From Hansard – House of Commons, 7th July , 4.29pm,
Mr. George Galloway (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Respect): The hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) said that it is a funny old world, and that is certainly true with regard to the issue that he raised. I am, I think, a longer-serving Member of this House than he is, and I remember when the Labour Benches were littered with members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Indeed, Members who wear different badges today used then to sport daily the badges of CND.
Mr. Kevan Jones: Some of them are in the Cabinet.
Mr. Galloway: Indeed; the Cabinet is full of them. That was a time when Britain was facing a Soviet Union and an eastern Europe bristling with thousands upon thousands of intercontinental ballistic missiles, all aimed at us. Now that there is no such adversary, those same Members have swapped their badges. I have no doubt that they will comprehensively vote down the motion tabled by the hon. Member for Pendle at the parliamentary Labour party meeting. As he is a gentle soul, I fear for his safety on that occasion if the reports I hear of the PLP are anything like accurate.
I have been sitting through the debate feeling not that it is a funny old world but that it is another world. The sort of complacent consensus that has crept by osmosis through the Chamber as the hours have passed is so utterly different from, and in contradiction to, the attitude outside in the country and around the world that I became more persuaded than ever that the House of Commons is out of touch with reality.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Gosport (Peter Viggers) is no longer in his place. He may well be an expert on defence procurement matters but, in his mini discourse on Islam, he reminded us of the universal truth that a little knowledge is dangerous. His "Reader's Digest" analysis of Islam and the people of the Muslim world—more than 1,000 million strong—illustrated the chasm between the east and the powerful here in the west.
At least one, perhaps two of the explosions this morning took place in my constituency. Many of those caught up in the events were my constituents, heading to work in the City and the west end. I spent four hours or so this morning at the Royal London hospital in my constituency where the medical staff are toiling, without a break, to deal with the casualties who are being brought in in their scores—perhaps, by now, in their hundreds.
I walked among the emergency workers, including the fire brigade staff, in the very stations that have in the past few weeks had fire engines taken away from them as economy measures. I refer to the fire station at Bethnal Green in my constituency and the fire station in the King's Cross-Euston area—the two places where the fire services are stretched almost to breaking point in dealing with the consequences of this morning's events. The people of the east end and the emergency workers are going about their business calmly and stoically in the way for which our country is famous.
I condemn the act that was committed this morning. I have no need to speculate about its authorship. It is absolutely clear that Islamist extremists, inspired by the al-Qaeda world outlook, are responsible. I condemn it utterly as a despicable act, committed against working people on their way to work, without warning, on tubes and buses. Let there be no equivocation: the primary responsibility for this morning's bloodshed lies with the perpetrators of those acts.
However, it would be crass to do other than what the Secretary of State for Defence in a way invited us to do. We cannot separate the acts from the political backdrop. They did not come out of a clear blue sky, any more than those monstrous mosquitoes that struck the twin towers and other buildings in the United States on 9/11 2001. The Defence Secretary said that we must look at the causal circumstances behind the problems of security and defence in the world. I insist that we do so.
If Members examine our debate tomorrow in the cold light of day they will discover a self-evident truth: many Members of Parliament find it easy to feel empathy with people killed in explosions by razor-sharp red-hot steel and splintering flying glass when they are in London, but they can blank out of their mind entirely the fact that a person killed in exactly the same way in Falluja died exactly the same death. When the US armed forces, their backs guarded, as a result of a decision by our politicians, by our armed forces, systematically reduced Falluja, a city the size of Coventry, brick by brick and killed an unknown number of people—probably the number runs to thousands, if not tens of thousands—not a whisper found its way into the Chamber. I have grown used to that. I know that for many people in the House and in power in this country the blood of some people is worth more than the blood of others.
Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman clarify a whisper that has come to the House? Did he say elsewhere today that Londoners had this coming? Is it true that he said that?
Mr. Galloway: That is a despicable smear.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. I remind all hon. Members that we are debating the fourth report of the Defence Committee.
Mr. Galloway: The Minister of State says from a sedentary position that it is more or less right. I take it that that means that it is not right. I have never uttered any such words. The words that I am speaking now are my words. If the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning) would care to listen, he can disagree with me, but he should not attempt to put into my mouth words that I have never spoken. Madam Deputy Speaker, I ask for your protection. [Hon. Members: "Oh!"] It is either that, or I shall keep speaking and no one else will—
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I have already asked hon. Members to debate the motion on the Order Paper. Perhaps we would all do well to confine our remarks to that.
Mr. Galloway: The exchanges that we have just heard are further evidence of my point that in this bubble people just do not get it. If I cannot touch the heart of the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead with what happened to the people in Falluja, I shall move on to firmer ground.
Does the House not believe that hatred and bitterness have been engendered by the invasion and occupation of Iraq, by the daily destruction of Palestinian homes, by the construction of the great apartheid wall in Palestine and by the occupation of Afghanistan? Does it understand that the bitterness and enmity generated by those great events feed the terrorism of bin Laden and the other Islamists? Is that such a controversial point? Is it not obvious? When I was on the Labour Benches and spoke in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, I said that I despise Osama bin Laden. The difference is that I have always despised him. I did so when the Government, in this very House, gave him guns, money and encouragement, and set him to war in Afghanistan. I said that if they handled that event in the wrong way, they would create 10,000 bin Ladens. Does anyone doubt that 10,000 bin Ladens at least have been created by the events of the past two and a half years? If they do, they have their head in the sand.
