Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

One of the Most Disastrous Wars Ever Fought

by PATRICK COCKBURN

 

Baghdad.

The 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 to finish.

The British 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.

Britain should 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 powers.

Those British 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.”

How 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.

There 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.

The 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 Euphrates.

It 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.

America 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.

*Senator John McCain arrived in Baghdad yesterday for an unexpected visit to Iraqi and US diplomatic and military officials.

Details of 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.

“Senator McCain is in Iraq and will be meeting with Iraqi and US officials,” said an embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo.

There were 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‘, 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.

 

 

 

 

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyon
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]