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INVADING COUNTRIES — WHY?
Brits Sound Final Retreat From Iraq -- But the U.S. Beat Goes On
Friday, 1 May 2009
What sort of country has Britain's noble endeavor in Iraq helped to make? Well, in just six short years, the Anglo-American crusade has managed to turn one of the region's most secular states in the Arab world into a seething cauldron of extremist, sectarian militias.This week we saw a huge milestone reached in the greatest conflict of our day: yet it passed with scarcely more than a murmur in the American press -- and with deathly silence on the part of the primary architects of the occasion.
We speak of course of the final bug-out of British forces from Iraq, where this week, after six years of slavish service to America's war of aggression, Her Majesty's military gave up their last remaining base in the conquered land. But as the Guardian astutely points out, the Brits did not turn the base over to the completey liberated totally sovereign Iraqi goverment, but to the tender care of Pentagon, which is pouring thousands of American troops into Basra to guard the occupation's supply lines out of Kuwait -- and keep a watchful eye over the oil-rich region.
Of course, British troops had pulled in their horns in Iraq long ago, having essentially —retreated to a few key bases while letting sectarian militias and criminal gangs battle it out on the streets. And indeed, in some cases, the Brits were literally driven out of their bases by Iraqi resistance, as we reported here way back in 2006:
The shebang's final toppling was a low-key affair. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was a no-show, despite being in the general vicinity this week out on the other Terror War frontier, Afghanistan (where he is upping the Anglo troop level to bolster Barack Obama's "surge"). His predecessor, Tony Blair, was likewise absent, and silent, at the end of an action that will forever stain his legacy with its monstrous, murderous folly.
He was in the news, however, after the UK government was forced to release memos from 2004, detailing Blair's frantic, mendacious attempts to suppress word of the rising death count among civilians in the war that he and George W. Bush engineered on the basis of knowingly false and deliberately manipulated information. In October 2004, the world's leading medical journal, The Lancet, released a careful study showing that an estimated 98,000 people had died from war-related causes in the first 18 months of the aggression and occupation. Blair first tried to stop publication of the figures, and then later told Parliament, "We do not accept these figures at all," the BBC reports. The memos show various ministries trying to pass off responsibility for dealing with study; no one wanted the impossible task of squaring Blair's blatant lies to Parliament with the scientific fact of the study.
This same farce was repeated -- on both sides of the Atlantic -- two years later, when The Lancet reported a further study, using the same methodology, showing that a minimum of 650,000 people had died as a result of the conflict. As we noted here last year:
But of course, as we noted at the time, "it doesn't really matter how you count the dead....when the dead don't count."
Neither did we hear from George W. Bush, now keeping a demure silence in his ritzy Dallas digs. (Ole George don't cut no more brush down on that fake ranch of his in Crawford, now that there ain't no PR value in it.) No word for his "gallant allies," who lost 179 men and women -- while dishing out thousands of more deaths, and atrocities of their own, as Robert Fisk reports in his piece on the pullout:
Fisk takes special note of Britain's first long-term intervention in Iraq, beginning in the First World War, and continuing on, in bloodsoaked "counterinsurgency operations" and repression by client governments, for many years thereafter:
What sort of country has Britain's noble endeavor in Iraq helped to make? Well, in just six short years, the Anglo-American crusade has managed to turn one of the region's most secular states in the Arab world into a seething cauldron of extremist, sectarian militias -- including the sectarian militia that Bush, Blair, Brown and Obama have installed and maintained in power: the increasingly authoritarian Dawa Party of Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki.
Reuters reports on the plight of women in Iraq, whose women once had enjoyed more cultural and professional freedom than any others in the Arab world:
How did this pandemic of oppression arise? Reuters again:
We should note that a large portion of the sectarians in the "Sunni Islamist insurgency" were subsequently put on the American payroll and given large swathes of territory to rule as they saw fit. Many of the Shiite militias, of course, were already working directly for the American-installed Iraqi government.
But what about Kurdistan, where American power has allowed two powerful and repressive factions to hold sway independently since the first Gulf War? (Do recall that Saddam's writ did not run in Kurdish Iraq -- which was, curiously enough, the only place in Iraq that had any kind of "al Qaeda" associates before the American invasion of 2003. For more, see "Hubub in HibHib: The Timely Death of al-Zarqawi.") Reuters reports:
Oh well. You can't make an omlette without breaking a few eggs, can you? Or as that other breaker and maker of nations, Joe Stalin, used to say: When wood is chopped, chips fly. Surely the mutilation, murder and subjegation of a few million women here and there is an acceptable price to pay for what our wise new president calls "the extraordinary achievement" of the Anglo-American military action in Iraq.
But what next in Iraq, now that the Brits are gone? Surely the Americans will follow them out shortly, right? After all, we know that Barack Obama is committed to "ending the war." One of the most astute observers of the American war machine, Jeremy Scahill, has a few thoughts on that subject:
Scahill points to a remarkable story in the New York Times, which has passed almost without notice. In it, we find that thousands of American "combat troops" (a distinction without a difference that is key to the Obama plan) will actually remain in Iraqi cities after the June 30 deadline "mandated" by the soft, fluffy SOFA for the withdrawal of fighting troops to bases outside urban areas. How can this be? Simple: American and Iraqi authorities are simply, arbitrarily declaring U.S. bases inside Baghdad's city limits to be suddenly, magically outside the city limits! The NYT:
As Scahill notes, America just has to ask nicely, and their Iraqi partners are happy to oblige. He goes on:
[Just as an aside, imagine invading a country, planting two military bases in its capital named "Striker" and "Slayer" -- and then having the gall to pass yourself off as an altruistic, peace-loving liberator. The self-revealing unselfconsciousness of this brutal nomenclature is almost sublime.]
So: thousands of troops -- combat troops, "trained to fight" -- in sprawling, growing, permanent bases, inside Iraq's cities, augmented by hordes of private mercenaries, "supporting" missions against an unvanquished insurgency with ground forces and airstrikes (which, as a new study shows, kill mostly women and children). Once again, we see the hallmark of the new administration's Terror War policies: continuity -- continuity with a vengeance.
Chris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column is republished here with the permission of the author.
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This story was published on May 4, 2009.
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