Mr Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab): The immediate decision before us in this debate is about military action, but behind that, this is about values. This is not a war against Islam. Islam is one of the great world religions, which is practised freely, without any harm to anyone, by millions of people in this country and around the world. This is not about Islam, but about co-existence.
Co-existence is absolutely fundamental to our society—the ability to elect Governments who are freely chosen by the people, equality of rights between men and women, freedom of speech and freedom of religion are fundamental—but ISIS rejects every tenet of it. That is why ISIS kills, with impunity, fellow Muslims, Christians and Yazidis; engages in sexual exploitation of, and the trade in, women; and cares nothing for anyone who does not sign up to its single truth. This is not about Islam, but about co-existence.
The shadow of past decisions—particularly the 2003 decision to invade Iraq—is a long one in debates such as this one. That is because there is a live debate about the degree to which we are responsible for creating or fomenting violent jihadism. It is important to be clear about that. I accept that past decisions have angered jihadists and perhaps encouraged some people to join them, but it is a fundamental mistake to think that we are responsible for violent jihadism. Let us not forget that the bombing of the World Trade Centre on 11 September took place two years before the invasion of Iraq. Syria, until recent days, has been a byword for non-intervention by the west; yet it is now the headquarters of the global jihad.
Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): Is it not also the case that there was a plot against the World Trade Centre in the 1990s, that the bombing of USS Cole was in 1998 and that al-Qaeda carried out plots and activities of a similar kind well before the intervention in Iraq?
Mr McFadden: My hon. Friend makes a good point. It is worth stressing that the United States Administration’s policy for the past five or six years has been absolutely to resist intervention, but we still have violent Islamic jihadism and ISIS.
Mr MacNeil: I just want to query the hon. Gentleman’s history. What is the connection between the twin towers attack and Iraq?
Mr McFadden: The point I am making is that violent Islamic jihadism was around long before the decision in 2003.
Beneath the argument that this is really our fault lies a new imperialism—an imperialist conceit that, in foreign policy terms, seeks to divide the world into adults and children. The United States, the United Kingdom and other countries are defined as adults, and movements elsewhere, including the jihadists, are defined almost as children who react only in response to what we do or do not do. That is not the case: they are responsible for their own actions and their own ideology.
No one has forced anyone to behead innocent journalists and aid workers on the internet. No one has forced anyone to go from this country to join a group that carries out such acts. No one has forced anyone to carry out the terrorist acts that we have seen on our own streets. We cannot say this loudly and clearly enough: those who carry out these actions and foment this ideology are adults who are responsible for their own actions.
That brings me to the motion, which sets out a plan for military action in Iraq. I will vote for it, but I have to ask, as other hon. Members have asked, why it is right to carry out such actions against ISIS in Iraq, but not in Syria. The Government have welcomed the action carried out by the United States and Arab countries in Syria in recent days. If it is welcome and right for others to do so, why is it not welcome and right for us? If the Government’s position is that it would be illegal or wrong to act in that way in Syria, why is it not illegal or wrong for the United States and the countries taking part in the action? Militarily, we must ask what the point is of chasing ISIS from Iraq through a barely existing border to Syria. Morally, we must ask why it is right to come to the aid of the victims of ISIS who live under a democracy in Iraq, but not those who live under a dictatorship in Syria.
Is not the motion a reflection of where the country stands right now—somewhat limited in its confidence, overburdened by past events, and looking too much in the rear-view mirror? I would say that “Out, damn’d spot” is no basis for taking crucial foreign policy decisions. Instead, we should learn from the past, ally our soft power with hard power, follow through on our decisions to intervene so that we achieve our objectives, and not just define the struggle as a generational one and begin military action, but actually will the means to complete the job.
Hansard, 26th September