Date: Wed 01 Oct 2003 - 03:42:56 GMT
Iraq has divided the international community. It has divided the
party, the country, families, friends. I know many people are
disappointed, hurt, angry. I know many profoundly believe the
action we took was wrong . I do not at all disrespect anyone who
disagrees with me. I ask just one thing: attack my decision but at
least understand why I took it and why I would take the same
Imagine you are PM. And you receive this intelligence. And not
just about Iraq. But about the whole murky trade in WMD. And
one thing we know. Not from intelligence. But from historical
fact. That Saddam's regime has not just developed but used such
weapons gassing thousands of his own people. And has lied about
it consistently, concealing it for years even under the noses of the
And I see the terrorism and the trade in WMD growing. And I
look at Saddam's country and I see its people in torment ground
underfoot by his and his sons' brutality and wickedness. So what
do I do? Say "I've got the intelligence but I've a hunch its wrong?"
Leave Saddam in place but now with the world's democracies
humiliated and him emboldened?
You see, I believe the security threat of the 21st century is not
countries waging conventional war. I believe that in today's
interdependent world the threat is chaos. It is fanaticism defeating
Suppose the terrorists repeated September 11th or worse. Suppose
they got hold of a chemical or biological or nuclear dirty bomb;
and if they could, they would. What then?
And if it is the threat of the 21st century, Britain should be in
there helping confront it, not because we are America's poodle,
but because dealing with it will make Britain safer.
There was no easy choice. So whatever we each of us thought, let
us agree on this. We who started the war must finish the peace.
Those British soldiers who died are heroes. We didn't regret the
fall of Milosovic, the removal of the Taliban or the liberation of
Sierra Leone and whatever the disagreement Iraq is a better
country without Saddam.
And why do I stay fighting to keep in there with America on the
one hand and Europe on the other? Because I know terrorism can't
be defeated unless America and Europe work together. And it's
not so much American unilateralism I fear. It's isolation. It's
walking away when we need America there engaged. Fighting to
get world trade opened up. Fighting to give hope to Africa.
Changing its position for the future of the world, on climate
change. And staying with it in the Middle East, telling Israel and
the Palestinians: don't let the extremists decide the fate of the
peace process, when the only hope is two states living side by side
And it's not Britain being swallowed up in some European federal
nightmare as if Britain wasn't strong enough to hold its own, that I
fear. It's Britain leaving the centre of Europe retreating to its
margin at the very moment when the fate of Europe is being
decided, 10 new nations and Britain's leadership has never been
more essential. That's why apart from all the good economic
reasons it is madness for Britain to give up the option of joining
And I know both on terrorism and on Europe my views cause
offence. But I can no more concede to parts of the left on the one
than I can genuflect to the right over the other. Because I believe
both positions are vital in delivering justice in a modern world.
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