The Iraq war is no more popular in England than here; probably less so. But Tony Blair wrote, in today’s Guardian, a brilliant, ringing, uncompromising defense of his, and President Bush’s, Iraq policy. To read it is to be reminded how small-minded the President’s critics are. Here are a few excerpts:
We are locked in a historic struggle in Iraq. On its outcome hangs more than the fate of the Iraqi people. Were we to fail, which we will not, it is more than ‘the power of America’ that would be defeated. The hope of freedom and religious tolerance in Iraq would be snuffed out. Dictators would rejoice; fanatics and terrorists would be triumphant. Every nascent strand of moderate Arab opinion, knowing full well that the future should not belong to fundamentalist religion, would be set back in bitter disappointment.
As each attack brings about American attempts to restore order, so they then characterise it as American brutality. As each piece of chaos menaces the very path toward peace and democracy along which most Iraqis want to travel, they use it to try to make the coalition lose heart, and bring about the retreat that is the fanatics’ victory.
They know it is a historic struggle. They know their victory would do far more than defeat America or Britain. It would defeat civilisation and democracy everywhere. They know it, but do we? The truth is, faced with this struggle, on which our own fate hangs, a significant part of Western opinion is sitting back, if not half-hoping we fail, certainly replete with schadenfreude at the difficulty we find.
There you have it. On the one side, outside terrorists, an extremist who has created his own militia, and remnants of a brutal dictatorship which murdered hundreds of thousands of its own people and enslaved the rest. On the other side, people of immense courage and humanity who dare to believe that basic human rights and liberty are not alien to Arab and Middle Eastern culture, but are their salvation.
The question of the hour is: Which side is the Democratic Party on?
People in the West ask: why don’t they speak up, these standard-bearers of the new Iraq? Why don’t the Shia clerics denounce al-Sadr more strongly? I understand why the question is asked. But the answer is simple: they are worried. They remember 1991, when the West left them to their fate. They know their own street, unused to democratic debate, rife with every rumour, and know its volatility. They read the Western papers and hear its media. And they ask, as the terrorists do: have we the stomach to see it through?
I believe we do. And the rest of the world must hope that we do.
[O]ur greatest threat, apart from the immediate one of terrorism, is our complacency. When some ascribe, as they do, the upsurge in Islamic extremism to Iraq, do they really forget who killed whom on 11 September 2001? When they call on us to bring the troops home, do they seriously think that this would slake the thirst of these extremists, to say nothing of what it would do to the Iraqis?
Or if we scorned our American allies and told them to go and fight on their own, that somehow we would be spared? If we withdraw from Iraq, they will tell us to withdraw from Afghanistan and, after that, to withdraw from the Middle East completely and, after that, who knows? But one thing is for sure: they have faith in our weakness just as they have faith in their own religious fanaticism. And the weaker we are, the more they will come after us.
Brilliant. Courageous. Inspiring. What a contrast with the drivel we hear in the American press.