Menzies Campbell: We should plan for a phased withdrawal from Iraq

From a speech at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Bournemouth, by the Foreign Affairs spokesman
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The Independent Online

Freedom, fairness and trust are values which must apply to our conduct abroad as much as to our policy at home.

Freedom, fairness and trust are values which must apply to our conduct abroad as much as to our policy at home.

Once, Britain was seen as a force for freedom and fairness in the world. Trusted to do the right thing in international affairs and known to be supportive of international institutions. Regarded as champions of human rights in Burma, Zimbabwe and the Middle East. Respected as a country prepared to intervene to safeguard lives and protect the innocent in Kosovo and Sierra Leone.

But these achievements have been undermined, discounted and devalued. Our reputation and respect have been diluted and dissipated, and all because of Iraq. Around the world, Britain is associated with unilateralism in Iraq and double standards in the Middle East. Trust in the Prime Minister has fallen at home. Trust in Britain has fallen abroad. The coalition has been stained by the debauchery of Abu Ghraib. But behaving ourselves with principle in international affairs is a necessary part of a robust response to terrorism.

We have a moral responsibility so acute that we have no option but to stay. If more British troops are necessary, they should be deployed on condition that they remain in the British sector and under British operational command. But no obligation of this kind can be open ended and without limit of time. And so I say that British forces should plan for a phased withdrawal as soon as a democratically elected government is in office.

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