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Posted by: cassie
Date: March 23, 2006 02:48PM



March 22, 2006 -- Below are excerpts from British Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech yesterday to the Foreign Policy Center in London...

VICTORY for democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan is a vital element of defeating global terrorism.

I recall the video footage of Mohammed Sadiq Khan, the ringleader of the 7/7 bombers. There he was, complaining about the suppression of Muslims, the wickedness of America and Britain, calling on all fellow Muslims to fight us.

And I thought: Here is someone brought up in this country - free to practice his religion, free to speak out, free to vote, with a good standard of living and every chance to raise a family in a decent way of life - talking about "us," the British, when his whole experience of "us" has been the very opposite of the message he is preaching.

And in so far as he is angry about Muslims in Iraq or Afghanistan - let Iraqi or Afghan Muslims decide whether to be angry or not, by ballot.

There was something tragic, terrible but also ridiculous about such a diatribe. He may have been born here. But his ideology wasn't. And that is why it has to be taken on, everywhere.

This terrorism will not be defeated until its ideas - the poison that warps the minds of its adherents - are confronted, head-on, in their essence, at their core.

By this I don't mean telling them terrorism is wrong. I mean telling them their attitude to America is absurd; their concept of governance pre-feudal; their positions on women and other faiths, reactionary and regressive.

And then, since only by Muslims can this be done: standing up for and supporting those within Islam who will tell them all of this but more - namely that the extremist view of Islam is not just theologically backward but completely contrary to the spirit and teaching of the Koran.

But in order to do this, we must reject the thought that somehow we are the authors of our own distress; that if only we altered this decision or that, the extremism would fade away. The only way to win is to recognize this phenomenon is a global ideology; to see all areas, in which it operates, as linked; and to defeat it by values and ideas set in opposition to those of the terrorists.

THE struggle against terrorism in Madrid or London or Paris is the same as the struggle against the terrorist acts of Hezbollah in Lebanon or the PIJ in Palestine or rejectionist groups in Iraq. The murder of the innocent in Beslan is part of the same ideology that takes innocent lives in Saudi Arabia, the Yemen or Libya.

And when Iran gives support to such terrorism, it becomes part of the same battle, with the same ideology at its heart.

The conventional view is that, for example, Iran is hostile to al Qaeda and therefore would never support its activities. But as we know from our own history of conflict, under the pressure of battle, alliances shift and change. Fundamentally, for this ideology, we are the enemy.

Which brings me to the fundamental point. "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.

This is not a clash between civilizations. It is a clash about civilization.

It is the age-old battle between progress and reaction, between those who embrace and see opportunity in the modern world and those who reject its existence; between optimism and hope on the one hand; and pessimism and fear on the other.

And in the era of globalization - where nations depend on each other and where our security is held in common or not at all - the outcome of this clash between extremism and progress is utterly determinative of our future here in Britain. We can no more opt out of this struggle than we can opt out of the climate changing around us.

T HIS is why the position of so much opinion on how to defeat this terrorism and on the continuing struggle in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Middle East is, in my judgment, so mistaken. It ignores the true significance of the elections in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The fact is: Given the chance, the people wanted democracy. OK, so they voted on religious or regional lines. That's not surprising, given the history. But there's not much doubt what all the main parties in both countries would prefer, and it is neither theocratic nor secular dictatorship.

The people - despite violence, intimidation, inexperience and often logistical nightmares - voted. Not a few, but in numbers large enough to shame many western democracies. They want government decided by the people.

And who is trying to stop them? In Iraq, a mixture of foreign Jihadists, former Saddamists and rejectionist insurgents. In Afghanistan, a combination of drug barons, Taliban and al Qaeda.

In both countries, the armed forces and police service are taking shape so that in time a democratically elected government has, under its control, sufficient power to do the will of the democratic state. In each case, people die lining up to join such forces - determined, whatever the risk, to be part of a new and different dispensation.

So here, in its most pure form, is a struggle between democracy and violence.

PEOPLE look back on the three years since the Iraq conflict; they point to the precarious nature of Iraq today and to those who have died - mainly in terrorist acts - and they say: How can it have been worth it?

