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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Military action: Labour viewpoints
Bruce George and Doug Henderson
George and Henderson are Labour defence experts
Speculation is now intensifying on exactly what measures will be taken in the wake of the terrorist atrocities that left thousands dead in America.

Here Bruce George, chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee, and former Armed Forces Minister Doug Henderson, tell BBC News Online what they think should happen next.


Bruce George, Labour MP for Walsall South:

It sounds like excessive party loyalty, but I think that the government is doing exactly what it ought to do.

The UK is doing more than some other countries, and is planning to help the US rather than simply saying the right words at the right time.


We should not sink to the same level as the terrorists who were indiscriminate in those they killed

Bruce George
I think the response needs to be proportionate. By that I don't mean that because x number of people were killed in the US that x number of people should be killed in return.

I mean that it should be directed to those responsible - the terrorists themselves, and if any governments are implicated, who have given them comfort, intelligence, money or false passports, they may be targeted as well.

We should not sink to the same level as the terrorists, who were indiscriminate in those they killed.

Some innocent people may be killed, but if no action were taken it would make things worse.

Even if our attacks were successful, terrorists have a strong ability to regenerate themselves, so this is likely to be a continuous process.

Collective action

It is also important that any response is part of a collective action. If nothing were done it would only make the terrorists bolder.

If the US wishes the response to be broad, those who stand shoulder to shoulder with America must be able to have some influence.

The prime minister has been through wars before and has four years in office behind him, he can provide advice and experience.

Our response must be well thought out and it must be measured. If it does not succeed we could possibly be in a worse situation than we were before.

Tony Blair speaking in Downing Street on Sunday
Tony Blair has been through wars before
We need to be tough on terrorism and tough on the causes of terrorism - but we need to acknowledge that it does not exist in a vacuum.

There are some genuine grievances and if we can come to some political compromises this may dampen down the drive to terrorism.

We should also strive to re-activate the Middle East peace process.

I also worry about the effects of the events of last Tuesday on the internal politics of many countries, as those who seek to divide communities, and I don't just mean white racists, will play on them.

I have visited three mosques since last Tuesday as I am keen, as are many politicians, to reassure the Muslim community, that they are not seen as being in any way responsible for the attacks.

Not Christian vs Muslim

We must strive to make sure that this situation is not seen as being Christians vs Muslims.

As we endeavour to minimise and restrict terrorism some hitherto sacrosanct civil liberties may be affected as the state seeks to investigate this act and protect against others.

I hope parliament will scrutinise any such measures but I hope it will authorise greater freedom for the security services to read e-mails and faxes.

Identity cards are also something that may have to be talked about, and greater surveillance will be needed on suspected terrorist groups.

We must be prudent and cautious and not over react. Political and diplomatic efforts must be made to solve this crisis - but if fear there will be some military response.


Doug Henderson, Labour MP for Newcastle-upon-Tyne North

The government needs to try to help plans to apprehend the terrorists and also to put plans into effect to prevent this ever happening again.

The will need to carry at least some Arab opinion with them as they try and do this.

We need much better security on airlines and fewer planes flying over London. I don't know why they allow any planes to fly over central London.


Carpet bombing Kabul is pointless as it is already in rubble

Doug Henderson
If the terrorists attempt to resist arrest we will have to look at those nations harbouring them.

Whatever action is considered must be effective. Unless we know where they are, bombing won't work. Carpet bombing Kabul is pointless as it is already in rubble.

And without ground troops, it would be impossible to apprehend the terrorists effectively but as soon as these guys get any whiff of something happening they will hide away in the hills.

The intelligence agencies probably know more than they are telling us but efforts must be made to ensure their information is correct.

Whatever action we take must be cogent, effective and measured but we cannot hang about. Action has to be taken.

There may be some measures that will affect our own daily lives, like tighter procedures in airports.

But there is no point in being pious about this, to retaliate against the US attack just to appease public opinion is stupid, complaining about civil liberties when 5,000 people are dead is equally stupid.

Whatever measures are deemed appropriate to be taken, it is essential that they are explained to the public.

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