Tim Collins OBE (born Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 1960) is a former colonel in the British Army. He is best known for his role in the Iraq War, and his inspirational eve-of-battle speech, a copy of which apparently hangs in the White House.
Rules of Engagement: A Life in Conflict Collins, Tim; Headline Publishing; 2005
- This is Collins' pre-war speech as recorded by Sarah Oliver, a British journalist embedded with 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment during Operation Telic and included in Collins' autobiographical account of the Iraq War
"We are going to Iraq to liberate and not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people - and the only flag that will be shown in that ancient land will be their own. Show respect for them.
"The enemy knows this moment is coming too. Some have resolved to fight and others wish to survive. Be sure to distinguish between 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.
"In the near future you will see things that no man could pay to see, and you will have to go a long way to meet a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis. You will be embarassed by the hospitality they will offer you, even though they have nothing. Don't treat them as refugees 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 got up this morning and got dressed they did not plan to die this day. Allow them dignity in death. Bury them with due reverence and properly mark their graves.
"It remains my foremost intention to bring every single one of you out alive. But there may be those 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 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 for what they have done to their people. As they die, they will know that it is their deeds that 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 that they live with the mark of Cain upon them.
"If someone surrenders to you, remember that 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. Remember, however, that if you harm your regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing, or cowardice, know that it is your family who will suffer. You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest order, for your deeds will follow you down through history. We will bring shame on neither our uniforms nor our nation.
"As for chemical and biological weapons, I believe the threat is very real. We know that the order to use these weapons has been delegated down to regional commanders. That means he has already taken the decision to use them. Therefore it is not a question of if, it is a question of when they attempt this. If we survive the first strike, we will survive the attack.
"As for ourselves, let's bring everyone home safely and leave Iraq a better place for us having been there. Our business now is north. Good luck."