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UK's Strongest Voice Against The War -- Robin Cook Dead at 59

by suskind Sat Aug 6th, 2005 at 02:27:41 PM EST

promoted from the diaries by Jerome. Sad news.

Former Cabinet Minister Robin Cook died this evening, after collapsing during a hike in the Scottish hills.  Mr. Cook was a Labour MP for more than 30 years and will always be remembered for his resignation speech on the eve of the invasion of Iraq.  He resigned as Leader of the House of Commons in protest against a war that he knew was illegal, and whose basis he doubted.

Here follows excerpts from Robin Cook's resignation speech. Cook's resignation speech
Tuesday, 18 March, 2003, 10:41 GMT

I have chosen to address the House first on why I cannot support a war without international agreement or domestic support.

I applaud the heroic efforts that the prime minister has made in trying to secure a second resolution....Now that those attempts have failed, we cannot pretend that getting a second resolution was of no importance.

It is not France alone that wants more time for inspections. Germany wants more time for inspections; Russia wants more time for inspections; indeed, at no time have we signed up even the minimum necessary to carry a second resolution.

We delude ourselves if we think that the degree of international hostility is all the result of President Chirac.   The reality is that Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading partner - not NATO, not the European Union and, now, not the Security Council.

To end up in such diplomatic weakness is a serious reverse.

Only a year ago, we and the United States were part of a coalition against terrorism that was wider and more diverse than I would ever have imagined possible.

History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition.
The US can afford to go it alone, but Britain is not a superpower.

Our interests are best protected not by unilateral action but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules.

Yet tonight the international partnerships most important to us are weakened: the European Union is divided; the Security Council is in stalemate.
Those are heavy casualties of a war in which a shot has yet to be fired.

It is precisely because we have none of that (NATO, EU, France & Germany) support in this case that it was all the more important to get agreement in the Security Council as the last hope of demonstrating international agreement.

The threshold for war should always be high.

None of us can predict the death toll of civilians from the forthcoming bombardment of Iraq, but the US warning of a bombing campaign that will "shock and awe" makes it likely that casualties will be numbered at least in the thousands.

I am confident that British servicemen and women will acquit themselves with professionalism and with courage. I hope that they all come back.

It is entirely legitimate to support our troops while seeking an alternative to the conflict that will put those troops at risk.

Nor is it fair to accuse those of us who want longer for inspections of not having an alternative strategy.

For four years as foreign secretary I was partly responsible for the western strategy of containment.
Over the past decade that strategy destroyed more weapons than in the Gulf war, dismantled Iraq's nuclear weapons programme and halted Saddam's medium and long-range missiles programmes.

Iraq's military strength is now less than half its size than at the time of the last Gulf war.

Ironically, it is only because Iraq's military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion. Some advocates of conflict claim that Saddam's forces are so weak, so demoralised and so badly equipped that the war will be over in a few days.

Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target.

Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years, and which we helped to create? Why is it necessary to resort to war this week, while Saddam's ambition to complete his weapons programme is blocked by the presence of UN inspectors?

Only a couple of weeks ago, Hans Blix told the Security Council that the key remaining disarmament tasks could be completed within months.

I have heard it said that Iraq has had not months but 12 years in which to complete disarmament, and that our patience is exhausted. Yet it is more than 30 years since resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories. We do not express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply.

I welcome the strong personal commitment that the prime minister has given to middle east peace, but Britain's positive role in the middle east does not redress the strong sense of injustice throughout the Muslim world at what it sees as one rule for the allies of the US and another rule for the rest.

Nor is our credibility helped by the appearance that our partners in Washington are less interested in disarmament than they are in regime change in Iraq.
That explains why any evidence that inspections may be showing progress is greeted in Washington not with satisfaction but with consternation: it reduces the case for war.

What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops.

The longer that I have served in this place, the greater the respect I have for the good sense and collective wisdom of the British people.

On Iraq, I believe that the prevailing mood of the British people is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator, but they are not persuaded that he is a clear and present danger to Britain. They want inspections to be given a chance, and they suspect that they are being pushed too quickly into conflict by a US Administration with an agenda of its own.

