Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Thursday, 9 August 2007

British Bloodied in Basra

If Womble on Tour had been created in 2003 instead of 2007, I would have blogged many, many times by now about Iraq. It is, to use current phraseology, a living nightmare. Two more British soldiers killed in Basra, four this week, 41 so far this year. It is as tragic, as sad, as much a shocking indictment of government policy as it is so utterly predictable.

I remember, before we went to war, listening to the Parliamentary debate on the invasion of Iraq (one of the very few occasions in recent times when our MPs actually treated the House of Commons with the respect it deserves) and writing in a diary that this war would end in disaster; that we'd be sucked into a debacle from which there would be no means of simple escape.

I claim no credit for predicting what would happen. So, after all, did millions of others. It was blindingly obvious that a) Saddam would be ousted and b) that what followed would be sectarian carnage on a colosal scale, the British stuck in the middle with no exit.

We're lucky, it seems. The British have the "soft" option of southern Iraq. It might be soft. Relatively. When compared to Baghdad and a whole number of no-go areas throughout the North, that may well be so. 30,000 US troops deployed throughout Iraq (we have 5,500) tells its own story, as do the 1,600 violent deaths in July alone.

At a lower level, let no one kid us that the quality of life in Iraq is getting any better. Dismembered bodies regularly float down the Tigris in full public view. Some Baghdad homes can be without electricity for weeks at a time. Residents of the capital can quite easily spend a whole day just queuing for a tank of petrol. The one recent bright spot, which seems to have united Iraqis across the minutiae of political and religious divisions, was the success of the national football team in the Asian Cup. People danced in the streets. Even then, four were killed by falling bullets, fired into the air in celebration; some fired, quite possibly, by one of the 190,000 assault rifles lost by the Americans in the true spirit of their unique approach to gun control.

Des Browne and the rest of the new Labour yes-men who tried to further their careers by allowing Tony Blair to get us into this gargantuan shambles have the audacity say that the government have an exit strategy, and that troop numbers will start to come down towards the end of the year. I for one do not buy it. How can you have an exit strategy when you don't know what you're trying to achieve (or even less how) in the first place ? What will they say if the situation on the ground fails to improve ? What are the criteria for exit in any case ?

How can it happen that our politicians get away with this ? How can it possibly be that you can get six years in jail for holding up and distributing placards in Sloane Square (look here if you don't believe me) and yet Tony Blair, who can be held directly responsible for the death of thousands - perhaps even hundreds of thousands -of wholly innocent people, killed as a result of a war over which we were demonstrably and deliberately misled, can walk away a free man and become, almost unbelievably, a peace envoy ?

Iraq, if ever there was one, is an unholy mess. Britain is involved, like it or not. And will be, for years to come. Those responsible ask us to let God be their judge. That's a handy cop-out, as it means there will be no judge. But it remains an appalling, ever-lasting and shameful indictment of a Prime Minister who wanted, above all else, a place in history. Let him have his place in history. He deserves it. So did Stalin.

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