Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Britain to pull troops from Iraq as Blair says 'don't force me out'

This is a sad story. I supported the invasion of Iraq. Given what our government was telling us at the time, it seemed necessary. It also held out the prospect of establishing the first Muslim Arab democracy, the very existence of which would be a threat to the corrupt regimes of the region.

We were lied to and let down. Lied to because the casus belli ; the existence of weapons of mass destruction which made Saddam Hussein a threat outside his borders, was false. Despite the Government's vigorous efforts to suppress the truth; attempts which have neutered the BBC, driven Dr David Kelly to suicide and destroyed the reputation of Lord Hutton, no-one now doubts we were lied to. They told us that if we knew what they knew, we would understand that the war was necessary. It is now apparent not only that there was no secret data, but that much of what they were telling us was - to be polite - unreliable.

Blair seems to have seen even the prospect of a bloody war as an opportunity to enhance his image. He does not seem ever to think of anything else. Such an approach, these days, passes for "political genius".

We were let down because neither our government nor that of the United States had a post-victory plan to establish order in Iraq, let alone democracy. It is amazing that they were naive enought to expect flowers in their gun barrels and a happy-clappy tentful of joyous Iraqis ready to build a system few of them had experienced.

Too few troops were sent and the "de-Baathification campaign" closed down the existing security forces, most of whom would have taken orders from new political masters. Instead, they were sent home with their guns, their training as a dictator's hired thugs, and no pay. What were they meant to do but fight for the return of the regime which had paid their wages and made them a privileged elite?

We expected the rapid imposition of a new constitution followed by an orderly handover to a new government. Any changes to the constitution could have been left until after our troops were withdrawn. What we got was a "big tent" and a bunch of mutually-mistrustful people driven into it to "come up with something". It was pathetic.

I have hoped against hope that progress could be made, so that all the sacrifice made by the allied troops would not be in vain and so that we were not reduced to handing decent Iraqis (again) to murderous bullies. However the withdrawal is "spun", it seems that is what will now happen.

This is a worse outcome than Vietnam. Every evil regime in the world will feel safe, because no democracy will be able to muster support for action against it. Islamic extremism will not die with the withdrawal from Iraq. It will grow. One day we will have to confront it. The fiasco in Iraq means it will be stronger by the time we are able to do so.

The Observer | Politics | Britain to pull troops from Iraq as Blair says 'don't force me out'

No comments: