Prime Minister Tony Blair
Interview with CNN
September 16, 2001
PRESENTER: Prime Minister Tony Blair was one of the first of the US allies to
come out & say categorically that United Kingdom stands shoulder to shoulder
with the United States. He also said that Britains interests are intimately
engaged, because of the high number of British casualties. Mr Prime Minister,
thank you for joining us this morning. Yesterday, the President of the United
States said we are at war, war has been declared on us. Are you prepared to
say that war has been declared and that there is a state of war?
TONY BLAIR: Yes, whatever the technical or legal issues about the declaration
of war, the fact is that we are at war with terrorism. What happened on Tuesday
was an attack not just upon the United States but upon the civilised world.
The thousands of people that lost their lives, included nationals of many, many
countries probably two, three hundred people from Britain will have died
in that terrorist attack makes it in fact the worst terrorist attack
on British citizens that there has been since the Second World War. So this
is a situation that concerns us all. Our own interests are intimately engaged,
quite apart from the fact that in these times its important that America
realises that her friends right round the world stand with her.
PRESENTER: You and other leaders have talked about a global alliance to combat
this global network of terror and there are obviously very many components,
including a military component. What will the United Kingdom, what will Britain
do if the United States decides to go to war?
TONY BLAIR: This is something obviously we are discussing with the American
President, the American administration, at the moment, what help we can give.
And Im very pleased at the way that America and the American administration
has gone out of its way to consult its allies to keep us fully informed so that
we are part of the deliberations that they are making. But we have to do two
things, in my view. First of all, there has to be a response to bring those
terrorists who committed this attack to account. And we will play our full part
in that. And secondly, there has then to be an agenda that we construct at an
international level that involves the whole of the international community in
dismantling the machinery of international terrorism, how its financed,
how these people move about the world, the countries that harbour them and give
them help. At every single level, we have to pursue and dismantle this machinery
of terror. And that is important, not just for the purpose of bringing those
people to account but also in order to make sure that this does not happen again.
PRESENTER: Britain has stood with the United States in most of its military
campaigns of the last 10 years, from the Gulf War on. Was it safe to say that,
if there is a military response, Britain will take part militarily?
TONY BLAIR: Well, weve made it very clear that we stand side by side with
the United States, and its not a question of the United States simply
saying this is what were going to do, now, come and join us. The US is
in close consultation with us and with other allies and I think there will be
a very broad support for a response that allows us to pursue and bring to account
those responsible for this attack, and do it as an act of justice.
PRESENTER: Do you think the evidence is out yet? Have you been presented with
what you need? You talked about the need to know who did it, the need to see
TONY BLAIR: As President Bush said yesterday its fairly clear where the
evidence is tending. But I think its important that we consider the evidence
in a very careful way. That its factually based. That we are hard-headed
about it. That once we have come to a conclusion, then it is important that
we hold these people responsible for this, as I say, account. And I think youll
find, incidentally, that that is the view right around the world. Ive
spoken to Arab leaders in the past few days that have expressed their outrage
at what has happened, their determination that this should be seen as something
that the world of Islam is standing against not merely countries like
the America and the United Kingdom. And I think you will find there is enormous
support for the idea that we must put together a broad-based coalition, to hound
these people down and bring them to account, and do it, as I say, for reasons
of justice. We owe it to those people that lost their lives, to their families
who are grieving, and to our own defence of democracy and liberty and freedom.
PRESENTER: Which brings me to the question, you know, a lot of people are looking
now at which countries can be counted on to stand with the United States and
which countries stand against. In the words of the US president, youre
either with us or youre not. We have heard you know, in the past weve
seen in some attempts to build coalitions, there are some countries who dont
particularly go rushing in to this kind of thing. France sometimes has its own
reservations, Germany has its own reservations. Do you think there will be a
cohesive, Gulf War-style alliance?
TONY BLAIR: I do think that the whole of the civilised world will stand together,
yes. I spoke to President Chirac myself on the phone yesterday and I can assure
you, I think, that the whole of Europe will stand with America on this because
people know that what happened was not just aimed at America. It was aimed at
all of us. These people believe they can achieve by mass terrorism what they
cannot achieve by peaceful, democratic means. And therefore, even though it
is in our nature to be reasonable, to proceed very cautiously and carefully
we havent sought this conflict. When the conflict comes, then as
weve learnt before from our history, we have to be prepared to face up
to it. And I think that for a long period of time, the world has turned a blind
eye, been somewhat indifferent to the menace of international terrorism and
I think were all to an extent culpable in that. But what we have to got
to do now is realise it exists, look at its full power and potency, realise
that these people, incidentally, if they could do worse would do worse; the
number of people they kill is not limited by anything other than purely technical
capability. Theres no morality so far as theyre concerned. And once
we understand that, then I think it is important that we not merely, as I say,
pursue those people who have been directly responsible and hold them to account,
but then look at the way terrorism operates, how its financed, where it
is and how we pursue it and dismantle it.
