Tony Blair’s speech – A brief rebuttal

Here are my thoughts on Tony Blair’s speech, paragraph for paragraph. While my facts may be a little fuzzy I accept your comments, criticisms and any relevant information that would actually make my retorts sound more intelligible.

Sigh. I used to think Blair was cool.

Here begins the speech [and my response].

I beg to move the motion standing on the order paper in my name and those of my right honourable friends.

[ I beg to wipe the motion passed with the toilet paper with my name on it, as well as the arse of my dear friend George Bush. Kiss, kiss, kiss. ]

At the outset I say: it is right that this house debate this issue and pass judgment. That is the democracy that is our right but that others struggle for in vain.

[ How true. You’ve failed to take into consideration the opinions of the majority of Britons, protesting right outside your doorstep. ]

And again I say: I do not disrespect the views of those in opposition to mine.

[ Does that mean you respect them? ]

This is a tough choice. But it is also a stark one: to stand British troops down and turn back; or to hold firm to the course we have set.

[ To paraphrase it: It is stark if we keep the peace, but if we are to be firm we’ll have war. ]

I believe we must hold firm.

[ I believe you are wrong. ]

The question most often posed is not why does it matter? But why does it matter so much? Here we are, the government with its most serious test, its majority at risk, the first cabinet resignation over an issue of policy. The main parties divided.

[ Ironically, now the Conservatives support you more than your own party. ]

People who agree on everything else, disagree on this and likewise, those who never agree on anything, finding common cause. The country and parliament reflect each other, a debate that, as time has gone on has become less bitter but not less grave.

So: why does it matter so much? Because the outcome of this issue will now determine more than the fate of the Iraqi regime and more than the future of the Iraqi people, for so long brutalised by Saddam. It will determine the way Britain and the world confront the central security threat of the 21st century; the development of the UN; the relationship between Europe and the US; the relations within the EU and the way the US engages with the rest of the world. It will determine the pattern of international politics for the next generation.

[ The development of the UN? Don’t make me laugh – you’re more than ready to bypass the Security Council to wage a private war of your own, with the United States. Don’t give me this bull****. ]

But first, Iraq and its WMD.

In April 1991, after the Gulf war, Iraq was given 15 days to provide a full and final declaration of all its WMD.

[ This is a listing of facts, not opinions, and until I receive information to the contrary I shall not dispute this area of his speech. ]

Saddam had used the weapons against Iran, against his own people, causing thousands of deaths. He had had plans to use them against allied forces. It became clear after the Gulf war that the WMD ambitions of Iraq were far more extensive than hitherto thought. This issue was identified by the UN as one for urgent remedy. Unscom, the weapons inspection team, was set up. They were expected to complete their task following the declaration at the end of April 1991.

… [ I’ve taken this whole chunk out because it’s pretty long and I have no comments to the contrary ] …

But the world is ever more interdependent. Stock markets and economies rise and fall together. Confidence is the key to prosperity. Insecurity spreads like contagion. So people crave stability and order.

[ And you still propose war? ]

The threat is chaos. And there are two begetters of chaos. Tyrannical regimes with WMD and extreme terrorist groups who profess a perverted and false view of Islam.

[ You and Bush might just create a third, erm, begetter. ]

Let me tell the house what I know. I know that there are some countries or groups within countries that are proliferating and trading in WMD, especially nuclear weapons technology.

[ Such as North Korea. I suggest you focus on them and not just solely on Iraq. ]

I know there are companies, individuals, some former scientists on nuclear weapons programmes, selling their equipment or expertise. I know there are several countries – mostly dictatorships with highly repressive regimes – desperately trying to acquire chemical weapons, biological weapons or, in particular, nuclear weapons capability. Some of these countries are now a short time away from having a serviceable nuclear weapon. This activity is not diminishing. It is increasing.

[ How disturbing. I believe the United States has developed the MOAB, which is far more powerful than any weapon Saddam possesses. And they are prepared to use it on Iraq. Who’s yer Daddy now? ]

We all know that there are terrorist cells now operating in most major countries. Just as in the last two years, around 20 different nations have suffered serious terrorist outrages. Thousands have died in them.

