree with virtually everything he said, particularly about the very high media profile. I do not agree with him on the subject of Options for Change, but that is another matter which we can leave until later.
For the moment I should like just to add my congratulations to those which I am sure other noble Lords would wish to express to everyone concerned on the most impressive start to what was never ever going to be an easy campaign given the numerical and equipment strengths of the Iraqis and the self-centred fanaticism of Saddam Hussein, with his refusal to see reason.
War, as I have warned more than once in your Lordships' House, is never easy and reports about events in war are often, with the best will in the world, not quite what they seem at first—neither as good nor sometimes as bad as spokesmen, commentators and speculators would have us believe. Of course it is very early days yet. We are only five days into the conflict, although those of us who have been sitting in front of our television sets might imagine it to be almost a month. However, even allowing for a certain amount of media hype, tinged progressively with relief, euphoria, even disappointment and the inevitable fog of war, it is clear that, having achieved a most welcome measure of surprise the first phase of the operation, designed to gain air supremacy, to destroy Saddam Hussein's very centralised command of communications machinery and retaliatory capability and generally to restrict his freedom of action, while we meanwhile progressively turn our effort by air and on land into forcing his ground forces out of Kuwait, has made excellent progress and, in that well-worn 24 phrase, is going according to plan. As the highly regrettable and provocative attacks on Israel, followed by the desperate but as yet ineffective attacks on Saudi Arabia showed, there is still work to do on his missile launchers and probably also against his aircraft which escaped earlier attacks.
As one who had some misgivings earlier about a proper sense of realism and a possible underestimation of the tasks facing us, I wish to say that I have nothing but admiration for those who have masterminded and planned this intricate operation. Not of these generals could one use that hackneyed and snide taunt that they were fighting the next war with the weapons and tactics of the last. This war has been a triumph for modern technology which has enabled us—I hope this will continue to be the case—not only to hit vital targets and restrict, although sadly not eliminate, our own losses, but also to retain some of that all important moral high ground by reducing civilian casualties to the absolute minimum.
This war is also a triumph for the bravery, human spirit and intense professionalism of the Armed Forces in the alliance who have operated this new technology with such skill. We have special pride in this context in our own forces and particularly at the present time in our Tornado and Jaguar pilots of the Royal Air Force.
There is still much to do in Operation Desert Storm before the liberation of Kuwait can be assured. There will undoubtedly be setbacks to overcome. However, I think it is worth reminding ourselves from time to time that for every problem we have, Saddam Hussein must have many more still. If from this good start we keep our aim clearly in mind and our resolve firm, there is no reason why, through our certain and undoubted victory, accompanied by positive and sensitive diplomacy, we should not ultimately be able to bring about greater safety and stability in this potentially constantly volatile and dangerous area. As the noble Lord the Leader of the House has said, that must be our paramount aim. If we achieve that, I hope it will be widely felt that any sacrifices which have had to be made will have been worth it.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Lord Mason of Barnsley
My Lords, at the outset I wish to express my wholehearted praise for the most remarkable United Nations effort that has ever been mounted. If unity on this vast scale can be maintained and can be made to succeed it augurs well for settling some of the post-war problems both in the Middle East and elsewhere in this troubled world. One has to feel a surge of pride at the professionalism being displayed by our airmen. Our servicemen in the Army, Air Force and Navy have an internationally renowned military trademark of being professionals. That quality is now being amply displayed to the world.
Some concern has been expressed about the euphoria after the first air strike. Understandably, there was some euphoria. The aircrews have been training all their service lives for such a mission. When dispatched to the theatre of operations they had to suffer weeks of restraint. They were fully prepared and geared-up to go. Then the first foray took place 25 followed by a safe return and the release of all that pent up tension. The airmen felt the joy of success, especially when all returned safely to base. No doubt, sadly, there is now a more sober atmosphere caused by the colleagues who went missing during later air strikes. We must, therefore, constantly bear in mind and express our heartfelt sympathies to those who are losing their loved ones in this war.
Our three services are unparalleled in the world in training, quality and professionalism. I served in the Ministry of Defence on two occasions, for a period of over three years, and I am fully aware of the pressures that are applied on Ministers for defence cuts, equipment cuts and cuts in manpower and materials. The persons and pressure groups who attempted to curb the strength and quality of our defence forces should, at this time, question their consciences on the wisdom of such efforts. Even today in these dire circumstances there are appeasers who are giving satisfaction to the enemy. They must realise they are no friends of our forces on the battlefield. They must further realise that they will get no thanks from the relatives of our servicemen. Appeasement is an enemy aid and those who seek to appease should be aware of that fact.
Even the "peaceniks" should back the coalition—the United Nations Organisation—for if this effort fails one must ask what peacemaking force will be left in the world. I have been impressed by President Bush and our Prime Minister, John Major. I have been impressed with their sound, calm and responsible presentations. I have also been impressed by the Leader of the Official Opposition in another place who is gaining in stature throughout this crisis. General Schwarzkopf is, I believe, doing a sterling job militarily, as he is in his public explanations of war progress to the American public. Our own Foreign Secretary and defence Minister have taken great pains to explain much of the activities of our Armed Forces. Obviously a major effort is being made, and rightly so, to avoid the media misleading the British public and the publics of our allies as the war progresses. Maintaining coalition solidarity is of paramount importance throughout this conflict. It will also be necessary if we are jointly to tackle the post-war problems in this complex theatre of the world.
The media also has a responsibility as regards avoiding jingoism and slapdash, misleading headlines. Those headlines are sickening at times. Editors of the tabloids should take a grip on their headline writers. More responsible presentations would be appreciated and respected. The Guardian editorial last Friday stated, now that battle had been enjoined:The politicians and diplomats are in temporary retirement".That is editorial nonsense. No mention is made of the continuing awesome responsibility of Ministers who, alongside the Chiefs of Staff, are constantly called into the bunkers of operational command. Every major flash of news from the war front may require a ministerial reaction. Decisions still have to be made especially on such matters as fresh dispatches of forces, possible further call-ups and on the Government's reply to the Iraqis should they use 26 chemical and biological weapons. Commentators have no authority for and carry no responsibility in decision-taking. Ministers, however, are answerable to Parliament and the nation. They have to take the rap. That is not the case with the jingoistic commentators.
As was expected, Israel has been attacked. That came as no surprise as it was an obvious ploy. So far it has failed in its mission to split the United Nations alliance. Israel has reacted with commendable restraint. If any nation had any reason to react angrily against Saddam Hussein, it is Israel. In this regard we must express appreciation for the American intervention in supplying the Israelis with the most modern anti-missile missile, the Patriot, which has the capability of taking out the Scud missile in mid-flight. Incidentally, the Patriot is one of the products of the Star Wars system. I wonder whether all those who campaigned against that system now recognise that it is saving many of the lives of our young men and women in the Gulf.
I sincerely hope that Israel can, if there are any more Scud attacks, successfully defend its people and maintain its neutral stance. The Israelis, above all in the Middle East, recognise the importance of their position; but if a gas or biological Scud warhead gets through we shall have to understand and respect their reaction.
It is therefore becoming evident that a long war is likely —months, not weeks. The first phase, although highly encouraging to the commanders in the war zone in their efforts to smash command control and communications, and to attack airfields and missile bases, has not been sufficiently successful to make a major transfer of air warfare resources to the softening up of the Iraqi land-based defence formations and, thereafter, the artillery and tank offensive to follow. I fear there is still a long way to go, and we must be prepared for casualties.
Outside the immediate battle zone we must expect an outbreak of international terrorism; perhaps more so if Israel is drawn into an attack on Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein has already called for a holy war—the Jihad—and signalled to let loose the kamikazes of radical moslems. I think we all ought to be aware that it may come to our own doorstep. Civil airlines, airports, military establishments, embassies, ambassadors, decision-makers, Ministers and military figures must now all be on general alert. I believe that the public should be made fully aware of those possibilities.
I agree with the Leader of the House. I hope that there is to be no hint of pause in the war. We have embarked upon a mission backed by all the super-powers of the world under the umbrella of the greatest alliance of nations ever assembled in the United Nations Organisation. Regaining Kuwait and dismantling Saddam Hussein's massive military machine is our goal. There will never he any peace in the Middle East until Saddam Hussein has been dethroned and defeated.
The United Nations has so decreed for the peace of the world and everyone who has had belief in UNO's 27 aims and objectives should now be standing firm in the support of all our services in this war. If the United Nations can hold together and can jointly succeed in this unprecedented United Nations venture the prospect of the United Nations Organisation being newly heralded as the prime worldwide peace organisation will give it the impetus, the strength and new respect to tackle the problems of the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. It could be a new beginning in tackling conflicts and disorders. I should like to see that happen. Therefore, I want to see a United Nations success in this war.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether he agrees, in spite of his strictures of certain newspapers—I may say, not wholly undeserved—that the newspapermen out there on the spot, the reporters and cameramen (I think particularly, say, of Mr. Simpson) have shown enormous courage and have been absolutely true to the traditions of their craft, and that these dangers must be faced in the interests of ensuring that the public know what is going on?
§ Lord Mason of Barnsley
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend. Of course I respect very much indeed those young men, reporters, who have been in the bunkers and have been subject to some of the devastation that has been put on Kuwait and Iraq. I appreciate their efforts. What I am concerned about is presentation in the tabloids to the detriment of much of what we are trying to do.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, I feel that war has once again shown its capacity for doing two things. In the first place, it must fill us all with sadness because the qualities we most admire of human courage and human ingenuity are inevitably being put to destructive purposes, so that the admiration that we all share is tinged by this sadness. The other impact of war is that it reveals realities which are relatively easy to overlook when things are merely pieces on a diplomatic chessboard.
Now that we have seen the full range, capacity, strength and organisation of the military empire that Saddam Hussein has created, the idea that a few more months of economic sanctions could bring him to his knees must seem much less plausible than it did when we last debated the matter in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord the Leader of the House was right to repeat it, but whatever we say about the mandate given to us by the United Nations, which is to free the territory of Kuwait and restore its government, the way in which that empire is now organised makes it virtually unthinkable that that task could be achieved and the rest of that empire remain intact to threaten its neighbours or the rest of the world. It is realism that must guide us in appreciating not only the military elements in this, upon which I have no capacity to enlarge, but also the political aspects.
Sometimes photographs are as good as anything for bringing reality before one. Better perhaps than words. I have been struck over the past few weeks by 28 two photographs that may seem at first blush to have nothing to do with each other. The first appeared just before Christmas. It was a picture of a Russian orthodox priest handing a western food parcel to an elderly Russian lady. It was very moving. The other photograph was I think three or four days ago, and it was of Soviet Jews descending the steps of the plane that had brought them to Israel, and being greeted not with a bouquet but with a gas mask.
In my view, those two events are connected when one thinks about it. The first illustrates the depths of despair into which their Government are reducing the population of the Soviet Union; and the second illustrates what has, alas, been a frequent occurrence hitherto, perhaps one might say an invariable occurrence in the history of Russia; that every attempt at reform, when it fails, tends to react unfavourably on the position of its Jewish minority.
Whether we take Alexander I or Alexander II, or Mr. Gorbachev—about whom I find myself in total agreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth—we can see the same events taking their course. Mr. Gorbachev is interesting because he seems to be combining in one career the reigns of both Alexander II and Alexander III—that is to say, both the protagonist of reform and the engineer of repression.
The impact of that upon our thinking, and therefore upon our capacity to treat the Gulf war in the context of a knowledge of the wider international framework in which it falls, is of great importance. I venture to disagree slightly with the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter. That makes one wish that people would not jump immediately to the view that we have here a golden opportunity for settling permanently all the problems of the Middle East. That is as improbable as it would have been if at the time of the peace of Augsburg, the peace of Westphalia or the Treaty of Utrecht someone had said, "We can put the question of Europe away, it is all tied up". I fear that it will be a long time before the problems of the Middle East are all tied up.
One echo that has been evoked by the second of those two photographs is the impact which the missile attacks upon Israel must have upon the population, as many noble Lords have said. To be the descendants of those who were saved from the holocaust to escape from persecution and then come to a country which is menaced by chemical and biological weapons, is an irony of history which is too ironic even for the greatest historian to have been able to bring it into a narrative.
Therefore, as noble Lords have said, not only are the Government of Israel to be praised for their restraint, but they are to be marvelled at. The pressures from their population are bound to be considerable. It is true, thank God!, that so far there have been very few casualties. However, a population which is subjected to virtual incarceration in their homes, with gas masks at the ready, cannot be expected not to ask their government what they propose to do about it. The only regret relates to the 29 fact that the setting up of the Patriot missiles and their manning by American troops, although understandable, did not occur earlier.
