As usual, the eloquent Tony Blair outlines the significance of Iraq's elections in the most effective way to date
But what I felt more than anything else was this - the danger that people feel here is coming from terrorists and insurgents who are trying to destroy the possibility of this country becoming a democracy.
Now where do we stand in that fight? We stand on the side of the democrats against the terrorists. And so when people say to me, well look at the difficulties, look at the challenges - I say well what's the source of that challenge - the source of that challenge is a wicked, destructive attempt to stop this man, this lady, all these people from Iraq, who want to decide their own future in a democratic way, having that opportunity.
And where should the rest of the world stand? To say, well that's your problem, go and look after it, or you're better off with Saddam Hussein running the country - as if the only choice they should have in the world is a choice between a brutal dictator killing hundreds of thousands of people or terrorists and insurgents.
There is another choice for Iraq - the choice is democracy, the choice is freedom - and our job is to help them get there because that's what they want. Sometimes when I see some of the reporting of what's happening in Iraq in the rest of the world, I just feel that people should understand how precious what has been created here is.
There are some reports that al-Zawahri, second in command of Al-Qaeda has been captured. If confirmed, this could be the long delayed outcome of the campaign against Al-Qaeda leaders in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border previously reported in this blog.
P. Yousefzadeh analyzes the changes in the Middle East brought about by the war in Iraq
But what Clarke and many other pundits seem to miss is that the successful prosecution of the war has brought about a fundamental reappraisal regarding the state of political and personal freedom in the Middle East.
Consider what is happening in Syria. Defying decades of authoritarian rule, Syrians are finding that they can now express their disgust with the ruling Ba'ath party (the same party that ruled Iraq in Saddam Hussein's time), that they can now demand the opportunity to assemble and peaceably protest government actions, and that they can demand the end of emergency laws in the country that have generally suppressed civil rights for the Syrian people. And they are getting results -- the Syrian government has been forced to abolish emergency economic courts, and has relaxed restrictions against private universities and banks.
Why has Syria begun to feel even these slight effects of political liberalization? Because the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime has given the Syrian people hope for greater freedom in their own country.
Andrew Sullivan relates what are the implications of the current hostilities in Iraq.
It's a critical moment in the struggle for a new Middle East, which is inextricable from a safe West. The war to depose Saddam, it now seems, has unfolded slowly. The sudden quick victory was followed by a low-intensity war against the remnants of the Saddam regime and elements among the displaced Sunni miniority.
In some ways, perhaps, the war has now entered the most critical phase - more critical than Afghanistan or the war against Saddam. This war is for the future against the past, for representative government against a vicious theocratic dictatorship from the Leninist vanguards of the Sadrists. The president needs to tell the people this.
Now that the terrorists know that their tactics work, they are continuing their threats and increasing their demands
High-speed trains to southern Spain began running again on Saturday after a bomb found on the line was defused but fears grew that Islamic extremists could strike again after the Madrid rail bombings.
The 12-kg (26-lb) bomb found on Friday on the high-speed line from Madrid to the southern city of Seville revived tension that was just beginning to subside after suspected al Qaeda-linked commuter train bombs killed 191 people on March 11.
Several newspapers reported that the Spanish embassy in Egypt had recently received a letter signed by the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades and al Qaeda threatening to attack embassies, consulates and other Spanish interests in north Africa and the southern and eastern Mediterranean region.
The letter said the attacks could be avoided if Spain withdrew its soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan in the next four weeks, El Mundo newspaper reported.
The key to observe here is that withdrawal from Iraq is no longer the only demand. Withdrawal from Afghanistan is now demanded. And once they obtain that, they will ask for more.
Update: The apparent ringleader of the Madrid attacks has blown himself up.
The Tunisian suspected ringleader of last month's Madrid train bombings blew himself up with three accomplices after police cornered them in a suburban Madrid apartment, officials said Sunday.
Investigators have clearly tied together three events that have rocked Spain in recent weeks: the March 11 train bombings, the discovery of a bomb wedged beneath a high-speed rail south of Madrid Friday, and Saturday's suicide blast.
A further two or three people may have escaped before the explosion, Acebes said, adding that the group appeared to have been planning more attacks.
F. Barnes discusses the transition to democracy in Iraq
The transformation of the country into a peaceful, free market democracy is a bigger, more demanding, and far more difficult project than you ever dreamed. Nonetheless, a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Operation Iraqi Freedom has gained impressive momentum. Iraq has traffic jams, street life, drinkable water, reasonably reliable electricity, and is about to experience an extraordinary economic boom, thanks to the $18.4 billion in reconstruction funds soon to begin arriving. Though terrorist attacks continue, they don't halt progress and are likely to be gradually beaten back.
For the past year, America and its allies have held Iraq together. Bremer's handpicked Iraqi Governing Council was willing to compromise and sacrifice for the common good. The question is whether elected officials will do the same or represent their narrow ethnic, religious, or regional constituencies. I have my doubts. But an American official who's worked closely with Iraqis and whose views I respect differs. "Don't underestimate the sense of Iraqi national pride, despite the strong sectarian identification," he says. "Saddam's equal-opportunity repression has created a sense of community among very disparate factions. Kurds and Shia and even many Sunnis have mass grave and torture chamber victimhood in common....Attend something as seemingly superficial as an Iraqi sports event and you'll see what I mean about national pride."
V. Hanson's article presents the case that no appeasement will stop Al Qaeda from pursuing its war with the west and that is never wrong to be on the side of freedom.
What is our enemies' ultimate agenda? Judge them by what they say and then do: Any who champion women are targeted. Those who are Jews should die. Expressing tolerance for other religions is a capital crime. Secular law and government are a betrayal. Apostasy from Islam justifies murder. Hypocrisy does not matter — whether that means using a hated Western computer or flocking to a despised Western capital. This craziness is actually an agenda of sorts, proclaiming to the wretched, "Purge yourself of the modern West (sort of) and fool yourself into thinking that you will have power, honor, and wealth as never before."
Update: A. Clwyd makes a passionate defense of the merits of the Iraq invasion
The torture and execution of political opponents and the hunting down of dissident elements were to be a consistent feature of Saddam Hussein's regime for the next 20 years. And these abuses did not end with the first Gulf war in 1991. On a recent visit to southern Iraq, I saw evidence of the military campaign waged against the Marsh Arabs, which continued right up until the fall of the Ba'athists. Such a regime forfeited the right to be tolerated by liberal opinion.
Some will continue to argue that internal repression is not a matter of legitimate concern for other countries. I disagree. There are basic human rights that must be defended. The strict adherence to state sovereignty as the defining factor in international law, far from being a guard against acts of aggression, has become a barrier that allows oppression to continue unchecked by the international community. Who would now say that it was correct not to intervene in Rwanda?
For seven years, Indict, the organisation I chaired, collected detailed witness statements on Iraqi war crimes. Our QC, Clare Montgomery, was firmly of the opinion that we could have indicted the leading members of the regime in a European court of law. Indeed, we were advised that short of getting Saddam to sign a confession in his own blood, we had all the evidence we needed.