we should appreciate that we have a duty to take meaningful and positive action in relation to the camp of 4,800 Mujaheddin-e-Khalq Organisation terrorists who have been dropping bombs in Iran for many years and killing thousands of people.
Commons Hansard, July 20, 2004
Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): The general message that I get from reading the Butler report is that the House of Commons, and the people, were misled. We have a duty to the JIC to try to use the material in the report to influence future policy.
I was in the minority of people who did not support the war in Iraq. I explained in the debate at the time that that was because of what I considered to be the near-hypocrisy of the western powers, and in particular of the US. Those powers complained that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the world and to security, even though the Reigle report set out clearly that the US had openly supplied the most horrendous weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein to allow him to invade Iran.
Those weapons included anthrax, clostridium—a source of toxin—and histoplasma, which causes a disease resembling tuberculosis. There was also brucella, which damages major organs, another substance that causes gas gangrene, and seven other materials. People who talk about the threat to democracy that Saddam posed should remember the debt that we owe for the mistakes that we made. When I raised those matters, I was advised that France, Russia and Germany had also provided help for Saddam, but I do not see how that makes things any better.
My second reason for opposing the war was the military action in Afghanistan. Far from restoring peace and democracy, it has created a chaotic situation outside Kabul. The only obvious result has been to transform that sad nation into a massive producer of drugs—as can be seen all over the country. There also appeared to be an appalling lack of humility: far from improving the situation, we have simply helped the growth of extremists.
However, the majority of people supported the war. For them, the wise and sombre words of the Butler report should arouse concern. We should think carefully about three key passages in the report, which admit that an error was made. Paragraph 47 states:
"Intelligence merely provides techniques for improving the basis of knowledge. As with other techniques, it can be a dangerous tool if its limitations are not recognised by those who seek to use it."
Paragraph 464 states that
"the language in the dossier may have left with readers the impression that there was fuller and firmer intelligence behind the judgements than was the case: our view . . . is that judgements in the dossier went to (although not beyond) the outer limits of the intelligence available. The Prime Minister's description . . . of the picture painted by the intelligence services . . . as 'extensive, detailed and authoritative' may have reinforced this impression."
Finally, paragraph 34 on page 154 states:
"We conclude that it was a serious weakness that the JIC's warnings on the limitations of the intelligence"—
that was provided—
"were not made sufficiently clear in the dossier."
When we add those three factors together, it is obvious that we were misled. Unless we accept that, we will not learn lessons for the future. I hope that this debate will not descend into hon. Members shouting at each other, as we know that the same sort of opinions were held on both sides of the House. We must make up our minds not to make the same mistake again.
I believe that there is a terrible and real danger that we are about to go through exactly same process—of misrepresentation and not telling the truth—in relation to Iran. For a start, a mass of distorted and misleading information has appeared on the front pages of our newspapers. The headline in the most recent edition of The Sunday Telegraph asserted that America was accusing Iran of complicity in the attack on the World Trade Centre. The newspaper stated that between eight and 10 hijackers had travelled through Iran, with the help of the Iranian Government, to play a part in the attack. The allegation was that they were to act as muscle.The CIA chief made a statement only yesterday that that was not true. There was no evidence of Iran's participation in that activity. On the other hand, the stories keep being published. Iran has been accused of participation with al-Qaeda, which those who know Iran know is complete nonsense. It was further reported that Bush officials were privately contemplating a possible military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, allegedly before the Russian fuel rods were delivered.
If we want to make progress with Iran and not to seek a diversion from the embarrassments over Iraq, we should do three things. First, we should recognise, with some humility, that we have a huge responsibility for what has happened, because of the arms we provided to Iraq—all the appalling weapons of mass destruction—when it invaded Iran and inflicted such terrible damage on its people. Secondly, we should appreciate that we have a duty to take meaningful and positive action in relation to the camp of 4,800 Mujaheddin-e-Khalq Organisation terrorists who have been dropping bombs in Iran for many years and killing thousands of people. That camp is in Iraq and is protected by American forces. What are we doing about it and what role do we think Iran should have? Thirdly, we should recognise that far from being an extremist nation, Iran is one in which those of the Christian and Jewish faiths have freedom to worship in their own churches.
Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman appears to have exhausted the point about what should happen to Iran, and our relations with that country. However, should we not do everything possible to get the Iranian Government to change their minds about their appalling human rights record? We now know that the trial of the person allegedly responsible for the murder of the Canadian photographer has been cut short, and that there has been no publicity about it.
Sir Teddy Taylor: What we should publicise is the truth about Iran. The hon. Gentleman and I were there together. Does he accept that Iran has freedom of religion? Does he accept that more than half of the students in the universities are women? Does he accept that Iran has a democratic base, as a Muslim country with an elected Parliament and an elected leader? I appeal to him to think about the matter. The one thing that we do not want to do is to spread the same kind of nastiness and untruths about that country, when we should be telling people what the facts are.
So far as Iran's nuclear activities are concerned, the attitude we are taking is the worst we could take—that Britain, France, the US and Israel have the right to have nuclear weapons, but nobody else has. Surely we want to get agreement on getting rid of nuclear weapons. We should be putting forward a plan under which every country will try to get rid of those dreadful weapons, in the right way.
I say in all sincerity that unless we are willing to treat Iran with courtesy and with dignity, to recognise that it is a democracy with an elected Government within a Muslim state, and that it has a positive role to play, we could end up with a great international tragedy. In the report, we saw how the Government—all Governments can do it—got carried away and tried to justify their policies by stretching things. Surely we should recognise that truth is the best weapon in politics and that we should apply it in all our activities. If we achieve progress in that area of the world, the report that we are debating and the speeches made on it will achieve more than the usual political battles between parties.
I think that a great mistake was made, as I said at the time. Be that as it may, it is desperately important that we avoid similar difficulties in the future. That means ensuring that the truth is told and that we show more understanding of foreign countries. We should not build up the kind of hatred that lasts for years and years and simply will not go away. Many of us in Britain and the US are very nice people, but we are probably not the best people to be emperors of the world. If we want to be emperors of the world, we will have to show the dignity and truthfulness that is desperately important if we are to secure peace in the world and understanding between nations.
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