But there is a different question to ask: Why is it so important to the forces of reaction and violence to halt Iraq in its democratic tracks and tip it into sectarian war? Why do foreign terrorists from al Qaeda and its associates go across the border to kill and maim? Why does Syria not take stronger action to prevent them? Why does Iran meddle so furiously in the stability of Iraq?

The answer is that the reactionary elements know the importance of victory or defeat in Iraq. Right from the beginning, to them it was obvious.

For sure, errors were made on our side. But the basic problem from the murder of the United Nations staff in August 2003 onwards was simple: security. The reactionary elements were trying to de-rail both reconstruction and democracy by violence.

Power and electricity became problems not through the indolence of either Iraqis or the multinational force but through sabotage. People became frightened through terrorism and through criminal gangs, some deliberately released by Saddam.

These were not random acts. They were and are a strategy. When that strategy failed to push the multinational force out of Iraq prematurely and failed to stop the voting, they turned to sectarian killing and outrage - most notably February's savage and blasphemous destruction of the Shia Shrine at Samarra.

They know that if they can succeed either in Iraq or Afghanistan (or indeed in Lebanon or anywhere else wanting to go the democratic route), then the choice of a modern democratic future for the Arab or Muslim world is dealt a potentially mortal blow.

Likewise, if they fail, and those countries become democracies and make progress and, in the case of Iraq, prosper rapidly as it would - then not merely is that a blow against their whole value system; it is the most effective message possible against their wretched propaganda about America, the West, the rest of the world.

That to me is the painful irony of what is happening. They have so much clearer a sense of what is at stake. They play our own media with a shrewdness that would be the envy of many a political party.

SHORTLY after Saddam fell, I met in London a woman who, after years of exile (and there were 4 million such exiles), had returned to Iraq to participate in modern politics there. A couple of months later, she was assassinated, one of the first to be so.

I cannot tell what she would say now. But I do know it would not be, "Give up." She would not want her sacrifice for her beliefs to be in vain.

Two years later, the same ideology killed people on the streets of London, and for the same reason: To stop cultures, faiths and races living in harmony; to deter those who see greater openness to others as a mark of humanity's progress; to disrupt the very thing that makes London special would in time, if allowed to, set Iraq on a course of progress too.

This is, ultimately, a battle about modernity. Some of it can only be conducted and won within Islam itself. But don't let us in our desire not to speak of what we can only imperfectly understand; or our wish not to trespass on sensitive feelings, end up accepting the premise of the very people fighting us.

The extremism is not the true voice of Islam. Neither is that voice necessarily to be found in those who are from one part only of Islamic thought, however assertively that voice makes itself heard. It is, as ever, to be found in the calm, but too often unheard beliefs of the many Muslims, millions of them the world over, including in Europe, who want what we all want: to be ourselves free and for others to be free also; who regard tolerance as a virtue and respect for the faith of others as part of our own faith.

That is what this battle is about, within Islam and outside of it; it is a battle of values and progress - and therefore it is one we must win.


Support our troops

...and CALL all your Congressmen today and let them know: Legals, SÍ...Sneak-ins, NO!

Working my way through college. Life is great. Life is even better with a Mac.

"Don't dream your life, live your dream."
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Posted by: JoeM
Date: March 23, 2006 02:54PM
I have heard that he will be resigning before the year is out.

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Posted by: mick e
Date: March 23, 2006 03:17PM
Good lord.

Unpaid Social Liaison
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Posted by: Refurbvirgin
Date: March 23, 2006 06:46PM
Terrorism is only being increased by our illegal war on Iraq. The real winners are the very Islamic radicals we say we are fighting, as we've turned a state which suppressed radical Islam into one whose elected leaders are closely allied with Iran, and provided an ideal recruiting ground and classroom for new terrorists.

Iraq Veterans Against the War
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Posted by: bfd
Date: March 23, 2006 08:17PM
Phony baloney, Tony …
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Posted by: Spole
Date: March 24, 2006 06:59AM

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Posted by: Blue Monk
Date: March 25, 2006 03:00PM
I thought this thread was going to be about this forum!

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