BBC On The Record - Broadcast: 20.10.02

Interview: MENZIES CAMPBELL, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesman.

To what extent will the war against terrorism involve military action?

JOHN HUMPHRYS: And with me is the Foreign Affairs Spokesman for the Liberal Democrats Menzies Campbell. Mr Campbell, do you accept this American concert of a War on Terror, emphasis on the war? MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well I noticed in your introduction you used both the word war and the word campaign and I much prefer the word campaign because I think war leaves in our minds this notion of two armies standing as it were toe to toe slogging it out. A campaign against terrorism is something quite different, it has to be fought on, as we have just seen in that film, over and around intelligence, it has to be fought using diplomatic means, it's got to be fought here in the United Kingdom, making sure that our homeland security is properly organised and it's also got to be fought in trying to squeeze the funds of terrorist organisations. Trying to provide, if you like, backbone to those countries which in the past have offered safe haven to terrorists. That's why I think war is not the right way to put it, it's a campaign and it's a campaign which is multifaceted. HUMPHRYS: And do those facets include, or should those facets include a war on Iraq and I ask obviously because of what is happening in the United Nations now. Do you believe that there should be a resolution that automatically triggers an attack on Iraq if the weapons inspectors, when, if they go in, are deemed not to being allowed to do their job properly. CAMPBELL: Well I don't believe the case for full scale military action against Iraq has yet been made and I offer in support of that, the report produced by the CIA last week in which they said, the United States is not at any immediate threat from weapons of mass destruction being used by Iraq. It's much more likely to be at threat of the use of these, if in fact there is a military attack and you take the fact that for the last ten years we have followed a policy, not always perfect, but by and large successful of containment and deterrence. Now Saddam Hussein has spent something like forty years ensuring his own survival, why should we assume that he would take a step which would undoubtedly result in enormous, and for him, necessarily fatal retaliation. Why should we assume that he would be foolish enough to put his own life at risk. HUMPHRYS: Well a couple of reasons, I suppose one is that he has taken some pretty big risks in the past, attacking Kuwait when he must have known the reaction, attacking Iraq when he must have realised what he was biting off, and the fact that he has been...Iran rather...and the fact that he has been defying United Nations Resolutions for a very very long time now, and surely the point is this, that if you threaten war and indeed, take it as far as building up forces in that part of the world, as is now apparently going on, then it will have an effect on him and it appears already to be having an effect on him. CAMPBELL: Well if it's having an effect on him well and good, but I don't think it's in the interests of all of us that the use of military action should be on some kind of hair trigger. That's why I think the French approach to this, to say we don't need one resolution, we ought to have two resolutions, in which he is called upon to fulfil his responsibilities, existing responsibilities, under those resolutions which brought an end to the Gulf War and then if he fails to do that, the matter should come back to the United Nations, so the United Nations can then determine whether military action is the appropriate force...... HUMPHRYS: But all of this time...... CAMPBELL: ....can I just finish on this, what I think it quite wrong is to create a resolution which somehow authorises any one member of the Security Council in the discretion of that country to take military action. I think that undermines the authority of the United Nations and it certainly will not command political support, particularly in the Middle East and I doubt very much if it will command political support here in the United Kingdom. HUMPHRYS: Well frankly, it doesn't matter very much if you are a country as powerful as the United States does it. I mean it is such a mega super power now that the old rules have in effect been broken and the United Nations without the United States is nothing anyway. CAMPBELL: Well we are of course, I think, at a fork in the road in some respects on these strategic issues because about three weeks ago you may have noticed it hardy got the coverage it deserved, the United States published a new strategic doctrine in which it said, well, we prefer to be multilateral but actually if that is not going to work, then we reserve the right to take pre-emptive action, no other country will we ever allow, not to exceed us in military might, but even to approach us in military might. Now that's a very substantial change in the sort of World Order which we have seen since the end of the Second World War. We're moving away from collective, co-operative, treaty based, agreement based approach to foreign affairs and if Mr Blair has any influence, then it seems to me the influence he ought to be exercising on the Bush Administration is to say, do you realise just how solitary that is going to make you the United States, and indeed, how much riskier it's going to make the world for the rest of us. HUMPHRYS: Well the other way of looking at is America is the super power, it should be in our interest to be friendly, very friendly indeed with that super power. CAMPBELL: Well we have strong ... I mean we believe in freedom, we believe in a system of law, we believe in human rights, we have a lot of common objectives and common values and of course, as between the United Kingdom and the United States, and interestingly Australia in the context of Bali, we have this rather unique security and intelligence relationship because the United States and the United Kingdom and Australia share intelligence at a level that they simply don't share with any other country. Indeed the United Kingdom gets information from the United States which it is expressively prohibited from passing onto other members of