Tony Benn 1992 speech: Labour MP's address to Commons about Britain's wars in the Middle East shared by thousands

His son is due to lead the pro-war argument in the Labour party

Jon Stone
Tuesday 01 December 2015 12:06
Tony Benn 1992 Speech to Parliament on Arms Sales To Iraq

A speech by late Labour MP Tony Benn about the alleged double standards of British policy in the Middle East is being shared on social media ahead of a parliamentary debate on bombing Syria tomorrow.

Mr Benn, whose son Hilary Benn is due to make the pro-war position for Labour, against the views of the party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn, criticised the UK’s record in the region after the start of the first Gulf War.

“We have forgotten that the story is part of an unhappy record of British relations in the middle east,” he told MPs in the debate, which occurred over 23 years ago on 23 November 1992.

“The double standards of British policy in the middle east will be noticed by anyone in the Arab world who reads the report of today's debate. We did not take the same view as we took about Kuwait when Turkey invaded Cyprus or when the occupied territories were taken over by Israel.”

“Considered in the light of what we now know, the Gulf war is seen to be a war for profit, oil and control of the region.

“Now we are suddenly told that the Ministers, who so vigorously protested their defence of democracy and human rights, were selling weapons to Sadam Hussein who was represssing Kurds and Shi'ites before and after the war. Those Ministers then said that it was merely a matter of flexible guidelines.”

In 1991 the US and UK invaded Iraq after its dictator Saddam Hussein, who the UK and US had previously armed, invaded Kuwait.

In 2015, the Government has come under criticism from human rights groups for its alliance with Saudi Arabia, where crimes such as converting away from Islam are still punishable by beheading.

Other allies such as Turkey are reported to be buying oil from the West’s main antagonists in the region, Isis.

Turkey also had initially refused to fully participate in a military campaign against the militant group, and has shot down a Russian fighter jet taking part in its air campaign against militant groups, including Isis.

Russia itself is also accused of having a poor human rights record at home, and is propping up Syria’s Assad government, which has been accused of targeting civilians and ruling with an iron fist.

The UK is also selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, and to Egypt’s military strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who David Cameron welcomed to Downing Street earlier this autumn.

The Government says the UK needs to take military action in Syria so that it does not “outsource” its defence to the US and France, who are already bombing in the country.

Labour is split on the issue: Jeremy Corbyn and the majority of Labour MPs do not support strikes, but some pro-war rebels, including shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, support David Cameron’s position.

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