Blair Says Freedom, Liberty Best Weapons Against Terrorism
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 17, 2003 The values of liberty and freedom are America's and Great Britain's best weapons against terrorism, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told a joint meeting of Congress July 17.
Blair, interrupted by standing ovations a number of times, told the legislators that the spread of freedom is the best security for the free.
"It is our last line of defense and our first line of attack," he said. "And just as the terrorist seeks to divide humanity in hate, so we have to unify around an idea. And that idea is liberty."
Blair went right to the heart of debate over weapons of mass destruction in his speech. Many people allege that Blair and President Bush exaggerated claims that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons. But, Blair said, there is a link between dictatorships developing weapons of mass destruction and terrorist organizations. He pointed to the Taliban supporting al Qaeda.
"We know there are states in the Middle East now actively funding and helping people who regard it as God's will in the act of suicide to take as many innocent lives with them on their way to God's judgment," he said.
Some states are seeking nuclear weapons, and North Korea, he said, "lets its people starve while spending billions of dollars on developing nuclear weapons and exporting the technology abroad. This isn't fantasy. It is 21st century reality and it confronts us now," he said.
There is a danger of rogue states joining with terrorist groups, he said. "If we are wrong (about this), we will have destroyed a threat that, at its least, is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering. That is something I am confident history will forgive," he said.
"If we are right, as I believe with every fiber of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in the face of this menace when we should have given leadership. That is something history will not forgive."
Blair said that free people must stand up. "There is a myth that though we love freedom, others don't; that our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture; that freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law are American values or Western values; that Afghan women were content under the lash of the Taliban; that Saddam (Hussein) was somehow beloved by his people; that (Slobodan) Milosevic was Serbia's savior," he said.
"Members of Congress, ours are not Western values. They are the universal values of the human spirit, and anywhere, ... any time ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same: freedom, not tyranny; democracy, not dictatorship; the rule of law, not the rule of the secret police."
Countries that believe in freedom must come to the aid of places like Afghanistan and Iraq, Blair said. If more forces are needed in Afghanistan, he continued, then it is the responsibility of the coalition to provide them.
"We promised Iraq democratic government. We will deliver it," he said. "We promised them the chance to use their oil wealth to build prosperity for all their citizens, not a corrupt elite, and we will do so. We will stay with these people so in need of our help until the job is done."
Helping Iraq and Afghanistan become free, prosperous and independent nations would show the rest of the world that the United States and Great Britain are not out for conquest, but peace, he said. "How risible would be the claims that these were wars on Muslims if the world could see these Muslim nations still Muslim, but with some hope for the future, not shackled by brutal regimes whose principal victims were the very Muslims they pretended to protect?" he said. "It would be the most richly observed advertisement for the values of freedom we can imagine."
The United States must act. It is the only country in the world that can do so, Blair pointed out. Citizens of the United States believe in freedom. "It's a battle worth fighting," he said. "And I know it's hard on America. And in some small corner of this vast country, ... there's a guy getting on with his life perfectly happily, minding his own business saying to you, 'Why me, and why us, and why America?' And the only answer is, 'Because destiny put you in this place in history in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do.'"
But America must listen to allies and fiends around the world. The United States and Europe must unite to defeat the terrorist scourge, Blair said. He told Congress that the United States and Europe can work together. "America must listen as well as lead," Blair said.
"But, ... don't ever apologize for your values. Tell the world why you're proud of America. Tell them when 'The Star-Spangled Banner' starts, Americans get to their feet - - Hispanics, Irish, Italians, Central Europeans, East Europeans, Jews, Muslims, white, Asian, black, those who go back to the early settlers, and those whose English is the same as some New York cab drivers I've dealt with, but whose sons and daughters could run for this Congress.
"Tell them why Americans, one and all, stand upright and respectful not because some state official told them to, but because whatever race, color, class or creed they are, being American means being free. That's why they're proud."