However, that calls our attention to the fact, which has been stated frequently and rightly, that the relations between Israel and its neighbours and the problem of the Palestinians and their right to self-determination—which I accept—will have to figure in the post-war scene. However, here again I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter. It is unwise to suggest that a conference to embrace those and other critical issues—he mentioned the Lebanon—could take place satisfactorily while the war is being waged. That seems to me to be utopian.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, if the noble Lord suggests that I proposed that such a conference should take place while the war was in progress he misunderstood me.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, I apologise. However, that is how I interpreted the noble Lord's words. He said something like, "We should be getting on with it". Obviously, he merely meant that as a promise for the future. Clearly it is not something that could be contemplated by the leaders of governments who have a war to wage and armed forces to look after.
We must regard that as a matter for the future. It is perfectly legitimate for those of us who have views as to what might then be done to concentrate on being prepared to voice those views when the occasion arises. However, I repeat that I do not believe that one could do much more than hope to solve some of the immediate problems in a way which would at least make the outbreak of further major hostilities unlikely for some time to come. Even that may prove extremely difficult.
As was said in our earlier debates by noble Lords with greater experience of the area, the Arab world itself is in ferment. The moslem world is in ferment. I return to the analogy of Europe at the time of the reformation and counter-reformation. To think that it can all be neatly slotted in to a solution that is the fruit of a few weeks or months of diplomacy is optimistic in the extreme and might lead to a sense of irritation or frustration if matters proved more difficult than was assumed.
We also have to be aware that the war is having a major impact on opinion in all sorts of communities in all sorts of places regarding the world and their role in it. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, expressed satisfaction with the position of the moslem community in this country. I fear that he had not got round to reading the report in The Times this morning of the meeting of representatives of Islamic organisations in Bradford who came out wholeheartedly in opposition to the policy of Her Majesty's Government in prosecuting a war against Saddam Hussein. As citizens of this country our moslem fellow citizens are entitled to their views, just as I and my fellow citizens who are Jews are entitled to our views. However, it is awkward, to say the least, if an important minority of our fellow citizens are unconvinced of the moral case for supporting the United Nations in this particular instance.
30 I should not wish to make too much of it, but that is an example of the way in which people are in a state in which their minds are to some extent malleable. Perhaps when some members of the media get over their enthusiasm for hourly scanning of the military horizon—and that does not relate only to this country but is equally true of our major allies and particularly of the United States—it is important to contemplate the extent to which the path to war, the conduct of war and the experience of war, can lead to a better appreciation of how the international arena operates.
We are too chary of suggesting that there is a British national interest in peace in the Middle East. Why should Britain not be concerned? Why should not the young men and women who are fighting be concerned with our own national interest as well as with the wider interests of the world community? Oil is important. Why should we try to push it into the background? That would be absurd. I shall not mention names in order not to cause pain to the friends of the party opposite, if they have any, but it is absurd to argue that the whole enterprise is a conspiracy to expand the profits of the oil business. We must admit that the world is a fairly dismal place. Greed and self-agrandisement are characteristics that are bound to figure in human beings to a mixed extent. Governments must steer a course which can best satisfy the material and spiritual needs of the peoples that they represent. In that respect, Her Majesty's Ministers, in the first five days of the war, have done us proud.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Phillips
My Lords, I am humbled to take part in a debate with so many distinguished speakers. What I should like to have said has been mentioned already in a far better way.
The two previous debates have led me to believe that someone should pay tribute to the state of Israel. I have heard all too often in this House about how Israel is the cause of everything. Today we see how it is reacting to a terrible situation. Israel has suffered two missile volleys, neither of which was on a military target. If one looks through history, that reaction must be a record. The whole world has been telling Israel not to do anything and not to react. Advice has been prolific. Israel has not said or done anything to warrant the unprovoked attack by Saddam Hussein. The United States is concerned that if Israel responds to the attacks, Syria and Egypt will desert the coalition. The brave, intelligent and far-seeing people of Israel are holding back from what would be a very understandable reaction to unprovoked aggression.
The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, referred to photographs. My heart was saddened when I saw the people of Israel getting out their gas masks. I looked around my home and wondered which would be the sealed room if we expected the horrors of chemical warfare. The Israeli people have often shown their bravery and far-sightedness. They have been attacked many times in this House. I hope that people who have taken that attitude in the past will see the statesmanlike and brave way in which the Israeli people are acting now.
31 There is no doubt where the sympathies and loyalties of the PLO lie. Yassir Arafat stated to Saddam Hussein:We will enter Jerusalem victorious and will raise our flag on its walls. You will enter with me, riding on a white stallion".I should like to make it clear that my party has indicated very clearly that it supports Her Majesty's Government in this exercise. There are some rather strange animals in the other place—I think that everyone knows to whom I am referring—who describe anyone who speaks as I do as being in favour of war. I lived through the 1930s and saw the effect of appeasement. In the end there had to be a war, which, had it happened earlier, would have stopped some of the horrors to which the world was subjected. We are definitely not in favour of war.
I listened to the anti-war lobby shouting during "Any Questions". Why does one have to be aggressive in order to prove that one does not like war? It is rather like the old story that used to be told in the Labour Party. A man was told that he was going to have a house in Park Lane, that his wife was going to have a fur coat (that was before the time of the animal rights lobby) and that he was going to have a Rolls-Royce. He said that he did not want any of those things—and he was told that when the day of freedom came he would do exactly as he was told. It is just as nonsensical to state that we are anti-war, when people shout and hate and do not appear to like anyone. I reject that view. It is not part of any belief that I hold.
We now see the nature of Saddam Hussein if we did not see it before. We saw the depths of that individual when he paraded prisoners of war on television. Where will he be at the end of all this? He will be safely in his own bunker. The corrupt presidents of past years have always found a safe place to take their wives, with their 6,000 pairs of shoes and everything else. This man is ensuring that he will not suffer, no matter who else suffers.
Our declared aims remain the same as they were last week. We must remove Saddam Hussein. We must restore the government of Kuwait. We will be told that it is not a democratic government, but that is not the point. There is only one democratic government in the Middle East, which is that of Israel. However, we must restore Kuwait's government. We must restore peace and security in the area for the people. Wars are not fought against people but against leaders. We must uphold the authority of the United Nations, and that is what we intend to do.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Earl Attlee
My Lords, I should like to echo some of the sentiments that have been expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips. I have heard young people say, "It is all right for you old ones. You are too old to go to war. You do not know anything about it". Those young people forget that we have all lived through the Second World War and subsequent wars.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, made an excellent speech in which he mentioned the Royal Tank Regiment. I have looked him up in Dodd. His 32 military service is mentioned but there is nothing about the Royal Tank Regiment. The mention of that regiment warms my heart. My father having been wounded twice in the First World War when he was with the South Lancs thought that it would be more pleasant to ride, and so he joined the Royal Tank Corps, as it was known in those days.
This is the third occasion on which we have discussed the Gulf. On the first two occasions we discussed the crisis and the distinct possibility of war, and today we are debating the war.
I should like to commence my speech by referring to the words of the Prime Minister which were repeated by the Leader of this House. I have since re-read the Statement and was struck by two aspects: first, it was short and succinct; secondly, careful reading shows that it was well written. There was no rhetoric, civil servants' gobbledegook or long, incomprehensible words or phrases. Instead, it was direct, honest and unemotional. Most importantly, it was unambiguous and easily understood by all. I congratulate the writer of the speech. I do not believe that the Prime Minister, with so much on his plate and so much responsibility, would have had sufficient time to write it. If I am wrong I apologise.
One of the most important points to be driven home by the Statement was that this country and its major ally, the United States of America, were not acting as sovereign powers. They were carrying out the legal mandate of the United Nations. However, during the Falklands conflict we launched a successful invasion to free British islands and their British inhabitants. We had a mutual defence agreement with Kuwait, and therefore could have launched a legitimate campaign to free it from the occupation of and domination by Iraq. However, it is better that we have done so with our allies, under the umbrella of the United Nations.
Undoubtedly, the inevitably successful conclusion will bolster the standing of the United Nations throughout the world. We hope it will deter other potential aggressors from attacking their neighbours, as did the successful recapturing of the Falkland Islands. We must accept that the Arab nations will consider that the allied attack in the Gulf is against all Arabs and all Moslems. I believe that, as soon as possible after the conclusion of the war, we should produce and widely circulate detailed statistics giving the following information: first, the total Arab population in Kuwait before the illegal invasion by a fellow Moslem state; secondly, the total Arab population left in Kuwait at the termination of hostilities; thirdly, the total number of Kuwaitis who were resident there but now living elsewhere. If your Lordships add together the second and third statistics and subtract the sum from the first you will be left with the number of men, women and children who have disappeared since their country was attacked. Undoubtedly, those men, women and children will have been murdered.
Similarly, one can list the ways in which Kuwait has been pillaged and raped of all its resources—money in banks and safe deposits, machinery in factories, with 33 hospitals dismantled and shipped out—to show what the war is really about. The fact remains that the war and atrocities were perpetrated by Arabs on Arabs and by Moslems on Moslems. I too was surprised to hear the comments about the Moslems in this country made by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn. I read in today's newspaper that Britain's first Moslem parliament condemned the allies and commanded the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all non-Moslem forces. It also condemned United States and British aggression against Iraq. Noble Lords should note that it is our aggression against Iraq. Presumably the Moslems are British citizens resident and earning their living. They show up badly because they are not willing to support their adopted country and the brave men and women who are carrying out the responsibilities of this nation in order to help their fellow men.
I wish to return to the Prime Minister's Statement and raise two issues. The Statement contained no mention of compensation to British citizens who were resident in Kuwait. However, that was specifically adopted in UN Security Council Resolution No. 674, which reminded Iraq of its liability under international law for loss, damage or injury arising from its invasion and illegal occupation of Kuwait. I am indebted to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, for providing me with that information.
My second comment refers to communication. At the beginning of the war we were in the ridiculous situation of receiving news on radio and television as it happened. One could hear the bombs exploding and the anti-aircraft fire. It was thrilling television, although the events took place at two or three o'clock in the morning. However, more than two hours later the Ministry of Defence in its statements was still pussy-footing around. I level no criticism at the Ministry of Defence but I do at its civil servants who are employed as its spokesmen.
My view, which has been expressed by many people, is that we are being flooded with so-called news broadcasts. They are not in fact new broadcasts. Last night we saw pictures which were shown two or three days ago. Ordinary people are now fed up. They want to hear what has happened during the past 24 hours; they do not want to hear the subject gone over again and again by tired journalists talking to self-satisfied, self-acknowledged experts. Some of the experts are quite pathetic. Indeed, they are so pathetic they could not have reported the events at Agincourt. Had they been present when the animals were entering the Ark they would have been unable to tell Noah how many animals had boarded.
I understand that the Ministry of Defence cannot issue a statement unless it is a known fact. It cannot issue statements that are rumours. Airline spokesmen face the same problem after a fatal air crash. I know that from personal experience. When I was based in London, an aircraft crashed in Spain. Throughout the evening I was dealing with pressing inquiries. Several people started to say, "Look, you have given me a list of nine people killed but we have a list of 20 or 30 people". I pointed out that I could give only hard facts. I said to them, "The point is this. A couple on 34 the passenger list are named as Mr. and Mrs. Smith and all too often they turn out to be Mr. Smith and Mrs. Brown. That can cause embarrassment all round, especially for Mr. Smith when he has to meet his wife again". I found that the solution was to give out the official list and then, on the strict understanding that it was unconfirmed, read out the list of names which I had received from journalists in Spain and elsewhere. That seemed to satisfy them.
I have spoken for rather longer than I intended. Therefore, I conclude by repeating a remark which I made last Thursday. I live in army country—in Aldershot. I see fewer and fewer troops in the area these days. The local military hospital—I have been an inmate there several times—is now the 33rd Field Hospital. Therefore, when I pray for our boys and girls, I personally know many of them.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, this is one of those fairly rare occasions on which both Houses are debating the same subject. Therefore, I thought I should make it my business to discover precisely what is happening in the other place because in this House we are merely expressing our own opinions. We shall not divide on the subject. We are examining what is happening in the Gulf and expressing an individual view. However, we are taking no collective opinion of the House on the matter.
