Don Foster MP*

Military Action Against Iraq

The question of British involvement in military action against Iraq is one that is of great concern to many people in Bath. I have carefully considered the dossier presented to Parliament, and my response, and that of the Liberal Democrats, continues to be that we should not contemplate military action against Iraq unless it is authorised by the UN.

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I am, of course, concerned about the way in which the Bush administration is turning its foreign policy into a ‘cowboy’-style parody where the big boys ride into town, shoot off their guns, and ride away into the sunset. I am also unhappy with the apparent ease with which Tony Blair follows George Bush’s lead.

If the Prime Minister has reservations about military action, he must make sure that these are fully communicated to the United States. Britain’s duty in this matter is to be a ‘candid friend’, which was exactly what Harold Wilson achieved in withstanding US pressure to commit British troops to the Vietnam War.

Many of my colleagues, myself included, attended the debate on 24 September. That debate was very important indeed, in terms of registering public and parliamentary opposition to unilateral action. However, a debate under such circumstances simply makes me more conscious of what is a bizarre aspect of our so called ‘constitution’ that the decisions about whether or not we go to war are determined by the Prime Minister, without any necessary reference to or parliamentary opinion or parliamentary support, let alone cabinet support. My colleagues and I have repeated our view that BEFORE taking any action against Iraq, Blair must be clear that he has widespread public support and parliamentary support.

While we can never rule out military action in our defence, in this case it is vital that we have:
1. Clear evidence of a THREAT (after all, the UK has weapons of mass destruction);
2. International agreement and support;
3. Clear statements about the aims of any action, and
4. A further mandate from the United Nations to ensure that action is taken within international law.

George Bush has repeated his threat that America will act against Iraq if it fails to disarm. The American President recently described Saddam Hussein as a “homicidal dictator addicted to weapons of mass destruction”. Congress will vote this week on resolutions which would give the president authority to go to war.

The UK Government is certainly close to making a decision about deploying troops to the Middle East for possible war against Iraq. Whitehall sources say an announcement could be made in a matter of weeks.

While it may be prudent to pre-position troops and equipment, there should be no question of any British forces being committed to action against Iraq without a full debate and proper vote in the House of Commons.

When we ask young men and women to put their lives at risk they surely need to know that Parliament has backed up their active service.

Military action should never be undertaken without clear political objectives that are achievable. The current sanctions policy and no-fly zones are designed to contain the Iraqi regime and limit its ability to develop weapons, threaten its neighbours, or destabilise the region.

We need clear and compelling evidence that these objectives are no longer being achieved, or that the Iraqi regime is disrupting attempts to gather such evidence.

That case is not yet proven. Making full use of the UN remains the best way to confront Saddam Hussein.

This article published: 16/10/2023

Published by Bath Liberal Democrats, 31 James St West, Bath, BA1 2BT. Printed and hosted by JPC Infonet, 2 St Georges Works, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 8AA. Your Privacy._blank


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