My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Saatchi on securing this debate, which focuses on an important issue affecting all parts of our society today. The special relationship between this country and the United States has been of great importance to this country for many years.
First, we need to be clear about definitions. It must be possible to question the approach of the Bush Administration without being labelled anti-American. Similarly, it must be possible to support the policy of the Administration without being labelled America’s poodle. A mature debate is essential.
We must return to the best traditions of the special relationship, which means being a critical friend and not one who occupies the role of unconditional associate in every circumstance. We need to be solid but not slavish in our approach to the United States. In regard to the real value of our special relationship, we can tell the truth candidly and boldly without damaging that relationship. Historically, we may be the junior partner in the relationship but that should not reduce our strength. I emphasise the contributions made by Winston Churchill with President Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher with Ronald Reagan and John Major with George Bush Senior. These Conservative Prime Ministers undertook this with skill and success. I agree with David Cameron that we have recently lost that art.
One of the prime reasons for any ill feelings towards America is its recent foreign policies, particularly the invasion of Iraq and subsequent lack of adequate planning. There was a detailed programme yesterday on BBC2 on the torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners at Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Some of the people who were tortured were innocent. There has also been disquiet relating to the rendition programme.
For America to gain the support of the various communities in this country and abroad, there needs to be an orderly withdrawal from Iraq and America needs to use its influence in finding a solution to the problems in Palestine. There needs to be a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue relating to Iran.
I commend and appreciate the gentle side of America. My wife and I, with other Muslims, were entertained by the American ambassador in breaking the Ramadan fast last week. Everyone at the American embassy was very polite and courteous. I chair the Conservative Muslim Forum; we have built a very healthy relationship with the cultural attaché at the embassy and we have held some fruitful meetings.