Monday, 30th October 2017

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No, he isn't so bad a tyrant

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 23.03.11

Is Cameron right?

No, says Yasmin Qureshi

Yasmin Qureshi laughed wryly and said that she was “not sure whether I am being brave or foolhardy” when she voted in the Commons against the government’s decision to take military action against Libya in support of UN Resolution 1973.

“I decided I would not put my career first and compromise with my beliefs,” declared the Labour member for Bolton South East, who was the only ethnic minority MP to oppose the government motion.

With Labour Party backing, David Cameron saw his motion carried overwhelmingly by 557 votes to 13, with Yasmin emerging as one of the handful of dissenters.

She had consulted Muslims in her constituency. “No one is for military action. Not one member of my family is for it. Only one Muslim who supported it said Gaddafi is ‘too secular’.”

Born in Pakistan, Yasmin, now 47, came to Britain at nine, subsequently trained as a barrister and entered parliament only last summer.

She admitted going against her party, her party leader, Ed Miliband — “he’s sincere in thinking this action is being taken for humanitarian reasons” – and a three-line whip was not easy. “It was very difficult.”

She explained why she opposed action. She felt, first, that not enough was known about the rebels, who unlike the demonstrators in Egypt and Tunisia, appeared heavily armed, often with faces masked. “Who are they? What do they stand for?”

Muammar Gaddafi was a tyrant, to be sure, “but not worse than many others. He had not carried out the massacres which the government has overplayed.”

Her view is that the British “were itching to get Gaddafi” because of the long history involving “PC Yvonne Fletcher (shot outside Libyan embassy in London), Lockerbie (downed Pan Am plane), his help to the IRA and the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi (Libyan convicted for Lockerbie)” — “they were looking for an excuse”.

She feared British ground troops would eventually get involved “and we should not get involved militarily in Arab countries. We destroy things and then get contracts to rebuild them.”

In the Commons debate, Yasmin said: “Another reason, and I know that people do not like hearing this, is oil. Oil plays a massive role in this matter and in our economic and strategic interests in Libya.”

She voiced her fears: “There will be massive civilian casualties, and we will have exactly the situation that we had in Iraq. We are meddling in things that we should not meddle in, because there are so many uncertainties. In the past 10 or 12 years, America, ourselves and others have spent trillions of dollars on being involved in conflicts in the Middle East, and what have we left? We have not resolved any of the situations involved or made countries any better than when we went into them.”