What happens in the other place is quite different. I thought therefore that I should go and see what was taking place there. It was not quite as satisfactory, decisive and as generally expressive of all shades of opinion as I had hoped. For example, the Government Motion on the Order Paper, moved in characteristically moderate fashion by the Prime Minister, read as follows:That this House expresses its full support for British forces in the Gulf and their contribution to the implementation of United Nations resolutions by the multinational force, as authorised by United Nations Security Council Resolution 678".The official Opposition, in the name of the leader of the Labour Party, Mr. Neil Kinnock, and some of his shadow Cabinet members, had tabled the following amendment:at end add 'commends the instructions to minimise civilian casualties wherever possible; and expresses its determination that, once the aggression in Kuwait is reversed, the United Nations and the international community must return with renewed vigour to resolve the wider problems in the Middle East'".That resolution was so lacking in criticism and so supportive of the Government that the Government decided to accept it. Therefore, in the other place the two Front Benches—the Government and the Opposition—are joined together in a Motion which, as amended, expresses wide general support for the Government's policy with no effective criticism.
However, there is criticism. I have ventured to suggest its nature from time to time in this House; indeed I have done so up to the present war. That criticism is expressed in a further amendment also on the Order Paper in the name of Mr. Bob Cryer and a number of his colleagues. The amendment states: 35Leave out from 'Gulf to end and add 'but deeply regrets that sanctions were not given sufficient time to operate; recognises that they are the preferred options and would have avoided this bloody and dangerous conflict; and calls for a halt to hostilities to provide for a peaceful settlement'".That is a genuine piece of alternative policy. It states that war should never have taken place and that sanctions should have been persisted in. It also says that the war should speedily come to an end and discussions for a peaceful settlement should take place.
That view is held by a fairly small majority in the other place and, I suspect, by an even smaller majority in this House. However, according to one of the polls it is a view held by a small majority of people in this country.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord has inadvertently referred to a majority when he means a minority. However, as he has given me an opportunity to intervene, I hope that he will recall that the subject of our debate is the situation in the Gulf and not the situation in another place.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, our debate is all about the Gulf. My purpose in drawing attention to what is happening elsewhere is to suggest to the House that what is taking place this afternoon is not a proper discussion about the Gulf but is an expression of unanimous opinion among the majority in both Houses to the exclusion of any expression of a small minority view. That is entirely unsatisfactory.
I believe that we are entitled to discuss the position for this reason. Let us suppose that the small minority is 20 per cent.—and one of the polls suggests something of that order. In terms of the electorate, that is about 8 million people. Are we entitled to suppress that opinion because it is unpopular with the majority?
I apologise to your Lordships for being absent while I went across to the other place to see what was happening. There, the Speaker said that he would take the government Motion as amended by the Official Opposition and would not take any other amendment. Therefore, as your Lordships can imagine, there was a protest from those who wished to move the critical amendment. They asked why they were not to be heard. The Speaker replied that their voices could be heard but that their amendment would not be called for a Division.
Therefore, the supporters of that amendment can either accept the government Motion with the amendment by the official Opposition or they can vote against the Government's policy as a whole which could easily be misunderstood. I suspect that in spite of that, a number of Members will vote against the combined Motion. My guess is that about 30 Members of another place will dissent.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, I find it extraordinary that we should discuss the procedure of another place. Any criticism is very much contrary to the practice of this House. I do not know how much of our debate the noble Lord has heard but a wide range of views have 36 been expressed. Presumably he did not hear them. However, it really is unusual to spend time criticising the procedure of another place.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I expected that criticism and therefore took the precaution of looking up standing orders. I find that I am entirely in order.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, can the noble Lord justify that statement? What is the quotation he examined from the Companion of this House?
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I looked up the Companion, which quite properly precludes one from criticising individual Members of another place, excluding only government Ministers who can be criticised. It does not prevent discussions in this House of Motions or decisions taken in the other place, nor the reverse. It protects individual Members and not the House as a whole.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, notwithstanding that, I believe it is contrary to the custom of this House to criticise the procedures of another place as being defective in a democratic sense.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, the noble Lord may think that; I happen to think he is wrong. No doubt we shall decide that at another time. As I do not intend to say any more about it perhaps I can conclude my remarks.
The purpose of giving examples was to inquire into the reasons for the dissent. British forces are engaged in a battle for which all sides, including the 30 dissenters, give their support. On the other hand, it is felt that certain matters should be criticised and heard in another place. As the noble Lord said, such criticism has been heard on an individual basis in this House. Perhaps there is something to be said for our procedure. Since we do not divide, individual Members can take their own view. What is happening in the other place is rather different.
Why have these events taken place? As I said, the view is taken by a number of noble Lords that the motion of the United Nations did not specifically authorise the attack. It referred to all necessary action. I take the view, which has been supported more authoritatively, that that did not necessarily include the use of force; it was not specifically stated. Even if one were wrong and an appeal to the international court did not succeed on that point, it is an important difference of substance which has a degree of reality behind it.
Another point I wish to raise concerns the inclusion in the debate of a request for a peaceful settlement to be part of the Motion. That was disapproved of by both sides. The view was taken that the inclusion of a request for a peaceful settlement, which is being put before the United Nations by the Kingdom of Jordan, cannot take place until the war is ended. In other words, there can be no attempt to bring the war to a close before its end in total victory.
I take a different view. Wars have a common characteristic; that is, they get worse. In the 1939 war we started our bombing procedures by bringing back any bombs which could not find their proper target in order to avoid civilian casualties. We are doing exactly 37 the same now as we did then. Some of my gallant colleagues in the Royal Air Force at that time lost their lives bringing bombs back rather than dropping them on anything other than the required target. However, by the end of the war, after five years, we were bombing wholesale. We committed Dresden, a crime equalled only by that of Hiroshima. We were deliberately bombing civilians. We had no doubt about what we were doing, and the Americans were deliberately bombing civilians in Nagasaki and in Hiroshima.
Wars get worse. There is no doubt that the longer a war lasts the worse it becomes. Consequently, there is a case for asking if we can in any way bring this war to an (NW before the whole place is brought to ruin. That will be the conclusion. We are already in danger of exploding nuclear installations. Shall we experience a new Chernobyl in the Middle East? If, with modern weapons, we cannot bring the war to a conclusion within the year, then in my view we shall see destruction on an unprecedented scale.
Gas warfare is also on the list of possibilities. We know something about that. In 1920 we were the first people to drop gas on most countries. We killed 9,000 Arabs by a combination of explosive gas-filled shells and aerial bombardment. The aerial bombardment of civilians was of such a severe character that a distinguished air force officer resigned and was put on the retired list; he could not agree with the continuation of that bombardment. Since then we have become used to it. We do not care whether or not we are killing people by the hundreds and thousands.
We now use euphemisms to disguise what we are doing. We say we shall "take something out". In fact we are killing men, women and children. We use the euphemisms of war. It is that refuge in euphemisms which makes possible the continuation of this ghastly business.
I had more to say but I believe I have said enough to indicate that there is a point of view other than the one that the war must be fought bitterly and to the end. I do not take that view. I believe the war should be brought to an end as soon as possible.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, before I came to the House I received a note from the Kuwaiti ambassador asking me to say a few words. I have a certain connection with Kuwait. I shall not criticise all of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, save to say that I do not agree with everything that he said.
Sanctions have been mentioned. The Kuwaitis feel hurt that several distinguished people in both Houses of Parliament have been pro-sanctions. Around a month go one or two said that sanctions should be in place certainly for a year and perhaps more than a year. Those people—obviously intelligent people—must have forgotten about Kuwait. They must have forgotten about the appalling tortures, the ruthlessness, and the taking of thousands of hostages out of the country by Saddam.
I could produce many papers referring to tortures but the stories are too disgusting and horrible to 38 repeat and it would serve no purpose. However, I must reiterate that the Kuwaiti nation has been upset by the talk of sanctions. The Kuwaitis feel that many people in this country, especially those suggesting sanctions, do not realise what is happening in Kuwait. Only three days ago I heard that another 2,000 Kuwaitis were rounded up by Saddam's soldiers and carted off to nobody knows where. I will not go on about that aspect of the matter because I have probably said enough. My father knew the Middle East quite well. Saddam Hussein is supposed to be clever and he is probably fiendishly clever. How has he obtained these vast armaments and how has he paid for them? There is a certain amount of oil in Iraq, but it is surprising that he has had the wherewithal to pay for the weapons.
When the war is over there must be an organisation which will prevent small nations, or indeed any nation, building up vast armaments which may be nuclear or which can spread germs such as anthrax. Those weapons are capable of wiping out the populations of countries. This organisation should come through the United Nations but it will be a long time before the U.N. will be powerful enough to do that. I do not know how that body will have the power to create such an organisation.
A question arose concerning the crowds or mobs in the streets shouting "down with the war". That is all right. We have free speech. However, there are limits. A great many people in this country do not really understand that, in a way, we have been responsible. We have always exported large amounts of arms as have other countries, especially the French. We have to keep our industry employed. It is very difficult to overcome the selling of arms abroad and to decide to whom they should be sold. Thank goodness I have nothing to do with the arms business, and never would. However, the arms industry employs a great number of people in this country. I do not know how that industry can be replaced unless it is done through international agreement. One hopes that eventually that will be so.
I believe it was the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, who said that, through television and the media generally, too much attention has been paid to this conflict. It has been overdone. I can remember that during the Falklands war there were one or two occasions when some of the journalists or the announcers went extremely near to giving the game away regarding certain operations. I was in the army and for a short time I was also engaged at sea; but that is another matter. Sometimes in our broadcasts and on television we go too far.
For a long time the majority of Arabs have been our friends and we must keep it that way. Having said that, I have great sympathy with the Palestinians and the Jews because they are in a very difficult position. They are behaving extremely well despite being in a terrible position. Saddam Hussein is a great exception. From the small experience that I have of Arabs—I have dealt with sheikhs and people of that kind—they usually keep their word. However, it is obvious that 39 Saddam is quite incapable of doing that. He will eventually be brought to book and then presumably there will be a far better world.
I am sorry that I have wandered a bit. The Kuwaitis have had the most appalling time and I do not think that the majority of the public realise that. I do not think that anyone realised that during the three months or so when sanctions were being talked about the Kuwaitis were being tortured and starved.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney said that people who hold a minority view in this country are not being heard properly. That may sound somewhat like a paradox. I was on my way to a meeting in Pall Mall of the metropolitan area branch of the Royal British Legion, of which I have the honour to be the president, when I saw many hundreds of people holding banners, distributing leaflets and protesting against the war. Some folk took exception to those who were saying that the war should not have happened. They were removed by the police in order to allow the protesters to carry on uninhibited and unembarrassed. I thought that there was something remarkably British about that attitude.
This debate got off to an excellent start with a superb speech from the Leader of the House and an equally superb reply from my noble friend Lord Cledwyn, the Leader of the Opposition. I say to the noble Earl who is to reply that we appear to have excellent collaboration and co-operation between the armies, airforces and personnel in the desert under the American general, General Schwarzkopf. It seems to be superb. No doubt we have similar political co-operation at top level, but do we have the same degree of political liaison somewhat nearer the soldiers, sailors and airmen so that there can be no mix-up whatever? I hope the noble Earl will be able to say that that is being done or that the point is worthy of consideration.
I am somewhat intrigued by the fact that Japan wants to make a contribution on behalf of the allies. It may well be doing so financially, but because of the constitution imposed by the Americans at the end of the war, Japan cannot send troops to assist. I should have thought that the threat was so terrible and that the war could have such appalling consequences that Japan should have a special dispensation. If the Japanese wish to support the Americans and our Arab allies they should be allowed to do so. It is also worth noting that Japan more than any other nation would suffer alarmingly if there were a sudden cutback in the supply of oil.
I share the apprehensions of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, about the behaviour of some parts of the media. I immediately exclude those very brave men and women who are in the Gulf recording for us what is going on with regard to Operation Desert Storm. As the noble and gallant Lord said, while we honour and respect them, others are making 40 comments and are whipping up feelings which do no good for our allies and for our men and women in the services.
I was especially put out when, either yesterday or this morning, I saw an American television report of the shooting down of American and British airmen. The report gave their full names and addresses and showed them making those awful submissions as prisoners of Saddam. One felt pretty sick about it. I remember, as I am sure the noble and gallant Lord and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, remember, that those serving in certain branches of the Armed Forces had special instructions that if captured they would adopt a certain attitude. No one would blame them for it because it was known that it had been agreed beforehand. I am concerned that when the American airman was interviewed on television making those appalling sycophantic noises in support of Saddam, the television report then showed his brother in the United States saying that his brother was sending a message to the Americans. I do not suppose that that is true but if it is, what an utterly stupid thing for that American broadcasting corporation to do. I ask the noble Earl, Lord Arran, to consider that point. Many noble Lords will corroborate what I have said. I find it distasteful and it is threatening to our troops and airmen in the Gulf.