[ There must be a reason why these terrorists hate you. Perhaps you were directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of thousands of their own kind. ]

The purpose of terrorism lies not just in the violent act itself. It is in producing terror. It sets out to inflame, to divide, to produce consequences which they then use to justify further terror.

[ Like the terror you folks are going to strike into the hearts of Iraqi civilians who are unable to leave the country. Your troops had better take pains not to kill the little boy soldiers or the women – and remember, the US accidentally bombed a Chinese embassy not too long ago. ]/

Round the world it now poisons the chances of political progress: in the Middle East; in Kashmir; in Chechnya; in Africa.

[ Like the US did Communist Vietnam any good. Must we always make war to create peace? Not all the time. ]

The removal of the Taliban in Afghanistan dealt it a blow. But it has not gone away.

[ The US supported the Taliban initially, let us not forget that. It also supported Iraq against Iran in the 1980’s. ]

And these two threats have different motives and different origins but they share one basic common view: they detest the freedom, democracy and tolerance that are the hallmarks of our way of life.

[ No. They detest the instability created by your governments in their own country. The Palestinians till today have no country to call their own – thanks to the British. ]

At the moment, I accept that association between them is loose. But it is hardening.

[ Like your heart? ]

And the possibility of the two coming together – of terrorist groups in possession of WMD, even of a so-called dirty radiological bomb is now, in my judgement, a real and present danger.

[ Who? The US and the UK? ]

And let us recall: what was shocking about September 11 was not just the slaughter of the innocent; but the knowledge that had the terrorists been able to, there would have been not 3,000 innocent dead, but 30,000 or 300,000 and the more the suffering, the greater the terrorists’ rejoicing.

[ I agree that more violence is not the answer to violence, but as mentioned above there are reasons why these ‘terrorists’ hate some of you. You should try looking at the situation from their point of view sometime. ]

Three kilograms of VX from a rocket launcher would contaminate a quarter of a square kilometre of a city.

[ What about the ‘largest non-nuclear conventional weapon in existence’? ]

Millions of lethal doses are contained in one litre of Anthrax. 10,000 litres are unaccounted for. 11 September has changed the psychology of America. It should have changed the psychology of the world. Of course Iraq is not the only part of this threat. But it is the test of whether we treat the threat seriously.

[ I’m glad you remember that Osama’s still alive. It’s amazing how you talk about September 11 and Saddam in one breath, but completely neglect the Son of Laden. Folks, note that Blair has not mentioned his name in his entire speech! ]

Faced with it, the world should unite. The UN should be the focus, both of diplomacy and of action. That is what 1441 said. That was the deal. And I say to you to break it now, to will the ends but not the means that would do more damage in the long term to the UN than any other course.

To fall back into the lassitude of the last 12 years, to talk, to discuss, to debate but never act; to declare our will but not enforce it; to combine strong language with weak intentions, a worse outcome than never speaking at all.

[ So it’s better to carry out your actions, even if some of us think you’re doing the wrong thing, than to change your mind and sound like a wussy? ]

And then, when the threat returns from Iraq or elsewhere, who will believe us? What price our credibility with the next tyrant? No wonder Japan and South Korea, next to North Korea, has issued such strong statements of support.

[ You had better not lose this war, then. Else people will laugh at you not for breaking your promises, but for failing to carry them out. ]

I have come to the conclusion after much reluctance that the greater danger to the UN is inaction: that to pass resolution 1441 and then refuse to enforce it would do the most deadly damage to the UN’s future strength, confirming it as an instrument of diplomacy but not of action, forcing nations down the very unilateralist path we wish to avoid.

[ The greatest danger to the UN is to ignore its legitimacy. How can you possibly uphold its integrity and ignore the opinions of other UN members at the same time? ]

But there will be, in any event, no sound future for the UN, no guarantee against the repetition of these events, unless we recognise the urgent need for a political agenda we can unite upon.

