Blair makes case for moral war - Part II

Friday, March 7, 2003

Here is the second of two excerpts from Great Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech to a Labour Party gathering about Iraq. The first part (published on Thursday's Opinion page) reviewed the background of the situation. Part II of his remarks makes the MORAL ARGUMENT for military action in IRAQ, using unilateral force if need be.

Part II

If I am honest about it, there is another reason why I feel so strongly about this issue. It is a reason less to do with my being prime minister than being a member of the Labour Party, to do with the progressive politics in which we believe. The moral case against war has a moral answer: It is the moral case for removing Saddam. It is not the reason we act. That must be according to the United Nations mandate on weapons of mass destruction. But it is the reason, frankly, why if we do have to act, we should do so with a clear conscience.

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 1,000 Iraqi children die before the age of five -- 70 percent of these deaths are from diarrhea and respiratory infections that are easily preventable. Where almost a third of children born in the center and south of Iraq have chronic malnutrition. Where 60 percent of the people depend on food aid.

Where half the population or 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 Shi'i Muslims in Southern Iraq and Muslim 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 who 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. I rejoice that we live in a country where peaceful protest is a natural part of our democratic process.

But I ask the marchers to understand this.

I do not seek unpopularity as a badge of honor. But sometimes it is the price of leadership. And the cost of conviction.

But as you watch your TV pictures of the march, ponder this: If there are 500,000 on the march, that is still less than the number of people whose deaths Saddam has been responsible for.

If there are one million, that is still less than the number of people who died in the wars he started.

Let me read from an e-mail that was sent by a member of the family of one of those four million Iraqi exiles. It is interesting because she is fiercely and I think wrongly critical of America. But in a sense for that reason, it is worth reading.

She addresses it to the anti-war movement. In one part, she says: 'You may feel that America is trying to blind you from seeing the truth about their real reasons for an invasion. I must argue that in fact, you are still blind to the bigger truths in Iraq. Saddam has murdered more than a million Iraqis over the past 30 years, are you willing to allow him to kill another million Iraqis? Saddam rules Iraq using fear -- he regularly imprisons, executes and tortures the mass population for no reason whatsoever -- this may be hard to believe and you may not even appreciate the extent of such barbaric acts, but believe me you will be hard pressed to find a family in Iraq who have not had a son, father, brother killed, imprisoned, tortured and/or "disappeared" due to Saddam's regime.

Why it is now that you deem it appropriate to voice your disillusions with America's policy in Iraq, when it is right now that the Iraqi people are being given real hope, however slight and however precarious, that they can live in an Iraq that is free of its horrors? We will give the e-mail to delegates. Read it all. It is the reason why I do not shrink from action against Saddam if it proves necessary.

Read the letter sent to me by Dr. Safa Hashim, who lives here in Glasgow, and who says he is writing despite his fears of Iraqi retribution. He says the principle of opposing war by the public is received warmly by Iraqis for it reveals the desire of people to avoid suffering. But he says it misses the point -- because the Iraqi people need Saddam removed as a way of ending their suffering. Dr. Hashim says: "The level of their suffering is beyond anything that British people can possibly envisage, let alone understand his obsession to develop and possess weapons of mass destruction. Do the British public know that it is normal practice for Saddam's regime to demand the cost of the bullet used in the execution of their beloved family members and not even to allow a proper funeral? If the international community does not take note of the Iraqi people's plight but continues to address it casually this will breed terrorism and extremism within the Iraqi people. This cannot be allowed to happen." Remember Kosovo where we were told war would destabilize the whole of the Balkans and that region now has the best chance of peace in over 100 years. Remember Afghan-istan, where now, despite all the huge problems, there are three million children in school, including for the first time in over two decades 1.5 million girls and where two million Afghan exiles from the Taliban have now returned? So if the result of peace is Saddam staying in power, not disarmed, then I tell you there are consequences paid in blood for that decision too. But these victims will never be seen. They will never be featured on our TV screens or inspire millions to take to the streets. But they will exist nonetheless.

Ridding the world of Saddam would be an act of humanity. It is leaving him there that is in truth inhumane.

And if it does come to this, let us be clear: We should be as committed to the humanitarian task of rebuilding Iraq for the Iraqi people as we have been to removing Saddam.

Gary Rust is the chairman of Rust Communications.

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