Why We Must All Unite against Terrorists; Minister and Ex-Vietnam War Protester Supports Need for Action against Taliban

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 24, 2001 | Go to article overview

Why We Must All Unite against Terrorists; Minister and Ex-Vietnam War Protester Supports Need for Action against Taliban


IN THE late 1960s, along with many people in Wales, I was one of those who marched against US intervention in Vietnam.

And we were right to do so. Other US policies such as when they aided the murderous Contras against the Sandinista government were also protested against in this country.

But Welsh critics of the US over past or present policies must not allow our judgment to be clouded at this critical time. The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington were attacks on us all, which is why there is a unique global wide consensus for tough action to eliminate the capability of those responsible to strike again.

From Russia and China to across the Arab and Islamic world, virtually everyone has joined in the international coalition to confront terrorism. It has included countries like Iran, Libya and Cuba, which have traditionally had a hostile relationship with the US.

The 19 countries of Nato, for the first time in the Alliance's history, invoked Article Five of the Washington Treaty, which provides for collective defence by all the allies if one is attacked.

The United Nations Security Council has insisted that not just the terrorists, but also those who harbour them, must be held to account. So has the UN General Assembly, the European Union and the Arab League.

This unity of international opinion is quite unprecedented. It derives both from horror at the atrocities we all witnessed and from a grim recognition that the next such strike could be on London or Moscow or Beijing or Berlin.

The values which the terrorists attacked last week were human rights, democracy and the rule of law - values which are not Western but universal.

They are the same values which inspired the Welsh Left in the 1930s to fight fascism in Spain and oppose appeasement of the Nazis. Many Welshmen went to Spain to fight in the International Brigade - and the mining community of Onllwyn, a small village in my Neath constituency, raised more money per head for that fight than anywhere else in Britain.

In the 1970s and 1980s the Wales Anti Apartheid Movement was to the fore in backing liberation struggles in Southern Africa.

Whilst there is an honourable minority tradition of pacifism, most people in Wales have recognised that at some historic moments the only way to defend freedom and justice is to fight.

Tough decisions lie ahead now too.

Action against those responsible for the atrocities is necessary to pre-empt repeat attacks. So, our response cannot be effete. To be blunt, we cannot stand aside.

But to be effective, as Tony Blair has made clear, our response must be precise.

And to maintain international solidarity, it must be appropriate too.

One of the evident benefits of the immediate and practical solidarity which the Prime Minister offered to the US is that Britain's views as a reliable ally are taken very seriously in Washington. …

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