Blair Lauds British Troops During Iraq Visit
By Donna Miles
Prime Minister Tony Blair visits coalition forces Jan. 4
at Zubayr, Iraq, where British Army Royal Military Police
and 24 civilian police officers from across Britain are
training Iraqi police.
by Paul A’Barrow, British Royal Navy
Minister Tony Blair praised the work the British armed forces
are carrying out in Iraq during a Jan. 4 visit to the region,
thanking them for their role in "a noble and a good cause."
into Iraq by military aircraft from the Egyptian Red Sea resort
of Sharm el-Sheik, where he was vacationing with his family, according
to British embassy officials in Washington.
six-hour visit, the prime minister watched Iraqi police officers
conduct self-defense training at a new police academy in the town
of Zubayr. He also met with military police from Britain, Denmark,
the Czech Republic and Italy. In Basra, he met with Judge Wael
Abdullatif, the governor, at one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces,
now a base for Britain’s 20th Armored Brigade.
Later in the
trip, officials said, Blair met with Ambassador L. Paul Bremer
III , coalition administrator, and his deputy, Sir Jeremy Greenstock,
Britain’s top diplomat in Iraq.
But a highlight
of the trip was Blair’s visit with members of the British military.
"a huge thank you," calling the troops "new pioneers
of soldiering in the 21st century" because of the new type
of threat they are confronting.
threat that our country faces from other countries around the
world is not the one that certainly my generation grew up with,"
Blair said, referring to "the prospect of a big world war
where countries are fighting each other."
said, the coalition in Iraq is working to overcome the chaos that
comes from terrorism and the threats posed by brutal and repressive
states developing weapons of mass destruction.
the importance of the mission in Iraq in confronting both these
Iraq’s former regime had a "proven record of the use of weapons
of mass destruction — not just their development," and that
the regime was "so abhorrent that … literally hundreds
of thousands of its citizens died in prison camps, in the ways
of torture and repression."
minister told the troops that if the coalition "had backed
away from that, we would never have been able to confront this
threat in the other countries where it exists."
Just as important
as winning the conflict in Iraq, which he said the coalition did
"brilliantly," is what Blair called "the other
part of 21st-century soldiering" — winning the peace.
soldiering has got not just to be about fighting and being able
to engage in combat, and to win that combat and win it well,"
he said, "but it is also to win the peace, … to win
the hearts and minds of people."
the challenge for the coalition is "to show by the way that
we try and help this country (get) on its feet as a stable and
prosperous democracy … that there is a better way forward
way, he said, is to show that "countries like this whose
people have never enjoyed the freedoms we have taken for granted,
actually can exist side by side with each other, with democracy,
with the rule of law, with basic canons of respect for other people
and respect for themselves."
He told that
troops that "Iraq today is taking shape under your help and
with your guidance in a way that would have been unthinkable a
year ago. What the Iraqi people want is prosperity, they want
security, they want to bring up their families in some peace and
decent way of living, and that is what we are trying to …
help them (achieve)," he said.
told the troops, these people "have some hope and some prospect
of a future, thanks to you."
It’s a cause,
he acknowledged, that he believes in deeply.
know how passionately I believed in this cause and in the wisdom
of the conflict as the only way to establish long-term peace and
stability," Blair said.
the British troops for their important role in the coalition.
that this a multinational effort, and I know that you have been
working hard with the Americans … our principal allies,
but also with the scores of other countries that are here now
helping us in Iraq," he said. "But I wanted to say a
special word of thanks to you."
history will reflect positively on the important work the coalition
is undertaking in Iraq.
like you to know that part of the pride that people feel in you
is the knowledge that in years to come, people here in this country,
and I believe around the world, will look back on what you have
done and give thanks and recognize that they owe you a tremendous
debt of gratitude," he said.