Saturday December 04, 2021

Tony Blair Addresses U.S. Congress

July 17, 2003

This is the official transcript of the address given to the United States Congress by the UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair:

Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Mr Speaker, Mr Vice President, Honourable Members of Congress. Thank you most sincerely for voting to award me the Congressional Gold Medal.  But you, like me, know who the real heroes are: those brave servicemen and women, yours and ours, who fought the war, and risk their lives still.

Our tribute to them should be measured in this way: by showing them and their families that they did not strive or die in vain but that through their sacrifice, future generations can live in greater peace, prosperity and hope.

Let me also express my gratitude to President Bush.   Through the troubled times since September 11th changed the world, we have been allies and friends.  Thank you, Mr President, for your leadership.

I feel a most urgent sense of mission about today's world.  September 11th was not an isolated event, but a tragic prologue.  Iraq; another Act; and many further struggles will be set upon this stage before it's over. 

There never has been a time when the power of America was so necessary; or so misunderstood; or when, except in the most general sense, a study of history provides so little instruction for our present day.

We were all reared on battles between great warriors, between great nations, between powerful forces and ideologies that dominated entire continents.  These were struggles for conquest, for land or money.  The wars were fought by massed armies.  The leaders were openly acknowledged: the outcomes decisive.  Today, none of us expect our soldiers to fight a war on our territory.  The immediate threat is not war between the world's powerful nations.  Why?  Because we all have too much to lose.

Because technology, communication, trade and travel are bringing us ever closer. Because in the last 50 years countries like yours and mine have trebled their growth and standard of living.  Because even those powers like Russia, China or India,  can see the horizon of future wealth clearly and know they are on a steady road toward it.  And because all nations that are free, value that freedom, will defend it absolutely but have no wish to trample on the freedom of others.

We are bound together as never before.

This coming together provides us with unprecedented opportunity but also makes us uniquely vulnerable. 

The threat comes because, in another part of the globe, there is shadow and darkness where not all the world is free, where many millions suffer under brutal dictatorship; where a third of our planet lives in a poverty beyond anything even the poorest in our societies can imagine; and where a fanatical strain of religious extremism has arisen, that is a mutation of the true and peaceful faith of Islam and because in the combination of these afflictions, a new and deadly virus has emerged.

The virus is terrorism, whose intent to inflict destruction is unconstrained by human feeling; and whose capacity to inflict it is enlarged by technology.

This is a battle that can't be fought or won only by armies.  We are so much more powerful in all conventional ways than the terrorist.  Yet even in all our might, we are taught humility.  In the end, it is not our power alone that will defeat this evil.  Our ultimate weapon is not our guns but our beliefs.

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 was beloved by his people.   That Milosevic was Serbia's saviour.

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.

The spread of freedom is the best security for the free.  It is our last line of defence and our first line of attack.

Just as the terrorist seeks to divide humanity in hate, so we have to unify it around an idea and that that idea is liberty. 

We must find the strength to fight for this idea; and the compassion to make it universal.

Abraham Lincoln said: those that deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.

It is a sense of justice that makes moral the love of liberty.

In some cases, where our security is under direct threat, we will have recourse to arms.  In others, it will be by force of reason.  But in all cases to the same end: that the liberty we seek is not for some but for all.

For that is the only true path to victory.

But first, we must explain the danger. Our new world rests on order.  The danger is disorder and in today's world it now spreads like contagion.

Terrorist and the states that support them don't have large armies or precision weapons.  They don't need them.  The weapon is chaos.

The purpose of terrorism is not the single act of wanton destruction.  It is the reaction it seeks to provoke: economic collapse; the backlash; the hatred; the division; the elimination of tolerance; until societies cease to reconcile their differences but become defined by them.  Kashmir, the Middle East, Chechyna, Indonesia, Africa.  Barely a continent or nation is unscathed.

The risk is that terrorism and states developing WMD come together.  When people say that risk is fanciful, I say:

We know the Taliban supported Al Qaida; we know Iraq under Saddam gave haven to and supported terrorists; 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 judgement.   Some of these states are desperately trying to acquire nuclear weapons.  We know that companies and individuals with expertise sell it to the highest bidder and we know at least one state, North Korea, that lets its people starve whilst 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.

Can we be sure that terrorism and WMD will join together?  Let us say one thing.  If we are wrong, 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.

But if our critics are wrong, if we are right as I believe with every fibre of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in face of this menace, when we should have given leadership.  That is something history will not forgive.

But precisely because the threat is new, it is not obvious.  It turns upside down our concepts of how we should act and when.  And it crosses the frontiers of many nations.  So just as it redefines our notions of security, so it must refine our notions of diplomacy.