There are more people in the world today who hate us more intently than they did before as a result of the actions that we have taken. Does this House understand that the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison have inflamed and deepened that sense of hatred around the world and made our position more dangerous? Do Members of this House not understand that Guantanamo Bay has contributed to the sense of bitterness and hatred against us around the world? Does nobody in this House understand that when Palestinians' houses are knocked down, their olive trees cut down and their children shot by Israeli marksmen, an army of people who want to harm us is created? To say that is not to hope that they succeed—I started by making clear, I hope, my utter rejection and condemnation of the events in London this morning.
It does not matter whether Britain replaces the Trident submarine system with another. The threat now, as the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (John Smith) made clear, is not the intercontinental ballistic missiles of other countries but the asymmetrical threat of angry people who hate us and who are ready to exchange their lives for several of ours, or hundreds of ours, or thousands of ours, if they can do so. Is that really so hard to grasp?
Given that one cannot defend oneself against every angry man among the enragés of the earth, it follows that the only thing we can do is address what the Secretary of State called the causal circumstances that lie behind these events. That means trying to reduce the hatred in the world and trying to deal with the political crises out of which these events have flowed. If, instead of doing that, we remain in this consensual bubble in which we have placed ourselves, we will go on making the same mistakes over and over again. We will go on with Guantanamo Bay. We will go on as we are doing, making Abu Ghraib not smaller as we were told would happen after the photographs were published, but bigger. We will go on with occupation and war as the principal instruments of our foreign and defence policy. If we do that, some people will get through and hurt us as they have hurt us here today, and if we still do not learn the lesson, that dismal, melancholic cycle will continue.
It ought to be common sense that people start from the standpoint that the only thing that matters is whether what we plan to do will make things better or worse. I listened to the Secretary of State lay out the success story of Afghanistan and Iraq, and his account bore no relationship to the truth or reality. He talked about Afghanistan as a success story and about the President of Afghanistan, when everyone knows that Karzai is the president of the congestion charge area of downtown Kabul and no more. He talked about an Afghan army—it is a fantasy. Afghanistan is a patchwork quilt of warlordism, where the warlords' armies dwarf the so-called Afghan national army. He talked about drugs and narcotics: before we invaded the country those lunatics of the Taliban were reducing heroin production in Afghanistan, but the people whom we have put into power there have increased production by 800 per cent. Our armed forces are in Afghanistan and our taxes are being used to support a political structure that is producing 90 per cent. of the junk that ends up in the veins of our young people in Glasgow, east London and many other places in the world.
The Secretary of State talked about Iraq—as if Iraq were any kind of success story. I could not believe my ears as he described, in that complacent, orotund manner, progress over 12 months, 18 months or two years. Iraq is going backwards, not forwards. It is impossible for the Secretary of State to say we shall withdraw in any given time frame, because Iraq is getting worse, not better. There are more people being killed in Iraq now than there were before. More military operations are being conducted by the Iraqi resistance than before. Last Saturday alone, 175 military operations were mounted by the Iraqi resistance on one day.
American soldiers are dying in such numbers that there is now more appreciation of the mistake of the war in Iraq over the pond in the United States than there appears to be here in the British House of Commons. The kind of debate that we have had today would not happen in the US Congress, because US politicians understand the scale of this disaster far better than the politicians in this Chamber appear even to have begun to do.
One thousand, eight hundred American boys, conscripted by poverty, unemployment and poor opportunities, have lost their lives as a result of the pack of lies that was the case for the invasion of Iraq, and 17,000 American boys have been wounded. Ten per cent. of them are amputees, who will have to go around with no legs for the rest of their lives as a result of the pack of lies on which we went to war in Iraq.
Eighty-nine of our own boys, including the son of Rose Gentle from Glasgow, 19-year-old Gordon, were sent to die in Iraq on a pack of lies. The Prime Minister will not even meet Gordon's mother. He will not meet the mother of a 19-year-old boy who was sent to die in Iraq. Last Monday, I was on a television programme and a call came through from the mother of a 17-year-old soldier who was leaving for Iraq the following Monday. He is 17 years old, and he is being sent to Iraq, into that quagmire. The 19-year-old Gordon Gentle is dead. Eighty-eight other young men from this country are dead as a result of this, yet our Ministers roll out their jokes and their cod philosophy here today. They have absolutely no grasp of the gravity of the situation, or of how unpopular their stand has become outside these walls. They have learned nothing from the fact that they lost a million votes as a result of what they did in Iraq, or from the fact that millions in Britain marched against them and begged them not to do this.
The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones), in an otherwise fine speech, described today's events as "unpredictable". They were not remotely unpredictable. Our own security services predicted them and warned the Government that if we did this we would be at greater risk from terrorist attacks such as the one that we have suffered this morning.