[ That is true. Repeat the above sentence until some of it makes sense to you. ]

What we have witnessed is indeed the consequence of Europe and the United States dividing from each other. Not all of Europe – Spain, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Portugal – have all strongly supported us. And not a majority of Europe if we include, as we should, Europe’s new members who will accede next year, all 10 of whom have been in our support.

[ I believe the rest of Europe is now called ‘old’ by the US, which is rather strange to me. An order of fries, anyone? ]

But the paralysis of the UN has been born out of the division there is. And at the heart of it has been the concept of a world in which there are rival poles of power. The US and its allies in one corner. France, Germany, Russia and its allies in the other. I do not believe that all of these nations intend such an outcome. But that is what now faces us.

I believe such a vision to be misguided and profoundly dangerous. I know why it arises. There is resentment of US predominance.

There is fear of US unilateralism. People ask: do the US listen to us and our preoccupations? And there is perhaps a lack of full understanding of US preoccupations after 11th September. I know all of this. But the way to deal with it is not rivalry but partnership. Partners are not servants but neither are they rivals. I tell you what Europe should have said last September to the US. With one voice it should have said: we understand your strategic anxiety over terrorism and WMD and we will help you meet it.

[ So basically, Tony, you’re saying if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em? I thought you were a real man. It’s always easier to side with the greatest power than to hold true to your convictions. ]

We will mean what we say in any UN resolution we pass and will back it with action if Saddam fails to disarm voluntarily; but in return we ask two things of you: that the US should choose the UN path and you should recognise the fundamental overriding importance of re-starting the MEPP (Middle East Peace Process), which we will hold you to.

[ I’m a little confused here. So after you guys bomb Baghdad to smithereens, you’ll re-start the Middle East Peace Process? And what’s this about the US choosing the UN path, I thought you lot were parting ways with the UN. ]

I do not believe there is any other issue with the same power to re-unite the world community than progress on the issues of Israel and Palestine. Of course there is cynicism about recent announcements. But the US is now committed, and, I believe genuinely, to the roadmap for peace, designed in consultation with the UN. It will now be presented to the parties as Abu Mazen is confirmed in office, hopefully today.

[ The US wasn’t particularly interested prior to September 11 about world affairs. I can only hope that it will now enter the fray with a fuller understanding of the situation on both sides. ]

All of us are now signed up to its vision: a state of Israel, recognised and accepted by all the world, and a viable Palestinian state. And that should be part of a larger global agenda. On poverty and sustainable development. On democracy and human rights. On the good governance of nations.

[ That’s good to hear. Let’s see how you enforce this. ]

That is why what happens after any conflict in Iraq is of such critical significance.

[ Like, who gets the oil? ]

Here again there is a chance to unify around the UN. Let me make it clear.

There should be a new UN resolution following any conflict providing not just for humanitarian help but also for the administration and governance of Iraq. That must now be done under proper UN authorisation.

It should protect totally the territorial integrity of Iraq. And let the oil revenues – which people falsely claim we want to seize – be put in a trust fund for the Iraqi people administered through the UN.

And let the future government of Iraq be given the chance to begin the process of uniting the nation’s disparate groups, on a democratic basis, respecting human rights, as indeed the fledgling democracy in Northern Iraq – protected from Saddam for 12 years by British and American pilots in the no-fly zone – has done so remarkably.

And the moment that a new government is in place – willing to disarm Iraq of WMD – for which its people have no need or purpose – then let sanctions be lifted in their entirety.

[ Neither then do the peoples of any country need WMD. Including yours. ]

I have never put our justification for action as regime change. We have to act within the terms set out in resolution 1441. That is our legal base.

But it is the reason, I say frankly, why if we do act we should do so with a clear conscience and strong heart.

I accept fully that those opposed to this course of action share my detestation of Saddam. Who could not? Iraq is a wealthy country that in 1978, the year before Saddam seized power, was richer than Portugal or Malaysia.

Today it is impoverished, 60% of its population dependent on food aid. Thousands of children die needlessly every year from lack of food and medicine. Four million people out of a population of just over 20 million are in exile.

