- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2006

LONDON — British Prime Minister Tony Blair called yesterday for a global, multifaith campaign of values and ideas to defeat terrorism and claim victory in what he described as “a clash about civilization.”

Two days after the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Mr. Blair said terrorism “will not be defeated until its ideas, the poison that warps the minds, its adherence, are confronted at their essence, at their core.”

The prime minister, fighting a long-running political battle against critics of his getting Britain involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, insisted, “We must reject the thought that somehow we are the authors of our own distress, that if only we had altered this decision or that, this extremism would fade away.”

He told an audience at a policy event sponsored by Reuters news agency: “This is not a clash between civilizations, but a clash about civilization. It is the age-old battle between progress and reaction.”

“In my judgment,” Mr. Blair said, “the only way to win is to recognize this phenomenon [of terrorism] is a global ideology, to see all areas in which it operates as linked and to defeat it by values and ideas set in opposition to those of the terrorists.”

The warriors that he envisions for his war of ideas are not part of a “Western” concept, Mr. Blair insisted. “We are not ‘the West.’ We are as much Muslim and Christian or Jew or Hindu.

“We are those who believe in religious tolerance, openness to others, to democracy, liberty and humanitarianism, administered by secular courts.”

Before the address, Mr. Blair’s spokesman at his 10 Downing Street office rejected fears that the speech might have repercussions on Iran, which is locked in what has been described as a “battle of wills” with the United States and Europe over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

“On Iran,” the spokesman said, “we are engaged in an activist, interventionist approach. It isn’t just sitting back waiting for Iran; it is trying to enforce through diplomacy.”

The prime minister’s address yesterday was the first in a series of three he plans to deliver on terrorism and the significance of Iraq and Afghanistan. The second is expected to be given in Australia and the third is likely in the United States.

“The terrorists know that if they are to succeed either in Iraq or Afghanistan, or indeed Lebanon or anywhere else wanting to go the democratic route, then the choice of a modern future for the Arab or Muslim world is dealt a potentially mortal blow,” he said.

But if the terrorists fail and these countries become democracies and make progress, he said, “then not merely is that a blow against their own value system, but it is the most effective message against their wretched propaganda about America, the West and the rest of the world.”

It is still a war, Mr. Blair said, and terrorism “will not be defeated until its ideas are confronted head-on, on its absurd anti-Americanism, absurd pre-feudal concept of government and its position on women and other faiths.”

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