Dealing with War – in the eyes of Speeches by Winston Churchill and Tony Blair
War is dreadful at any time although predicaments conceive where only one option is controllably possible. Great Britain is one of those countries that over the centuries have had their fair share of conflicts. Through arrogance or valour, Great Britain has stood up when the enemy has shown its worst and fought for their right to bring a halt to what they were faced with. With regard to these conflicts, there has always been a prominent figure who leads the way, be it as King or Prime Minister. An integral part of these conflicts has been these leaders’ key note speeches that not only endeavour to rouse the government and population but also justify their right for war. For this piece of writing, two of Britain’s recent leaders’ speeches (relatively speaking in their long history) will be discussed; those being Winston Churchill and Tony Blair. Their respective wars were Churchill and World War II (1939-1945) with Germany, and Tony Blair and his war with Saddam Husain’s regime (2003 – not completely finished). The two prime ministerial speeches were made first by Churchill two days into his tenure on his first Commons speech and Tony Blair also in the Commons two days before the invasion of Iraq. The task here is to compare and contrast their respective war speeches while highlighting what makes them imperative.
The primary conspicuous similarity of these leaders was the fact that they were both faced with ruthless opposition; Churchill with Hitler and Blair with Hussein. If Blair and Churchill were the righteous democratic free willed chiefs, the other leaders had to be ones where banishment to the fiery depths was the only option. Equally, Blair and Churchill both refer to their adversaries as ‘tyrants’; men opposed to the rules of law and dignity of the human race. Churchill says Hitler’s regime is a ‘monstrous tyranny’. These words show power over others is what makes a monster and Hitler’s behavior as a human is like a monster when he indulged in his impulse for cruelty and domination. Hitler is like a monstrous minotaur; a guardian of hell seen in Dante’s L’Inferno. Likewise, Blair alludes to the word tyrant when he calls Husain’s leadership a ‘tyrannical regime’. Husain’s regime, Blair says, is a ‘begetter of chaos’. The English public is meant to see this tyrant’s prolonged existence leading to chaos as an abyss where a formless state of the world is to be had. From both British leaders’ statements, people are meant to feel a certain kind loathing for both of the harsh oppressors. Comparably, these two Prime Minister’s adversaries are the lowest form of life where only disfigured ideas will come from them.
Moreover, the darker the picture these two orators portray the more disgust there is for their opponents’ ways. Churchill calls Hitler’s evil days as ‘never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime’. These are grim facts that justify the right to stop this despicable onslaught against human existence. By a similar measure, Blair goes into detail as he attacks the rule of Husain as he expresses his repulsion to ‘the brutality of the repression’ with ‘barbaric prisons’ in the face of ‘pitiless terror’. Blair’s speech has details to justify the severity of the terror while Churchill’s few words hit hard.
In spite of the similarities, these two speeches, coming at a time when decisions had to be made as the public waited in anticipation, do differ. Churchill is the one that becomes the major speaker showing his capability as a rebel rouser.
So, by contrast, Churchill generates more of a powerful speech. His country is at war and he needs to find moral boosting rhetoric to implore everyone to be with him. He uses short phrases to make his delivery work by way of hypophora where he raises a question and immediately answers it. This elevates his rhetoric. He says ‘What is our aim?’ and his answer is ‘Victory’. He also increases this rhetoric by the repetition of the word ‘Victory’ within four subsequent phrases that reinforces his answer on how the war will be won. This is opposed to Blair’s speech as there is the feeling he is opposed to going straight to war as with words ‘we consulted inspectors’, and the resentment to Husain ‘still countries hesitated’. He actually uses some irony as he says ‘our own aim to placate is implacable’. Blair is against a terrible system of terror and wants to stop any form of it although Hussain has been allowed to purport his methods of controlling his country and threatening the world. Blair continually tells us that Husain has had so many warnings saying countries have just been having a ‘diplomatic dance’ with Hussain. Blair is also dissimilar to Churchill in that he will bring on war with Husain but only with the help of allied countries. In contrast, the feeling is that Churchill was declaring his battle against Hitler on his own albeit with help if others were to follow. Blair would inevitably not invade Iraq without help; however, Churchill knew his own mission.
To conclude these two speeches had two leaders at the early stages of war. They differ in many ways, but similarl, show two leaders with forthright ideas and plans for action. Winston Churchill showed his great oratory skills; his concise and succinct style had a quality of putting fire in everyone’s belly to move forward with him. His sound bite skills showed he was more effective than the drawn out dialogue of Tony Blair. Tony Blair’s long speech brought to light that he had so much to consider as to whether he should go to war, and his war decisions were not ultimately all his. This writing has highlighted the comparing and contrasting styles of language from these two British Prime Ministers and shown how they went about getting their message across to their country and the world.
1Minotaur, Circle 7, cantos 12-17, University of Texas at Austin, Retrieved 6July 2011, from: http://danteworlds.laits.utexas.edu/circle7.html
2Dante Alighieri, The Inferno, trans. John Ciardi (Mentor Books: New York, 1954), Canto XII
3 Alliteration, dictionary.com, Retrieved 6 July 2011, from; http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/alliteration
McRae John, Boardman Roy, Reading Between the Lines (Cambridge University Press 1984) Page 31
Blair, Tony (18th March 2003) Full text: Tony Blair Speech. Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 6 July 2011, from: