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Why We Must Withdraw From Iraq


Simon Jenkins
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Don't be fooled a second time. They told you Britain must invade Iraq because of its weapons of mass destruction. They were wrong. Now they say British troops must stay in Iraq because otherwise it will collapse into chaos.

This second lie is infecting everyone. It is spouted by Labour and Tory opponents of the war and even by the Liberal Democrat spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell. Its axiom is that western soldiers are so competent that, wherever they go, only good can result. It is their duty not to leave Iraq until order is established, infrastructure rebuilt and democracy entrenched.

Note the word "until". It hides a bloodstained half century of western self-delusion and arrogance. The white man's burden is still alive and well in the skies over Baghdad (the streets are now too dangerous). Soldiers and civilians may die by the hundred. Money may be squandered by the million. But Tony Blair tells us that only western values enforced by the barrel of a gun can save the hapless Mussulman from his own worst enemy, himself.

The first lie at least had tactical logic. The Rumsfeld doctrine was to travel light, hit hard and get out. Neoconservatives might fantasise over Iraq as a democratic Garden of Eden, a land re-engineered to stability and prosperity. Harder noses were content to dump the place in Ahmad Chalabi's lap and let it go to hell. Had that happened, I suspect there would have been a bloody settling of scores but by now a tripartite republic hauling itself back to peace and reconstruction. Iraq is, after all, one of the richest nations on earth.

Instead the invasion came with tanks of glue. Decisions were taken, with British compliance, to make Iraq an experiment in "ground zero" nation-building. All sensible advice was ignored on the assumption that whatever America and Britain did would seem better than Saddam, and better than our doing nothing. Kipling's demons danced through Downing Street. Britain did not want to colonise Iraq. Yet somehow Blair's "fighting not for territory but for values" needed territory after all, as if to prove itself more than a soundbite.

The scenes broadcast yesterday from Basra show how far authority in southern Iraq has collapsed. This is tragic. When I was there two years ago the south was, in its own terms, a success. While the Americans were unleashing mayhem to the north, the British were methodically applying Lugard-style colonialism in Basra. They formed alliances with sheikhs, bribed warlords and won hearts and minds by going unarmoured. There was optimism in the air.

British policy demanded one thing, momentum towards local sovereignty and early withdrawal. There was no such momentum. An ever more confident insurrection was allowed first to impede and then dictate the timetable of withdrawal. Sunni terrorists now hold American and British policy in their grip. The result has been an inevitable civil collapse. We do not even know on which side are the Basra police.

The British government - and opposition - is in total denial. Ministerial boasts can't conceal the gloom of private briefings. Blair has done what no prime minister should do. He has put his soldiers at a foreign power's mercy. First that power was America. Now, according to the defence secretary, John Reid, it is a band of brave but desperate Iraqis entombed in Baghdad's Green Zone. He says he will stay until they request him to go, when local troops are trained and loyal and infrastructure is restored. That means doomsday. Everyone knows it.

Iraqis of my acquaintance are numb at the violence unleashed by the west's failure to impose order on their country. They are baffled at the ineptitude, the counter-productive cruelty of the arrests, bombings and suppressions. They are past caring whether it was better or worse under Saddam. They know only that more people a month are being killed than at any time since the massacres of the early 1990s. If death and destruction are any guide, Britain's pre-invasion policy of containment was far more successful than occupation.

Infrastructure is not being restored. Baghdad's water, electricity and sewers are in worse shape than a decade ago. Huge sums - such as the alleged $1bn for military supplies - are being stolen and stashed in Jordanian banks. The new constitution is a dead letter except the clauses that are blatantly sharia. These are already being enforced de facto in Shia areas.

For the rest of the article read:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,...1574478,00.html

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There is now near-universal agreement that the western occupation of Iraq has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster; first for the people of Iraq, second for the soldiers sent by scoundrel politicians to die in a foreign land. The grammar of deceit utilised by Bush, Blair and sundry neocon/neolib apologists to justify the war has lost all credibility. Despite the embedded journalists and non-stop propaganda, the bloody images refuse to go away: the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops is the only meaningful solution. Real history moves deep within the memory of a people, but is always an obstacle to imperial fantasists: the sight of John Reid and the Iraqi prime minister brought back memories of Anthony Eden and Nuri Said in Downing Street just before the 1958 revolution that removed the British from Iraq.

The argument that withdrawal will lead to civil war is slightly absurd, since the occupation has already accelerated and exacerbated ethnic and religious tensions in Iraq. Divide and rule is the deadly logic of colonial rule - and signs that the US is planning an exit strategy coupled with a long-term presence is evident in the new Iraqi constitution, pushed through by US proconsul Zalmay Khalilzad. This document is a defacto division of Iraq into Kurdistan (a US-Israeli protectorate), Southern Iraq (dominated by Iran) and the Sunni badlands (policed by semi-reliable ex-Baathists under state department and Foreign Office tutelage). What is this if not an invitation to civil war? The occupation has also created a geopolitical mess. Recent events in Basra are linked to a western fear of Iranian domination. Having encouraged Moqtada al-Sadr's militias to resist the slavishly pro-Iranian faction, why are the British surprised when they demand real independence?

