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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 October, 2003, 17:58 GMT 18:58 UK
Emotions dominate Iraq debate
by Jackie Storer
BBC News Online political staff

You could sense that the horrific images were flickering through her mind as she tried to hold it together in front of the Labour party conference.

The machines used to crush the chests and stomachs of Saddam Hussein's victims. His chemical attack on Halabja, which killed 5,000 Kurds.

Ann Clwyd
Ms Clwyd received a warm ovation
Events no human should have known about.

But it was as she described a visit to some of Iraq's so-called "killing fields", that Ann Clwyd, a human rights campaigner and MP, was reduced to tears.

"You never forget when a woman pushes a dead baby into your arms," she said grimly.

"I saw the skeletons of men, women and children being dug up in one mass grave ..."

The people of Iraq could not have toppled this regime on their own. They tried and they failed
Ann Clwyd

Ms Clwyd, the government's Iraq envoy, had been taking part in a debate on Britain and the world, which was dominated by passionate speeches on the rights and wrongs of the second Gulf war.

The MP, who supported military intervention, said she had three minutes to distil 25 years of human rights campaigning into three minutes.

Her moving account received a hearty standing ovation from the Bournemouth conference.

Emotionally charged

Ms Clwyd's voice wavered as she told how during a recent visit to Baghdad, she met ex-political prisoners, some with amputated hands and ears, along with "men, as well as women, who were systematically raped".

For over 20 years she had believed in regime change. "The people of Iraq could not have toppled this regime on their own. They tried and they failed," she said.

"They, the victims, needed our help. I believe, as do most of the Iraqi people ... that for the sake of their human rights alone that Tony Blair did the moral and courageous thing in destroying the evil and the terror of Saddam Hussein."

Please think. Support the troops. Tony Blair made a difficult decision. We can't walk away now. We are there
Mary Chapple
Mother of British serviceman

As she emotionally explained her support for the war, her colleague and friend, the Halifax MP Alice Mahon, accused ministers of "lying" to the country about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, adding that there was no other "delicate way of putting it".

She said the world was now a more dangerous place to live in, following the removal of Saddam Hussein.

"We were seriously misled," she insisted. The UK had been told WMD could be activated in 45 minutes. There had been "dodgy" dossiers.

She claimed al-Qaeda "were never in Iraq, but I bet they are now". The fact the conference did not have a vote on Iraq was "a disgrace".

'People misled'

Mick Hogg, from the RMT, drew applause when he argued: "It's a tragedy and a shame that a government of Labour, the party of peace and justice, has taken us to war for reasons that have been exposed as untrue.

"The British people were misled about WMD and the whole world knows that Iraq's oil reserves are the second biggest in the world."

Hecklers were out for Jimmy Elsby, of the TGWU, when he argued that if the US and UK had listened to the millions who demonstrated against the war, "Iraq would not be denied the right of human life ..."

The audience then had their heart strings tugged another way, when Mary Chapple, from Amicus/AEU, told how her son helped to liberate the people of Kuwait during the first Gulf war.

"Whatever your views, they are your views. But let me tell you this: my son will do his duty and no way will my son walk away from the people of Iraq."

Ms Chapple said her son and daughter-in-law will be going out to Iraq later this year, along with many other men and women "belonging to mothers like me".

"Please think. Support the troops. Tony Blair made a difficult decision. We can't walk away now. We are there."

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