Speeches recovered from the Conservative party‚Äôs online archive More…

Jenkin: Speech during the debate on the Coalition Against Terrorism

The Taliban must be removed

The need for resolve

"There may be any number of questions raised in our minds about the conduct of the government's response to the 11th September, but let there by no doubts about what the principle response should be.

"As my Right Honourable Friend, the Leader of the Opposition, spelt out in the Daily Telegraph yesterday, we share the government's objectives and continue to support the military campaign to deliver them, because it is the right thing for everyone to do.

"As the weeks since 11th September go by, and those terrible events begin to recede in our minds, there can be no excuse for forgetfulness or wishful thinking. We must be absolutely clear on the need for continued resolve.

"We have to face reality. Airline hi-jackings and death on such a scale cannot be treated as a one-off. Terrorism is not a chance event, like a lightning strike. Those events were planned and executed to the finest detail for a purpose.

"The enormity of those crimes is matched only by the enormity of their strategic significance. The most powerful country in the world, the United States of America, was subjected to deliberate and calculated attack. It was a strategic strike. It was a military operation, backed by people with strategic objectives. They did not just kill thousands of people.

"They created fear and paralysis far beyond the events themselves. They have caused massive economic dislocation.

"Having seen the effects of their evil, still possessing the means and the motivation, what is to prevent them striking again - and again, and again - unless we act? On October 29th, the US Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that that there may be additional terrorist attacks within the United States and against United States interests over the next week. I understand that this is based upon very strong intelligence indications.

"The risk remains and not just in America. The risk is here, in our own country and our own cities.

"What is more, if we failed to act, there would be yet more serious consequences.

"The United States has been the ultimate guarantor of global security and stability since the end of the Second World War. That guarantee has depended upon the absolute certainty that the US and her allies would defend themselves. We in Europe have been the most obvious benefactors of that guarantee. As Henry Kissinger pointed out in his lecture in London last night to the Centre for Policy Studies, if the US fails the test now, after the most devastating attack on her own territory in her history, the whole structure of post-war security would collapse.

"That is what is at stake. All around the world, there are tensions and potential flashpoints, where ethnic and border disputes can flare up, where slender threads of deterrence hold the forces of chaos in check.

"Unless the US and her allies prevail over the terrorist aggressors in Afghanistan, it will be a green light for aggressors everywhere.

"And these will be aggressors that care nothing for civilian casualties. Western democracies do not like fighting wars. We find it grotesque to start weighing the balance of argument on the basis of that awful phrase, "collateral damage". We grieve for every death of innocent people caught in a war that is not of their own choosing, but we have to be prepared to face that. Our enemies are people who have no scruple and who hope to exploit civilised values as a key weakness. Now is the time to stand up for our values, not to be weak and to surrender them."

Clarifying the message

"So we welcome the Prime Minister's speech to the Welsh Assembly on Tuesday, unambiguously reiterating the fundamental purpose of the military campaign in Afghanistan. Moreover, it is crucial that we keep explaining, as he has done, the absolute and vital connection between the security of people leading their daily lives and the continued prosecution of the military campaign. This is where the government have clearly found difficulties in recent days.

"People - our constituents and their children - appreciate the real threat of terrorism. We can trust them to understand this reality. Which of us has not imagined the how the worst could happen since September 11th, as we think of our families and our children? But it is far harder to watch the bombing on the television every night, and make a rational connection with the safety and security of our own lives. On the contrary, the war planes, the mushroom clouds of smoke of exploding bombs in deserts and on hillsides thousands of miles away just reinforces a growing sense of unease.

"To lead our people through this, I do urge ministers, we must not flannel them. They naturally want to see that the bombing will lead to progress, but we should not seek to give false reassurance where there is none yet to give. Attempts to sweeten or dilute the message leads to confusion and merely adds to the unease.

"People want the facts of the situation. They do not want spin. The debate about whether the Royal Marines are ready or not ready was not helpful.

"Every Honorable and Rightt Honourable member can sympathise with the government, that our free press are a very demanding, but ministers cannot complain about press speculation, when all the briefings and public statements about a possible deployment of thousands of troops, leading up to last Friday's announcement, seemed designed to create that speculation. And once again, I urge the Secretary of State to question the wisdom of using field commanders for the political task of reassuring the public back home about the direction of the campaign.

"Ministers naturally want to sound reassuring and sensitive to the significance of Ramadan in the Islamic world, but conflicting comments have led to the impression that the government is uncertain about its own policy.

"In reality, this is only of presentational significance - the Americans are in operational control of the bombing campaign - but it is this kind of public disagreement that has been unsettling the public.

