David Boyle

American values

Speech to Liberal Democrat conference, Southport, March 2003, a fortnight after the invasion of Iraq.


Let me read you what an advisor to Donald Rumsfeld wrote in a magazine two weeks ago.

“It is always possible to fall off this bandwagon called globalisation.  And when you do, bloodshed will follow.  And if you’re lucky, so will American troops.” 

You can read the rest of the plans for war on anyone who won’t play the globalisation game in Esquire magazine this month.

So don’t be under any illusions about this.  The sounds of derision from the Bush administration every time there is some move towards disarmament by Iraq give the game away.  They want war, and they want Iraq too – as a base to pressurise the rest of the Middle East.

The truth is that the motives of the British and American governments are almost incompatible, but the British are struggling to keep the Bush administration embedded in the world system.

I hold no brief for Tony Blair, though I admire his courage and determination.  But I am daily despairing about the way he is consistently humiliated by the US government.

He holds a conference about the future of the Palestinian state.  The Americans say nothing when the delegates are banned from coming.

He promises that air strikes will only target military installations.  The Pentagon announces its 21,000lb superbomb.

He promises a collegiate, UN solution to conquered Iraq.  And Rumsfeld announces that only American companies will get rebuilding contracts, and the lion’s share will go to the company associated with Gollum.

Sorry, that should read ‘Dick Cheney’.

I understand his need to appease the Bush administration, and let’s make no mistake: that’s what is going on.

There are no parallels between Bush and Hitler, of course.  Or between the murderous Saddam Hussein and Czechoslovakia – nobody would suggest that.  But there are parallels between Blair and Chamberlain in 1938, desperately patching up the structures of the world at Munich by handing over to Germany what might just have seemed reasonable demands.

And like Chamberlain, Blair is undoubtedly asking himself: does Bush have further territorial ambitions in the region?  Could appeasement work a second time?

All the evidence is that they do, because they want to pressurise surrounding nations into controlling their terrorist fringes.

That’s understandable, but history shows us it won’t work.  Occupations inflame people.  Aerial bombardment increases people’s will to resist.  History says so time and time again, but the coterie of hawks in the Pentagon never believe it.

Just as Liberals stood out against appeasement in 1938, there comes a point when we have to stand out against it again.

Blair and Bush may not respect international law, but without it we risk throwing all the gains of civilisation into the rubbish bin of history.

Life without law, said Hobbes, is nasty, brutish and short.  Civilisation demands that we cling to it, rather than going gently into the kind of night where the powerful and the wealthy decide everything.

That is the very antithesis of Liberalism.  And I am proud that Liberal Democrats have had the courage to speak out for international law at this dark moment in our history.

And let me say something else.  Despite what Tony Blair says, those who are against this war are not anti-American.

This party was founded on the very same principles that underpin the constitution of the United States.

So let’s hold to those American values, and – though we might support our troops in the field – continue to be a voice in Parliament in behalf of the majority of people who question it, even after it begins.

And like Abraham Lincoln, we should fight so that government of the people of the world, by the people of the world, and for the people of the world, shall not perish from this earth.


title: books by David Boyle
Broke Voyages of Discovery Money Matters Blondel's Song Leaves World to Darkness The Little Money Book Funny Money The Tyranny of Numbers