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  Speech for the Iraq Debate


I believe the Government simply failed to make an adequate case for going to war against Iraq

Accordingly, I voted against the Iraq war following the debate in the House of Commons on 18 March 2003. Below is the speech I prepared for that debate

For the past century Britain has not gone to war until faced with a clear act of aggression.

I do not believe war is always wrong. If I had, I would not have served in the Territorial Army.

I do not believe the British people think war is always wrong. If they had, they would not have supported the Falklands War or the last Gulf War.

But people do need to be persuaded and convinced that Iraq now represents a clear and growing threat to Britain and that we have to go to war now. People want to know that the case for war is unanswerable. And I don't think they are convinced.

People notice when many senior military officers, including a recent Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, express the gravest doubts about going to war now.

People notice when senior members of the last Republican administration in Washington say that an attack on Iraq without international consent could destroy the worldwide co-operation which is essential for a successful campaign against terrorism.

They notice when President Bush Senior himself cautions his son, the current US President, on the perils of making war without broad international support.

People notice when men in government promoting the policy of war now - and they almost always are men - are politicians who themselves have no military experience.

The government has not explained why Saddam Hussein poses an imminent or growing threat to this country.

The government has not explained how Saddam Hussein was linked to the terrible events of September 11th.

The government has not explained how the war against terrorism - the war against Al-Qaeda - will be promoted by action in Iraq. I think it will be made more difficult. It will inflame and outrage Arab opinion at a time when the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is already near boiling point.

We are asked to abandon the doctrines of containment and deterrence in favour of a poorly developed and poorly articulated doctrine of pre-emption, a doctrine which will enable other states to use our own arguments to take actions we deeply disapprove of.

How could we have got into this mess?

George Orwell wrote an essay about when he was a policeman in Burma and had to shoot a rogue elephant. He wrote: "I had halted on the road. As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him. I decided that I would watch him for a while to make sure that he did not turn savage again, and then go home".

"But at that moment I glanced around at the crowd that had followed me. It was an immense crowd, two thousand at least and growing every minute"

"They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching".

"And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it...I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and to do definite things. To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing - no, that was impossible".

"Afterwards, I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool".

The Prime Minister has to persuade people that we must now go to war immediately but I do not think he has done so.

He has not persuaded world opinion. He has not persuaded the British people. He has not persuaded my constituents in South Norfolk. And he has not persuaded me.

I will therefore vote against the Government tonight.