"I would urge the government to reconsider the media strategy. I do not believe that the majority of the British public feel they must know so much of the details of the military preparations. They would hate the idea that ministers may be feeding speculation that might actually help the enemy and even put the lives of British servicemen at risk. This is not like managing the media for the usual domestic political agenda. Our adage should be: less is more. The less the government says about our plans, the more confidence people are likely to have that the right decisions are being made.

"The Prime Minister is right to try and clarify our objectives. The government must also clarify its military aim."

Strategic objectives and military aims

"At the time of our last debate on 16th October, the government reassuringly produced a commendable document:

'Defeating International Terrorism: Campaign Objectives'

This includes four immediate objectives:

(a) to bring UBL and other Al Qa'ida leaders to justice;

(b) to prevent UBL and the Al Qa'ida network from posing a continuing terrorist threat;

(c) to this end to ensure that Afghanistan ceases to harbour and sustain international terrorism and enables us to verify that terrorist training has ceased and that the camps where terrorists train have been destroyed;

(d) assuming that Mullah Omar will not comply with the US ultimatum we require sufficient change in the leadership to ensure that Afghanistan's links to international terrorism are broken.

"We support those objectives and support the bombing campaign as a first step towards achieving those objectives. Moreover, we can add that there is plenty of evidence that the bombing campaign is being effective.

* It is degrading Taliban and al-Qa'eda military assets.

* It is reducing the ability of the terrorists to continue


* It is sending a clear signal to other terrorist organisations and states that may harbour them that the West will act decisively against terrorism.

"However, the government's objectives reflect the overall policy of the British and US governments. They are grand strategic objectives, to be achieved by political, diplomatic and military means. They do not constitute achievable military aims and this may be a source of some of the confusion.

"Apart from the DPM's appearance at the despatch box yesterday, it is now becoming clear from US and British government statements that a simpler military aim is being distilled from the broader strategy, namely, the removal of the Taliban. If the alliance is adopting this as their first and principle aim, then I can assure the Sec of State, the government will have our fullest support. It is hard to see how al-Qa'eda can be tackled effectively, how bin Laden can be driven from his hiding places, or how we can begin to resolve the mounting humanitarian crisis, unless we remove the main obstacle to all these things, which is the Taliban. We will support the government in the use of whatever conventional military force is necessary in order to achieve this aim.

"And let me reiterate a point made by my Right Honourable Friend, the Leader of the Opposition yesterday. Removing the Taliban does not conflict with our humanitarian policy. It is the humanitarian policy. There can be no arrangements made with a government that had already created a dire refugee crisis before 11th September, and which regularly hi-jacks what little aid can get in to the country for feeding its own troops.

"We must be prepared for a long campaign, but it would be wrong to suggest that there is unlimited time. We need to prove the real value of the air campaign. This is only likely to become apparent when we move on to the next stage of military operations, as both the Gulf and Kosovo military campaigns demonstrated. I do not invite speculation about the nature of the next phase of the military campaign may be. Ministers will have our support if they continue to provide to the Americans whatever military support they may request and that we can afford them.

"The public rightly senses the dangers of a lengthening conflict. Can I reassure the government, the Opposition is not about to set any deadlines, but the longer this part of the conflict continues, the longer the Taliban remains in power, the less effective the coalition appears to be, the greater the threat to the political and military credibility of the alliance. This will also tend to obscure the wider issues presented by

the threat of international terrorism that we be ready to must face.

"There is no need to rehearse here the list of states that we know are actively sustaining international terrorist organisations. We need also to address the underlying factors that give rise to such organisations. These range from the need to rebuild nations such as Afghanistan on the basis of a proper, legally constituted government whose primary interests are stability and security, respect for basic human rights and for the territorial integrity of their neighbours. That is the agenda that the Right Honourable Gentleman the Prime Minister is rightly seeking to address on his visit to Syria, Saudi Arabia and Israel. We wish him every possible success.

"But all these wider efforts will come to naught, unless we are prepared to follow through military action that we have started. The Taliban and al Qa'eda are the sworn enemies of every member of this House. We know that up to 50,000 people have been through the al Qa'eda training camps. We know that they have the will to destroy us, and everything that we value most highly. As the Prime Minister said in his first statement to the House following 11th September:

'We know that they would, if they could, go further and use chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons of mass destruction.'

(PM, HC 14 Sep, Col 606)

"If there is a vote tonight, we will join ministers and their other supporters in the government lobby. Every member of this House should use this opportunity, once again, to demonstrate their support for the government's determination to defeat the Taliban and al-Qa'eda, before they get the opportunity carry out further atrocities on innocent people.

"The government is entitled to that support.

"That is how Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition sees our duty. Every member of our armed services is ready to do their duty. The very least we can do is back them with the determination that are entitled to expect."

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech