Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, seems to base his policy in the present crisis on: 1) the need to avoid killing innocent Iraqis; 2) the need to uphold the authority of the United Nations; and 3) the need to avoid association with the crudities of the present American administration.
People assert that 100,000 or more Iraqis will be killed by the Anglo-American military action. Probably ten times that number have been killed by Saddam Hussein, often in the most atrocious circumstances, such as the torture of children. Until Saddam is got rid of, such crimes and the prevalence of disease and malnutrition among the Iraqis, to which Mr Kennedy referred in his speech at Torquay on 16 March, will continue.
It is impossible to believe that the authority of the United Nations will be strengthened by allowing a dictator to defy 17 supposedly mandatory resolutions of the Security Council. In any case, the Liberal Democrats distinguished themselves by leading the call for military action against Milosevic over Kosovo although there was no explicit UN resolution authorising the use of military force; although, in international law, Kosovo was an internal problem of Yugoslavia; and although Milosevic posed no direct threat to the United Kingdom.
It is true that the present American administration must be the most stupid and unattractive since that of Calvin Coolidge. But just as, confronted in 1939 with the choice between Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler, the 'good Lord Mayor of Birmingham in a lean year' had to be supported, so, now, it is better to be embarrassed by alliance with George Bush than shamed by allowing Saddam Hussein to continue to defy all concepts of elementary decency and the minimum respect for international law.
At their Brighton conference last September, the Liberal Democrats gave general approval to a document, 'It's About Freedom', that stated, inter alia: 'It has been clearly if not always effectively recognised that states cannot engage in genocide without incurring intervention by the international community. It is increasingly recognised that gross human-rights abuses within a country can justify at least political and economic sanctions, and in some circumstances military action.
'The international community is also beginning to develop, with difficulty, the concept of a