Britain's Blair likens opponents of Iraq war to 1930s appeasers
Prime minister 'prepared to be judged by history'
LONDON - AP - 2 March: Opponents of military action against Iraq are as misguided as the appeasers who refused to stand up to Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in comments published yesterday.
In his latest attempt to win over Britons unconvinced of the need for war, Blair said he was "prepared to be judged by history" on Iraq.
"A majority of decent and well-meaning people said there was no need to confront Hitler and that those who did were warmongers," Blair said in an interview with The Guardian newspaper.
"When people decided not to confront fascism, they were doing the popular thing, they were doing it for good reasons and they were good people ... but they made the wrong decision," he was quoted as saying.
Opponents of war reject the comparison. Noting that Saddam Hussein is unlike Hitler and that the situation now differs from the one before the Persian Gulf war in 1991, they say the Iraqi president has not invaded another country and does not have weapons that could threaten Britain.
Blair, a staunch supporter of President Bush's tough stance against Hussein, says ridding Iraq of chemical and biological weapons is crucial to international security.
In an apparent effort to show cooperation with United Nations disarmament demands, Iraq began destroying its Al Samoud 2 missiles yesterday, as ordered by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the gesture would not be enough to avert military action.
"It's a very familiar pattern," Straw told delegates at a Labor Party conference in Southport, northwest England. "Iraq first declares a total 'zero,' saying they have nothing illegal whatever to declare. Then, under pressure, they cynically trickle out concessions to divide the Security Council, buy time, and avert military action while continuing concealment.
"Even if he were to destroy his Al Samoud missiles, enormous stocks of poisonous chemicals and diseases would remain in the hands of [his] regime," he added.
But many in Britain, and in Blair's Labor Party, feel United Nations weapons inspectors should be given more time. On Wednesday, 122 Labor lawmakers joined 77 others in the House of Commons to vote for a motion that called the case for war "unproven."
The government defeated the amendment with 393 votes, but it was still the biggest revolt Blair has faced since Labor was elected by a large majority in 1997.
Blair told The Guardian that he respected the views of dissenters but would not be moved by them.
"In the end, people have to vote how they feel," Blair said. "But my job is to say how I feel ... why I believe that what we are doing is right and why I believe that to do what the opponents of my position want us to do would be very, very dangerous for our country and the world."
He also rejected charges that he has meekly followed policies set out by the U.S. administration.
Blair said he raised concerns about Hussein's weapons of mass destruction at his first meeting with Bush, before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 201.
"I am truly committed to dealing with this, irrespective of the position of America," Blair said. "If the Americans were not doing this, I would be pressing them to be doing so."
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