What Tony Blair and other MPs said about Afghanistan in 2001

John Rentoul looks back at what British politicians said at the start of our 20-year intervention

Sunday 22 August 2021 21:30
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<p>George W Bush and Tony Blair at Camp David in February 2001<strong> </strong></p>

George W Bush and Tony Blair at Camp David in February 2001

Parliament was recalled on 4 October two decades ago to discuss the “coalition against international terrorism”. It was just three weeks after al-Qaeda had destroyed the Twin Towers in New York, and President George W Bush was preparing, with the US’s allies, to begin military action against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which was harbouring Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader.

Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons: “The Afghan people are not our enemy, for they have our sympathy and they will have our support. Our enemy is Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network, who were responsible for the events of 11 September. The Taliban regime must yield them up or become our enemy also. We will not act for revenge. We will act because we need to for the protection of our people and our way of life, including confidence in our economy. The threat posed by Bin Laden and his terrorism must be eliminated. We act for justice. We act with world opinion behind us and we have an absolute determination to see justice done and this evil of mass international terrorism confronted and defeated.”

Iain Duncan Smith offered the opposition Conservative Party’s full support: “This is not about revenge and it is not about retribution, and it is not only about justice against one man; it is about standing up for what is right against what is wrong. It is about upholding civilised values against anarchy and it is about defending good against the evil of terrorism. So today we should reaffirm our single and collective purpose in this house. No excuses can be made, no justification sought and no help offered to those who would carry out such deeds. Simply put, let right be done.”

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