Perhaps it was only a coincidence, or maybe it was planned, but in choosing the same day, Tuesday, March 21, to speak about Iraq, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said some things that were needed reminders to the American and British people, many of whom are "going wobbly" over the war.
At a White House news conference, President Bush noted: "The terrorists haven't given up. They're tough-minded. They like to kill. There will be more fighting ahead."
Critics who want a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. and British forces seem to think Western countries will be less vulnerable to terrorism if we wash our hands of Iraq. They claim Iraq has served as a recruiting tool for terrorists. If Iraq is responsible for the recruitment of terrorists, what events led to terrorist recruitment going back more than 20 years and leading up to 9/11? These pre-9/11 attacks occurred before Saddam Hussein was ousted. The only way to end this war - in Iraq and everywhere else - is to destroy the will of the terrorists by neutralizing more of them.
In the first of three planned foreign policy lectures (one is scheduled for delivery in the United States), Tony Blair noted, "This is not a clash between civilizations. It is a clash about civilization." Blair called for a global interventionist approach to confront terrorism head-on and win a battle over values and ideas: " 'We' is not the West. 'We' are as much Muslim as Christian or Jew or Hindu. 'We' are those who believe in religious tolerance, openness to others, to democracy, liberty and human rights administered by secular courts."
No one has been more articulate than Tony Blair in setting out the rationale for the Iraq war and the larger war on terror. In his Tuesday lecture, Blair addressed critics who claim the war has been a mistake because Iraq was never a threat: "Iraq was indeed a threat as two regional wars, 14 U.N. resolutions and the final report of the Iraq Survey Group show; that in the aftermath of the Iraq War we secured major advances on (weapons of mass destruction) not least the new relationship with Libya and the shutting down of the A.Q. Khan network. ." (Dr. A.Q. Khan is the former head of Pakistan's nuclear program who reportedly has aided North Korea and possibly other countries since his dismissal.) ".and that it was the Taliban who manipulated the drug trade and in any event housed al-Qaida and its training camps."
Blair then got to the heart of the matter for those who think freedom is only for us: ".whatever the conclusion to this debate, if there ever is one, the fact is that now, whatever the rights and wrongs of how and why Saddam and the Taliban were removed, there is an obvious, clear and overwhelming reason for supporting the people of those countries in their desire for democracy."
What about those people who risked their lives to vote in three elections? What about those British and American soldiers who gave their limbs and lives for the freedom of others? Are such lives worth so little that we believe we can quit before the task is done? Do we think that by leaving now before the Iraqis are fully capable of repelling the terrorist insurgents we will have done ourselves - or Iraq - a favor? Are we so self-deceived that we think they won't come after us should we stop going after them?
In the recently translated tapes of Saddam Hussein and in Islamic sermons throughout the Middle East, it is clear the terrorists intend to take their war inside Britain and the United States, as they did on 9/11 and in the train bombings in London and Madrid. There can be no conscientious objecting to this war if we want to remain free. The enemies of freedom believe we lack the stomach for this fight.
In his call to defeat terrorism, Blair criticized those who believe that pandering to terrorists will convert them. It won't, he said. Rather, instead of "choking" terrorism, Blair said pandering "feeds its growth."
Tony Blair gets it. President Bush gets it. Why don't more British and Americans get it? We'd better get it soon, because terrorists get it and they intend to get more of us.