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This transcript is produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

The anti-war movement 7/11/01

We're joined by Michael Foot and Clive Soley. You don't deny that America had to act?

Well, of course America had to act. They couldn't take it. But, attacking Afghanistan is a very difficult operation anyhow. They should have been more careful about that. But the most serious aspect to the whole thing in, my opinion - and I say this as a long-time supporter of the campaign of nuclear disarmament - the headlines in the Guardian today, Bin Laden is looking for a nuclear weapon. How close has he come? He has come close. He's got nuclear weapons in Pakistan.

That is surely an argument for moving as fast as we can to destroying his terrorist network.

That doesn't mean to say you're doing it, because, in fact, the actual nuclear weapons being produced are in Pakistan. If you're going to do away with what you want, is an international plan, for dealing with nuclear weapons, otherwise he will get hold of them. When he does, there will be hell to pay for the rest of the bloody world. Of course action has to be taken. What the American government did, just before the terrible attack on September 11th, just before it, and of course, they have to take action about it. But, just before it, they'd taken some action which has contributed to the special dangers, especially the nuclear danger. Just before it, what the Americans were doing was saying, "We're not going to have any international controls to deal with nuclear weapons or any other kind of weapon."

That is a separate issue.

No, it is a very big issue.

It is a big issue. I don't deny that. It is a separate issue. I'm asking you what alternative the Americans should have pursued?

Well, first of all they should be careful about invading Afghanistan. Because it is a very dangerous affair anyhow. Most military experts who tried it before, including the Americans, by the way, they should have learned more from that and been more careful. I'm not saying that at some stage they should have an invasion of Afghanistan or other places. I think the attempts made by the British Government to hold it up in the first place was an intelligent approach to it too. But, most important of all, is what you're going to do about the way he's going to get hold of these weapons if we don't have full-scale international control. The American government, you see, turned its back on it. They tore up the treaties governed. They said we're going to go ahead. That is what I believe is very dangerous.

I understand your anxiety. I bumped into an Afghan the other day. He said how many of the people flying the aeroplanes were Afghans? I said I don't think any of them were. He said why are you bombing Afghanistan then?

The answer addresses the issue of what Mark said in the film. The issue is that in Afghanistan, there is a government in as much as any government in Afghanistan, which has allowed the terrorist training camps to be there and would allow them to continue to be there. So what you had - this is the core of it, it is not about one man. It is about training camps, which trained people to commit suicide by taking over aeroplanes and flying them into buildings and with an enormous backup network in terms of finance, organisation and structure, which injured about 4,000 people in Nairobi and others. If you allow that to continue, you are in trouble.

As a prominent Labour MP, you are aware there is a lot of disquiet on the left and indeed within your own party. It is not clearly articulated but there is a deep sense of unease as to whether this was the only course available.

When the bombing starts, people feel uncomfortable. That is not an unhealthy thing. Nobody likes it or wants it. There is no clean way to run a war. But what I think happens is that, when you ask the question what do you do instead, you get into these very difficult problems of you do something long-term. The reason I make the point about the camps is that you cannot allow them to continue.

Address that point, Michael Foot.

One of my dilemmas, and the Labour Party runs up and down the country, some of us look with great anxiety that some of the people we respect most take very different views on the subject. For example, Clare Short, a very fine minister, she takes a view and she's expressed it why she believes the Government had to support what the Americans were doing. Another woman, equally responsible, maybe, Mary Robinson, and she gave her views on how in fact we must restrain the bombing in order to be able to get through the first of all the huge effort to stop the starvation that's going to happen on us even bigger scale than has been happening before. Everything that has been engineered by the Taliban regime is going to be worse if we don't have a proper way of meeting the starvation, the threat of starvation. I think they should stop the bombing in any case to see how they can deal with that. When I say that, I think I'm saying what many other people believe. I think I'm saying that Mary Robinson - who has world responsibility for trying to make sure that we have a decent policy for dealing with the refugees.

What I would say to people like Mary Robinson is how do you prevent them building up more camps unless you use some form of military action?. It is the core of the question. Whether you delay it, drag it out, there are three strands to the policy. One is to take out the camp. The second is humanitarian. The third is diplomatic. They go together. Neither is more important than the other.

But the kind of bombs they're using, becoming more and more desperate, because of their failure, or the failure of the military machine, to achieve what they thought they were going to do early on. In my opinion, they should not be going on saying that the answer to that is bigger and bigger bombs. If that is the answer, you won't get any international control over the nuclear weapons, which is the real threat.

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