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Iraq

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:42 pm on 26th February 2003.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Foreign Secretary 12:42 pm, 26th February 2003

However, it is also a moment of choice for the UN. As I told the Security Council on 5 February, the UN's pre-war predecessor, the League of Nations, had the same fine ideals as the UN. Yet the League failed because it could not create actions from its words: it could not back diplomacy with a credible threat and, where necessary, the use of force. Small evils therefore went unchecked, tyrants became emboldened, then greater evils were unleashed. At each stage good men and women said, "Not now, wait, the evil is not big enough to challenge." Then before their eyes, the evil became too big to challenge. We had slipped slowly down a slope, never noticing how far we had gone until it was too late. We owe it to our history as well as to our future not to make the same mistake again.

This is the hardest issue that I have ever had to deal with. I know that it causes very great anxiety to the British people and to Members of this House. It does to all of us. However, the issue of what we do about tyrannical states with poison gases, nerve agents, viruses and nuclear ambitions, and which defy international law and the principles of the UN, will not go away. We have to face the issue. We have to give Saddam Hussein a categorical choice, and after 12 long years he has to give us his answer now.

I commend the motion to the House.