Statement on the events of 9/11
Charles Kennedy (Liberal Democrat)
We meet against an unimaginable backdrop.
It’s been hard to find words adequate
to give proper voice by way of response,
far less respect.
How can day-to-day vocabulary,
measure up to such sheer criminality?
For me, watching those grim images on television – again, and again and again
– there were all the normal, human reactions.
Disbelief. Then alarm.
Horror – as the truth sank in.
Compassion for all those people and all their families,
so many of whom, of course, were British.
Can you imagine that last mobile phone call
from your husband,
or wife or child?
The helplessness. And with it,
Well, we’re here because we don’t believe
We actually believe in hope.
But hope requires purpose.
And purpose requires direction.
When I spoke again with the Prime Minister
we were clear on a number of matters.
First, common resolve
to root out terrorism wherever it may be.
Second, the need to balance legislation
with the interests of domestic civil rights.
Third, vigilance against anyone
who seeks to target and attack
any of our ethnic communities.
And fourth, no ruling out
of a further recall of Parliament,
if events require it.
Now, immediate emotions inevitably begin to subside,
but they will never go away.
And nor should they.
But we Liberal Democrats must be clear
about our intentions.
There cannot be capitulation to the terrorist.
That we strike at the heart of international terrorism.
And equal determination,
That in combating terrorism,
we do not lose sight of the fact,
at one at the same time,
that we live, actually, in a liberal democracy,
and the principles of democracy
are what we are all about.
So as we gather here this week,
this is one of the challenges facing us,
as Liberal Democrats.
One of our particular duties,
is to make it clear
that short-term knee-jerk responses,
never provide long-term solutions.
We have to point out
the humanitarian issues involved.
We have to be especially vigilant,
against those people
who would seek to make scapegoats,
of Muslims in Britain.
Let us be quite clear,
we have no quarrel with the Muslim community,
and no quarrel with the Islamic faith.
Last Friday, when I visited a Mosque in London,
that was the message I took to our fellow citizens,
on all our behalves.
And that message went out loud and clear,
and very eloquently too,
from this conference hall this morning.
But let us also remember.
That there will now
be particularly difficult dilemmas
ahead for our party.
Those difficulties will involve a gauging
between the balance of the liberty of the individual
against the threat that the terrorist presents
to that very liberty.
Do not underestimate the real, ongoing pressures,
and the public scrutiny that goes with that,
which will be upon us in the times ahead.
is not just about military measures.
is also about civil liberties.
The scandal that is terrorism
is also about civil liberties.
In facing those dilemmas,
we’re best to remember our first principles.
We subscribe to the rule of law,
violated over the skyline of the United States,
on September 11th.
But that subscription,
as the very word itself implies,
comes with a price tag attached.
It involves realism
and it involves risk.
Realism means facing the stark truth,
that the terrorist
will stop at nothing, absolutely nothing.
Risk is about the consequences of your response.
So let us be clear about these first principles.
Civil liberties – yes.
The rule of international law – yes.
Co-operation amongst sane-minded peoples
across the globe – yes.
But all underpinned
by a philosophic and a fundamental commitment
to the integrity of the individual,
and the supremacy of that individual
over the power of the nation state.
But recognising also,
that people need and are looking for –
right now as we speak –
security and reassurance,
and that the proper role of the state
is to provide just that.
Now that’s where we stand.
And that defines our response
and our reasoning
in the wake of these dreadful, dreadful events.
When Parliament was reconvened,
I couldn’t help but cast my mind back
to such a happy year as a student
in the mid-West of the United States.
Friendships were made there.
What struck me then,
what I hadn’t properly understood,
was the extent to which the mid-West
can almost be a country which is very different
from the rest of the country,
which is in itself,
when you think about it,
And so what is so striking now
is this remarkable degree of spontaneous unity
right across America.
Coast to coast.
A unity of understandable anger.
But the fear that can flow from that,
can in itself be dangerous.
Now, that’s where a candid friend comes in.
Standing shoulder to shoulder, of course,
but always there,
for the occasional cautionary tap on the shoulder.
The most special relationships,
in my experience,
are based on a combination of two things;
trust and mutual respect.
And as America’s candid friend,
we’re able to say,
there are no blank cheques
to be issued to the United States.
The way to defeat international terrorism,
is through international co-operation,
based on international law,
and a measured and appropriate military response.
All backed up,
by an appropriate concern,
for the humanitarian aspects,
of the crisis that we now face.
And let me say this
where military response is concerned.
We also have a duty and a responsibility
to ensure that where our armed forces are involved
the risks to them
are quantified and minimised.
We cannot shelve or abandon that requirement.
That means supporting American actions,
only in the knowledge
that Britain will be involved
in all planning and risk assessment
All of that, we owe to our armed forces.
And if the first casualty of war is truth,
the purveyors of truth themselves
become especially important.
I refer of course, to the BBC World Service.
As ever, one of the key contributions
that Britain can make
to the coalition against terror and suppression
is to offer accurate information and rational analysis.
But do remember.
War is not the word.
Nor is crusade.
We’ve got to fashion a mindset,
to find that approach,
which begins to address the roots of such evil.
We do need to get back to those first principles.
In the face of such violation,
Democracy must prevail and it will.