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PRESIDENT Bush's short address yesterday to mark the first anniversary of the start of the Iraq war proved to be only partially about Iraq. As he and others in his administration consistently do, he merged the issues of the Iraq war with those of fighting terrorism and gave greater prominence to the latter. It cannot too often be said, however, that the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with international terrorism since all attempts made to prove a link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda came to nothing. Terrorist organisations are now at work in Iraq - but that is because the conflict opened the country to them, an outcome predicted by many experts opposed to the war. Mr Bush had some striking phrases: “The war on terror is the inescapable calling of our generation” was one, and he made several references to last week's bombings in Madrid which, he said, “were a reminder that the civilised world is at war”. But, while expressing his “deepest sympathies” for the people of Spain, he made no direct reference to the outcome of last Sunday's election. There was, however, an indirect reference that caught the tone of many of the critical comments currently emanating from the United States about Spain's new government: “Any sign of weakness or retreat simply validates terrorist violence and invites more violence for all nations.” (I com ment at greater length about this criticism in my Looking Around column in today's newspaper.)
IT was, perhaps, too much to hope that President Bush might on this occasion offer some apology for the many misleading and inaccurate statements he made to justify the illegal war that began one year ago and that still rankle in millions of minds.