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[casi] Leading Conservative MP Opposes War Even If Weapons Discovered in Iraq


A leading Conservative MP has reiterated his
opposition to war on Iraq even if weapons of mass
destruction discovered. Douglas Hogg says the
'majority' of Conservative MPs have 'very serious
reservations' about the planned war.

1) Partial transcript of interview with Douglas Hogg
MP on Radio 4 Sunday 12 January 2003.

2) Transcript of speech by Douglas Hogg MP in the
House of Commons, 24 September 2002.

Douglas Hogg, Conservative MP, a former Cabinet
Minister under John Major, a Privy Councillor, and a
leading lawyer - a Queen's Counsel, or 'QC' - opposes
war on Iraq even if it is established that Iraq possesses
weapons of mass destruction.

In January 1991, during the first Gulf War against
Iraq, Mr Hogg was a British Foreign Minister with
responsibility for Middle East policy - on one occasion
answering questions regarding the war in the House
of Commons on behalf of the Foreign Secretary.

(Please note that Mr Hogg offers the argument that
the war could be justified if there was a threat to
Britain's "interests". This is not a position recognised
in the UN Charter or in international law more

1) Partial transcript of interview with Douglas Hogg
MP on Radio 4, The World This Weekend, Sunday 12
January 2003. Interview conducted by James Cox.

Radio 4: 'Mr Duncan Smith [Conservative leader] is
not supported by all of his backbenchers. The senior
Conservative and former Foreign Office minister
Douglas Hogg has expressed and repeated his doubts
about the moral and strategic justification for war
against Iraq. I asked him how many of his Tory
colleagues agree with him.'

Douglas Hogg: 'Very difficult to say, but I would have
thought the majority have very serious reservations.'

Radio 4: 'The majority?'

Douglas Hogg: 'Yes.'

Radio 4: 'When Parliament was recalled last
September the 24th, you made a significant speech in
which you said, and I quote in part, "Facing the facts as
they are known to the House today, I have come to
the conclusion that war is not justified." The facts have
not in your view changed, and your view has not

Douglas Hogg: 'Not at all. You see the real problem is
this, it seems to me, that if you're going to go to war,
you've got to identify a good moral basis for war. That
has to be the case or you're not justified in going to
war. The only moral basis that exists in the modern
world is self-defence. Now you can give self-defence
an enlarged meaning, but ultimately it has to be a
serious and imminent threat to yourself, your allies or
your interests. And I do not myself believe Saddam
Hussein poses a serious and imminent threat to those
interests, and therefore I don't think self-defence
runs, and therefore there is no moral basis for war.'

Radio 4: 'You instanced a number of cases where you
thought there had been that evidence: Pearl Harbour,
the Falklands, the whole of the Second World War,
and the last Gulf War - when you were a Foreign
Minister of course.'

Douglas Hogg: 'Indeed, absolutely.'

Radio 4: 'The real problem, it seems to me, is the
interpretation of the weapons inspectors' assessment.
Dr Blix has said there is no "smoking gun". On the
other hand he says there are difficulties, there are
gaps between what Iraq has admitted and what it may
have. American and indeed British intelligence say,
"We know he has these things. If the weapons
inspectors can't find them, well that's because they're
not being very efficient." At that point, who do you

Douglas Hogg: 'I don't know whether I have to believe
either of them. I'm perfectly prepared to assume that
Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction or
alternatively is capable of making them. But that surely
is not actually the direct question. The real question is
not whether he's got weapons of mass destruction,
but rather whether - if he has got those weapons - he
is a grave and imminent threat to the rest of us. Now,
there are lots of other countries in the world that do
have weapons of mass destruction, or are likely to
acquire them, but we don't necessarily conclude that
they are a grave and imminent threat sufficient to
justify war. So even if he had these things and I'm
perfectly prepared to assume that he's got them for
the purposes of this discussion, unless he's a grave and
imminent threat there isn't a moral basis for war,
because the doctrine of self-defence isn't properly

Web address for Radio 4 The World This Weekend
(requires RealAudio):

2) Transcript of speech by Douglas Hogg MP in the
House of Commons, 24 September 2002.

House of Commons Debates (Hansard) 24 September
2002 : Column 49

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): As
my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr.
Ancram) said, the central question that the House has
to face is whether we are prepared to authorise war
or a course of action likely to lead to war. I recognise
that we can only make a judgment on the facts as they
are known today. Those facts may change, and if they
do, as individuals we must be ready to change our

Facing the facts as they are known to the House today,
I have come to the conclusion that war is not justified.
My principal conclusion and the reason for that
conclusion is that I do not think the threat we face is
either sufficiently grave or sufficiently imminent to
provide the moral basis for war. I shall develop that
argument in a moment, but first let me say that I
believe there are a number of practical, military,
political and diplomatic objections to war, many of
which were touched on by my right hon. Friend the
Member for Devizes in the questions that he posed.