I should like to reiterate the point I made in a previous debate. The allies should consider dropping leaflets on Kuwait and Baghdad. During the last war such actions had quite a remarkable effect. I am pleased to be able to say —I do not suppose he has ever heard of me—that President Bush has made the same point. I hope that our Government will consider not so much what I have said but what the president has said.
I agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and with my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition that we have to keep up our morale and at the same time avoid euphoria. The united forces in the desert have an excellent record of working together. I believe that we in our parliament must do the same. It would appear that 80 per cent. of our people support the united forces and agree with what is being done. What was the alternative? The tighter the sanctions the more atrocities there would have been in Kuwait. It so happens that, because the United Nations forces are there, sanctions can now be implemented, and are being implemented, to hinder Saddam Hussein. I know the Middle East pretty well. I believe that if the forces were not there and sanctions had been implemented, the atrocities in Kuwait—the cutting out of the tongues of people who would not submit to Saddam Hussein, the raping, the pillaging and the thieving—would have increased enormously. That would have been the effect of waiting another six or seven months. I believe that we have done the right thing.
I am somewhat perplexed by the attitude of some moslems in our country. They do not appear to be concerned at the fate of their brother and sister moslems, men, women and children, who have suffered in Kuwait. I do not believe that the attitude of Saddam Hussein's troops in Kuwait in any way 41 squares up with the religious principles of Islam. Moslems in this country have every right to say what they believe but I have every right to tell them that they are absolutely misguided and are doing nothing to aid their fellow Arabs who are suffering under the heel of Saddam Hussein.
There is an urgent need for unity of all religions and of all peoples to end atrocities and ultimately to end war. There can be extremes of religions. After reading some of the newspapers today, the moslems in this country should realise that they are much safer in the United Kingdom than they would be in Kuwait. If they do not believe that, they can always go back. They could hop over to Kuwait now and then to find out what it is like. It is essential to maintain the view that this is a United Nations endeavour and that the world parliament has ordered this use of force. Those who question that principle let down our forces and aid Saddam Hussein.
I believe too that we should from time to time acknowledge what a remarkable job our forces are doing. We know that some of them probably do not like what they have to do. Under General Schwarzkopf it seems that they are inflicting penalties on the economy and the forces of Iraq. They carry out these actions while trying to ensure the minimum number of civilian casualties. We should say clearly that Iraq and the Iraqi people are not our enemies. We seek to create better understanding and hope for all the people of the Gulf.
In conclusion, I should like to say that we shall at all times honour those whose gallantry and courage achieve the victory that we desire, Israel desires and so many Arab states desire. When that is achieved, let us acknowledge that it was the United Nations forces in the Gulf which made it all possible.
§ 5.28 p.m.
My Lords, I am pleased to speak after the noble Lord, Lord Molloy. He and I belong to an important organisation of which many noble Lords will probably not have heard. It is especially important in the context of the present problems. It is called the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding. I have the honour to be one of the vice-presidents of the council.
I wish to introduce a new element into our discussions. I apologise to the House for not having spoken earlier but that is perhaps all to the good. I want to try to look at this terrible problem from the Arab point of view; something which no one has so far attempted to do, probably quite rightly. I say at the outset that, like anyone else, I find Saddam Hussein and his attitude totally repulsive. He is a thoroughly evil man. We all agree that he must be eliminated. However, I say, knowing that many noble Lords will disagree with me, that there was a great deal of truth in what the noble Lord, Lord Soper, had to say. I also support what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew. Are we not letting ourselves in for a situation which will escalate into a Third World War? Obviously we all want to prevent that. However, I have a horrible feeling that the war will escalate.
42 One of the major problems is the difficulty in assessing the support for Saddam Hussein. We see television broadcasts of all those wild, enthusiastic troops, and so on. At this point I should like to say a few words about Saddam's call to jihad, or holy war. None of us should under-estimate it. It is obligatory upon moslems, although it is not one of the Five Pillars of Islam. However, perhaps I may read two quotations from the Koran about jihad. The first reads:Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities".The second reads:One who attacketh you, attack him in like manner".Saddam Hussein has done just that: he did not actually start the hostilities and he will certainly attack in like manner. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, wishes to intervene. I am happy for him to do so.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, the noble Viscount said that Saddam did not initiate hostilities. Did he walk peacefully across the Kuwaiti border, or did he do so with armed force?
My Lords, I do not in any way condone Saddam Hussein's occupation of Kuwait. It was utterly deplorable. However, the hostilities which have recently broken out were initiated by the West. I see that another noble Lord wishes to intervene.
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
My Lords, surely it cannot be said that Saddam Hussein's occupation of Kuwait was peaceful; indeed, it was the beginning of the hostilities. That is why we are involved in the situation.
My Lords, I accept that. It was thoroughly evil. Clearly we must do everything we can to evict him from Kuwait. However, as I said initially, I am trying to put forward the situation from Saddam Hussein's point of view. In his view it was the American and British attack which started the war. I agree with your Lordships that it was the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait which caused all the trouble.
My concern is that the situation is likely to escalate. I can foresee Saddam Hussein carrying out another attack on Israel. Moreover, I can see Israel retaliating, despite the wonderful restraint it has shown thus far and which I very much admire. I can also see Egypt and Syria joining in as well as, perhaps, Libya and the Yemen.
Saddam Hussein has been portrayed as another Saladin. Noble Lords who have studied history will know that he was a very fine and noble man. Of course, I would not say that about Saddam Hussein. I speak as one who has spent much of his life—some 35 years—in the Arab world. I have very many friends there, some of whom are Iraqis. More than anything else, I am disturbed by the thought that there will be massive land operations. Attacks on missile sites, and so on, which have been carried out thus far with remarkably low casualties, I am glad to say, are fine. However, when we come to the mass involvement of land troops I believe that we face the prospect of very 43 serious trouble. As I said, I feel that the situation will escalate. Can it be justifiable to attack 1 million Iraqis—the number put forward by Saddam Hussein?
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
My Lords, the noble Viscount asks whether it would be justifiable to attack 1 million Iraqis. The Iraqi military attacked and occupied Kuwait. That is not legitimate action, either. What is the noble Viscount's response?
My Lords, I absolutely agree with the noble Earl. However, I believe that your Lordships will probably agree that the prospect of mass slaughter of Iraqi soldiers is not one which we face with any feelings of pleasure. Indeed, it is an appalling prospect. We must remember that if the call to jihad, or holy war, continues—I have quoted from the Koran in that respect—and if Saddam Hussein raises the support for which he hopes, which I fear he may, we are in for a very long and very bloody war.
I am not a pacifist. I fought throughout the last war; indeed, I was a territorial. However, in my view this whole ghastly war might have been prevented if the Arabs had been persuaded to sit down and discuss the matter among themselves without any great power intervention. It might have been possible at one stage, but it is certainly not possible now. However, at some time when hostilities have ceased we must be prepared to let the Arab nations discuss the problem.
There are two very disturbing elements in the present situation. The first is the general hostility towards Arabs which one finds in this country. There is a lack of understanding and a widespread hostility towards Arabs. That is a sad fact but it is forever present. For example, most people in this country equate all members of the PLO with terrorism. They seem to forget that there are at least eight different branches of the PLO, only two or three of which are committed to terrorism.
The second element which is equally important—perhaps more so—is the growing hostility towards the West which one finds in the Arab world. I was especially interested in the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, about the moslems in Bradford. I have visited the city and interviewed many moslems. I understand their reactions. They feel strongly that we were not right to go into this war.
Following on from that point, I believe that Saddam Hussein is now committed to a prolonged war. He will undertake what one may perhaps call a "Samson" operation; in other words, he does not mind if he sends millions of troops into battle. Saddam Hussein said that he has 1 million soldiers, but I do not know whether that is true. Nevertheless, like Samson, he is quite prepared to have the whole temple collapse on top of him. Your Lordships may remember that it was said of Samson that those he killed at his death were greater in number than those he killed during his life.
How then shall we plan for the period after hostilities have ended? As I said before, we must persuade the Arabs to sit down together and discuss the situation among themselves. If it were possible to 44 do so at present it would be splendid, but I do not see any such likelihood. We must bear in mind the fact that war, especially war against the Arabs, creates nothing. Indeed, it destroys and leaves a vacuum. I am very much conscious of a famous saying which I learned as a child: solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellent—they make a desert and call it peace. Nevertheless, now that we have embarked upon this horrible campaign we must obviously do all that we can to pursue it; but in my view there are very dark, difficult and dangerous days ahead.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, during the previous debates on this topic in the House, I have argued consistently that the correct weapon for the United Nations to use to get Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi war machine out of Kuwait was the use of sanctions. It would not just be inconsistent, it would be dishonest, for me to say this afternoon that because others have decided otherwise I therefore believe that war is correct. I do not. That does not of course mean, as I said last Tuesday, that those who are opposed to the use of war for those means do not feel for our fellow men and women in the Gulf, and their families, and the Iraqis who are bearing the brunt of the devastation.
One of the reasons why I have argued consistently for sanctions, and the continuation of sanctions, is that the authority of the United Nations—I am aware that this is a minority view—has been damaged by its use of military force, especially when it had already adopted sanctions and they had not been exhausted.
Last July there was a disastrous interview with April Glaspie, the United States ambassador to Iraq, which gave Saddam the green light to go ahead, despite the intelligence reports that he was already massing his troops and armour on the Kuwait border. Since then, through the August invasion, and the United Nations Resolution 660, calling for the Iraqis' withdrawal and negotiations between the Iraqis and Kuwaitis, United States and United Kingdom forces in the Gulf were built up.
Let me remind your Lordships of what I said last week. It was stated clearly that the forces were for the defence of Saudi Arabia and would not be used against Kuwait or Iraq. It was believed at that time that with the imposition of sanctions and blockade it would take at least 12 months for sanctions to work as they were designed to work: not to starve the Iraqi people but to undermine Saddam Hussein's war machine. I ask the Minister to pass on to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, who replied to last week's debate, the information that, although he challenged what I said about the 12-month period, all he need do is look at James Schlesinger's testimony. He was a former Director of the CIA and former Secretary of State for Defense. He testified that the American Administration considered that it would take 12 months for sanctions to bite as they were intended.
We then return to the date of 8th November last year, when President Bush announced a virtual doubling of American forces in the Gulf and 45 apparently threw aside sanctions. I ask the Minister whether President Bush had any consultations with this country, because this country, apparently uncritically, accepted that total change of strategy. I asked that question last week, and I have not received an answer. From 8th November it was clearly the policy of the American Administration to switch from the use of sanctions to the use of military force. In addition there was the fatal mistake of the laying down of a deadline which would appear to be an ultimatum. In the circumstances of Iraq and Middle East that was virtually a challenge to Saddam Hussein's virility. It had the unfortunate effect of strengthening his support in his own country.
Since then, throughout December and January, there has been a constant debate in the United States, this country and other countries about the efficacy of sanctions. There has been a mass of evidence from highly respected, distinguished and experienced men and women in the United States that sanctions were working and would work. I have quoted the evidence previously. I merely add the evidence of William Webster, the present Director of the CIA, who said that by April of this year Saddam Hussein's military machine would be damaged, and would be damaged progressively if sanctions were maintained.
I asked this question last week and again received no answer: where is the Government's evidence that sanctions were not being effective and would not be effective—I am not talking about starving the Iraqi people—in undermining Saddam Hussein's military machine until he was forced to withdraw from Kuwait or be overthrown? I also asked a further question, but I shall ask it in a different way. There is a United Nations sanctions committee. Has that committee been consulted? Has that committee given any evidence as to the efficiency and effectiveness of sanction If not, why not? That question has been asked in both Houses and has not yet received an answer from the Government.
Then, unfortunately, last week we came to war. I say "unfortunately"; last Tuesday I said that that was a tragedy for humanity. I have no doubt that it was caused principally by Saddam Hussein's intransigence. That intransigence could have been defeated by the continued and extended use of economic sanctions. However, that decision in favour of war was taken by President Bush in November, with the United Kingdom's apparent acceptance, or at least without objection; but it was Saddam Hussein who wanted war. In the last resort, a rational analysis of his actions shows that he wanted to go to war. Those who have any contact with the Arab world and the moslem world can understand that, because there is a messianic aspect in some, not all, moslems, who believe that they are the instruments of Allah's will. Throughout the desperate efforts made by many governments and the United States Secretary General—unfortunately apparently not diplomatically by the British Government—to find a diplomatic solution, it would appear that Saddam Hussein was determined upon war We gave it to him. The opening of the war 46 last week was not a victory for the United Nations, it was a defeat. If anything, it was a victory for the outlook that Saddam Hussein appears to have.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? I am sorry to argue with him again, but on his own showing he makes two points: sanctions would have bitten harder; Saddam Hussein wanted war for messianic purposes. Could he and the pro-sanctions people, if I may put it that way, have given a guarantee that at any moment Saddam Hussein, who wanted war so much, would not have started a war when we were not looking? Would that not simply mean that the war he wanted would be at a time of his choosing rather than that of the United Nations?
