At Prime Minister’s question time yesterday Labour’s interim leader Harriet Harman accused David Cameron of “ranting and sneering and gloating.”
Minutes later he welcomed new Labour MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah, saying:
“First, on behalf of the whole House, I welcome the hon. Lady to her place. She replaces someone who had, I think, the unique distinction of always speaking with immense power, but always being completely wrong. I am sure that she will take a different approach.”
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That unamed person was Respect politician, George Galloway.
Cameron’s snide attempted put down of Galloway does not stand up to the evidnece. On the single most important issue of the past decade in which Parliament collectively got things terribly wrong- by backing the invasions of Afghanistan and then Iraq - Galloway was 100% right in his opposition; and his perceptive analysis. This is what he said in an impassioned speech to the House of Commons on 14 September 2001, a few days after the terrorist attacks, using hijacked planes, on New York and Washington DC :
“I send my condolences to the great people of the United States of America, in particular to that great city, which I know and love, New York—so great they named it twice. I also send my condolences to New York's magnificent emergency services and its much maligned mayor, Rudi Giuliani, who has proved an admirable and excellent leader of that city's response. I am sure that New York will be back, as big and magnificent as ever.
I despise Osama bin Laden, the mediaeval obscurantist savage; the difference is that I have always despised him. I despised him when weapons, money, and political and diplomatic support were being stuffed down his throat faster than he could eat it. I said in this building on the eve of the victory of those whom the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) used to hail as holy warriors and freedom fighters that, although I might be the last man in this place prepared to say it, we were responsible for opening the gates to the barbarians and a long dark night would descend on Afghanistan. Never did I speak truer words.
I caution against use of the word "civilisation". There are many civilisations in our world. Viewed from some countries, western civilisation does not always look as benign as we see it. It would be much easier if this were truly a conflict between the forces of good and a helpfully turbaned and bearded Dr. Evil, and, if only we could ker-pow that mephistopholean genius in Action Man comic style, everything would be fine again—but it is not so. What we face is a hydra-headed phenomenon precisely because it arises from real conditions and has a real base of support.
Do not mistake the condemnation from Arab and Muslim Governments. It has arisen either from a dependent relationship with us and our friends or from the fear that if they do not say what is expected of them they will be attacked. Do not mistake that for the feeling of tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people in Arab and Muslim countries that we are responsible for monumental double standards and that we consider the lives of our own people and of our friends to have a fundamentally different order of value from the lives of those people.
The House may not wish to hear this, but I must say that I have walked in the ashes of cities under aerial attack. Buildings under aerial attack, people being crushed in falling masonry and steel or incinerated by fire from aerial attack look, sound and smell exactly the same whether they are in Beirut, the west bank, Baghdad or Manhattan.
Arabs and Muslims believe, and they are right to believe, that we do not consider their blood as valuable as our own. Our policy over decades of our history makes that abundantly clear.
The question is: what is to be done? We are the friends of the Americans. It is no service to a friend to write a blank cheque, singing, in the manner of "White Christmas", that "we'll follow the old man wherever he wants to go, wherever he wants to go." That would not do a service to the world or to the United States of America.
In Korea, the Attlee Government played a decisive role in restraining the United States of America from using nuclear weapons against Korea and the People's Republic of China. We played a decisive role in removing from the theatre of operations General MacArthur, precisely because he was likely to move out of control.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) that the only test that matters is whether action will make matters better or worse. If a devastating attack is launched on a Muslim country, killing thousands, it will make 10,000 bin Ladens rise up in the stead of the one whose head has been cut off. I do not know what could be bombed in Afghanistan, the stone age country that we helped to create. There is nothing there. Hardly a building stands. The only thing to hit in Afghanistan is people, and every slain Afghan will be a new banner for new bin Ladens.
Millions of Afghans—5 million of them are starving today—will spill over the borders to become refugees and asylum seekers on ships that western countries will turn away at the point of guns, as the Australian navy did just a week or so ago.
I do not have time to develop all the points that I want to make, nor is this the time to raise certain subjects, although I associate myself with others who have spoken on them, at least in this regard: if 5,000 people have died in Manhattan, and even if 10,000 have died in Manhattan and Washington and Pittsburgh, that represents less than the two-monthly total of the number of children who have died in Iraq in every month of every one of 11 years. Those figures come from the United Nations, not from me or from my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). The UN itself has told us that. The Muslims do not believe that we care about that. They do not believe that we care about the children being slaughtered by General Sharon, the butcher of Beirut, today as we are speaking. They do not believe that we care about them. In some respects, they are right and until this House and this country show that we care—
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has used his time allocation.
David Cameron supported both vainglorious invasions.