There is no more dangerous theory in international politics today than that we need to balance the power of America with other competitor powers, different poles around which nations gather.  Such a theory made sense in 19th Century Europe.  It was perforce the position in the Cold War.  Today it is an anachronism to be discarded like traditional theories of security.

It is dangerous because it is not rivalry but partnership we need; a common will and a shared purpose in the face of a common threat.

Any alliance must start with America and Europe.  Believe me if Europe and America are together, the others will work with us.  But if we split, all the rest will play around, play us off and nothing but mischief will be the result of it.

You may think after recent disagreements it can't be done.  But the debate in Europe is open.  Iraq showed that, when, never forget, many European nations supported our action and it shows it still, when those that didn't, agreed Resolution 1483 in the UN for Iraq's reconstruction.  Today German soldiers lead in Afghanistan.  French soldiers lead in the Congo where they stand between peace and a return to genocide.

We should not minimise the differences.  But we should not let them confound us either.

People ask me, after the past months when let us say things were a trifle strained in Europe, why do you persist in wanting Britain at the centre of Europe? 

I say: maybe if the UK were a group of islands 20 miles off Manhattan I might feel differently; but we're 20 miles off Calais and joined by a Tunnel.  We are part of Europe - and want to be.

But we also want to be part of changing Europe.  Europe has one potential for weakness.  For reasons that are obvious - we spent roughly 1000 years killing each other in large numbers - the political culture of Europe is inevitably based on compromise.  Compromise is a fine thing except when based on an illusion. And I don't believe you can compromise with this new form of terrorism.

But Europe has a strength.  It is a formidable political achievement.  Think of its past and think of its unity today.  Think of it preparing to reach out even to Turkey, a nation of vastly different culture, tradition and religion, and welcome it in.

Now it is at a point of transformation.  Next year ten new countries will join.  Romania and Bulgaria will follow.  Why will these new European members transform Europe?

Because their scars are recent.  Their memories strong.  Their relationship with freedom still one of passion not comfortable familiarity.

They believe in the transatlantic alliance.

They support economic reform.

They want a Europe of nations not a super-state.

They are our allies.  And yours.

So don't give up on Europe.  Work with  it.

To be a serious partner, Europe must take on and defeat the crass anti-Americanism that sometimes passes for its political discourse.

What America must do is to show that this is a partnership built on persuasion not command.

Then the other great nations of our world and the small will gather around in one place not many.  And our understanding of this threat will become theirs.

The United Nations can then become what it should be: an instrument of action as well as debate.  The Security Council should be reformed.  We need a new international regime on the non-proliferation.  And we need to say clearly to UN members: if you engage in the systematic and gross abuse of human rights, in defiance of the UN charter, you can expect the same privileges as those that conform to it.

It is not the coalition that determines the mission but the mission, the coalition.  I agree.  But let us start preferring a coalition and acting alone if we have to; not the other way round.

True, winning wars is not easier that way.

But winning the peace is.

And we have to win both.  You have an extraordinary record of doing so.  Who helped Japan renew or Germany reconstruct or Europe get back on its feet after World War II?  America.

So when we invade Afghanistan or Iraq, our responsibility does not end with military victory.  Finishing the fighting is not finishing the job.

If Afghanistan needs more troops from the international community to police outside Kabul, our duty is to get them.  Let us help them eradicate their dependency on the poppy, the crop whose wicked residue turns up on the streets of Britain as heroin to destroy young British lives as much as their harvest warps the lives of Afghans.

We promised Iraq democratic government.  We will deliver it.

We promised them the chance to use their oil wealth to build prosperity for all their citizens not a corrupt elite.  We will do so.

We will stay with these people, so in need of our help, until the job is done.

And then reflect on this.

How hollow would the charges of American imperialism be when these failed countries are and are seen to be transformed from states of terror to nations of prosperity;

from governments of dictatorship to examples of democracy;

from sources of instability to beacons of calm.

And how risible would be the claims that these were wars on Muslims, if the world could see these Muslim nations still Muslim but Muslims with some hope for the future not shackled by brutal regimes whose principal victims were the very Muslims they pretended to protect?

It would be the most richly observed advertisement for the values of freedom we can imagine.

When we removed the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, this was not imperialism.  For those oppressed people, it was their liberation.

And why can the terrorists even mount an argument in the Muslim world that it isn't?  Because there is one cause terrorism rides upon.  A cause they have no belief in; but can manipulate.

