How to stop Saddam when diplomacy fails

I do not normally bother to respond to the sort of vitriolic personal attacks that form the basis of John Pilger's article of 8 January. However, I find it odd that in elevating Tony Blair, Robin Cook and myself to the same "hall of muted fame" as Pol Pot, he should choose to say nothing about Saddam Hussein - a man who has one of the worst human rights records on the planet and who has used chemical weapons not only against his neighbours but against his own people as well.

Nowhere in his description of the suffering of the Iraqi people does Pilger find time to suggest that Saddam might be even partly responsible. This, after all, is a dictator who has spent billions of pounds on some 45 presidential palaces while his people are starving, and who insists on spending what little wealth his country has on developing chemical and biological weapons - weapons of mass destruction which, if used, would be capable of the most deadly holocaust the world has yet seen.

There can be few who doubt that Saddam must be stopped. I would merely ask John Pilger: if diplomacy fails, as it so clearly did with Saddam Hussein, what realistic alternative does he propose to the use of military force?

Rt Hon George Robertson MP
Secretary of State for Defence

This article first appeared in the 15 January 1999 issue of the New Statesman, A slight and delicate minister?