Thursday, February 22, 2007

the British scale-down in Iraq

On 21 February 2007 the UK government announced that it was cutting 1600 troops from Iraq. Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies hit the nail right on the head when he was quoted in the Financial Times as saying that 'the British cuts...simply reflect the political reality that the British "lost" the south more than a year ago'. As the Washington-based Institute for Near East Policy noted in a recent report, 'the deep south is factionalised, lawless, ruled as a kleptocracy, and subject to militia primacy'.

Iraq is in the midst of a bloody civil war that was, in effect, created by the US and its 'coalition of the willing'. Just as was the case 40 years ago in Vietnam, the US intervention was to create a political and economic system that did not exist on the ground, and which moreover took several centuries to come to maturation in the US itself and (some of) its coalition partners. The US, as in Vietnam, is engaged in a mission where the local population often has to be destroyed, in order to be saved. In this light, it is not surprising that there are widespread human rights abuses and extra-judicial executions by coalition forces, by the Iraqi security services, and by the militias. That these are less common than they were under Saddam Hussein misses the point entirely. Life in Sadr City is probably the closest place to living in hell on this planet, and, as a result of this war, things will only get is simply not possible to see a situation under which they might get better. When the US does withdraw, which will, no doubt, start to occur early in the next Administration, the Iraqis will be left to fend for themselves. An immediate withdrawal now will lead to a massive upsurge in violence as Shia and Sunni militias seek control of territory, of resources, and of political patronage. A replacement force--under UN auspices?--which I once thought might work is now unlikely to work, even if its personnel were drawn predominantly from Islamic nations within the UN system and if that force was 3 times the size of the current US operation.

All in all, in the name of fighting a non-existent enemy, the US has created the biggest recruitment center for global jihadists on the planet. It has only cost it US$1 billion a week to do this. When anyone turns around and says the world does not have the resources to provide children with sanitation and water, don't believe it. The world chooses to spend its money on death, not life.

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