NATO. HUMPHRYS: Okay, I want to come back to that in just one second, but as far as the United Nations was concerned, if the UN has shown, as it has shown, that it is too weak to enforce its own resolutions, then somebody else has to do that enforcing for them, otherwise we don't have any international law. If you allow a man like Saddam Hussein to flout the international law, as expressed in United Nations resolutions, then where are we. CAMPBELL: Well I don't believe we've reached the conclusion with which you began that question, because the United Nations acted in 1990 in order to authorise the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait. Throughout the course of the last ten years the United Nations has sought to enforce the resolutions... HUMPHRYS: ..and failed and that's the point. CAMPBELL: And even as Richard Butler has acknowledged, the inspectors achieved a very considerable amount. We've kept Saddam Hussein in his box. Now I believe that he should be compelled to fulfil his obligations under the existing resolutions and if necessary, under new resolutions. But the way in which you do that is surely, particularly if as the Prime Minister argues, this must all be done consistently with international law, is to ensure that you've exhausted all other political and diplomatic options before you embark upon a military option. Not least because the military option carries so many consequences which could be deeply, deeply damaging; the dismemberment of Iraq for example, the consequences in the north if the Kurds were to seek to declare an independent Kurdistan. The efforts of Iran, which afterall is part of the axis of evil as described by President Bush, to exercise more influence on the Shia population in the south. Now you don't have to go very far in the Middle East talking to officials before you realise that there is a deep sense of anxiety about the dismemberment of Iraq and remember that was one of the compelling reasons why President Bush senior brought an end to the military campaign in 1991. HUMPHRYS: You talk about intelligence, Australia and Britain sharing intelligence, so let's move to Bali, where it seems there was intelligence, we had had intelligence, the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Howard, said this morning in fact that there is going to be a review in Australia of how they failed, if indeed they did fail, to act on that intelligence, we apparently failed to act on it as well. Should we have a review. CAMPBELL: Indeed, there were twenty-four hours when it seemed that Downing Street was saying one thing and the Foreign Office was saying the another. We most certainly should have a review and indeed last week I suggested, not that you should have a public enquiry or anything of that kind, but the Prime Minister should ask a senior High Court Judge, or someone of that calibre to examine precisely what happened on this occasion. Not for the purposes of a witch hunt, but in order to see if there are lessons to be learned for the future. And of course it is only within, I think, the last forty-eight hours that the Foreign Office has issued essentially a blanket warning against travel to South East Asia. I think the public has got to be reassured that the Foreign Office and the Government in general, understands the nature of these threats and is willing, if necessary, to give what, for some of the countries concerned, maybe very painful advice, but what in the end of the day is advice that's in the interests of the people in the United Kingdom. HUMPHRYS: The sort of review, the sort of enquiry that you talk about with perhaps a High Court judge, isn't that a bit na�ve. I mean you can hardly have MI5 and MI6 and heaven's knows who else standing in court of law as it were, and saying it will all have to be private, all have to be private. CAMPBELL: Not public, I don't suggest that for a moment. You get someone of calibre, perhaps summon a former intelligence expert who just goes into both agencies, or all the agencies involved and produces a report for the Prime Minister's eyes alone if necessary. You can't have public enquires into intelligence... HUMPHRYS: That may be happening already, one has to assume and hope that that is happening already. CAMPBELL: Indeed, well, the Prime Minister of Australia thinks that it's important enough to announce publicly that that's what he is doing, no doubt for the reassurance of Australian citizens and why doesn't our government do exactly the same. HUMPHRYS: Is there anything else in your view that we ought to be doing here at home, Air Marshal Sir Tim Garden talked in that film about having some sort of Director - as they have in the United States - Director of Homeland Security, although he is not in the United States, an active politician. What do you think we should do in that area. CAMPBELL: Well, I think Tim Garden raises a very important point and he's right to say that someone who is exercising this kind of influence has got to be a pretty powerful figure in order to ensure the necessary transference of funds between government departments. I don't think... HUMPHRYS: Cabinet Minister? CAMPBELL: Well exactly, I was about to say, I don't think a Director of Homelands Security, I think you need to have a minister with that responsibility. This would be, if you like, upping the ante very substantially, but as Bruce George rather hinted in that rather sombre contribution which he made to the film which we saw just a moment or two ago, we simply don't know where and when the next strike may take place and we have to assume, so close are we to the United States, so open is our society, that we could easily be a potential target. In those circumstances, a Cabinet Minister would seem to me to be a sensible response to that threat. HUMPHRYS: We have a Home Secretary. CAMPBELL: A Home Secretary does a whole lot of things in this country, above and beyond dealing with issues of homeland security, homeland security has now assumed a far greater salience than ever before. Surely it would be right to reflect that in the appointment of a Cabinet Minister with these sole responsibilities. HUMPHRYS: Ming Campbell, many thanks.
NB. This transcript was typed from a transcription unit recording and not copied from an original script. Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.