There’s drama and some heroism in this story of a Clinton-like opportunist who grasps a fact and is willing to hold to it against all comers:

Tony Blair secured the backing of Parliament last night to send British troops to war against Iraq. An anti-war motion was defeated in the Commons by 396 votes to 217, a majority of 179, despite a substantial Labour rebellion. As many as 139 Labour MPs voted for the rebel amendment….Opening the most critical Commons debate since he became Prime Minister, [Blair] indicated he was ready to resign if MPs voted against military action….

Mr Blair said Britain could not afford to back down in the face of the “clear and present danger” to its national security posed by Iraq’s development of weapons of mass destruction, particularly a “dirty” radiological bomb.

If troops were pulled back “at the point of reckoning”, Saddam and other tyrants would know the will confronting them was decaying and feeble. To retreat now would “tell our allies that at the very moment of action, at the very moment when they need our determination, that Britain faltered.

“I would not be party to such a course,” Mr Blair said. It was time “to show that at the moment of decision we have the courage to do the right thing“. As he ended, many Tory MPs and Labour backbenchers, waved their order papers in admiration and support.

MPs on both sides of the Commons said it was the most powerful speech Mr Blair had delivered, and he departed from his prepared text to deliver an emotional, hand-written peroration appealing for backing for military action. [Daily Telegraph, 3/19/03]

I hold no brief for most of Blair’s politics, nor for his attachment to the UN. But his backing of the US position in Iraq despite great opposition within his own party deserves much praise.

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