Prime Minister's Address to the Nation
On Tuesday night I gave the order for British forces to take part
in military action in Iraq.
Tonight, British servicemen
and women are engaged from air, land and sea. Their mission: to
remove Saddam Hussein from power, and disarm Iraq of its weapons
of mass destruction.
I know this course
of action has produced deep divisions of opinion in our country.
But I know also the British people will now be united in sending
our armed forces our thoughts and prayers. They are the finest
in the world and their families and all of Britain can have great
pride in them.
The threat to Britain
today is not that of my father's generation. War between the big
powers is unlikely. Europe is at peace. The Cold War already a
But this new world
faces a new threat: of disorder and chaos born either of brutal
states like Iraq, armed with weapons of mass destruction; or of
extreme terrorist groups. Both hate our way of life, our freedom,
My fear, deeply held,
based in part on the intelligence that I see, is that these threats
come together and deliver catastrophe to our country and world.
These tyrannical states do not care for the sanctity of human
life. The terrorists delight in destroying it.
Some say if we act,
we become a target. The truth is, all nations are targets. Bali
was never in the front line of action against terrorism. America
didn't attack Al Qaida. They attacked America.
Britain has never been
a nation to hide at the back. But even if we were, it wouldn't
Should terrorists obtain
these weapons now being manufactured and traded round the world,
the carnage they could inflict to our economies, our security,
to world peace, would be beyond our most vivid imagination.
My judgement, as Prime
Minister, is that this threat is real, growing and of an entirely
different nature to any conventional threat to our security that
Britain has faced before.
For 12 years, the world
tried to disarm Saddam; after his wars in which hundreds of thousands
died. UN weapons inspectors say vast amounts of chemical and biological
poisons, such as anthrax, VX nerve agent, and mustard gas remain
unaccounted for in Iraq.
So our choice is clear:
back down and leave Saddam hugely strengthened; or proceed to
disarm him by force. Retreat might give us a moment of respite
but years of repentance at our weakness would I believe follow.
It is true Saddam is
not the only threat. But it is true also - as we British
know - that the best way to deal with future threats peacefully,
is to deal with present threats with resolve.
Removing Saddam will
be a blessing to the Iraqi people. Four million Iraqis are in
exile. 60% of the population dependent on food aid. Thousands
of children die every year through malnutrition and disease. Hundreds
of thousands have been driven from their homes or murdered.
I hope the Iraqi people
hear this message. We are with you. Our enemy is not you, but
your barbarous rulers.
Our commitment to the
post-Saddam humanitarian effort will be total. We shall help Iraq
move towards democracy. And put the money from Iraqi oil in a
UN trust fund so that it benefits Iraq and no-one else.
Neither should Iraq
be our only concern. President Bush and I have committed ourselves
to peace in the Middle East based on a secure state of Israel
and a viable Palestinian state. We will strive to see it done.
But these challenges
and others that confront us - poverty, the environment, the ravages
of disease - require a world of order and stability. Dictators
like Saddam, terrorist groups like Al Qaida threaten the very
existence of such a world.
That is why I have
asked our troops to go into action tonight. As so often before,
on the courage and determination of British men and women, serving
our country, the fate of many nations rests.