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Bush, Blair, Iraq and Obama

Letter to The Times, August 27, 2010

Sir,

Tim Montgomerie (Opionion August 25) is quite correct that the criticisms of President Bush and Tony Blair are often hysterical and disproportionate, particularly in regard to Iraq and the post 9/11 “war on terror”. President Bush's response to 9/11 was measured, reassuring to the American people and won full support from the US Congress and US allies. He saw Islamist terrorism for what it is – a global assault on the freedoms of the democratic world and almost all Muslims; he understood that its demands are non negotiable and that it must be defeated.

Montgomerie is right that in Iraq, despite the post invasion mistakes made by the US and the appalling Muslim on Muslim violence, the overthrow of Saddam and Bush's refusal to abandon the country, has given Iraqis a unique chance to create a decent society. Tragically, though, murderous sectarian attacks are now increasing again as the US departs.

As well as his steadfast support of Africa and free trade, Bush was the first US President to endorse a Palestinian state. That commitment led to the Roadmap of 2003, the only document providing a path to an Israel-Palestine settlement ever accepted by all parties in the Middle East conflict. It will still be an essential guide in the talks between the two sides about to begin.

Bush had many failures. But so has President Obama in his first twenty months. The euphoria which greeted the latter's election was always irrational – perhaps the flip side of the denigration of Bush. Obama's current steep fall in the polls seems in part to reflect American are uncertainty whether he actually believes in America and its vital world role. Neither America's friends nor its enemies ever doubted that in Bush.

William Shawcross
St Mawes
Cornwall

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