- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Last weekend saw British Prime Minister Tony Blair where he has been since September 11, close to his friend President Bush. The two leaders spoke again about the less and less intractable problem of Iraq. As they have before, they agreed that Iraq's Saddam Hussein cannot be allowed to continue his production of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Mr. Blair flew back to England on Monday, and into a political squall that may develop into a real storm against British involvement in the coming war with Iraq.

Mr. Blair was careful not to commit Britain to the coming war, but he was firm in his statement that Saddam must allow U.N. inspectors to go anywhere in Iraq at any time. Promising not to act "precipitately," Mr. Blair nonetheless said that, if necessary, military action should be taken and Saddam's regime replaced. He was greeted on his return by a rebellion of about 150 Labor Party "backbenchers" junior members of Parliament who expressed a "deep unease" about any British involvement in an attack on Iraq. But it was not only the backbenchers who were attacking Mr. Blair's stance. Former Minister Glenda Jackson evidently ignorant of a carload of public evidence of Saddam's development of weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them called Mr. Blair's stance "irresponsible" without just that evidence. Even the more thoughtful Peter Kilfoyle, Labor's former defense minister, criticized Mr. Blair for being tied to "some of the more adventurous notions of the American administration." Mr. Kilfoyle, who should know better, favors turning the whole Iraq problem over to the United Nations, which has been institutionally incapable of handling the matter since its inspectors were thrown out of Iraq in 1998.

Americans forget the political price our allies often pay at home for supporting our cause. It is to his credit that Mr. Blair about whom this page had little good to say before last September recognizes that our fight is for freedom, and that it is Britain's fight as well. He is sure to pay a price later this week in Parliament when the backbenchers' "deep unease" comes up in Parliament's "questions" session, and in Labor Party meetings. If it gets a bit sticky for Mr. Blair, Mr. Bush should return one of the honors that Mr. Blair has given him. Mr. Bush should suggest to Mr. Blair that an invitation to address the Parliament would be welcomed. Mr. Bush could easily go to England to help make his friend's case, which is also his own.

Britain made a substantial contribution to the war in Afghanistan, committing hundreds of special forces troops to the battle, as well as refueling aircraft and many other ships, aircraft and people. The direct involvement of the British in combat, and in support of our air operations, was both significant and of great value. In the coming conflict, we will need them at our side as they have been since that last little argument in 1812. Mr. Bush should ask his friend if he needs help, and if needed give it quickly, or we may not have Britain at our side when the going gets tough the next time around.

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