Tony Blair: We must win the battle of Iraq

From the Prime Minister's speech to the Lord Mayor's Banquet in Guildhall, London
Click to follow

In eight days' time President Bush makes his state visit to the United Kingdom. For many, the script of the visit has already been written. There will be demonstrations. His friends wonder at the timing. His enemies rub their hands at what they see as the potential embarassment. I believe it is exactly the right time for him to come.

Let us be clear what is happening in Iraq. It is the battle of seminal importance for the early 21st century. It will define relations between the Muslim world and the West. ... Who is trying to bomb the UN and Red Cross out of Baghdad? Or killing Iraqi civilians in terrorist attacks? Or sabotaging the work on electricity cables or oil installations? Not America. Not Britain. Not the coalition. But Saddam's small rump of supporters, aided and abetted by foreign terrorists.

And why are they doing it? Because they agree with me about this battle's importance. They know that if we give Iraq democracy, set it on a path to prosperity, leave it in the sole charge and sovereignty of the Iraqi people, its oil its own, its citizens free to worship in the way they wish, that means not just the rebirth of Iraq, it means the death of the poisonous propaganda monster about America these extremists have created in the minds of much of the world. What these fanatics are doing is not irrational. It is an entirely rational strategy. Lose the battle in Iraq and they lose their ability to present the Muslim world as victims and they as their champions.

I say to those who will protest when President Bush comes: Protest if you will. That is your democratic right. But accept that the task now is not to argue about what has been but to make what is happening now, work, and work for the very Iraqis we all say we want to help.