- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2003

There would appear to be some value to the thousand-year tradition of English liberty. Apparently that tradition imbues its leaders with an instinct to mount the barricades when liberty is threatened. Yesterday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, standing in the well of the House of Representatives — the same place where stood, so long ago, Winston Churchill — commanded the Queen’s English to powerful effect as he put the current petty bickering, partisan sniping and media cavilling in the profound context of our civilization’s desperate struggle to defeat worldwide terrorism.

The House chamber, that has heard so many state-of-the-nation addresses over the centuries, heard yesterday a state-of-the-world address. And a perilous state it is. Mr. Blair reminded the assembled leaders of our government that September 11 was only a tragic prologue to a continuing struggle, of which the Iraq war is only an early round. In a stinging, if oblique, reference to the current foolish debate over uranium in Africa, the British prime minister observed that history’s judgment on us would be harsh indeed if we had hesitated in the face of world danger, for want of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Especially useful to be heard by many members of Congress, who are currently haggling over inconsequential matters, was his reminder that despite our material abundance, we are uniquely vulnerable to the fanatical violence that hovers in the “shadows and darkness” of the terrorist-ridden world. “In the end,” he said, “it is not our power alone that will defeat this evil. Our ultimate weapon is not guns, but our belief.” On hearing that phrase, all in the chamber leaped to their feet with sustained applause and cheers. We can only hope that those same members, when they returned to their offices, sat down and considered exactly what are our “winning” beliefs.

Such a thought process would have been a chastening experience to those members who are currently doing all in their power to undermine our efforts in Iraq and to immobilize the only president we have for the next 18 months in his effort to prosecute the war on terrorism. As Mr. Blair repeatedly implored, in this perilous moment, we will lose both our liberty and our civilization without unity of purpose. He referred to unity between Britain and Europe and between Europe and America. We would add the need for unity of purpose in fighting terrorism between admirers and detractors of the president. Some things ought to be bigger than personal opinions and party interests.

Congress has given Mr. Blair a gold medal for his courageous support in the war. He gave us the benefit of his wisdom and his passion. We got the better of the exchange.

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