“As Britain knows, all predominant power seems for a time invincible, but, in fact, it is transient. The question is: What do you leave behind? And what you can bequeath to this anxious world is the light of liberty.
That is what this struggle against terrorist groups or states is about. We’re not fighting for domination. We’re not fighting for an American world, though we want a world in which America is at ease. We’re not fighting for Christianity, but against religious fanaticism of all kinds.”
There is no American politician alive today who has the simple eloquence of Tony Blair. Yet his speech, while elevating and inspiring, was also somewhat saddening, we it provided a glimpse of those qualities so lacking in our own leaders.
The first was the belief that Saddam Hussein’s chemical/biological weapons were weaponized, mobilized, and could quickly be deployed against Saddam’s enemies or fall into the hands of terrorist groups. The second was that Hussein had a nuclear program that, if unchecked, would soon allow him a deterrent capacity (like North Korea) and also encourage other nations to pursue their own nuclear weapons.
The premises of these two reasons, based on U.S. intelligence and the word of the president, now appear to be false.
This is the trouble, I think, that presents itself when we examine Blair’s sublime platitudes against the nagging principles of everyday democracy. Namely, those principles dictating that when democratic nations ask their citizens to shed blood in war, those governments must first be honest and forthright about the reasons for such a war. And while we may well find weapons buried in gardens or hidden in far-flung deserts, it has become apparent that Iraq was not an imminent threat either to its own neighbors or the United States.
It is against this new backdrop of cynicism that one recognizes the red herring that was Blair’s address. Indeed, the purpose of his speech may have been to defend the war with Iraq, but it was delivered in the rhetoric of the global struggle against terrorism, so as to invoke images of murderous mullahs in all their fanaticism.
Both Bush and Blair have attempted this strategy, blurring the line between Sept. 11 and Iraq so that, to the traumatized American psyche, there is no longer any difference between the two. They are both guilty of appropriating the lofty language of one righteous struggle in order to advance a conquest already years in the making.
“Destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do. And our job, my nation that watched you grow, that you fought alongside and now fights alongside you, that takes enormous pride in our alliance and great affection in our common bond, our job is to be there with you.”
Bush and Blair are, in the end, one and the same, as their fates have become intertwined in this web of platitudes. Their web grows heavier with deceit each day — so heavy, I think, that they will go, eventually, down into the pit together.