I sincerely hope that George Bush thanks God for Tony Blair every night in his prayers. Blair is a great leader, thinker and speaker. After the Security Council debacle Friday, this speech couldn’t have come at a more important time:
- We will come through it by holding firm to what we believe in. One such belief is in the United Nations. I continue to want to solve the issue of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction through the UN. That is why last November we insisted on putting UN inspectors back into Iraq to disarm it.
Dr Blix reported to the UN yesterday and there will be more time given to inspections. He will report again on 28 February. But let no one forget two things. To anyone familiar with Saddam’s tactics of deception and evasion, there is a weary sense of déjà vu. As ever, at the last minute, concessions are made. And as ever, it is the long finger that is directing them. The concessions are suspect. Unfortunately the weapons are real.
….The time needed is not the time it takes the inspectors to discover the weapons. They are not a detective agency. We played that game for years in the 1990s. The time is the time necessary to make a judgment: is Saddam prepared to co-operate fully or not. If he is, the inspectors can take as much time as they want. If he is not, if this is a repeat of the 1990s – and I believe it is – then let us be under no doubt what is at stake.
….Remember: the UN inspectors would not be within a thousand miles of Baghdad without the threat of force. Saddam would not be making a single concession without the knowledge that forces were gathering against him. I hope, even now, Iraq can be disarmed peacefully, with or without Saddam. But if we show weakness now, if we allow the plea for more time to become just an excuse for prevarication until the moment for action passes, then it will not only be Saddam who is repeating history. The menace, and not just from Saddam, will grow; the authority of the UN will be lost; and the conflict when it comes will be more bloody. Yes, let the United Nations be the way to deal with Saddam. But let the United Nations mean what it says; and do what it means.
What is the menace we speak of? It is not just Saddam. We are living through insecure times. Wars; terrorist threats; suddenly things that seem alien to us are on our doorstep, threatening our way of life.
….What do they have in common these twins of chaos – terrorism and rogue states with Weapons of Mass Destruction? They are answerable to no democratic mandate, so are unrestrained by the will of ordinary people. They are extreme and inhumane. They detest and fear liberal, democratic and tolerant values. And their aim is to de-stabilise us.
September 11th didn’t just kill thousands of innocent people. It was meant to bring down the Western economy. It did not do so. But we live with the effects of it even today in economic confidence. It was meant to divide Muslim and Christian, Arab and Western nations, and to provoke us to hate each other. It didn’t succeed but that is what it was trying to do.
These states developing Weapons of Mass Destruction, proliferating them, importing or exporting the scientific expertise, the ballistic missile technology; the companies and individuals helping them: they don’t operate within any international treaties. They don’t conform to any rules. North Korea is a country whose people are starving and yet can spend billions of dollars trying to perfect a nuclear bomb. Iraq, under Saddam became the first country to use chemical weapons against its own people. Are we sure that if we let him keep and develop such weapons, he would not use them again against his neighbours, against Israel perhaps? Saddam the man who killed a million people in an eight year war with Iran, and then, having lost it, invaded Kuwait? Or the other nations scrabbling to get a foot on the nuclear ladder, are we happy that they do so?
And the terrorist groups already using chemical and biological agents with money to spend, do we really believe that if Al Qaida could get a dirty bomb they wouldn’t use it? And then think of the consequences. Already there is fear and anxiety, undermining confidence. Think of the consequences then. Think of a nation using a nuclear device, no matter how small, no matter how distant the land. Think of the chaos it would cause.
….When people say if you act, you will provoke these people; when they say now: take a lower profile and these people will leave us alone, remember: Al Qaida attacked the US, not the other way round. Were the people of Bali in the forefront of the anti-terror campaign? Did Indonesia ‘make itself a target’? The terrorists won’t be nice to us if we’re nice to them. When Saddam drew us into the Gulf War, he wasn’t provoked. He invaded Kuwait.
So: where has it come to? Everyone agrees Saddam must be disarmed. Everyone agrees without disarmament, he is a danger.
No-one seriously believes he is yet co-operating fully. In all honesty, most people don’t really believe he ever will. So what holds people back? What brings thousands of people out in protests across the world? And let’s not pretend, not really that in March or April or May or June, people will feel different. It’s not really an issue of timing or 200 inspectors versus 100. It is a right and entirely understandable hatred of war. It is moral purpose, and I respect that.
It is as one woman put it to me: I abhor the consequences of war.
….Yes, there are consequences of war. If we remove Saddam by force, people will die and some will be innocent. And we must live with the consequences of our actions, even the unintended ones.
But there are also consequences of “stop the war”.
If I took that advice, and did not insist on disarmament, yes, there would be no war. But there would still be Saddam. Many of the people marching will say they hate Saddam. But the consequences of taking their advice is that he stays in charge of Iraq, ruling the Iraqi people. A country that in 1978, the year before he seized power, was richer than Malaysia or Portugal. A country where today, 135 out of every 1000 Iraqi children die before the age of five – 70% of these deaths are from diarrhoea and respiratory infections that are easily preventable. Where almost a third of children born in the centre and south of Iraq have chronic malnutrition.
Where 60% of the people depend on Food Aid.
Where half the population of rural areas have no safe water.
Where every year and now, as we speak, tens of thousands of political prisoners languish in appalling conditions in Saddam’s jails and are routinely executed.
Where in the past 15 years over 150,000 Shia Moslems in Southern Iraq and Moslem Kurds in Northern Iraq have been butchered; with up to four million Iraqis in exile round the world, including 350,000 now in Britain.
This isn’t a regime with Weapons of Mass Destruction that is otherwise benign. This is a regime that contravenes every single principle or value anyone of our politics believes in.
There will be no march for the victims of Saddam, no protests about the thousands of children that die needlessly every year under his rule, no righteous anger over the torture chambers which if he is left in power, will be left in being.
Reasonable people ask if war is worth the cost – this is why it is. Thanks Tony, again.