I would like to illustrate the nature of those problems
by raising a number of questions which I do not
purport to answer today. First, what is the military
strategy, how many troops will be engaged, where are
the bases and what are the military risks? Secondly,
will the Arab states rally behind the purpose and
provide bases for a coalition? Thirdly, what will Prime
Minister Sharon do if Iraq attacks Israel? Fourthly,
would Iraq survive as a unitary state, and if it seemed
likely that Iraq would collapse, what would be the
impact on regional stability in the middle east? How
long would coalition forces have to remain in Iraq
after an attack and, perhaps most profound

24 Sept 2002 : Column 50

of all, what is the likely impact on middle eastern
opinion or perhaps on our wider relationship with the
Islamic world if we commit ourselves to war?

I do not know the answers to those questions, but the
probable answer to most of them raises a powerful
case against war which only the most powerful
arguments in a contrary sense would surely displace.

My real objection to war is a moral one. I do not
believe now, looking at the evidence that we have, that
there exists a moral justification for war and I do not
wish to sanction a range of policies likely to lead to
that event.

I am not a pacifist. I am a strong supporter of
American engagement in world defence. I accept too
that war, even pre-emptive war, can be justified.
Proportionate self-defence accords with one's notions
of international and national law, personal morality,
and indeed, common sense.

For obvious reasons, I have to concede that at the
time of the last Gulf war I was the Foreign Office
Minister of State immediately responsible for
departmental decisions concerning the middle east. In
that capacity, I supported and participated in decisions
that resulted in war. However, we must always keep
in mind how terrible war can be. We have been
extremely lucky in the conflicts of the past 20 years. In
the Falklands, in the Gulf, in Yugoslavia and in
Afghanistan the costs have been remarkably low, but
when we authorise war we sanction action that may
result in the deaths of thousands or in injury to many
thousands of our own troops and citizens, but also to
the Iraqis, in this case, many or perhaps even most of
whom will be wholly innocent of blame.

If the concept of self-defence is to provide a moral
justification for the giving of such authority, the state
against which that military action is being taken must
either have embarked on an act of aggression or there
must be compelling evidence that such a state poses a
grave and imminent threat of aggression either within
its region, to its neighbours or to ourselves and our
friends and allies.

We had to fight the second world war because of the
German acts of aggression. The attack by what is now
North Korea justified the action in Korea. We were
right to use force in the Falklands, Kuwait and
Afghanistan. To use another example, had the United
States been aware of the Japanese carrier fleet sailing
towards Pearl Harbour a pre-emptive strike would
have been justified. Surely the nature of those
illustrations where self-defence was invoked indicates
how rare the cases really are. Surely we have to
adhere closely to the proposition that one can invoke
self-defence only when we face an act of aggression or
it seems likely that one is imminent. Here we have to
make a judgment and I am the first to admit that
judgments in this sphere are extraordinarily difficult.

Saddam, as the dossier makes plain, is an evil, wicked
man, an aggressor and a killer who has acquired
weapons of mass destruction and has no moral
inhibitions about using them. However, I do not think
that he is irrational. He must know, and I believe he
does know, and he must understand, and I believe
that he understands, the consequences to Iraq, himself
and his regime if he uses force against his neighbours
or the western alliance. Throughout the cold war we
based our security on the concept of deterrence.
Ultimately the Soviet Union collapsed. In this case, too,
we should base our security on a concept of
deterrence, not on a pre-emptive strike.

24 Sept 2002 : Column 51

I have two final points to make. First, in a democracy
public opinion will sustain a war only if the justification
for it is overwhelmingly clear—so clear that the public
will view the horror shown on their television screens
being done in their name and comment, "It has to be
done." I do not believe that public opinion will be
satisfied that war in Iraq is justified. To lead a country
into war without overwhelming public support seems
not just wrong, but profoundly dangerous.

Secondly—this point follows on from what the Father
of the House said and from what I have articulated
here previously—in a democracy no Government
should commit forces to war without the authority of
this House expressed on a substantive motion, so that
those who oppose war can seek to change the policy
by their vote. To commit Britain to war relying on the
royal prerogative and without the explicit authority of
this House seems to be an affront to democracy.


Milan Rai
Voices in the Wilderness UK

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