Above all, they are uneasy at Britain going out on a limb on a military adventure without a broader international coalition and against the hostility of many of our traditional allies.  From the start of the present crisis, I have insisted, as Leader of the House, on the right of this place to vote on whether Britain should go to war.

I intend to join those tomorrow night who will vote against military action now. It is for that reason, and for that reason alone, and with a heavy heart, that I resign from the government.

In Memoriam Robert (Robin) Finlayson Cook
b. 28 February 1946 at Bellshill, Lanarkshire
d. 06 August, 2006 near summit Ben Stack,Inverness

Farewell Song To The Banks Of Ayr

The gloomy night is gath'ring fast, Loud roars the wild, inconstant blast, Yon murky cloud is foul with rain, I see it driving o'er the plain; The hunter now has left the moor. The scatt'red coveys meet secure; While here I wander, prest with care, Along the lonely banks of Ayr.

The Autumn mourns her rip'ning corn By early Winter's ravage torn; Across her placid, azure sky, She sees the scowling tempest fly: Chill runs my blood to hear it rave; I think upon the stormy wave, Where many a danger I must dare, Far from the bonie banks of Ayr.

'Tis not the surging billow's roar, 'Tis not that fatal, deadly shore; Tho' death in ev'ry shape appear, The wretched have no more to fear: But round my heart the ties are bound, That heart transpierc'd with many a wound; These bleed afresh, those ties I tear, To leave the bonie banks of Ayr.

Farewell, old Coila's hills and dales, Her healthy moors and winding vales; The scenes where wretched Fancy roves, Pursuing past, unhappy loves! Farewell, my friends! farewell, my foes! My peace with these, my love with those: The bursting tears my heart declare- Farewell, the bonie banks of Ayr!

--- Robert Burns

That's a sad loss. He would have made a good witness for an investigation too.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat Aug 6th, 2005 at 02:36:21 PM EST
Yes, a sad loss. That speech is indeed a fitting tribute to him - clear-headed, on point yet diplomatic, and honorable.

Any idea what kind of impact this can have on the political situation in the Uk and within Labor? Was he a spent force or a credible alternative?
This would seem to reinforce Blair yet again, no?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Aug 6th, 2005 at 02:47:05 PM EST
The focus on Cook that will continue for weeks to come will be a vindication of his resignation speech, will only strengthen the very strong anti-war movement and can only be a deflation for Tony Blair whose defense against terrorism is in itself, an attack on democracy... civil rights, human rights, free speech.

Cook did, indeed, speak for the people and represent the people in their opposition to the war... one question that he asked that has never been addressed is "What's the bloody rush?"  Why did war have to be advanced on that date.... why was it to be the 18th 19th 20th of March?

It is good to look at these things again and again.  I hope no coverage in the media will be spared.... he is someone to focus on for these times.

Ron Suskind is a great writer. I am not him.

by suskind (m.suskindathotmail) on Sat Aug 6th, 2005 at 02:56:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh - This is the first I have heard (I have been busy all day, and heard no news). This is tragic: his was a cool and respected voice that spoke for so many of us. While George Galloway says much that is right, he also has a knack of alientaing people and so tends to be marginalised - Robin Cook suck to his principles with dignity and integrity.


by Boudicca (badgerval at hotmail dot com) on Sat Aug 6th, 2005 at 02:53:08 PM EST
Yes, this is a sad loss, one of the few and rare shining lights of integrity in politics is gone and and as such maybe also some hope for the near future,
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Aug 6th, 2005 at 03:48:48 PM EST
A Dutch saying: "Praised him into his grave". When you bestow a person with such high praise when he is deceased, why not have heeded his voice and warnings when he was alive?

BBC News - Obituary Robin Cooke

'Enormous contribution'

Prime Minister Tony Blair called him "an outstanding, extraordinary talent". And added: "This news will be received with immense sadness, not just in Britain but in many parts of the world. Robin was an outstanding, extraordinary talent - brilliant, incisive in debate, of incredible skill and persuasive power."

The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, said: "This is truly sad and tragic news."

