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And He Has Lessons For Us Today

Winston S. Churchill
March 16, 2003.

As thunderclouds gather over the Middle East, America and Britain stand once again shoulder to shoulder preparing to draw the sword in defense of freedom, democracy and human rights. A line has been drawn in the sands of the Arabian desert. We have deployed some 200,000 American troops, together with more than 40,000 British, who will shortly be committed to battle.

Meanwhile, I have a confession to make: It was my grandfather, Winston Churchill, who invented Iraq and laid the foundation for much of the modern Middle East. In 1921, as British colonial secretary, Churchill was responsible for creating Jordan and Iraq and for placing the Hashemite rulers, Abdullah and Faisal, on their respective thrones in Amman and Baghdad. Furthermore, he delineated for the first time the political boundaries of biblical Palestine. Eighty years later, it falls to us to liberate Iraq from the scourge of one of the most ruthless dictators in history. As we stand poised on the brink of war, my grandfather's experience has lessons for us.

The parallels between Saddam Hussein's repeated flouting of U.N. resolutions--17 over the past 12 years--calls to mind the impotence of the U.N. forerunner, the League of Nations. In the 1930s, the victors of the First World War--Britain, France and the U.S.--fecklessly allowed the League of Nations' resolutions to be flouted. This was done first by the Japanese, who invaded Manchuria, then by the Italian dictator Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia and, most gravely, by Nazi Germany.

Had the Allies held firm and shown the same resolve to uphold the rule of law among nations that President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair are demonstrating today, there is little doubt that World War II, with all its horrors, could have been avoided. Indeed it was for that reason that Churchill called World War II the "Unnecessary War." Tragically, the same sickness that infected the League of Nations--a feebleness of spirit, an unwillingness to face the realities of the world we live in, and a determination to place corrupt self-interest before the common good--now afflicts the governments of France, Germany and Belgium.

I can think of few actions more shameful than the recent vote by these three nations in the counsels of NATO to deny the Turks--the only NATO country to share a common border with Iraq--the protection they need against the very real possibility of an Iraqi missile attack. This region, in particular, was one of the great disappointments of my grandfather's career. After the creation of Iraq, Iran and Palestine, he wanted to create a fourth political entity in the region, Kurdistan. Against his better judgment, he allowed himself to be overruled by the officials of the colonial office, a tragic decision that, to this day, has deprived the Kurds of a nation of their own and caused them to be split up under Iran, Iraq and Turkey, each of which has persecuted them for their aspiration to self-determination--none more so than Saddam.

My grandfather's resolve and leadership offer a second parallel to today's situation--one that confronted the world 55 years ago, when America was on the point of losing her monopoly of the atomic bomb. As leader of the opposition in the British parliament, Churchill was gravely alarmed at the prospect of the Soviet Union acquiring atomic, and eventually nuclear, weapons of its own. He said at the time, "What will happen when they get the atomic bomb themselves and have accumulated a large store? No one in his senses can believe that we have a limitless period of time before us."

As President Bush and Mr. Blair intend today in the case of Iraq, Winston Churchill in 1948 favored the threat--and if need be the reality--of a pre-emptive strike to safeguard the interests of the Free World. Aware of the dangers ahead, Churchill believed that the U.S.--while it still had a monopoly of atomic power--should require the Soviet Union to abandon the development of these weapons, if need be by threatening their use.

The Truman administration chose not to heed his advice. The result was the Cold War, in the course of which the world--on more than one occasion--came perilously close to a nuclear holocaust.

It is no great surprise that the nations which long toiled under the yoke of communism during the Cold War are our greatest supporters today. Unlike the French, Germans and Belgians, the East Europeans have not forgotten the debt of gratitude they owe to the United States, first for liberating them from the Nazis and, most recently, from Soviet domination. With absurd Gallic arrogance Jacques Chirac has threatened to block next year's scheduled entry into the European Union of some 10 East European nations as punishment for their support of the Anglo-American position on Iraq. Beneath the protests of the French and the Germans, we can discern in the current crisis, the fading of the old Europe dominated by the Franco-German axis.

Mr. Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder, in urging delay, know full well that if the impending attack is not launched in the next two to three weeks, it cannot, realistically, take place until the end of the year, granting Saddam an eight-month reprieve. In whose interest would that be, I wonder? No doubt they imagine that, by their delaying tactics, they can save Saddam's bacon and with it their own arms-for-oil contracts. But I have news for these two shabby peace-mongers who know no shame: By their failure to join in the coalition of the willing--indeed, by their deliberate attempts to frustrate the removal of Saddam--they will forfeit both their arms contracts and their Iraqi oil. And it could not happen to nicer people!

Like President Reagan before him, George W. Bush has what my grandfather would have called "the root of the matter" in him. He is able to discern the most important issues of the day and to stand firm by his beliefs. Likewise Tony Blair. On Iraq and the Anglo-American alliance, the British prime minister has got it absolutely right: He is pursuing the true national interest of Great Britain, which is to stand at the side of the Great Republic, as my grandfather was fond of calling the land of his mother's birth.

The time has come for the world community--or such of it as has the courage to act--to deal with this monster once and for all. Were we to shirk from this duty, the U.N. would go the way of the League. More gravely, a marriage of convenience would be consummated between the terrorist forces of al Qaeda and the arsenal of chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities which Saddam possesses.

We have business to do and I believe that together America and Britain, and those of our allies who share our sense of urgency and strength of commitment, will soon rid the world of this demented despot, liberate the Iraqi people from tyranny, and strike a further blow against the ambitions of fundamentalist terror.

Mr. Churchill, a former British member of Parliament, is the editor of  "Never Give In!,"  a collection of Winston Churchill's speeches, due in November from Hyperion. This article is adapted from a speech at the Houston Forum. It is reprinted from the Opinion Journal website, which features articles that appeared on the Wall Street Journal editorial page. It is archived as

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