Fort Blair Maine, Kuwait
"Our Business Now Is North"
22 March 2003
With one phrase, Lt. Col. Tim Collins,
commander of the 1st
Battalion of the Royal Irish, summed up the task in hand for
the British forces waiting to remove Saddam Hussein from Iraq.
Collins was addressing his 800
men, an arm of Britain's 16 Air
Assault Brigade, at Fort Blair Maine, a Kuwaiti desert camp 20
miles south of the Iraqi border. Here is as much of his
extraordinary speech as has been reported.
"We go to liberate not to conquer.
We will not fly our flags in
their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people and the
only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their
own. Show respect for them.
"There are some who are alive at
this moment who will not be
alive shortly. Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we
will not send. As for the others I expect you to rock their
world. Wipe them out if that is what they choose. But if you
are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.
"Iraq is steeped in history. It
is the site of the Garden of
Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham. Tread
lightly there. You will see things that no man could pay to see
and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent,
generous and upright people than the Iraqis. You will be
embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing.
Don't treat them as refugees for they are in their own country.
Their children will be poor, in years to come they will know
that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you.
"If there are casualties of war
then remember that when they
woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die
this day. Allow them dignity in death. Bury them properly and
mark their graves.
"It is my foremost intention to
bring every single one of you
out alive but there may be people among us who will not see the
end of this campaign. We will put them in their sleeping bags
and send them back. There will be no time for sorrow.
"The enemy should be in no doubt
that we are his nemesis and
that we are bringing about his rightful destruction. There are
many regional commanders who have stains on their souls and
they are stoking the fires of hell for Saddam. He and his
forces will be destroyed by this coalition for what they have
done. As they die they will know their deeds have brought them
to this place. Show them no pity.
"It is a big step to take another
human life. It is not to be
done lightly. I know of men who have taken life needlessly in
other conflicts, I can assure you they live with the mark of
Cain upon them. If someone surrenders to you then remember they
have that right in international law and ensure that one day
they go home to their family.
"The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.
"If you harm the regiment or its
history by over-enthusiasm in
killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will
suffer. You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the
highest for your deeds will follow you down through history. We
will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation.
"As for ourselves, let's bring
everyone home and leave Iraq a
better place for us having been there.
"Our business now is north."