I have a lot of disagreements with the Right Honourable Tony Blair, but his last statements on the anti-war rallies has to be one of the greatest pieces of political rhetoric I’ve seen in a long time:
…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 1000 Iraqi children die before the age of five – 70% of these deaths are from diarrhoea and respiratory infections that are easily preventable. Where almost a third of children born in the centre and south of Iraq have chronic malnutrition.
Where 60% of the people depend on Food Aid.
Where half the population of 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 Shia Moslems in Southern Iraq and Moslem 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 that 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 honour. 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 that 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.
Prime Minister Blair is right. The government that the anti-war marches are supporting, purposefully or not, is a government that ranks as one of the most murderous of our time. The force of his statements is clear, and my level of respect for him has shot up dramatically for his truly couragous stand.