war in Iraq has been one of the most disastrous wars ever fought
by Britain. It has been small but we achieved nothing. It will
stand with Crimea and the Boer War as conflicts which could have
been avoided and were demonstrations of incompetence from start
failure in the Iraq war has been even more gross because it has
not ended with a costly military victory but a humiliating scuttle.
The victors in Basra and southern Iraq have been the local Shia
militias masquerading as government security forces.
immediately hold a full inquiry into the mistakes made before
and during the war in Iraq out of pure self-interest. Gordon Brown's
suggestion that holding such an inquiry now would somehow threaten
the stability of Iraq is either a piece of obvious prevarication
or, if taken at face value, a sign of absurd vanity. Iraqis show
not the slightest interest in British policy and assume it will
simply be an echo of decisions made in Washington.
I have watched
this war being fought over the last five years and I never for
a moment felt that the Government in London had the slightest
idea of the type of conflict in which it was engaged. It has become
common for supporters and opponents of the war to argue patronisingly
that what was needed was a plan about what to do after the war,
as if this would have reconciled Iraqis to be occupied by foreign
are 175 British servicemen who have died for nothing. The
troops stationed outside Basra do nothing except show the
US that they have one ally left.
officers I met over the years had an acute idea of why intervention
in Iraq was a very bad idea but had become used to being ignored.
A few would claim that Britain had rich experience of counter-insurgency
in Malaya in the 1950s and Northern Ireland after 1968. "The situation
in Basra was exactly the opposite," one former British military
intelligence officer exclaimed to me impatiently. "In Malaya and
Northern Ireland, we had the support of the majority but in Basra
we have no allies."
we got into this situation needs to be inquired into and also
how we avoid falling into it again. The worst failings were political.
In many ways Tony Blair in 2002-03, when he decided to join America
in the war, resembled Neville Chamberlain in 1938. He ignored
expert professional advice. He had no alternative plan if anything
went wrong. He lived in a world of propaganda and fantasy. He
would spring from his plane in Baghdad to be greeted by Iraqi
politicians who did not dare leave the Green Zone.
are 175 British servicemen who have died for nothing. The troops
stationed outside Basra do nothing except show the US that they
have one ally left.
British Government throughout the whole war has shown an extraordinary
degree of arrogance and ignorance of history. They did not seem
to know that three years after Britain captured Baghdad in 1917
it was fighting a ferocious tribal revolt along the valley of
the military situation has stabilised it is only because
Iraqi Sunni and Shia now hate each other more than they
hate the Americans. It is a terrible legacy of five years
does not require much knowledge to understand that any country
should be chary of being sucked into small wars. The Duke of Wellington,
who had seen what had happened to Napoleon in Spain, said that
"Great powers do not have small wars". Most of the reasons why
Britain should not have allowed itself to become the unquestioning
ally of America in what became an imperial occupation are obvious.
and Britain discovered Iraq was a quagmire still. If the military
situation has stabilised it is only because Iraqi Sunni and Shia
now hate each other more than they hate the Americans. It is a
terrible legacy of five years of war.
John McCain arrived in Baghdad March 17, 2008 for an unexpected
visit to Iraqi and US diplomatic and military officials.
the visit by one of the foremost supporters of the 2003 invasion
and soon-to-be Republican presidential nominee were not being
released for security reasons, the US embassy in Baghdad said.
McCain is in Iraq and will be meeting with Iraqi and US officials,"
said an embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo.
no media opportunities or news conferences planned for the visit.
Senator McCain, who is believed to be staying in Iraq for about
24 hours, is on his eighth trip to the country.
Patrick Cockburn is the author of The Occupation: War, resistance
and daily life in Iraq (published by Verso), a finalist for the
National Book Critics' Circle Award for best non-fiction book
of 2006.His new book, Muqtada! Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia revival
and the struggle for Iraq, is published by Scribner.
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