I stumbled on to the Clinton Presidential Center, huge site and great resource. No blog yet, but if Bill Clinton were to start one it would probably be hosted there.
I searched and found the transcript of a speech Clinton delivered in Blackpool, UK at the 2002 Labour Party Conference. This was transmitted live on the BBC at the time and I thought it was brilliantly delivered. Reading it again, it is interesting how he positioned the situation in Iraq at the time (Oct ’02, pre-2nd Gulf War):
“If the inspections go forward I believe we should still work for a regime change in Iraq in non-military ways, through support of the Iraqi opposition and in trying to strengthen it. Iraq has not always been a tyrannical dictatorship. Saddam Hussein was once a part of a government which came to power through more legitimate means.
The West has a lot to answer for in Iraq. Before the Gulf War when Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds and the Iranians there was hardly a peep in the West because he was in Iran. Evidence has now come to light that in the early 1980s the United States may have even supplied him with the materials necessary to start the bio-weapons program. And in the Gulf War the Shi’ites in the South East of Iraq were urged to rise up and then were cruelly abandoned to their fate as he came in and killed large numbers of them, drained the Marshes and largely destroyed their culture and way of life. We cannot walk away from them or the proved evidence that they are capable of self-government and entitled to a decent life. We do not necessarily have to go to war to give it to them, but we cannot forget that we are not blameless in the misery under which they suffer and we must continue to support them.
This is a difficult issue. Military action should always be a last resort, for three reasons; because today Saddam Hussein has all the incentive in the world not to use or give these weapons away but with certain defeat he would have all the incentive to do just that. Because a pre-emptive action today, however well justified, may come back with unwelcome consequences in the future. And because I have done this, I have ordered these kinds of actions. I do not care how precise your bombs and your weapons are, when you set them off innocent people will die.
Weighing the risks and making the calls are what we elect leaders to do, and I can tell you that as an American, and a citizen of the world, I am glad that Tony Blair will be central to weighing the risks and making the call. (Applause) For the moment the rest of us should support his efforts in the United Nations and until they fail we do not have to cross bridges we would prefer not to cross.”
How prophetic this last line was.
For all his political and personal shortcomings (pardon the unintended pun), I think Clinton was a superb orator, thinker and writer. I haven’t read his autobiography yet but will get round it I’m sure.
Now, before you bombard me with with pro-this and pro-that comments on Clinton or the war, I should disclose my personal political position in general: I don’t have one. I’ve never voted in any election (there is a growing number of us) and believe it is my right not to vote for a particular party. If I don’t find a party’s proposition compelling or sufficiently diferrentiated, I don’t see why I should have to vote as is the case in some European countries. I personally know plenty of mainland Europeans that have randomly selected x or y just because they have to – hardly the way to elect a government?
Please don’t get me wong here: I completely accept that the right to vote is one we must be grateful for and defend. So I do see the sense in making it make it mandetory to at least turn up and place a ‘none of the above’ vote. I’d be happy to do this.
The truth is I am more likely to have a clear view on a specific issue – so if there is specific issue that requires a public vote (i.e. a referendum), then I might participate – at least I’d know what I’d get if I placed an ‘x’.