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said: "I am devastated. My heart goes out to (his wife) Gaynor, his sons and his wider family." Jack Straw called Mr Cook: "The greatest Parliamentarian of his generation. I deeply mourn his loss. We have been good friends for nearly 30 years and that friendship survived our policy disagreements."

Mr Prescott said: "He made an enormous contribution to British politics, in opposition and in government."


Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.

by Oui on Sat Aug 6th, 2005 at 04:39:14 PM EST
That dutch saying and subsequent question says it all. And now political leaders are falling over themselves to heap praise on him-big deal.  Might have been better to listen to what he was saying at the time.

And I can't even begin to imagine and politicians here in the US making a speech like that even now-except for maybe one or two.

I also don't know if he is even being mentioned in US news here-then again most Americans barely know who the governor of their state is much less who anyone outside the US happens to be.

I remember reading his speech at the time and even now it is so incredibly to the point and clear headed amidst so much propaganda being spewed during that time that I believe this speech will become a true visionary speech to be quoted over the coming years.

Or maybe more simply put the guy had brains and balls and the courage of his convictions.

"People never do evil so throughly and happily as when they do it from moral conviction."-Blaise Pascal

by chocolate ink on Sat Aug 6th, 2005 at 08:48:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Take this speech and get it to the "Whispering Campaign" who leave leaflets all over the US.... in supermarkets and laundromats and bus stops....

And there are other resignation speeches and letters... Elizabeth Wilmshurst resigned, and the ambassador John Brady Kiesling resigned, and Mary Ann Wright resigned.

I'll get to work on the first.

Ron Suskind is a great writer. I am not him.

by suskind (m.suskindathotmail) on Sun Aug 7th, 2005 at 07:01:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Oui on Sun Aug 7th, 2005 at 08:50:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In memoriam to Robin Cook I am starting a new diary, "The Awkward Squad" .... in one article Robin Cook was named the Founding Member of the Awkward Squad.

"The Most Awkward Thing One Can Do Is To Stand Up In The Face Of A Corrupt Regime - To Tell The Truth And Be Willing To Face The Consequences"

I need your help, Oui,  I have headings for "They Brought Suit"  being Doe v. Bush, Ramadi v. Rumsfeld, et al.

And I have another heading "Conscientious Objectors"

And I have another heading "They Published" being those who took out newspaper pages in protest to Iraq War, i.e. Sean Penn.... MoveOn, etc.....

So I need your help, Oui, as it's turning out to be a massive project.

And those on Booman Tribune and European Tribune who are members of the Awkward Squad .....

Ron Suskind is a great writer. I am not him.

by suskind (m.suskindathotmail) on Sun Aug 7th, 2005 at 09:42:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think of all the good people who have cleared out -- or been cleared out -- of Bliar's way since 1997, and now the best of them has gone.

The death of a foreign secretary who could make the speech above at the moment when the bullies were steamrolling the world with their fucking lies, is a huge loss.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Aug 6th, 2005 at 05:00:03 PM EST
Robin Cook was a brilliant and honourable voice in World Politics.  One of the few voices which was loud, respected and consistently on the side of doing the right thing for the British people and on the World Stage.  His resignation was the strongest symbols of the anti-war movement and his voice will be sorely missed by myself and I am certain many others.

The only international crime is losing a war
by Luam (uretskyj at gmail.com) on Sat Aug 6th, 2005 at 05:24:09 PM EST
the second Iraq War.
It is inevitable that the tributes for Robin will give disproportionate weight to the recent past and his criticisms of the second Iraq war. For many who knew Robin over a long period, that was an area of ambiguity and it should not overshadow, far less contradict, his loyal and immensely important commitment to the Labour Party throughout a period of more than 30 years.

Robin commanded immense personal respect in every office that he held and the people who mourn him most deeply today will include the thousands of individuals whom he served exceptionally well, first as a councillor in Edinburgh and then as a Member of Parliament, first for Edinburgh Central and then for Livingston. Whatever the ups and downs of political life, Robin always served his constituents particularly diligently. http://news.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1741402005

To thine ownself be true. W.S. CANADA
by sybil on Sat Aug 6th, 2005 at 08:07:26 PM EST

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