A Fight for Liberty

BY TONY BLAIR

RTWT.
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. And these were struggles for conquest, for land or money. And the wars were fought by massed armies, and the leaders were openly acknowledged, the outcomes decisive.

Today, none of us expect our soldiers to fight a war on our own territory. The immediate threat is not conflict between the world’s most powerful nations. And why? Because we all have too much to lose. Because technology, communication, trade and travel are bringing us ever closer together. 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.


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 somehow beloved by his people; that Milosevic was Serbia’s savior. Members of Congress, ours are not Western values. They are the universal values of the human spirit, and anywhere–anywhere, anytime 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 defense and our first line of attack.

And just as the terrorist seeks to divide humanity in hate, so we have to unify around an idea. And 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.”

And it is this 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 in this struggle.


The risk is that terrorism and states developing weapons of mass destruction come together, and when people say that risk is fanciful, I say we know the Taliban supported al Qaeda. 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 judgment. 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 that at least one state, North Korea, 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.

Can we be sure that terrorism and weapons of mass destruction 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 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.


Next year 10 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 trans-Atlantic alliance. They support economic reform. They want a Europe of nations, not a superstate. They are our allies, and they are yours. So don’t give up on Europe; work with it.

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

And 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 nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

And we need to say clearly to United Nations members: If you engage in the systematic and gross abuse of human rights in defiance of the U.N. Charter, you cannot expect to enjoy the same privileges as those that conform to it.


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, and 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 with some hope for the future, not shackled by brutal regimes whose principle 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 these oppressed people, it was their liberation.


Members of Congress, if this seems a long way from the threat of terror and weapons of mass destruction, it is only to say again that the world’s security cannot be protected without the world’s heart being one. So America must listen as well as lead. But, members of Congress, 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.

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