PRESENTER: Well, today there are reports that even in England, there is a bank
at least one bank, maybe more thats been used to channel
funds for propaganda for this group. There has been some radical voices in the
Islamic community here calling for martyrdom and standing against the United
States in this matter. What does a democracy such as yours, and other democracies,
what can you do? Do you have to sort of encroach perhaps on some of the things
that make a democratic world stand apart some of the civil liberties,
some of the protections on individual freedom of speech, freedom to act, freedom
to hide under the banner of religious organisations? Will you crack down here?
TONY BLAIR: We will certainly look, as I think most countries will, at our own
domestic laws and see how in a sense they measure up to the scale of the problem
we now face. And I think that we can proceed in a sensible way, which is to
say people are perfectly entitled to express their views and if people
want to be anti-British or anti-American, you know, were democrats, we
believe that people have the right to express their views. But if they are engaged
in organising terror or acts of terrorism then we have got to act against that
and, youre right, I think a lot of people have got to look at, for example,
how terrorism is financed, how some of these people do shelter in our country,
and not just our country but other countries, democratic countries around the
world. And if this evil of mass terrorism is as we say it is, then we have got
to exercise the power and vigilance to ensure that its restrained and
defeated. Now, I dont believe that is to act in contradiction of our civil
liberties. I believe it is in part pursuing the basic civil liberty that people
have to go about their business free form terror.
PRESENTER: Do you think here might be, I dont know, a system of identity
cards or something similar to that?
TONY BLAIR: I think there are a whole series of things that people will look
at in the wake of this and I dont .. this is the time, as it were, to
set an objective and then to consider very carefully how we meet that objective.
PRESENTER: Lets go back and talk about the alliance. How do you keep an
alliance cohesive over what youve all described as a sustained, long and
difficult campaign? Its going to take a long time, apparently, to do what
TONY BLAIR: Well of course, its right in a sense, that when were
merely offering words of support that is in a way, as Ive been saying
to people over the last few days, thats the easy part, in one sense. I
mean the hard part starts when you actually take the action. Not just because
of peoples sense of horror and outrage at what has happened but also because
of their realisation that unless we take action, then we are all at risk, and
so it is right for reasons of justice but its also right for reasons of
self-protection. Im not saying there wont be difficulties along
the way, there always are in these situations, but certainly so far as Britain
is concerned and I really do believe that the vast bulk of the civilised
world will stand with America.
PRESENTER: Have you spoken to your Russian counterpart, have you spoken to President
TONY BLAIR: Yes I have,
PRESENTER: And what are they prepared to do?
TONY BLAIR: I think obviously you have to talk to President Putin about the
specific things that the Russians will do to help in this situation but I dont
think you should be in any doubt that President Putin and the Russian people
were utterly horrified by this, and of course they themselves have suffered
terrorist outrages in Russia, too.
PRESENTER: When we talk about the military component of any response, do you
think .. Nato has obviously unprecedentedly given its full support to come to
mutual defence of one of its members. Do you envision a classic Nato-style response,
or how would you envision a military response?
TONY BLAIR: I think theres a process we need to get clear here. First
of all, we identify those responsible. Then we work out the correct military
response and then we see the right way of putting that together. Now, I think
were to premature at this stage to start speculating on the exact nature
of either the response or the way that we will pursue it. Obviously, as I say,
therell be these two components of the actions which we take. The more
immediate action, if you like, to bring to account those responsible and then,
over time, the systematic war upon the whole machinery of terrorism.
PRESENTER: Are you .. have you.. do you think that the United States would take
unilateral action or do you expect there will be further consultation and gathering
of the coalition?
TONY BLAIR: I think that the way President Bush has handled this is absolutely
right. He has been very calm and measured in the way that he has approached
it. He has been in close consultation with allies. Obviously America has got
to defend itself against such an attack, and obviously we will be there in support
of America in doing that, and that is important. But it has been done in a way
that reflects very great credit on the administration because their determination
is absolute, but their way of doing it quite rightly is to say this is where
we stand, this is why we stand in this position, join us in it. And I think
that will, of itself, win a great deal of support, as I say, not just amongst
Western countries or countries that are traditional allies for the United States.
I think they will get support for that position right across the world.
PRESENTER: The President of the United States has talked about a fight between
good and evil, and a lot has been made of sort of a clash of civilisations ..
or a clash of fantatics against the civilised world. How do you see this clash,
if there is one?
TONY BLAIR: Well, I think those are two very separate things. The vast majority
of Muslims are decent, law-abiding people who are absolutely appalled by this
outrage and will be fully supportive of us taking action against international
terrorism. Indeed, many Muslims are victims of international terrorism. So in
no sense should this be seen as, if you like, as one part of the world against
the Islamic world. Its not like that at all and I think people understand
that very clearly. But it is a war, if you like, between the civilised world
and fanaticism. And whatever banner that fanaticism marches under, its
important that we recognise these are people who will stop at nothing. And therefore,
however difficult it is for us and however much we will regret that we have
to take this action because of the terrible thing that has happened, nonetheless
we have to do so. And this is a time for cool heads, for calm nerves, and for
an absolute and fixed determination to see this thing through. And we will see
it through, it will be done.
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