[ Thanks to US-imposed sanctions, I believe. The Gulf War was Saddam’s to blame for, I agree, but how Iraq was isolated thereafter did have negative effects on its people, many of whom I believe are innocent parties. ]

The brutality of the repression – the death and torture camps, the barbaric prisons for political opponents, the routine beatings for anyone or their families suspected of disloyalty are well documented.

[ All right, I can’t dispute that. ]

Just last week, someone slandering Saddam was tied to a lamp post in a street in Baghdad, his tongue cut out, mutilated and left to bleed to death, as a warning to others.

[ I can’t bear to imagine what he’d do to George Bush. ]

I recall a few weeks ago talking to an Iraqi exile and saying to her that I understood how grim it must be under the lash of Saddam.

“But you don’t”, she replied. “You cannot. You do not know what it is like to live in perpetual fear.”

And she is right. We take our freedom for granted. But imagine not to be able to speak or discuss or debate or even question the society you live in. To see friends and family taken away and never daring to complain. To suffer the humility of failing courage in face of pitiless terror. That is how the Iraqi people live. Leave Saddam in place and that is how they will continue to live.

We must face the consequences of the actions we advocate. For me, that means all the dangers of war. But for others, opposed to this course, it means – let us be clear – that the Iraqi people, whose only true hope of liberation lies in the removal of Saddam, for them, the darkness will close back over them again; and he will be free to take his revenge upon those he must know wish him gone.

[ It’s easy for YOU to face the consequences. You’re still in London, happily tucked away in Downing Street. There will be millions of war refugees in Iraq thanks to your actions. The place will be in chaos. Some people will die in the melee. Will you be proud of yourself then? ]

And if this house now demands that at this moment, faced with this threat from this regime, that British troops are pulled back, that we turn away at the point of reckoning, and that is what it means – what then?

[ Then we may have peace! ]

What will Saddam feel? Strengthened beyond measure. What will the other states who tyrannise their people, the terrorists who threaten our existence, what will they take from that? That the will confronting them is decaying and feeble. Who will celebrate and who will weep?

[ The stock markets. The oil companies. The … ]

And if our plea is for America to work with others, to be good as well as powerful allies, will our retreat make them multilateralist? Or will it not rather be the biggest impulse to unilateralism there could ever be. And what of the UN and the future of Iraq and the Middle East peace plan, devoid of our influence, stripped of our insistence? This house wanted this decision. Well it has it. Those are the choices. And in this dilemma, no choice is perfect, no cause ideal.

But on this decision hangs the fate of many things:

Of whether we summon the strength to recognise this global challenge of the 21st century and meet it.

Of the Iraqi people, groaning under years of dictatorship.

Of our armed forces – brave men and women of whom we can feel proud, whose morale is high and whose purpose is clear.

Of the institutions and alliances that will shape our world for years to come.

I can think of many things, of whether we summon the strength to recognise the global challenge of the 21st century and beat it, of the Iraqi people groaning under years of dictatorship, of our armed forces – brave men and women of whom we can feel proud, whose morale is high and whose purpose is clear – of the institutions and alliances that shape our world for years to come.

To retreat now, I believe, would put at hazard all that we hold dearest, turn the UN back into a talking shop, stifle the first steps of progress in the Middle East; leave the Iraqi people to the mercy of events on which we would have relinquished all power to influence for the better.

[ I wonder who’s turned the UN into a talking shop. The US could have done more to help the Middle East themselves. No problems with the Iraqi people bit though. ]

Tell our allies that at the very moment of action, at the very moment when they need our determination that Britain faltered. I will not be party to such a course. This is not the time to falter. This is the time for this house, not just this government or indeed this prime minister, but for this house to give a lead, to show that we will stand up for what we know to be right, to show that we will confront the tyrannies and dictatorships and terrorists who put our way of life at risk, to show at the moment of decision that we have the courage to do the right thing.

[ So you’ve got yourself into this narrow situation, and you don’t want to quit now because you’d look like a coward? A real coward is one who fails to listen to the voice of his people, of his party, and the rest of the world (the rest of the world not meaning the US). ]

I beg to move the motion.

[ I beg to take my leave. This is unbelievable. ]