I want to be very plain.  This terrorism will not be defeated without peace in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine.  Here it is that the poison is incubated.  Here it is that the extremist is able to confuse in the mind of a frighteningly large number of people, the case for a Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel; and to translate this moreover into a battle between East and West; Muslim, Jew and Christian.

We must never compromise the security of the state of Israel.

The state of Israel should be recognised by the entire Arab world.

The vile propaganda used to indoctrinate children not just against Israel but against Jews must cease.

You cannot teach people hate and then ask them to practice peace.

But neither can you teach people peace except by according them dignity and granting them hope.

Innocent Israelis suffer.

So do innocent Palestinians.

The ending of Saddam's regime in Iraq must be the starting point of a new dispensation for the Middle East.

Iraq: free and stable.

Iran and Syria, who give a haven to the rejectionist men of violence, made to realise that the world will no longer countenance it; that the hand of friendship can only be offered them if they resile completely from this malice; but that if they do, that hand will be there for them and their people.

The whole of the region helped towards democracy. 

And to symbolise it all, the creation of an independent, viable and democratic Palestinian state side by side with the state of Israel.

What the President is doing in the Middle East is tough but right.

And I thank the President for his support and that of President Clinton before him, and members of this Congress, for our attempts to bring peace to Northern Ireland.  One thing I've learnt about peace processes.   They're always frustrating, often agonising and occasionally seem hopeless.  But for all that, having a peace process is better than not having one.

And why has a resolution of Palestine such a powerful appeal across the world?

Because it embodies an even-handed approach to justice.

Just as when this President recommended and this Congress supported a $15 billion increase in spending on the world's poorest nations to combat HIV/AIDS it was a statement of concern that echoed rightly round the world. 

There can be no freedom for Africa without justice; and no justice without  declaring war on Africa's poverty, disease and famine with as much vehemence as we remove the tyrant and the terrorist.

In Mexico in September the world should unite and give us a trade round that opens up our markets.  I'm for free trade and I'll tell you why.  Because we can't say to the poorest people in the world: we want you to be free but just don't try to sell your goods in our market.  And because ever since the world started to open up, it has prospered.

That prosperity has to be sustainable too.

I remember at one of our earliest international meetings a European Prime Minister telling President Bush that the solution was simple: just double the tax on American gasoline.  He wasn't exactly enthusiastic.

But frankly, we need to go beyond Kyoto. Science and technology is the way.   Climate change, deforestation and the voracious drain on natural resources cannot be ignored.  Unchecked, these forces will hinder the economic development of the most vulnerable nations first, and ultimately, all nations.  We must show the world that we are willing to step up to these challenges around the world and in our own backyard.

If this seems a long way from the threat of terror and WMD it is only to say again that the world's security cannot be protected without the world's heart being won.

So: America must listen as well as lead.  But don't ever apologise for your values.

Tell the world why you're proud of America.  Tell them that when the star-spangled banner starts, Americans get to their feet: Hispanics, Irish, Italians, Central Americans, Eastern Europeans, Jews; white, Asian, black, those who go back to the early settlers and those whose English is the same as some New York cabbies I've dealt with, but whose sons and daughters could run for this Congress.

Tell them why they stand upright and respectful.

Not because some state official told them to.  But because whatever race, colour, class or creed they are, being American means being free. That's what makes them proud.

As Britain knows, all predominant power seems for a time invincible; but in fact it is transient.  The question is what do you leave behind?

What you can bequeath to this anxious world is the light of liberty.

That is what this struggle against terrorist groups or states is about.

We're not fighting for domination. 

We're not fighting for an American world, though we want a world in which America is at ease.

We're not fighting for Christianity but against religious fanaticism of all kinds.

This is not a war of civilisations because each civilisation has a unique capacity to enrich the stock of human heritage.

We are fighting for the inalienable right of human kind, black or white, Christian or not, left, right or merely indifferent,

to be free.

Free to raise a family in love and hope.

Free to earn a living and be rewarded by your own efforts.

Free not to bend your knee to any man in fear.

Free to be you so long as being you does not impair the freedom of others.

That's what we're fighting for.  And that's a battle worth fighting.

I know its hard on America.  And in some small corner of this vast country in Nevada or Idaho, these places I've never been but always wanted to go, there's a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happily, minding his own business, saying to you the political leaders of this nation: why me?  Why us?  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.

And our job, my nation that watched you grow, that you've fought alongside and now fights alongside you, that takes enormous pride in our alliance and great affection in our common bond, our job is to be there with you.

You're not going to be alone.

We'll be with you in this fight for liberty.

And if our spirit is right, and our courage firm, the world will be with us.



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