Magazine article The Spectator

Why We Must Stick by America

Magazine article The Spectator

Why We Must Stick by America

Article excerpt

ALTHOUGH we in the United Kingdom have suffered a terrorist onslaught for 30 years, in which we have experienced some horrific atrocities, nothing prepared us for what happened in New York and Washington on 11 September 2001. Even now, despite having seen the pictures many times over on our television screens the sheer evil of what happened is almost impossible to comprehend.

Not only were these the worst terrorist attacks ever committed on American soil they were also the worst ever involving the loss of British lives. Of more than 6,000 who are known to have perished in what was the World Trade Center, many hundreds are from our own shores. The death toll includes citizens of more than 60 countries. I would have thought that this fact alone ought to be sufficient reason why Britain, America and all civilised nations should stand resolutely together in their determination to see that those who planned and financed this operation are made accountable for what they have done. Quite simply, justice demands that this atrocious act cannot go unpunished.

But there are other, equally compelling, reasons. America is our friend and remains our closest and staunchest ally. We have stood together in defence of freedom against tyranny. What kind of a message would it have sent out to terrorists everywhere if we had tried to pretend that terrorism was their problem alone? The attacks that took place might have been targeted at America but they were an attack on all of us - a fact quickly recognised by Nato when Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty was invoked.

What we saw on 11 September was an attempt to undermine by force the values and way of life that Britain and America have in common, such as democracy, freedom and the rule of law. The terrorists who hijacked the passenger planes and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were not just attacking civilised values in the United States but civilised values everywhere.

So the Prime Minister was quite right when at the outset he declared that Britain would stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States. Frankly, anything less would have been an abdication of responsibility. Over the past two weeks the Prime Minister has worked with President Bush to build up an international coalition willing to support whatever response is eventually made by the United States to these appalling events.

This coalition is vitally important. Yet we also have to be careful that in the pursuit of Osama bin Laden we do not ignore other terrorist groups, linked with him, such as Hezbollah. This is not just a war against bin Laden, but includes all terrorist groups and the regimes that help to sustain them.

I made clear that the government would have the full backing of the Conservative party in maintaining full support for the United States. I also warned, however, that in the coming days and weeks, as the graphic images of destruction begin to fade, some would begin counselling caution in our resolve to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Americans. It is not, and never has been, a question of `blank cheques'. Britain's role is to help the United States and our coalition allies find the right course of action. Talk of blank cheques is simply glib.

It adds to the anxieties and legitimate worries of those who fear that by our involvement Britain is more likely to become a terrorist target. But we have to recognise that Britain is already a target and that terrorists have already struck at us, and plan to do so again. …

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