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, the answer to that is quite simple. I and those who think as I do on sanctions have never disputed or criticised the necessity for the presence of a military force. However, I do not believe that with the application of sanctions, plus the presence of the coalition military force, there would have been any chance of Saddam Hussein going to war. As soon as the coalition forces were stationed in Saudi Arabia, I should have said that it was impossible for Saddam Hussein to go to war. Nevertheless, if he had done so and we were vigilant in watching for it, he would have started the war. The United Nations would then have been practising self defence.
When it is argued that the military action will strengthen the United Nations, I am somewhat sceptical. After all, when the war started last week the Secretary General of the United Nations was not even informed. He learned of it first from watching the television. Now that the war has started, we must look ahead first to the consequences. I was glad to note that the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, spelled out the desperately dangerous consequences. I agree with him that the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, was much too optimistic in thinking that the problems could be solved in the near future.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? I did not say that they would be solved, I said that there was an opportunity and opportunities can be taken or not taken.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I still agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, when he said that the opportunity would not be there during the war. That does not mean that we should not prepare for it and I shall refer briefly to it later on.
On the consequences, it has been asked continually of those of us who have supported sanctions, "Are you prepared to let the Kuwaitis go on suffering?" My answer has always been consistent and there has never been a reply to it: what is happening to the people of Kuwait now? What will be left of Kuwait and of the Kuwaitis under the terrible bombardment that they suffer now? Is that the way to save the Kuwaitis? I must repeat what was unfortunately said last week by one of the principal members of the royal family of Kuwait. He stated—I thought cynically—that he was prepared to see the razing of Kuwait if it brought back 47 independence and sovereignty to the country. That is not the concern for the people of Kuwait that we have heard about.
To reiterate what the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, said, in the Middle East Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel are all at least tempted to fill the vacuum if Iraq is not just defeated but is eliminated or if power is eliminated there. This hardly looks like bringing peace and security to the region. Further afield, in other areas in which Islam is dominant, we have seen that the English cricket tour of Pakistan has been cancelled because of the danger of incidents against our own cricketers. A bomb exploded in the Philippines only yesterday. We are risking an Islamic jihad. We do not want it, we shall not have provoked it, but at least potentially it is there as a danger to the peace of the world. Yes, it has been said widely during this afternoon's debate that we must think about the peace conference and the peace settlement. It is too early to do it now but it is not too early to start making preparations.
I was pleased to hear the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal in his opening speech refer specifically to a peace conference and a settlement. However, in that peace conference, which could perhaps restore the authority of the United Nations, a large number of issues must be faced. I shall mention only three. First, it seems to me essential that any such conference or settlement should provide the means of eliminating nuclear, chemical and biological weapons from the Middle East. That is a difficult task, we have found it difficult elsewhere and it will be extremely difficult in the Middle East. Without the abolition of these methods of mass destruction, the problems which are left at the end of a war are liable to make conflict even greater in the future.
Then there is the question of Israel and the Palestinians and Resolution 242, which is now into its 24th year. The United Nations has done nothing about it. I say no more because it has been widely discussed here.
The third point I emphasise is essential to such a peace conference and settlement. So long as arms manufacturers are allowed to market their weapons of destruction throughout the world, but particularly in the third world, and so long as surplus arms from Europe, following the recent agreement, and from America are offered to the Arabs and the Israelis, we are storing up a desperately dangerous future for ourselves and those in the Middle East. This is being done today from Britain, the United States, France and Germany. I repeat the question which I asked last week and to which again I did not receive an answer: are the Saudis now receiving missiles and nuclear warheads from China? I asked that question last week on the basis of a report and it was not answered.
Finally, we must examine the means by which hostilities can be brought to an end. I asked the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal when he made the Statement on Thursday whether, if Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis were driven out of or retired from Kuwait, that would be the end of hostilities. He indicated that that 48 was so. It was repeated on the same day by the Prime Minister in another place, but the latter said, "I assume". That is a frightening word, does he not have the power to say, so far as Britain is concerned, that that will be the end of hostilities? The question of clear war aims will be of central importance in the future. We have heard today that the Indians, with, I believe, the Jordanians and the Yugoslavs are trying to put together a package for a peace settlement at the United Nations which would include withdrawal from Kuwait. I for one wish them well.
I ask the Government what is being done in the field of psychological warfare. I relate this to what I have just said about the ending of hostilities. The dictator Saddam Hussein must be hated by many people, particularly in the armed forces. In view of the circumstances of Iraq, is it not possible to be broadcasting to the military commanders offering them a peace, an end of hostilities and their safety, if they will stop the war and agree to withdraw from Kuwait? I simply throw this out as a suggestion and I hope that many other suggestions will be made in the next few days as to the means by which these hostilities may be brought to an end. Only by bringing them to an end can the United Nations fulfil the task for which it was constructed —that of securing peace, not war.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, sits down I wonder if I may put one question to him. In view of the courageous decision over the weekend by our NATO ally Turkey —a front-line state if ever there was one—to allow her airfields at Incirlik and Diyarbakir to be used by the alliance forces for operations against Saddam Hussein's armed forces, would he perhaps consider withdrawing the shocking allegations he made in your Lordships' House six days ago at col. 1115 to the effect that Turkey is a brutal dictatorship, fully as bad as Iraq? Turkey is a democracy —not a liberal democracy admittedly, because liberalism does not form part of the Turkish tradition any more than it forms part of the Islamic tradition. Nevertheless, Turkey is a multi-party democracy, with complete freedom of movement, and it does not drop poison gas on its own people. In no way can it be compared to Iraq and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, will acknowledge that.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I am very sorry and I apologise to the House, but I have no recollection of saying anything about the constitution of Turkey or the political circumstances in Turkey. I did mention the political situation in Saudi Arabia but, unless I was mis-reported or misunderstood, I certainly did not include Turkey. The only thing I know I have said about Turkey this afternoon, and last Tuesday, is that Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and possibly Israel may very well be tempted to go into conflict over the corpse of Iraq if Iraq itself is knocked out, rather than if we simply insist and force the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I am very glad to hear that the noble Lord did not mean to smear Turkey in 49 the way he, I think inadvertently, did. If he looks at the bottom of col. 1115 he will see what I am talking about.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Baroness Strange
My Lords, it is less than a week since we debated the situation in the Gulf. We did so at the eleventh hour, with heavy and not very hopeful hearts. We all prayed for peace, as we do now, and since it can only be achieved by victory, then we pray for victory also.
Last week I put bayleaves in your Lordships' House, representing victory. There are more this week, just as flourishing. In Scotland the snows have melted and the Christmas roses are no longer frosted. They represent peace, and I count that as a good augury. We do not know how long it will be before we can achieve that peace, but it can only be a just peace with all our objectives achieved. We pray that it will be soon.
I was quite shocked this morning when I saw the provisional batting order showing me as having moved up into fifth place. However, I see that in the fair copy I am back in my usual slot at the end of the debate, when everything which I wanted to say has already been said by everybody else, and rather better. However, this will not deter me from repeating my three points, nor from being brief.
We are all extremely grateful to the Israelis for their amazing tolerance in not reacting after being twice attacked by Scud missiles. We have seen pictures of their bombed and destroyed houses. We are thankful that our prayers have been answered and no lives have been lost. That is a miracle, as is the Israeli forbearance in the face of such aggression. We must also be grateful that our Arab allies have seen the attack on the Israelis for what it is—an attempt to fragment our alliance—and they have stood firm.
Many of us have friends and relations out in the Gulf and we pray for them and for all our allies constantly. We honour their courage and strength and we praise their forbearance in sometimes returning with bombs if they have been unable to pinpoint an exact target.
I should like to share with your Lordships two little vignettes of friends in the Royal Air Force who are now serving in the Gulf which I think illustrate their courage and their patriotism. The first is of Group Captain Ian MacFadyean, when he was commanding the airbase at Leuchars, near us in Scotland, a couple of years ago. His wife and children arrived to dine with us but he was delayed. "Unavoidably held up", his wife said and she looked too calm to be really worried. So did he, when he arrived shortly afterwards. "What happened?" we asked, thinking perhaps that the car would not start or there had been some administrative hold-up. "One of my engines packed up when I was flying across the North Sea", he said casually. Much alarmed, we expressed our horror but he just smiled nonchalantly and remarked, "All part of life's rich tapestry".
The second vignette was last April when I was a member of an all-party parliamentary defence group 50 visit to the Falklands. They had a mess night and I went in to dinner on the arm of Group Captain Cliff Spinks, who is now also serving in the Gulf. It was a rare evening: all the men in mess kit, the women in evening dress, the table loaded with silver from the Duke of Wellington's Regiment and the Iron Duke himself, designed in silver, on his charger riding down the polished table. We had speeches and toasts, while the candlelight flickered on medals and silver and on the instruments of the band playing regimental marches. There was no one to hear the echoes: only the penguins, the seals and the albatrosses drifting over the southern ocean. The group captain turned to me and said, "This makes me very proud to be British". It did me too.
We have all been shocked by the news that the Geneva Convention may not be adhered to by Saddam Hussein in respect of his prisoners of war. Your Lordships are probably as familiar as I am with Charles Kingsley's Water Babies, although possibly Saddam Hussein is not. Two ladies featured in it: one was a lady of repellent aspect, Mrs. Be-done-by-as-you-did, and a charming lady, Mrs. Do-as-you-would-be-done-by. I am sure that when the war is successfully concluded Saddam Hussein and his supporters will like to be seen as Mrs. Do-as-you-would-be-done-by. I hope someone will make that point clear to them.
Our hearts are with our forces in the Gulf and with our allies. We pray for a just and speedy peace and that they may all be kept safe in God's hands under the shelter of his wings.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, the noble Baroness is totally wrong in thinking that everything she said had been said by somebody else before. Nothing of what she said had been said by anybody else before, and I am among those who very much welcome the vivid glimpses of ordinary life and ordinary people which she knows so well how to clothe in poetry and bring into your Lordships' House.
Of course we all endorse and join in the message which the Leader of the House has sent from this House to the Armed Forces. I want to tell your Lordships that I have found this debate, although more sparsely attended and although the speeches have been shorter, which is no bad thing, more interesting than last week's. I believe that a new debate is now beginning. Some three or four speakers have already begun the debate this afternoon. The new debate attempts to penetrate the fog of peace which awaits us beyond the fog of war. In the meantime we have to win the war. But the word "win" has many meanings. What do we mean by winning?
Our war aims have been mentioned by several speakers. Mr. Hurd has been staunch and specific. He has dotted the "i"s and crossed the "t"s. Our war aims are neither more nor less than what is set out in the UN resolution. The question of who Iraq is governed by is not a question for this country, among others, to settle at arms. Therefore we are limited to removing Iraq from Kuwait.
51 However, as Mr. Hurd has also said, there will come a time when, let us hope, we have cleared the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait but they are just across the frontier. I ask noble Lords to imagine that we have joined up with our own forces which have been coming in from the west across Iraq. The Iraqi forces will probably be right on the border and they will be extremely menacing. How far, if at all, should we penetrate into Iraqi territory to the north? I am not qualified to say anything about the military question, but the political and diplomatic question seems to me to be a grave one. That question should be considered now. Who decides when to stop and who decides where to stop? That is one and the same question. We have read that the Egyptian, French and Syrian governments have said that they will not fight on the ground outside Kuwait. I wonder whether the Government can tell us—such things are better aired early rather than late—what the position is of the other countries who may have armed forces in Kuwait alongside the British and the Americans. What is the Saudi position on this? Will Bangladeshi forces enter Kuwait? If that is the case, will they go further? Will the Government give us more facts about what is already known on this point?
I am worried about a possible dislocation of the European Community and of the western alliance in general by this political factor. Another question concerns the reaction which has been given to the Iraqi attacks on Israel, and which should be given, by the allies fighting under the UN resolution. We have read in the press that Her Majesty's Government, in deciding their reaction, talked only to the US Government, the Israeli Government and "some Arab" governments about the attacks. Did the Government also talk to the French? Has it been possible to have talks on this matter in the Western European Union? There is a danger of our drifting apart from our European allies. I believe that our future remains with Europe. It would be too much if Saddam Hussein were allowed to wreak destruction upon our natural political alliance structures as well as upon everything else. We should not allow our political future to be knocked off its proper course by Saddam and our reaction to him.
