Blair: Missteps But Not Major Mistakes in Iraq

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - Hours after British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush acknowledged that there had been "setbacks and missteps" in the Iraq war, Blair on Friday told a Georgetown University audience that an allied military presence was still necessary in Iraq.

"When we see pictures of the carnage, many see that as a reason for leaving, but surely it is a reason for persevering," said Blair, adding that Iraq's fledgling democracy still needs the military backing of the U.S. and United Kingdom.

"This is a childish democracy struggling to be born. We and the international community are the midwives," Blair said.

After returning from Baghdad on Monday, Blair said the international involvement has not caused a worse situation in Iraq, as many critics allege. "I believe this global terrorism will exploit any situation to further its cause, but I don't believe its cause is truly to be found in any decisions we have taken," said Blair.

Instead, the cause of terrorism "is to be found in ideology, in a world view derived from religious fanaticism," the prime minister said. "We've taken no decisions at all to enrage it, yet we've found provocations at our very existence."

Blair said he sees challenges facing Iraq's newly elected government as similar to those facing the U.S. and the U.K. - namely fending off more terrorist attacks like the ones that were directed at New York City and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and the London subway system on July 7 of last year.

"The terrorism that afflicts them is the same that afflicts us," Blair said. Terrorists, he added, are not interested in liberating Iraq, they are interested in the country's "subjugation to that extremism."

However, Retired Army Col. Ann Wright told Cybercast News Service that the war in Iraq is "just not worth it."

"Tony Blair is wrong to say that we have to continue to kill and injure more people because it is worth it," said Wright, who joined the anti-war group Code Pink in demonstrating outside the main entrance to Georgetown University.

"So many people have been killed, and at least 100,000 have been severely wounded -- I just don't thing it's worth it. There are tens of thousands of Iraqis killed because of military operations. Even George Bush says there are about 35,000 and I would say he has misestimated that by at least half."

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

E-mail a comment or news tip to Monisha Bansal.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.