Suffolk split over battling Saddam

As the world stands on the threshold of a major war between the West and Iraq, The Evening Star looks at the issues and finds out what people in Suffolk think about the prospect of a second Gulf War.

By Paul Geater

As the world stands on the threshold of a major war between the West and Iraq, The Evening Star looks at the issues and finds out what people in Suffolk think about the prospect of a second Gulf War.

WAR with Iraq is a subject which divides MPs – but not along traditional party lines.

The Labour government is seen as the world's strongest supporter of America's hardline on Iraq.

And it can count on the support of the Conservative opposition, which also supports the American line.

Bury St Edmunds Conservative MP David Ruffley yesterday returned from Bahrain, where he was a member of an all-party group who met that country's leaders.

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He said:"I would be very reluctant to see war, but I am beginning to come to the conclusion that in this case it may be the lesser of two evils.

"It is clear that Saddam has only moved now because of the pressure from the Americans – but I certainly would not trust him.

"The UN has been quite slack in dealing with him over the last ten years and I am not convinced the latest offers will make a great deal of difference."

Mr Ruffley said there was an acceptance in Bahrain that a war would cause problems in the short term, but if it led to the removal of Saddam it would be of long-term benefit to the region.

However, he said he would wait until Tuesday's debate in the House of Commons before finally making up his mind.


Many Labour MPs, though, are very concerned about the prospect of war – especially if it is not sanctioned by the United Nations.

This concern also extends to many other MPs – the Liberal Democrats are opposed to war without specific UN backing and some Tory MPs, including Suffolk Coastal's John Gummer, are also opposed to unilateral action.

"The world cannot risk the Middle East in flames without the evidence of a genuine, immediate and unstoppable threat," Mr Gummer said in a letter to his constituency chairman Sir Peter Batho.

"We must not connive in an enterprise that could set the Middle East alight unless there is demonstrably no other way to avert mass destruction."

Ipswich Labour MP Chris Mole, normally a government loyalist, also indicated he would have difficulty in supporting military action unless there was a clear UN mandate.

He has spent the last two weeks in America meeting congressmen and women and sharing views about the gathering storm.

Before he left, he told The Evening Star: "I think it is very important to gain support from the UN before any action is taken.

"If the United States and Britain act unilaterally, it would be very difficult to involve other countries in nation-building in Iraq afterwards."

South Suffolk Tory MP Tim Yeo, a member of the shadow cabinet, backed his party's stance.

But he did say that an attack on Iraq should only go ahead if all else failed.


"It is clear Saddam Hussein has defied UN resolutions over the last ten years," he said.

"I am pleased he has said he will allow in the arms inspectors, but I don't think anyone should think this is the end of the matter.

"We have to see if they are allowed unfettered access to the country to get on with the job – and if we see him using his old tricks again, then action may be necessary."

IRAQ became an obvious target for the USA as soon as the jets of September 11 brought home the dangers of

terrorism to the world's only remaining superpower.

Within weeks of that attack President George W Bush had named countries he claimed constituted and "axis of evil".

There was no surprise that Iraq was there alongside Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran.

Afghanistan was the first target as the Taliban regime had clear links to the al-Quaida terrorists who attacked

the US.

There was little opposition to the American-led coalition which freed that country from the Taliban's iron grip – but ten months after the

effective victory in that country, America is keen to follow up this success with a larger target.

Why is America targeting Iraq?

American Republicans – especially the Bush family – have seen Iraq as unfinished business since the Gulf War of 1990/91.

The Gulf War started with the invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 and although militarily it was a walkover for the

anti-Iraq coalition, Saddam Hussein managed to remain in power while his enemies – especially George Bush senior – were thrown out of office.

Here the reasons for targeting Iraq become less clear and depend on your point of view.

The US/British government view:

Iraq is a rogue state developing weapons of mass destruction – it already has chemical and biological weapons and is trying to develop nuclear ones.

It's shown it is prepared to use these weapons and needs to be stopped before it uses them on its enemies.

Opposition argument:

There is no evidence that Iraq is preparing to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone.

The war is aimed at removing a regime the West doesn't like and to get access to Iraq's oil wealth.

What is the diplomatic position?

President Bush put his case for action to the United Nations in a speech which went down well on almost all sides, leading some Arab states – most notably Saudi Arabia – to modify their total opposition to any war.

Saddam Hussein trumped this by announcing he would let weapons inspectors back into Iraq unconditionally.

Doesn't the return of weapons inspectors mean the West has won?

Not according to many western diplomats.

Saddam has a reputation for being untrustworthy and hiding his weapons of mass destruction.

Many diplomats, and both the American and British Governments, are convinced this is just a delaying tactic by the Iraqi leader to put off an attack and split the UN.

What happens next?

In Britain, parliament is recalled for a special one-day debate on Tuesday.

In America Congress is dissolved on October 4 before mid-term elections on November 5.

President Bush is anxious to get congressional backing for action before its dissolution.

The mid-term elections will be seen as a barometer of American feeling about possible action.

When will an attack take place?

If there is a full ground attack on Iraq, it is not going to happen before mid-December, at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

It is also unlikely that the Americans would want to start a war just days before Christmas – which makes January a more likely date.

The first attacks of the first Gulf War started on January 17, 1991.

That day is a Friday, the Moslem holy day, and unlikely to see the start of hostilities – but January 18 might be interesting.

A CLEAR majority of the people we spoke to in Ipswich were opposed to war over Iraq.

Some did think that action was needed to stop Saddam Hussein – but most were worried about what might happen and questioned America's motives.

WILL WRIGHT and asked the question:

Should Britain join the USA in a war on Iraq?

1) Steve James, Witnesham, 38, truck driver.

Yes, Saddam is off his trolley, a modern day Hitler, he has to be stopped, we should not repeat the mistakes of 1939.

2) Edward Barrelle, Wherstead Road, 79, retired train driver.

No, definitely not, Bush is just a warmonger, it's about oil. Bush thinks he can do whatever he wants.

3) Syd Mwayi, Foxhall Road, 27, mobile communications.

No, let the USA fight if they want to, why should we join in?

4) Marion Wollard, Castle Hill, retired.

No, Bush is a trouble-maker.

5) Avril Karakus, Felixstowe Road, housewife.

No, you can understand American feelings following September 11, but war has got to stop somewhere.

6) Owen Hope, Felixstowe, 25, leisure assistant.

Yes, if we don't get it together now, Saddam will have more time to build up his weapons.

7) Steve Burgess, Felixstowe, 21, leisure assistant.

Yes, Saddam's arsenal is a threat to the west.

8) Georgie Greenland, Colchester, 19, insurance worker.

No, there are other ways than war to sort it out. They (the USA) are gun-happy, the lot of them.

9) Tania Wright, Chantry Estate, 33, Housewife and mother of three.

Yes, we have to make a stand, my brother in law was in America on September 11, so I have a lot of sympathy for how Americans feel.