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Britain's war of words

Blair talks on British Forces Broadcasting Services in a live radio link from Downing Street in London  

By CNN's Margaret Lowrie

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The very nature of this war makes it easier to measure tragedy than achievement.

So far, most of it is taking place out of camera range, with only the unsubstantiated claims of the Taliban to go by. And that has fed voices in the UK Parliament and in the newspapers.

"The military campaign is perceived by most people to be unsuccessful, largely because the only stories we hear these days are about civilians getting killed," says Hugo Young of the national UK daily The Guardian.

"We hear nothing at all about how successful the campaign has been elsewhere."

Blair: Never forget September 11 
British leaders attempt to beat scepticism. CNN's Margaret Lowrie reports (October 29)

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Support is still firm for the campaign to stop Osama bin Laden and put an end to terror. But some in Britain fear that the fighting in Afghanistan might destabilize other countries and widen the conflict with unpredictable consequences.

"More voices are being heard questioning the tactics, the military operations that are going on, the bombing, and also behind that, wondering whether the issue is far more complicated than this military campaign makes it appear," Young says.

British officials, however, point to Kosovo, where it took more than two months of fierce bombing to dislodge the Serbs.

Early on, some of the British press, impatient for results, doubted the efficacy of the campaign -- only to change their tune when the Serbs did withdraw. Also, polls show the British public still supports the government's role in this campaign.

"I actually think people out in the country are far more aware of the impact of the events of September 11 than some of the people who write in the newspaper are," says UK Defence Minister Geoff Hoon.

Even considering the opposition, the government's acknowledges it's all part of the democratic process. "There are voices always from all sides who say that certain things are wrong," says UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

"However, the overwhelming majority of people in Parliament, an overwhelming majority of the British people, support this action."

But that's a sign the government is now engaged in both a campaign of bombs -- and a campaign of words.

British leaders know they need to engage rhetorically to sustain public support during a war that promises to be long -- and, at least occasionally, unsuccessful.


• UK Foreign Office
• 10 Downing Street
• UK Defence Ministry
• The Guardian

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