September 29, 2004

OFF-TOPIC: Blair’s Eloquence

I know Blair and Bush share the same principled style of leadership. I just wish President Bush was able to articulate it as well as Blair. Wow. Blair is an absolutely amazing man and leader. England is extremely fortunate to have him at the helm during these trying times.

Here is an excerpt of his recent speech, I’m assuming to Parliament. I’m only sharing the part about Iraq and America:

But on the issues we have just discussed - the normal run of politics, you feel, the country feels reasonably confident.

The problem of trust isn’t primarily that, is it?

It is over the decisions I have taken, the judgements about our future security I have made since I stood here in this hall, about to address the TUC on September 11th three years ago.

And since then, as with every other country and its leaders the world over, those with America, those against it, political life has been dominated in a way we never foresaw.

There was talk before this conference that I wanted to put aside discussion of Iraq.

That was never my intention.

I want to deal with it head on.

The evidence about Saddam having actual biological and chemical weapons, as opposed to the capability to develop them, has turned out to be wrong.

I acknowledge that and accept it.

I simply point out, such evidence was agreed by the whole international community, not least because Saddam had used such weapons against his own people and neighbouring countries.

And the problem is, I can apologise for the information that turned out to be wrong, but I can’t, sincerely at least, apologise for removing Saddam.

The world is a better place with Saddam in prison not in power.

But at the heart of this, is a belief that the basic judgment I have made since September 11th, including on Iraq, is wrong, that by our actions we have made matters worse not better.

I know this issue has divided the country.

I entirely understand why many disagree.

I know, too, that as people see me struggling with it, they think he’s stopped caring about us; or worse he’s just pandering to George Bush and what’s more in a cause that’s irrelevant to us.

It’s been hard for you.

Like the delegate who told me: “I’ve defended you so well to everyone I’ve almost convinced myself.”

Do I know I’m right?

Judgements aren’t the same as facts.

Instinct is not science.

I’m like any other human being, as fallible and as capable of being wrong.

I only know what I believe.

There are two views of what is happening in the world today.

One view is that there are isolated individuals, extremists, engaged in essentially isolated acts of terrorism.

That what is happening is not qualitatively different from the terrorism we have always lived with.

If you believe this, we carry on the same path as before 11th September.

We try not to provoke them and hope in time they will wither.

The other view is that this is a wholly new phenomenon, worldwide global terrorism based on a perversion of the true, peaceful and honourable faith of Islam; that’s its roots are not superficial but deep, in the madrassehs of Pakistan, in the extreme forms of Wahabi doctrine in Saudi Arabia, in the former training camps of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan; in the cauldron of Chechnya; in parts of the politics of most countries of the Middle East and many in Asia; in the extremist minority that now in every European city preach hatred of the West and our way of life.

If you take this view, you believe September 11th changed the world; that Bali, Beslan, Madrid and scores of other atrocities that never make the news are part of the same threat and the only path to take is to confront this terrorism, remove it root and branch and at all costs stop them acquiring the weapons to kill on a massive scale because these terrorists would not hesitate to use them.

Likewise take the first view, then when you see the terror brought to Iraq you say: there, we told you; look what you have stirred up; now stop provoking them.

But if you take the second view, you don’t believe the terrorists are in Iraq to liberate it.

They’re not protesting about the rights of women - what, the same people who stopped Afghan girls going to school, made women wear the Burka and beat them in the streets of Kabul, who now assassinate women just for daring to register to vote in Afghanistan’s first ever democratic ballot, though four million have done so?

They are not provoked by our actions; but by our existence.

They are in Iraq for the very reason we should be.

They have chosen this battleground because they know success for us in Iraq is not success for America or Britain or even Iraq itself but for the values and way of life that democracy represents.

They know that.

That’s why they are there.

That is why we should be there and whatever disagreements we have had, should unite in our determination to stand by the Iraqi people until the job is done.

And, of course, at first the consequence is more fighting.

But Iraq was not a safe country before March 2003.

Few had heard of the Taliban before September 11th 2001.

Afghanistan was not a nation at peace.

So it’s not that I care more about foreign affairs than the state of our economy, NHS, schools or crime.

It’s simply that I believe democracy there means security here; and that if I don’t care and act on this terrorist threat, then the day will come when all our good work on the issues that decide people’s lives will be undone because the stability on which our economy, in an era of globalisation, depends, will vanish.

I never expected this to happen on that bright dawn of 1 May 1997.

I never anticipated spending time on working out how terrorists trained in a remote part of the Hindu Kush could end up present on British streets threatening our way of life.

And the irony for me is that I, as a progressive politician, know that despite the opposition of so much of progressive politics to what I’ve done, the only lasting way to defeat this terrorism is through progressive politics.

Salvation will not come solely from a gunship.

Military action will be futile unless we address the conditions in which this terrorism breeds and the causes it preys upon.

That is why it is worth staying the course to bring democracy Iraq and Afghanistan, because then people the world over will see that this is not and has never been some new war of religion; but the oldest struggle humankind knows, between liberty or oppression, tolerance or hate; between government by terror or by the rule of law.

And let us demonstrate to Muslims here in Britain that these are values we apply to all our citizens, and change the law to make religious discrimination unlawful as we do with race, gender and disability.

This party knows the depth of my commitment to the Middle East peace process and shares my frustration at the lack of progress.

After November I will make its revival a personal priority.

Two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in an enduring peace would do more to defeat this terrorism than bullets alone can ever do.

Britain is now, committed for the first time in our history to the UN aid target of 0.7 per cent.

Next year as president of the G8 along with action on climate change, we will try for consensus on a new plan for Africa, that not only on aid and trade but on conflict resolution, on fighting corruption, on the killer diseases Aids, malaria and TB, on education, water, infrastructure.

A plan to lift that continent in hope and lift from ourselves the shame that so many human beings live and die in misery when we know together we could stop it; and when unchecked this misery some time, somewhere in the future will threaten us.

But understand this reality.

Little of it will happen except in alliance with the United States of America.

And here am I, told by the pro-Europeans to give up on America and the Atlanticists to forget about Europe.

And yet I know Britain must be at the centre of a Europe now 25 nations reunited after centuries of conflict the biggest economic market and most powerful political union in the world and I know that to retreat from its counsels would be utter self-defeating folly.

And I know to cast out the transatlantic alliance would be disastrous for Britain.

And I believe so strongly that if Europe and America could only put aside their differences and united around a common cause, the future could be different and better.

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