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Blair Makes the Case

President Bush should note his ally's words.

12:10 PM, Sep 29, 2004 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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AS PRESIDENT BUSH prepares for Thursday night's debate, he might want to take a minute to read the remarks on Iraq and the war on terror by his ally Tony Blair, in his annual speech Tuesday at the Labour party's annual conference in Brighton:

The evidence about Saddam having actual biological and chemical weapons, as opposed to the capability to develop them, has turned out to be wrong.

I acknowledge that and accept it.

I simply point out, such evidence was agreed by the whole international community, not least because Saddam had used such weapons against his own people and neighboring countries.

And the problem is I can apologize for the information that turned out to be wrong, but I can't, sincerely at least, apologize for removing Saddam. The world is a better place with Saddam in prison not in power.

But at the heart of this, is a belief that the basic judgment I have made since September 11th, including on Iraq, is wrong, that by our actions we have made matters worse not better. . . .

Do I know I'm right?

Judgements aren't the same as facts. Instinct is not science. I'm like any other human being as fallible and as capable of being wrong.

I only know what I believe.

There are two views of what is happening in the world today.

One view is that there are isolated individuals, extremists, engaged in essentially isolated acts of terrorism. That what is happening is not qualitatively different from the terrorism we have always lived with.

If you believe this, we carry on the same path as before 11 September. We try not to provoke them and hope in time they will wither.

The other view is that this is a wholly new phenomenon, worldwide global terrorism based on a perversion of the true, peaceful, and honorable faith of Islam; that its roots are not superficial but deep, in the madrassahs of Pakistan, in the extreme forms of Wahhabi doctrine in Saudi Arabia, in the former training camps of al Qaeda in Afghanistan; in the cauldron of Chechnya; in parts of the politics of most countries of the Middle East and many in Asia; in the extremist minority that now in every European city preach hatred of the West and our way of life.

If you take this view, you believe September 11th changed the world; that Bali, Beslan, Madrid, and scores of other atrocities that never make the news are part of the same threat, and the only path to take is to confront this terrorism, remove it root and branch, and at all costs stop them acquiring the weapons to kill on a massive scale because these terrorists would not hesitate to use them.

Likewise, take the first view, then when you see the terror brought to Iraq you say: here, we told you; look what you have stirred up; now stop provoking them.

But if you take the second view, you don't believe the terrorists are in Iraq to liberate it.

They're not protesting about the rights of women--what, the same people who stopped Afghan girls going to school, made women wear the Burka and beat them in the streets of Kabul, who now assassinate women just for daring to register to vote in Afghanistan's first ever democratic ballot, though 4 million have done so?

They are not provoked by our actions; but by our existence.

They are in Iraq for the very reason we should be.

They have chosen this battleground because they know success for us in Iraq is not success for America or Britain or even Iraq itself but for the values and way of life that democracy represents.

They know that.

That's why they are there.

That is why we should be there and whatever disagreements we have had, should unite in our determination to stand by the Iraqi people until the job is done.

And, of course, at first the consequence is more fighting.

But Iraq was not a safe country before March 2003.

Few had heard of the Taleban before September 11th 2001.

Afghanistan was not a nation at peace. . . .

It's simply that I believe democracy there means security here; and that if I don't care and act on this terrorist threat, then the day will come when all our good work on the issues that decide people's lives will be undone because the stability on which our economy, in an era of globaliaation, depends, will vanish. . . .

Military action will be futile unless we address the conditions in which this terrorism breeds and the causes it preys upon.

That is why it is worth staying the course to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan, because then people the world over will see that this is not and has never been some new war of religion; but the oldest struggle humankind knows, between liberty or oppression, tolerance or hate; between government by terror or by the rule of law. . . .

I have changed as a leader.