In this connection we should obtain soon more facts about the Gulf Crisis Financial Co-ordination Group. In last week's debate I asked for information on that group, but got none. I have since learned in a reply to a Question for Written Answer that that group is serviced by the US Treasury: it is in American hands. It appears to be the group which is receiving contributions in respect of the war from Japan, Germany and other affluent non-combatants. The group then dishes out those contributions to good causes, whether it is for the conduct of the war, for the alleviation of suffering among refugees or for the people of Kuwait. However, we do not know exactly what the funds are used for and, above all, we do not know in what proportions they are allocated to various causes. I foresee a danger there if those funds 52 are administered in accordance with the preconceptions of any one nation in the alliance rather than in accordance with the wishes of the whole alliance. That would be a grave matter.
The position of Turkey raises a huge NATO spectre. Turkey is a NATO country and NATO exists to protect NATO countries against attack, wherever that may occur in the world. Turkey has not been attacked. However, one NATO country has attacked a non-NATO country from the soil of Turkey (which is another NATO country). If there is any attack on Turkey, it will be in retaliation for a Turkish-American attack on Iraq. It is vital that the reaction to such an attack, if it happens, should not be a NATO reaction. Let it be a Turkish reaction, an American one, a Turkish-American one or even a Turkish-German-American reaction, but let it not be a NATO reaction. The fact that those countries are NATO partners should not tempt us to assume that they are acting for NATO, because they will not be, and they cannot do so under the terms of the treaty.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, symbolism is so important in the present circumstances. The noble Lord did not appear to me to suggest any means by which it could be signalled that the intervention is on behalf of the United Nations and not on behalf of either Turkey, America or indeed NATO.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, I remind the House that the United Nations resolution does not authorise any attack upon any country at all, but only "necessary measures". Certain members of the United Nations have decided that necessary measures include war. I believe the whole House agrees with that, but whether or not war conducted from Turkey against Iraq would be within the terms of the original UN agreement should receive careful thought. That is a position which leads even further into the fog of war that will have to unfold before the fog of peace arrives. The point I wish to make is that I hope there will not be a NATO reaction in this matter.
I believe we are still a little adrift on the peace conference. The Foreign Secretary says that we must have a peace conference as soon as the war is over. However, he also says that everyone must attend it willingly. That constitutes prima facie an Israeli veto. I do not know what the word "willingly" means in this context. Obviously no one is going to truss up the Israeli ministers individually and take them to a conference under duress. But as successive governments of Israel have with varying degrees of rigour enforced that veto and have obtained at least the acquiescence of the United States in enforcing that veto for the past 24 years, I believe that the phrase is not very happily chosen. One must hope that those with influence in Israel will apply a great deal more pressure on Israel than they ever have before.
The United Nations itself must better clarify the fog of war before we reach the fog of peace. It is time for more Security Council resolutions. As far as I am aware, the United Nations sanctions committee still exists. Sanctions continue, as they always do in a time of war. It is time that that committee was wheeled forward again and asked to report on the effect of the 53 continuing sanctions on Iraq as far as the committee is able to judge that effect. It should also be asked to report on the effect of military operations on the economy of Iraq. Above all, it is time—this touches the British Government very closely—for those who are in the field of war in the Middle East to move in the United Nations that this war should become a United Nations war.
It is only necessary for a few words to be said. It is only necessary for General Schwarzkopf to don a blue armband. If that is done it will be much easier to obtain a United Nations settlement at the end of the war, because if one thing is clear it is that the out-of-area presence, which several noble Lords have called for after the war as part of a general security structure in the Middle East, should be led by the United States least of any country. The fact has to be faced that the United States is not loved in the Arab world. It is less loved than any other outside country. It is only with a blue ribbon round its arm that the United States, which has the money and strength to do it, will be accepted; and the time to get used to that blue ribbon is now.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble Lord is intervening before the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, sits down, in which case I shall give way to him. If he is endeavouring to speak before the three winding-up speeches, I think in spite of his alphabetical precedence, I am on the list before him. I am however content that he should speak first if he prefers.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, the matter is decided. He who hesitates is lost. I was not intending to intervene in this debate. I did not think I would be able to add to it. However, I changed my mind some moments after the noble Lord, Lord Buxton, finished his speech. It seemed to me, on reflection, that merely to intervene with disagreement was not sufficient for the record.
§ Lord Williams of Elvel
My Lords, I am sorry to intervene. The noble Lord has just started. Is the noble Lord referring to the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster?
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I thought that that was what I had done. I have reached the age when I am quite often surprised to hear what I have said. I am obliged to the noble Lord, who will doubtless correct me at later stages as necessary.
This is a serious point. The noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, made a point that was seen by my noble friends on this side of the House at least to be unreasonable and perhaps was so seen by the rest of your Lordships. He supported it by a quotation from the Koran. He quoted a passage that gave one of the criteria for a jihad, or holy war. He went on to say that Saddam Hussein had fulfilled the criterion by not striking the first blow. A number of your Lordships 54 were hasty to tell him that in fact this was not so and that Saddam Hussein had struck not only the first but the first 10,000 blows against the Kuwaitis whose government in exile, I remind him, are part of the alliance.
What concerns me is not that he should not have been agreed with by your Lordships; it is his suggestion that what he said might appear good sense to moslem Arabs throughout the world. If we are to understand each other during a war—and is it not more important to do so then than at any other time? —it must be understood that that is not how it seems to us. It seems to us that Saddam Hussein struck the first blow, and many more. That is not just a Western or Christian view. It is the view of the United Nations, and it is the view of the moslem as well as the christian members of the alliance. This is important because it should be understood and put together with the Archbishop of Canterbury's wise and urgent advice that we should at all times avoid any semblance of this becoming a holy war. It is not; and as a Christian I endorse that.
One can go on to say that there is no reason why the war should not be conducted under the teaching of Christian theology, which is entirely towards restraint as regards the defeated, and remind ourselves that the peace, to which the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition rightly said we must swiftly address our attention, must be a solid and lasting one. If it is to be a solid and lasting one it must have a place in it for the vanquished. Our quarrel is not with the Iraqi people; it is with the administration, the government, that has been foisted on them by their present leaders. In the peace there must be a constructive and dignified role for the Iraqi people, who must be free to conduct their religion as they wish.
I would only add, since I see the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, looking with the accustomed expression of puzzlement as I speak, that I agree with him strongly that there is a great danger that we pay too much attention even to these tragically important events. I do not think it contributes greatly to the conduct of a war for every expression of the combatants to be recorded immediately they come out of the shock of battle. More particularly there are events going on in the world to which the British public ought to be paying close attention and which may well affect their future almost to as great an extent as what is going on now in the Gulf. I refer of course to events in the Baltic states. It is a pity, as the Foreign Secretary said this morning on the radio, that references to that now come as a sort of postscript to the news, and almost nothing else gets mentioned at all.
I shall not trespass on the battle between noble and gallant Lords as to the proper treatment of Options for Change—although I am tempted to do so—having only been a national service officer. However, being a person with recent political connections I am sure that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, would think that I carried more weight than I was due to carry, and I think he is right. The first two points I have made to 55 your Lordships are actually deadly serious. I hope they are taken into consideration by my noble friend the Minister and the Government.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Lord Annan
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord the Leader of the House will forgive me. I arrived back from Madrid this afternoon, came down to the House to hear the debate and I am afraid that my flesh and blood are too weak for me to remain in my place without saying a few words. The words are these. Some of the speeches I have listened to today have reminded me so much of the days between 1936 and 1939 when men of utterly good will who hated war found every excuse to try to make an interpretation of events that would enable them to feel that they had not been in favour of war in favour of standing up to Hitler.
It is said that it is ridiculous to make a comparison between Hitler and Saddam Hussein. I think the comparison is fair. Both men were perfectly willing to risk a world conflict and armed force. No other statesman in Europe was willing to risk that in the 1930s, only Hitler. Here in the Arab world we know the strong feelings that are held about the state of Palestine, but only one of the leaders of the Arab world was willing to risk everything.
I say that these are illusions, that those who wish to avoid coming out in favour of war nurse illusions. For example, one of the illusions is that sanctions would have brought Saddam Hussein to treat for peace and that he would have withdrawn. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, said that sanctions would have undermined his war effort. If Saddam Hussein had been so foolish as to roar about with his tanks for six months in the desert and had fired off large quantities of ammunition not against us but just simply for sheer joie de vivre, then indeed his war effort would have been undermined. But of course his war effort is not going to be undermined by the application of sanctions alone. It is only when he actually expends his ammunition and suffers losses that perhaps sanctions have some effect.
The second thing I would say is this. We talk about how much we would wish that the United Nations had been able to act in self-defence. What on earth was the United Nations doing when it acted when Kuwait was invaded? The last point that I want to make is this: It is not so much the illusions about sanctions, about peaceful methods and about further negotiations that perturb me. It is that we must not forget that once battle is joined, just as in the Falklands, we have a duty to remember the state of our forces and their plight.
The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, tried week after week to bring home to the Government that the sinking of the "General Belgrano" was a disastrous error. He tried to show that it was indeed worse than that and had been designed to stop the Peruvian peace plan taking effect. When the "General Belgrano" was sunk, 56 attacks had already been made on our forces by Argentinian aircraft. We must remember that ultimately it is the security of our forces that matters.
How much longer were we going to wait while the Iraqis built up ever stronger defences in and around Kuwait? How much longer were we willing to see them do everything they could to make the cost of our attacks so expensive in manpower that in the end the will of the United Nations and of the troops in the desert would have been undermined? That is Saddam Hussein's whole strategy. He is prepared to lose tens of thousands of men; he believes that we are not. That is why it is so important to make the troops in the desert feel that the will of their countrymen is behind them and that their countrymen understand their situation.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down perhaps I may make two points to him. So far as concerns the sinking of the "Belgrano", for two-and-a-half years I was concerned that the replies that I received from members of the Government were economical with the truth. Eventually, bit by bit the truth came out and it was seen that they had been economical with the truth.
Regarding the point that the noble Lord made about sanctions, I am not in a position to know how sanctions were working. In favour of the stand that I and others have taken I have quoted people such as Robert McNamara, James Schlesinger, Senator Nunn and Colin Powell's two predecessors as chairman of the chiefs of staff. This afternoon I quoted the director of the CIA. On balance I believe that their view is likely to be more accurate than that of the noble Lord.
I have twice asked the Government to give us the evidence. There is the United Nations sanctions commission. Give us the evidence to show that sanctions were not working and would not work to undermine the war machine of Saddam Hussein.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, with great diffidence I beg to differ with the noble Lord, Lord Annan, despite his superior academic ability and historical knowledge. There will be many here, including myself, who, like the noble Lord, strongly opposed the policy of appeasement in the days of Hitler. But I also remember being told in 1956 by Conservative leaders that Nasser was another Hitler and therefore we must send troops to Suez to separate the combatants. They were wrong on every possible count. I urge that such historical analogies should be treated with the greatest caution—greater caution than was shown by the noble Lord, Lord Annan.
I should like to add my tribute to the many that have been paid to our forces in the Gulf. It is possible that the most daring, most skilful and most successful operations have been those carried out by our Tornado pilots, some of whom I met on a recent visit to the Gulf. Judging from their losses it may also be the most dangerous operation of all. The admiration and gratitude of all of us go to those young men.
There are other people to whom we also owe a special debt—the designers, manufacturers and 57 operators of the Patriot missile. It is an extraordinary success and of vast importance in the present crisis in the war. I add my gratitude to the broadcasters in the al-Rashid Hotel, not least Mr. John Simpson, who seems to be a most calm yet enterprising gentleman.
For me, the surprise in the debate was the sudden attack on me by my old friend and colleague the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. He asked what alternative the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, has to the policy of the Government. After all this time and all these debates it is most gratifying that there should still be a noble Lord hungry for information about my alternative policy.
The Foreign Office knows what it is. On 15th September I wrote to the then Minister responsible, Mr. Waldegrave, outlining what I believed to be an absolutely vital step to take at that stage. It was to mobilise the Security Council to take action on the Palestine problem, not only on its own merits and not only because violence and extremism were increasing in the West Bank and Gaza but to forestall the inevitable campaign that Saddam Hussein was bound to make on that issue to the disadvantage of the United Nations cause. I pointed out that that would strengthen the cohesion, strength and moral authority of the alliance and that it would undermine Saddam Hussein's strategy. It might even lead him to call it a day and to use the offer as a ladder to climb down, withdrawing from Kuwait.
