July 18, 2003
Fighting For "The Light of Liberty"
Early in the debate over Iraq's non-compliance with UN resolutions, I believed British PM Tony Blair was just an English Bill Clinton: all style, no substance and a UNphile determined to subjugate his nation's best interests to rules promulgated by hollow, corrupt international organizations.
Either I was wrong about Tony Blair or he chose to answer the call of history. (If you don't mind, I'll assume it's the latter.)
Lincoln claimed he did not control events; rather, he confessed, events controlled him. The same can be said of Blair. The post 9/11 world presented Tony Blair with a choice: lead or get out of the way. After expending months of effort aimed at consensus-building, Blair decided that kowtowing to the UN bureaucracy at the expense of his nation's security was wrong and dangerous. Instead Tony Blair joined the United States in defending western civilization against terrorist nations. He chose to lead.
To express America's gratitude for Britain's friendship, Congress honored Blair with the Congressional Gold Medal. The prime minister accepted the honor before a joint session of Congress yesterday during which he eloquently explained the challenges America and Britain face in the war on terrorism. The speech is a keeper.
The prime minister opened with these selfless remarks:
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.
And his conclusion soared:
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 it's 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.
This speech is a masterpiece of political persuasion and worth reading in its entirety.
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