- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

The following is excerpted from British Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech delivered yesterday in Cardiff, Wales:

I said a few days ago that now would be the testing time. People want results. They want them as fast as possible. They realize the formidable challenges posed by any action in Afghanistan. They worry about civilian casualties. They are anxious about the refugee crisis as winter approaches. They wonder what comes after the conflict.
All these concerns deserve to be answered. No one who raises doubts is an appeaser or a faint heart. We are a democracy, strong enough to have doubts raised, even at a time of war, and wise enough to be able to respond to them.
But let us go back to why we are in this conflict. On 11 September, thousands of people were killed in cold blood in the worst terrorist attacks the world has ever seen. That is a fact. Those responsible were the al Qaeda network reared by Osama bin Laden. That is a fact barely disputed anymore.
Incidentally, the intelligence evidence, significant when I first drew attention to it on 3 October, is now a flood, confirming guilt. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan protect al Qaeda and help them. That is a fact. Indeed, according to the latest evidence we have, they are virtually a merged organization.
The Taliban regime are cruel, dictatorial and oppressive, causing 41/2 million refugees to be on the move before 11 September. That, too, is a fact. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda have said they consider it their duty to commit further terrorist acts. We gave the Taliban an ultimatum to deliver up Osama bin Laden. They refused. These are also facts.
They lead to one inescapable conclusion: That if we do not act against al Qaeda and the Taliban, al Qaeda will have perpetrated this atrocity, the Taliban will have sheltered them and we will have done nothing. We will have done nothing despite the fact, also inescapable, that they intend to commit more atrocities unless we yield to their demands which include the eradication of Israel, the killing of all Jews and the setting up of fundamentalist states in all parts of the Arab and Muslim world.
So: We have a group of people in Afghanistan who are the sworn enemies of everything the civilized world stands for, who have killed once on a vast scale and will kill again unless stopped. They can't be negotiated with. They refuse to yield to justice.
And they have one hope: That we are decadent, that we lack the moral fiber or will or courage to take them on; that we might begin but we won't finish; that we will start, then falter; that when the first setbacks occur, we will lose our nerve.
They are wrong. We won't falter. We will not stop until our mission is complete. We will not flinch from doing what is necessary to complete it. We will not fail and we will do it all because we believe in our values of justice, tolerance and respect for all regardless of race, religion or creed just as passionately as they believe in fanatical hatred of Jews, Christians and any Muslims who don't share their perverse view of Islam.
They mistake our desire for a comfortable life, living in peace, benign towards different races and cultures, for decadence. It is not decadence. It is progress and we will fight to maintain it. Now let me return to the questions that need answering.
Our objectives are clear to close down the al Qaeda network, bring [bin Laden] and his associates to justice and, because the Taliban regime has chosen to side with al Qaeda, to remove them.
The means we use will be: air power; ground operations as and when necessary in furtherance of our aims; support to the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban regime elements; and building up a strong political and diplomatic coalition against the present Taliban regime inside and outside Afghanistan.
We have destroyed the Taliban air force, put Taliban airfields and air defense systems out of action; destroyed all the main al Qaeda camps; profoundly damaged Taliban command-and-control facilities, and dramatically reduced their capacity to communicate with their forces in the field. So this is a steady process of fragmenting, undermining and eventually destroying the Taliban regime as a serious threat capable of inflicting any more damage on their country and the outside world.
But two words of caution. This is not a conventional conflict. It is not a battle for territory per se or for the subjugation of Afghanistan. It is a battle to allow Afghans themselves to re-take control of their country and in doing so to close down the threat posed by the present rules. The political and diplomatic go hand in hand with the military.
And we simply cannot and should not disclose the exact nature of the ground operations we intend to undertake. There is a limit to what we can sensibly discuss in public. We do all we can to limit civilian casualties, unlike Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda who did all they could to cause as many civilian casualties as possible. Tragically, there will be some but I do ask people to be deeply skeptical about Taliban claims. …
It is important we never forget why we are [fighting bin Laden]. Important we never forget how we felt watching the planes fly into the twin towers. Never forget those answering machine messages. Never forget how we felt imagining how mothers told children they were about to die. Never forget the guts of the firefighters and police who died trying to save others. Never forget the menace of [bin Laden] in his propaganda video. Never forget that too long a list of countries who lost sons and daughters. Never forget that they were of all faiths and none; Christian, Jew and Muslim; many Muslims, for it is not us who are at war with Islam. It is al Qaeda and the Taliban who are at war with anyone, whatever their faith, who does not share their maniacal, fanatical view of the world.
He did not just hijack planes. He has hijacked a country from which he runs his terrorist, criminal activity. Now he would like to hijack a religion; and hijack the Palestinian cause, too.
We are a principled nation, and this is a principled conflict. September 11th is no less appalling today than it was on September 11th. Our determination is no less resolute than it was on the day military action began. We have a job to do; and it is being done and will be seen through to the end. Now is a time for people of all races and all faiths in Britain to stand together.

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