The Foreign Office could not have been less interested. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, did me the honour of setting out the Government's answer in a letter towards the end of November. "Oh no", he said "you cannot do this because Saddam Hussein might claim credit for helping the Palestinians". Rubbish. The Government were grossly at fault. They did not understand the relevance of the Palestine problem to the Kuwait problem. They said that they were different problems, and they went on saying that. They said that there was no linkage and Kuwait had nothing to do with Palestine and we had to settle the matter of Kuwait first. I am sure that as the months go by that serious error of judgment by the Government will be more widely recognised.
Perhaps I may now venture to make a gentle and friendly criticism of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. I thought that it was very wrong of him to argue that our aim should be the elimination of Saddam Hussein. It is not, heaven knows, that we do not all want him to go, nor that we do not all hope that as a result of driving him out of Kuwait, as a result of military defeat, he will go. It may be that he will be pushed out, alive or dead, by his own people. Frankly, that is what we all want. However, it is no part of the United Nations resolution to interfere in the internal affairs of Iraq to the extent of changing its regime and changing its leader. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was very wrong in that regard.
There has been much discussion during the debate of the post-war Middle East. I ask the Government why there is no committee of the allies planning how to handle the post-war problems of the Middle East. In World War II the allies established a post-war 58 problems committee. I believe that my noble friend Lord Gladwyn was secretary of that international committee which did a vastly important job in setting out the problems and as far as possible the solutions in the post-war world in 1945. Why have the Government not acted on that? Perhaps they should think it out and make a move.
In the meantime, the best guidance that we have is the article by the Foreign Secretary in The Times on Friday, to which reference has been made. The article puts forward a number of proposals that one should like to see brought to fruition: the proposal that the Gulf Co-ordinating Council, for example, should organise itself on a NATO-like basis and make itself into an effective defence alliance; the idea that all of the countries in the Middle East should form a Middle East equivalent of the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe, handling disarmament, monitoring and confidence-building measures.
The Foreign Secretary also accurately stated the position in relation to the Palestine problem:Over the past decade Arabs have implicitly recognised Israel's right to exist. We have repeatedly stated that those steps by the PLO and the Arab League put the onus on Israel to respond and recognise the right of Palestinians to self-determination — The occupation is wrong and does not provide the basis for Israel's legitimate quest for security".So far so good, but like all the statements that are made by the Government and like the letter sent to me by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, that statement is silent on the point that matters. The point that matters is whether the British and American Governments in the interests of obtaining a settlement on the Palestinian problem are prepared to exercise pressure on Israel. That is what has been lacking and that is why there has been no settlement. If the British and American Governments continue as they have done before, there will be no settlement.
The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, set the matter out in a letter that I quoted in the last debate. He stated that any proposals for ending the Israeli occupation must be "freely accepted" by the Israeli Government. The same view is held by the United States, which has used its veto 20 times or more to obstruct Security Council proposals which were not acceptable to the Israeli Government. Proposals to end the Iraqi occupation are met with sanctions and war. Proposals to end the Israeli occupation have to be acceptable to the Shamir Government, which means that nothing is done. That has been the situation for more than 20 years.
After the war new pressures will arise on the United States to take a different line. However, other new pressures will arise—and perhaps an agreement with Israel conducted recently encouraging it to continue its previous policies. In my view, the balance of probability is that the Americans will continue to protect the Israeli occupation. The American and British Governments seem blind to the impact that those double standards have had on the moslem world, the extent to which they put wind into Saddam Hussein's sails and the extent to which they make a peaceful settlement in the Middle East impossible after the war.
59 Let us make the best assessment that we can of the outcome of the war—a quick and decisive victory. What will be the standing of the Americans and the British in the Middle East in those circumstances? We shall have earned and received the gratitude of the Saudi Arabian Government, of the Kuwaiti Government and of Israel, but elsewhere in the Middle East there will be bitter resentment, an acute sense of humiliation and a desire for revenge. That is the truth.
What will be the fate of the moderate Arab governments in those circumstances? I have no doubt that they will do the obvious and necessary things. They will try to democratise themselves. They will try to share the oil riches more equally in order to help the development of the poorer Arab countries. However, unless the United States and Britain have meanwhile mobilised the Security Council to end the Israeli occupation quickly and decisively, those Arab governments which supported the Americans and the British in the war will be destroyed by their own people. That view is hardly arguable. I know of no one with experience in the moslem world who would deny what I am saying. At that point there will be no Arab governments that are not hostile to the West.
At that point the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait, violent and terrible as it will have been, will be seen only as a preliminary to a wider struggle between the moslem world on one side and the United States and Israel on the other. There could hardly be a more disastrous outcome to the war than that.
References have been made to the moslem community in this country. It may be that the conference that passed the unanimous resolution against the war was not representative of moslem feeling in this country. We must hope that that is the case. However, I cannot help reflecting that if the British moslems, who are very moderate by the standards of Middle East moslems, after being exposed to massive publicity in favour of the war, turn against it, what will be the attitude of moslems in the Middle East, exposed to massive publicity, often of a thoroughly irresponsible and inflammatory kind, against the war.
For those people, as the months go by, the invasion of Kuwait becomes remote. The Security Council resolutions seem to be academic. What is reality for those people is in their perception of yet another dreadful humiliation and defeat of the moslem world by the West, aided and abetted by Israel.
Those are the truths about what the post-war Middle East is likely to be. Unless the British and American Governments do what they should do on its own merits and mobilise the Security Council immediately in order to end the Israeli occupation, the whole situation will become totally unmanageable. As has been stated over and over again for the last 40 years, and as has been ignored over and over again by the American Government: until justice is done to the Palestinians, there will be no peace in the Middle East.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Williams of Elvel
My Lords, the debate has been full of interesting material. I propose to confine my remarks to the Gulf rather than follow the noble Lord, Lord Elton, into the Baltic States. However that does not mean to say that we do not feel extremely strongly about what is going on in the Baltic States. We believe that the Government should respond in a fierce manner to what is happening there.
In our view it is extremely important that Parliament should be offered an opportunity at regular intervals to discuss the war and how it is proceeding, and we are grateful to the Government for allowing us that opportunity today. It is also right that the matter should be discussed in both Houses. If I may say so, we represent a certain amount of accumulated wisdom and experience, but we do not represent constituents. They are represented in another place. It is important that one obtains both perspectives on the problem. It is not necessary to discuss the matter on the same day as another place. We could stagger the debates.
I should like to make it quite clear that my party supports British forces being in the Gulf and we support what the Government are doing. I was grateful to the noble Lord, the Leader of the House for his outline of what is happening.
Noble Lords have reviewed three major areas. The first concerns what is happening militarily; the second what is happening politically, and the third what might happen in the future—in the words of one noble Lord, planning for the peace.
The consensus on the military front is; so far, so good. The operation seems to be going more or less according to the plan that was made by General Schwarzkopf. In the words of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, the technology has worked. As one who was somewhat sceptical about the technology, I am extremely impressed by the way in which it has functioned. But the struggle may be harder and longer than many people thought during the first day or so. I echo the remarks made by the noble Lord the Leader of the House and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. The noble and gallant Lord was right in saying that there could be no victory without a land assault. It would be extremely odd and fly in the face of all historical military experience if an air attack could secure the collapse of morale in the opposing infantry and armour needed to make Saddam Hussein sue for peace. Therefore, we must probably face the prospect of a ground war, which will be more difficult than the air war.
If we believe the Pentagon briefing given on 19th January, as we must, it is probable that only 50 Iraqi fighters out of approximately 600 have been destroyed. The rest are somewhere in Iraq. It is clear that the command and control systems have been largely taken out but still the aeroplanes appear to exist. Approximately half the Scud mobile launchers still exist; that is between 30 and 40 if the Pentagon briefing is correct. We believe that no Exocet missiles have been fired by the Iraqis as yet and, therefore, they 61 are waiting somewhere to be found. We know from Iraqi exiles that the morale of Iraqi troops is bad but it is far from collapse. Experience shows, as noble Lords have pointed out, that the more the troops on the ground are bombed the more their morale is encouraged by a spirit of resistance, and that may be happening. Militarily we say "so far so good", but I am sure that the Government will warn noble Lords that we are in for a long, hard struggle and there should be no doubt about that.
I turn to the political aspects. We deplore the Iraqi authorities' treatment of prisoners of war. It is disgusting that people are shown paraded on television and clearly made to say things that they would not normally say if they were in a perfect state of health. Many noble Lords have referred to the Geneva Convention. Can the noble Earl say whether the Geneva Convention applies whether or not war has been declared? Obviously the Geneva Convention applies if there is a de jure declaration of war, but there has not been such a declaration. Can the Minister say whether the convention applies when there is a de facto war, as exists at the moment?
I have given the noble Earl notice of the second political point that I wish to raise. A number of noble Lords have asked what exactly are our war aims. Clearly, we abide by the United Nations resolutions and believe that they should be put into effect, by force if need be. However much I, before force started, was in favour of maintaining sanctions now that it is taking place, we must go through with it. We must be clear about whether we shall stop when Kuwait is evacuated by the Iraqis, if that happens, or whether we shall go forward to take out Saddam Hussein and his government. That is an important point which a number of noble Lords have raised. I find it difficult to see how a proper settlement of the Middle East can be achieved while Saddam Hussein is president of Iraq and sitting on a military machine of any kind whatever. However, it is for the Government to tell your Lordships precisely what our aims are.
The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, referred at some length to public opinion in Arab countries. It is true that the Iraqis have made a certain amount of play with that. They say, "It is the governments of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait and Egypt who are supporting the coalition. It is not the Arab in the street". In view of some of the pictures coming out of Jordan, it may be that there is a point there which we must look at carefully. How can we be sure that Arab public opinion is not affronted by the sight of Western forces launching a major ground attack on an Arab country? We must consider that point most carefully.
Many noble Lords have referred to Israel and its part in the conflict. I associate myself with those noble Lords who have praised the Israeli Government and population for their forbearance under extreme difficulty and for their diplomacy and consideration of the aims of the coalition. We believe that they have notched themselves up a rank in terms of diplomatic and political sophistication. During the past few years Members on this side of the House have criticised Israel's operations in the West Bank. Now we have 62 nothing but praise for the way in which the Israeli Government have conducted themselves in the face of the dreadful, random Scud attacks from Iraq.
Equally, we must ensure that politically at home we do not suffer a backlash against a long war. We must ensure that British public opinion is on our side. My noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney pointed out that opinion polls suggest that 20 per cent. of the population does not approve of military activity by the coalition in the Gulf but 80 per cent. does. That is a formidable majority and it is vitally important that the Government do all that they can to ensure that it is maintained. If it begins to dribble away during the weeks or months, whichever it is to be, the problem will be serious. Part of the solution to maintaining that majority is that moslem opinion in the United Kingdom should be reassured that we are not trying to extend our old empire and the Americans are not trying to extend a new empire into Arab countries. That notion upsets moslem opinion in the United Kingdom.
Still on the political aspect, I turn to the question of publicity. I take the point made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, that we must be careful that there are no hour to hour reports from the battlefield about who is doing what, how and when, because such an operation is not good. We must also accept that in war there is a role for disinformation; there is no doubt that psychological warfare is a weapon in the armoury. Nevertheless, we must understand that in this modern television era people want to be informed and to see what is happening. I am afraid that, given people in organisations such as CNN Television, which is still broadcasting straight out of Baghdad, there is no way in which any government or United Nations organisation can impose the kind of censorship that will stop such news being released. It would probably be quite wrong to do so. Having said that, I believe that my noble friend Lord Mason was right when he said that some of the tabloid journalism and headlines have been too offensive to mention.
Lastly, on publicity, when the Government say something—and I hope that they will take this on board—they must always tell the truth. There have been two occasions on which there has been disinformation. The Americans announced that four helicopters came over and the Saudis immediately said that they had not; it was announced also that 50 tanks had come over and then that was denied. We are looking to the British Government to tell us the truth when they tell us the hard news. As one noble Lord said, people need to know about terrorism. We need to be kept informed about terrorist threats.
What about the future? My noble friend Lord Cledwyn touched upon the future and there was something of a debate between the noble Lords, Lord Bonham-Carter and Lord Beloff, as to how far we can go in considering the future. I tend to be on the side of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, on that issue. I believe that we must wait and see. As my noble friend Lord Cledwyn said, there will be plenty of opportunity for us to debate what will happen as regards peace. We 63 should start to think about that but I do not believe that we can discuss formulae at present because it is too soon.
