Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"They play our own media with a shrewdness that would be the envy of many a political party."

That's what Tony Blair said in a remarkable speech to the Foreign Policy Centre in London. It truly is a must-read. I wish that our own President could make the case as eloquently. Here are some key paragraphs, with emphasis added:

[T]he 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. It is arguable that de-Baathification went too quickly and was spread too indiscriminately, especially amongst the armed forces. . . .

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 MNF 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 MNF 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; but 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. Every act of carnage adds to the death toll. But somehow it serves to indicate our responsibility for disorder, rather than the act of wickedness that causes it. For us, so much of our opinion believes that what was done in Iraq in 2003 was so wrong, that it is reluctant to accept what is plainly right now.

Please read the whole thing.

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