The London Times reports: “Tony Blair won Commons backing for war against Iraq but at the personal cost of another huge backbench rebellion. Up to 139 Labour MPs are believed to have voted against the Prime Minister’s hardline stance on Iraq, despite a day of arm-twisting by the whips. If the figure is confirmed by analysis of the division list later it will be a bigger revolt than the 122-strong rebellion last month, with more than half of Labour backbenchers opposing the Government .”
Blair’s speech to the House of Commons was a masterpiece. He laid out the history of the world’s dealings with Saddam Hussein, including a behind-the-scenes look at the events of the last two weeks, in which France came off extremely badly. Read it all; here are a few excerpts:
“Looking back over 12 years, we have been victims of our own desire to placate the implacable, to persuade towards reason the utterly unreasonable, to hope that there was some genuine intent to do good in a regime whose mind is in fact evil. Now the very length of time counts against us. You’ve waited 12 years. Why not wait a little longer?
“I know there are several countries – mostly dictatorships with highly repressive regimes – desperately trying to acquire chemical weapons, biological weapons or, in particular, nuclear weapons capability. Some of these countries are now a short time away from having a serviceable nuclear weapon. This activity is not diminishing. It is increasing.
“11 September has changed the psychology of America. It should have changed the psychology of the world. Of course Iraq is not the only part of this threat. But it is the test of whether we treat the threat seriously.
“Faced with it, the world should unite. The UN should be the focus, both of diplomacy and of action. That is what 1441 said. That was the deal. And I say to you to break it now, to will the ends but not the means, would do more damage in the long term to the UN than any other course.
“To fall back into the lassitude of the last 12 years, to talk, to discuss, to debate but never act; to declare our will but not enforce it; to combine strong language with weak intentions, would be a worse outcome than never speaking at all.”
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