The Iranian mullahs, meanwhile, are chuckling - literally. Some months ago, when the Iranian vice-president visited the United Arab Emirates for a regional summit, he was asked by the sheikhs whether he feared a US intervention in Iran. The Iranian leader roared with laughter: "Without us, the US could never have occupied Afghanistan or Iraq. They know that and we know that invading Iran would mean they would be driven out of those two countries."

Meanwhile, there is the war at home. A war against civil liberties masked as a defence against terror. In the face of terror attacks one particular mantra, shrouded in untruth, is repeated: "We shall not permit these attacks to change our way of life." But they do. "Oh, may no more a foreign master's rage/ With wrongs yet legal, curse a future age!" wrote Alexander Pope. Three centuries later, we have Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and Britain's own state security prison, Belmarsh, in which some of those held indefinitely without trial have been driven mad and transferred to Broadmoor. Nor should one forget the public execution of Jean Charles de Menezes and the attempted cover-up that followed.

There will be no progress towards peace so long as Tony Blair remains prime minister. He was re-elected with only 35 % of the popular vote and barely a fifth of the overall electorate - the lowest percentage secured by any governing party in recent European history. Britain is undergoing a crisis of representation: a majority of the population opposed the war in Iraq; a majority favours withdrawing British troops; 66% believe that the attacks on London were a direct result of Blair's decision to send troops to Iraq. All good reasons why we march and demand an end to war, occupation and terror on Saturday.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,...1576615,00.html

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There will be no progress towards peace so long as Tony Blair remains prime minister. He was re-elected with only 35 % of the popular vote and barely a fifth of the overall electorate - the lowest percentage secured by any governing party in recent European history. Britain is undergoing a crisis of representation: a majority of the population opposed the war in Iraq; a majority favours withdrawing British troops; 66% believe that the attacks on London were a direct result of Blair's decision to send troops to Iraq. All good reasons why we march and demand an end to war, occupation and terror on Saturday.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,...1576615,00.html

What these figures demonstrate is how our democracy has been continually weakened by this Labour Government. Because of the actions of the British and American governments, the world is now a much more dangerous place. On our own soil we have witnessed our own government’s actions in Iraq leading to the death of its citizens in London. We have seen an innocent young man executed by an increasingly militarised police force. We have seen a government scientist die in mysterious circumstances. Our government has attempted to cover up a variety of its illegal actions with ‘enquiries.’ We are lied to on a daily basis by Tony Blair and his fellow ministers.

Despite this and despite the fact that everybody in the whole damn country knows this, Tony Blair is still our Prime Minister (and Gordon Brown will succeed him and continue taking our country in exactly the same direction.) What is even more disturbing is that most people despite this knowledge seem scarcely bothered. Quoting figures from a poll is helpful in supporting an argument but when it comes to achieving change it is useless.

It is useless because we don’t live in a democracy – our system needs to be changed. The government needs to be weakened and made more accountable to the people. The system as it stands is failing.

We must withdraw from Iraq, if only to demonstrate to the world that this government does actually listen to the people. It wont happen though as there are a myriad of issues which the Americans in particular fear but wont admit to. These include (obviously) the issue of oil, Kurdistan (and Turkey,) Iranian power in the region and Israel.

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What these figures demonstrate is how our democracy has been continually weakened by this Labour Government. Because of the actions of the British and American governments, the world is now a much more dangerous place. On our own soil we have witnessed our own government’s actions in Iraq leading to the death of its citizens in London. We have seen an innocent young man executed by an increasingly militarised police force.  We have seen a government scientist die in mysterious circumstances. Our government has attempted to cover up a variety of its illegal actions with ‘enquiries.’ We are lied to on a daily basis by Tony Blair and his fellow ministers.

Despite this and despite the fact that everybody in the whole damn country knows this, Tony Blair is still our Prime Minister (and Gordon Brown will succeed him and continue taking our country in exactly the same direction.) What is even more disturbing is that most people despite this knowledge seem scarcely bothered. Quoting figures from a poll is helpful in supporting an argument but when it comes to achieving change it is useless.

It is useless because we don’t live in a democracy – our system needs to be changed. The government needs to be weakened and made more accountable to the people. The system as it stands is failing.

We must withdraw from Iraq, if only to demonstrate to the world that this government does actually listen to the people. It wont happen though as there are a myriad of issues which the Americans in particular fear but wont admit to. These include (obviously) the issue of oil, Kurdistan (and Turkey,) Iranian power in the region and Israel.

Excellent posting. Democracy is definitely in crisis in the UK over this issue. One of the main problems is that the main opposition party also shares the guilt of the illegal invasion of Iraq. That is why I hope Kenneth Clarke is elected as leader of the Conservative Party. He was strongly opposed to the invasion and made a great speech in the House of Commons about the likely consequences of such an action. He was spot on in his predictions, including his claim that Muslim terrorists would start planting bombs in London if the invasion went ahead. Clarke, unlike Howard, will be able to expose Blair’s Iraq policy in the House of Commons.

A ICM poll over the weekend revealed the gap between public opinion and the views being expressed by the two major parties. The UK public were right about Iraq before the invasion and they are right now. Despite the campaign by the media and our political leaders, the majority of those interviewed believe that the government should announce a timetable for pulling troops out of Iraq.

It is not only Tony Blair who has acted disgracefully over this matter. Politicians like Gordon Brown who have kept quiet for the good of their careers have shown themselves to be despicable. I very much hope that none of these corrupt members of the cabinet replace Blair as leader when he finally leaves office.

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