That seems to me to be the substance of the matters which your Lordships have debated this afternoon. Therefore, what is the message which we on the Opposition Benches would like the House to convey to the Government? They are three simple points. First, when British forces go into battle, it is right that we should rally together around the government of the day. We do that willingly. They should take comfort from that and that should encourage them to bend to their duty. Secondly, whatever happens, for goodness sake let us do all we can to keep casualties on all sides to an absolute minimum. We have tried to do that but many innocent people in Iraq have been killed and members of the armed forces will be maimed, wounded and killed. They are all human beings. We have done our best. Let us continue to do that. Finally, to all those in our forces in the Gulf, men and women on the ground and in the air, our thoughts and best wishes are with them. As the House of Lords, all we can do is to say with all our hearts: God speed, God bless and come back safely.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, I should like to start this evening by saying how particularly gladdened and heartened I am by the almost universal accord in your Lordships' House on the way in which events have progressed and are progressing so far in the Gulf—particularly the magnificent display by our Armed Forces—and on the Government's handling of the situation.
These are very difficult times, for together with 27 other member countries of the United Nations we are joined together in bitter conflict. The liberation of Kuwait from Iraq's occupation is now under way. The air operations which have been taking place almost continuously since Wednesday night are the first phase of the military campaign to free the country and restore international peace and security as the United Nations has called for.
This is a truly international effort. Already in the early stages of the air campaign forces from seven countries in the coalition have been involved: Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Italy and of course Kuwait. The initial stages of the campaign have gone well and to plan. RAF aircraft have played an important part in these operations, carrying out over 350 sorties so far. Tornado GR1 and Jaguar ground-attack aircraft, supported by Victor, VC-10 and Tristar tanker aircraft, have attacked targets in western, central and south-eastern Iraq, as well as in Kuwait.
The weapons they have used include 1000 1b bombs, the new JP 233 runway-cratering weapon, and ALARM anti-radar missiles, whose introduction into service was brought forward especially for operations in the Gulf. Tornado GR1a reconnaissance aircraft have also been brought into service early, and have already had remarkable success in tracking down Iraqi SCUD missiles, the priority target for the Allies at 64 present. RAF Tornado F3 aircraft are mounting round-the-clock air defence patrols, as they have been since August when they first arrived in Saudi Arabia. So far, in spite of some tentative contacts by Iraqi aircraft, no Iraqi pilot has felt confident enough to take on the RAF Tornados.
Sadly, however, we have now lost three Tornado GR1s in Iraq. The crews are missing, though we have asked the International Committee of the Red Cross as a matter of urgency to follow up reports from Baghdad that Flight Lieutenant Nichol and Flight Lieutenant Peters are being held as prisoners of war. If the suggestions are confirmed that Iraq is now renewing its "human shield" policy with these airmen, that would be a very grave breach of international law. The UK will honour all its obligations under the Geneva Conventions. The Iraqis are signatories too and we expect them to do the same. I shall return later to that point. This cannot be allowed to deflect us from continuing the air campaign to neutralise or destroy Iraq's military capability. I am sure noble Lords will join me in expressing the highest admiration for the skills and courage being shown by our pilots when attacking such heavily defended sites.
The Tornado GR1s in particular are playing an important specialised role in the air campaign. They are concentrating on attacking Iraqi airfields, at very low level and at night. The weight of anti-aircraft fire they encounter is tremendous. In a raid last night, for example, it is estimated that 25 tonnes of anti-aircraft artillery ammunition were fired by the Iraqi defences, without success.
It is important to remember the support work that is necessary to maintain such a high level of sorties. The number of attacks that has been possible is a tribute to the round-the-clock work being carried out by the RAF ground crews and the other support and logistics personnel at our bases in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and elsewhere. It should not be forgotten that the Royal Navy is playing an important role in defending the American carriers in the Gulf, and maintaining a constant watch against the threat of mines. The 1st Armoured Division is complete and ready to do whatever it is called upon to do.
The military campaign has been carefully planned. There is no question of indiscriminate attacks, against innocent people, of the type we have seen Iraq carrying out against Israel and attempting to carry out against Saudi cities. Our aim is clear. The targets that are being attacked are sites which could pose a threat to allied forces and facilities which are supporting Iraq's occupation of Kuwait. Our forces have clear instructions to carry out operations in such a way that civilian casualties are kept to a minimum. The commanders have also been briefed on the locations of sites in Iraq of religious and historical importance, and these will also be taken account of in operations. Within these contraints, however, our commanders are free to pursue the military campaign until the United Nations aim of liberating Kuwait and restoring international peace and security in the area has been achieved.
The task faced is, however, a massive one, and will not be completed as quickly as some people have been 65 suggesting. Iraq is one of the most formidable military powers in the world, but it is no match for the coalition forces ranged against it.
I am aware that many noble Lords have made extremely important and salient points during the debate this afternoon. I intend to deal with the more important aspects in the next few minutes. The Leader of the Opposition, the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, my noble friend Lady Strange and many other noble Lords referred to the treatment of prisoners of war. My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Foreign Office today summoned the Iraqi ambassador to discuss Iraq's obligation under international law. The meeting lasted 25 minutes and was conducted in a business-like atmosphere. My right honourable friend told the ambassador that he had just seen a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross, M. Francis Amar, and made it clear that Britain would abide by the Geneva Convention and facilitate ICRC activities in the United Kingdom. My honourable friend asked the ICRC to make representations in Baghdad to ensure Iraqi compliance with the Convention.
My right honourable friend made clear to the ambassador our concern for the proper treatment of all prisoners of war, particularly our own. He said that he understood that the ICRC had already raised the breach of Article 13 with the Iraqis. He also referred to press reports concerning the detention of prisoners of war at strategic sites. My right honourable friend made clear that such action by Iraq would be an outrageous breach of the Geneva Convention. The British Government would take the gravest view of any such breach. He also reminded the Iraqi ambassador of the personal liability of those individuals who broke the convention in that way.
The ambassador said that Iraq would abide by the convention and treat prisoners of war well if the allies avoided civilian targets. My honourable friend said that we expected unconditional observance of the requirements of the convention. My honourable friend also reminded the ambassador of the 1925 Geneva Protocol relating to chemical and biological weapons and said that we would take the severest view of any use of these weapons by the Iraqis, wherever used. He again reminded the ambassador of the personal liability of those who authorised their use and asked for assurances that Iraq would not use them. The ambassador undertook to transmit to Baghdad all the points made by my right honourable friend and to report further.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, asked about the extent of air damage and the whereabouts of Iraqi aircraft. It is difficult to say what is the extent of damage to military airfields and other targets, but the indications are that extensive damage has been caused. However, it will take some time to neutralise the massive Iraqi military machine or destroy all its key elements—a point made clear by several noble Lords. Coalition forces have attacked a number of power installations in Iraq to disrupt Iraq's military command, control and communications. A loss of power will also affect other military capabilities such 66 as air defence radars, fighter control and logistic support. In regard to Iraqi aircraft, I am not willing to speculate and to be drawn into giving details of their whereabouts or our targeting policy. I am sure the noble Lord will appreciate that.
The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, again raised the subject of linkage with the Palestine problem. It would be wrong to link this crisis with the Palestine problem. Of course we support direct dialogue between Israel and Palestine, with discussion by the permanent five of the UN as first steps. However, the international conference will be the most appropriate forum for negotiations between all parties concerned.
The noble and gallant Lords, Lord Carver and Lord Bramall, also referred to the danger of early euphoria. Victory is certainly not yet in sight. It is important that we should not speak in those terms at this early stage of events. As many noble Lords mentioned, it is also extremely unwise and dangerous to speculate. I want to make quite clear that the Ministry of Defence deals with facts as and when they are made known to us from our command structure in the Gulf. I note the point the noble Lord, Lord Williams was keen to make. We are not in the business of speculation, especially not in war time as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said.
My noble friend Lady Park said that too much discussion of our operations was taking place on television. We have agreed the ground rules governing the conduct of the media. They are designed to protect operational security, the safety of our forces and the media representatives. So far we regard those arrangements as working satisfactorily.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, put forward the view that our objective may be to get rid of Saddam Hussein. I shall return to that topic later but wish to make clear that our objectives are to secure the unconditional withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait and to deter further military aggression against Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region. It is not our business to lay down who should govern Iraq. It is for the people of Iraq to decide their future, taking into account the disaster that Saddam Hussein has brought upon that country.
The noble and gallant Lords, Lord Carver and Lord Bramall, and my noble friend Lord Elton referred to the situation regarding Options for Change. We are continuing to develop the proposal announced last July by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence for change in the structure and deployment of our Armed Forces. We intend to proceed with the implementation of rationalisation proposals and other changes in support where they do not affect our operations in the Gulf. Further announcements about such measures will be made at the appropriate time.
The noble Lord, Lord Mason of Barnsley, brought up the important subject relevant at this time—of the possibility of increased terrorist threat to the United Kingdom. I assure the House that the Government are not complacent in that regard and that a range of central government contingency plans have been developed to respond to possible terrorist 67 threats. They are under constant review, even more so in view of the outbreak of hostilities. Obviously it is not in the public interest to discuss specific plans.
My noble friend Lord Beloff spoke of the British Moslems. The Gulf war does not put the Western Forces against the Arab or moslem worlds. The allied coalition, including Arab allies, is acting with United Nations authority to reverse the aggression of one Arab moslem country against another. There is a range of opinion about the Gulf conflict among the oslem communities in Britain. As with the rest of society, they have a right to hold different views as a fundamental freedom enjoyed by all those who live in this country.
The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, referred to the problem of compensation arising from loss, damage or injury. There will be claims against Iraq from many countries when the situation is clearer. The British Government will consider how the claims of British nationals and companies should best be pursued. At present it is too early to decide precisely how that should be done. Also, the Foreign Office has asked British nationals and companies to supply us with information regarding loss, damage or injury they may have suffered as a result of Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait.
Like many other noble Lords, I welcomed the full endorsement of my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard for government policy in the Gulf. The noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, spoke of the views of Saddam Hussein. However, I confess I failed to understand many of the noble Viscount's views.
The noble Lord, Lord Molloy, spoke of the criticism of the media. For Iraq to set up such stage-managed interviews was a flagrant breach of the Geneva Convention. Media coverage of such interviews must have added to the distress of the families of the men concerned. The media's coverage of Iraq's cynical exploitation can only have led to public revulsion over Iraq's actions.
The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, returned to his familiar subject of sanctions. I say again to the noble Lord that the test of the effectiveness of sanctions is whether Iraq leaves Kuwait and not whether the Iraqi economy is damaged. There is no sign that sanctions have in any way affected Saddam Hussein's resolve not to withdraw. As regards our particular operations, it is not, as your Lordships will know, our policy to comment on our intentions.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I asked last week and again this afternoon about the Government's evidence that sanctions are not working. There is a United Nations committee dealing with sanctions. In the face of all the evidence which has been given in the United Nations in favour of sanctions, where is the Government's evidence that they are not working, and will not work, in order to undermine the military machine of Saddam Hussein?
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, I have the feeling that however I reply to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, he is not going to be content with my answer. Speaker after speaker from all sides of the House has 68 made it abundantly clear why sanctions have not worked and why they are unlikely to do so. I do not think I can make the matter any clearer than that.
The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, and the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, asked an important point about our war aims as regards the liberation of Kuwait or the downfall of Saddam Hussein. I must make it clear that the objective shared with the United Nations, the United States, our European friends and allies and most Arab states, is to secure unconditional Iraqi withdrawal, the restoration of Kuwait's sovereignty and independence and the restoration of its legitimate government.
Our aim has been to deter further military aggression against Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region. It is not, I repeat, our business from outside to lay down who should govern Iraq and who should not. That is a matter for the people of Iraq with whom we have no quarrel. The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, again raised the subject of linkage with the Palestine problem. Again I say to him that once the crisis has been satisfactorily resolved, it must be for the countries of the region to decide what security structures can best ensure long-term peace and stability. But we stand prepared to play our part in that process.
I assure the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that the Geneva Convention applies in the present circumstances and that we shall apply it. I hope that I have covered the majority of the points raised in your Lordships' debate which has been extremely relevant and interesting from everybody's point of view. Our objective in the Gulf is well and truly defined. Our execution of that objective is now well under way. During this dangerous mission our daily thoughts will be with all our servicemen who at all times continue to show such valour and dedication to the task in hand in difficult and hostile circumstances.
Let us also be mindful of the superb and tireless efforts of all our support and supply units, both servicemen and women and civilian men and women, who continue to supply our front line troops with the nourishment and equipment needed daily to maintain their high morale and efficiency. Saddam Hussein should be in no doubt that he is facing defeat.
On Question, Motion agreed to.