Friday, January 8, 2010

Once there were leaders! Blair to Haaretz: We will defeat terror when we understand it is global

(Haaretz).Without a doubt, it was Iraq that ended his career at 10 Downing Street. The campaign against Saddam Hussein continues to dog him. It was Iraq that largely prevented him from becoming "the first president of the European Union." Nevertheless, Tony Blair does not apologize, does not express regrets and does not attempt to justify himself.

"It's really important to understand that Saddam was actually a threat to the region," he resolutely says in an interview with Haaretz, during his most recent visit to Israel as the Quartet's special envoy. "And quite apart from anything else you may remember, he used to pay the families of [the Palestinian] suicide bombers."

When asked whether the wave of global terror, with its roots in countries like Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen, proves it was a mistake to focus on a single dictator, he replies: "Personally I think we will defeat this terrorism when we understand it is one battle, one struggle. This is a global movement with an ideology."

Soon, Blair will appear as the primary witness before a government commission of inquiry, set up in London, in response to public pressure, in order to answer the critical question: How was Britain dragged into a war in 2003 despite having evidence that Iraq no longer possessed weapons of mass destruction? Why was this information concealed, and moreover, who is responsible for the fact that the public was given a distorted, even specious account, according to which Iraq had the capacity to deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes?

These questions are tearing apart the Labor Party, and some members and supporters fear that Blair's testimony - whose presumed gist may be discerned in this interview - will quash the party's hopes of maintaining its hold on power when elections are held this spring.

"People sometimes say to me, no, it's not really Iraq, it's Afghanistan," Blair says. "Someone else will say, no it's Pakistan, and someone else will say it's Iraq, and someone else will say it's Yemen. But actually it's all of these because in different ways, they represent different challenges that are unified by one single movement with a single ideology. And this is going to be resolved, in my view, over a long period of time. But what is important is that wherever it is fighting us, we're prepared to fight back. And actually if you take the situation, for example, in Iraq, what began as a fight to remove Saddam was over in two months but then what occupied us for the next six years was fighting external elements - Al-Qaida on one hand, Iranian-backed militias on the other, which are the same elements we're fighting everywhere. Now, ultimately we've got to understand that, unfortunately, we can't say: 'Look, let's concentrate it here, but not here, and here, and here,' because that's not the way this thing's working."

Blair's equation doesn't end there. "Actually there is a unifying theme, in my view, between what's happened in countries like our own country with terrorist activity, and what's happening in places like Yemen or Afghanistan or Somalia or, I'm afraid, other countries. The key to understanding this is [that] this is a global movement with a global ideology and it is one struggle. It's one struggle with many different arenas."