John McDonnell MP
The Iraq Inquiry has concluded that the decision to go to war was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and troops were sent in before peaceful options had been exhausted.
This is the speech that I made in the Chamber in Iraq Debate on 18th March 2003
John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington):Today is the first occasion on which I have spoken in a debate about Iraq and I am grateful for the opportunity.
It is a time to draw on one’s inner beliefs and vote according to principle. I want to put my views on record for my constituents and the community where I live and which I work hard to represent so that they know and understand what I do today.
shall vote against the war and for peace. I shall walk through the Lobby with many members of the socialist Campaign group, but one will be missing. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will not be with us tonight, and I send him our best wishes for a speedy recovery.
Last week, in a desperate attempt to gain support for war, the Ministry of truth at No. 10 tried to portray the Campaign group’s position as a challenge to the party leadership. Let us make it clear that today’s vote has nothing to do with the leadership. It is a vote on principle: one is either for war or against it.
The Prime Minister said that he wants people to vote not out of loyalty but on the basis of understanding and supporting the argument. I respect him for that. I would respect him even more if he gave us a free vote instead of a three-line Whip, and if the Whips were called off from trying to persuade people in their normal manner.
I shall vote for peace tonight because the Bush war plan is immoral. It fails the test of the basic just war principles of not only last resort but right intention. I do not accept that Rumsfeld, Cheney, Perle and Bush have the right intention for the future of Iraq.
I believe that war is illegal. We cannot simply erase the US ambassador’s commitment to UN Security Council partners that resolution 1441 contained no hidden triggers and “no automaticity”. Many will perceive war against Iraq as an act of international vigilantism by a superpower state that increasingly appears out of control. We will reap unforeseen and incalculable consequences for the world, our citizens and constituents for generations. People will suffer and die. No matter how few die, it will be too many for me.If we go to war, we must be clear that we have the support of our people.We will work through the UN. We will use weapons inspection and implement the proposal
With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, I do not believe that the Basra road is a good example of supporting the Iraqi people. We inflicted carnage on them. Many were simply conscripts who did not wish to fight.
If we go to war, we need the clear support of our people. In the past 12 months, we have been treated to a global propaganda exercise to persuade us of the need to attack Iraq. We have been subjected to a global stream of new-Labour-like publicity stunts, cynical in intent and increasingly ineffective. The lasting inheritance is the perpetrators’ inability to tell the difference between truth and falsehood, even when lives are at stake.
Most people have seen through the global propaganda exercise. The great persuaders have failed to persuade. People have seen through the dodgy dossiers and the forged nuclear weapons evidence. They have been offended by the use of the memories of those who died on 11 September to justify dusting off Rumsfeld’s five-year-old plan to invade Iraq. They understand that the war has no link to the war against terrorism and will exacerbate the terrorist threat for years. They have grown wary of pleas for and justification of war on humanitarian grounds by those whose humanitarian credentials are compromised by their military, economic and political support for the tyrant Hussein and who, after 20 years, have suddenly discovered the plight of the Iraqi people.
Even those who believed Bush and would have been held to the principles of the UN by the Prime Minister have been rapidly disillusioned. We now know that the Bush military regime had set a timetable for invasion of Iraq that was based not on the outcome of the UN weapons inspections but on the climatic conditions of the middle east.
A second UN resolution was not an act of faith in the UN and the rule of international law. It was simply another part of the propaganda exercise to bring states, and especially the British electorate, on side. When not enough states could be bought or bullied, the UN route was cast aside.
We reached the height of cynicism last week when we were promised the Palestinian-Israeli road map. It comes from a President who was forced by world opinion to send Colin Powell to Israel when Sharon sent his tanks to demolish Jenin. To give Sharon the time to murder enough Palestinians, Powell took the longest route from Washington to Tel Aviv in the history of travel. Where was the road map then? Where was it this week when Israeli bulldozers drove backwards and forwards over the peace demonstrator, killing her outright?
When rational argument fails, we find a scapegoat. Who better than the traditional enemy, the French? The language that has been used in the debate against the French verges on xenophobia. Yet any criticism of the Bush regime is pounced on as anti-American.
It might be impossible to prevent the Bush regime from going to war, but we can still prevent Britain from being party to this international atrocity. Our vote tonight could withdraw any moral or political authority to take this country to war. Without the overwhelming support of the House, no Prime Minister can be confident that he has the backing of the British people for war, or the right to lead our people into this unknown risk.
If the Prime Minister proceeds to take us to war in this coalition-not of the willing, but of the killing-I shall say clearly, “Not in my name. Not in the name of thousands of Labour party members up and down the country. Not in the name of the British people.” To our communities, we say, “Continue the campaign for peace, to shorten this war and to prevent the next.” To the British troops, we say, “Safe home.” To the Iraqi people-the parents-we say, “Hide your children deep in the shelters, but we wish you safety. We will stand by you when the bombing stops.” To the peoples of the world, we say very clearly, “We will not let this coalition destroy the United Nations as the arbiter of international order.” We must form a new coalition to build institutions of global governance capable of safeguarding the world from the new superpower that is globally dictating its policy to the rest of the world.