FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Iraq Wreck

 

A friend representing a French company in Washington recently went with some trepidation to Paris with the unwelcome news that he had been told by the Pentagon that there was absolutely no chance of his employers getting a contract inIraq

He was not looking forward to report total failure of his well-paid efforts but to his relief the chairman greeted the dire news with prolonged laughter saying: “Don’t worry. Let’s just wait a year or two and then it will be American companies which won’t be able to do business with the Iraqis.”

This could be discounted as the evil-minded French watching with delight as the US, with Tony Blair loyally chugging behind, sinking deeper into the Iraqi quagmire. But the quite correct perception that theUShas already failed in Iraq is becoming the common consensus in Iraq as well as much of the rest of the world.

It is a failure of historic proportions. The aim of the war in Iraq was to establish the US as the world super power which could act unilaterally, virtually without allies inside or outside Iraq. The timing of the conflict had nothing to do with fear of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and everything to do with getting the war won in time for the run up to next year’s Presidential election in the US.

The US failure to win a conclusive victory in Iraq is like that of Britain in South Africa during the Boer War. Like the US Britain went into the war filled with arrogant presumptions about an easy victory. As the conflict dragged on, with a constant trickle of casualties from attacks by the elusive Boers, nationalists from Dublin to Bombay drew the conclusion that the British Empire was not quite as tough as it looked.

But the speed of the American failure in Iraqis still extraordinary. President Bush started off the year with a powerful army and a deeply and rightly unpopular opponent in the shape of Saddam Hussein, always detested by most the Iraqi population. The Iraqi army was a wreck, its officers and men barely fed, its aging tanks without spare parts for a dozen years.

From the moment US troops entered Baghdad the victors seemed to go out of their way to alienate every section of Iraqi society. The Sunni Muslims who ruled the country under the Ottomans, the British and Saddam Hussein were marginalised. The army and the security forces were disbanded, ensuring that opponents of the US occupation would have an endless supply of recruits and sympathisers.

The Shi’ite majority in Iraq always loathed and feared the previous regime but is intent, for the first time in history, on taking power themselves. They believe it would be a mistake as happened during the uprising against the British in 1920 to be in the frontline against the occupation (Iraqis remember these lessons of history even if the US and Britain do not). But they will not wait forever.

The Kurds are the only Iraqi community who want a long term US presence, knowing that historically the Kurds have always lost out because they never had a great power as an ally. But even the Kurds are suspicious, recalling that just before the war the US was happy to let the Turkish army loose in Iraqi Kurdistan in return for Turkey letting US troops use its bases to invade northern Iraq.

I was in Washington as a visiting fellow at a think tank for the first six weeks of the year before having to leave suddenly to take advantage of a fleeting opportunity to get into Iraq before the start of the war. I was continually struck by the ignorance and extraordinary arrogance of the neo-cons, then at the height of their power. They had all the intolerant instincts of a weird American religious cult, impervious to any criticism of their fantasy picture of Iraq, the Middle East and the rest of the world.

Iraqis not pre-approved by the neo-cons but willing to explain how their country really worked found appointments with senior officials mysteriously cancelled at the last moments, sometimes while they were sitting in the officials’ waiting rooms.

This should be the real charge against Tony Blair’s government. It is not that it did not understand what was happening in Baghdad but it did not sufficiently take on board the strange happenings in Washington. There is nothing peculiar about Britain supporting the US come what may since this has been a priority of British foreign policy for nearly a century. But it should have been realised much earlier in London that this is a very different and more dangerous US government from any of its predecessors.

The extent and irreversibility of the American failure is not yet appreciated outside Iraq. The tentative effort to internationalise the conflict by bringing in the UN or raising a pro-occupation Iraqi military force are still only slogans with no real willingness on the part of the US to share power in Baghdad.

This may be long in coming. The US occupation authorities remain extraordinarily isolated within the Iraqi capital, impervious to the dire reality around them.

One Iraqi friend recently saw a group of US dignitaries eating and drinking in a luxury restaurant in a hotel. Whoever had organised the party had confused Iraq with the Indian Raj and dressed all the waiters in turbans.

My friend went up to one of the American VIPs and said: “I would like to shake you by the hand.” Surprised and gratified the American shook hands warmly. “Now,” said the friend,”You can go back to the US and say that you actually met one real Iraqi in Baghdad.”

PATRICK COCKBURN is the co-author with Andrew Cockburn of ‘Out of the Ashes: the Resurrection of Saddam Hussein.’

 

 

More articles by:

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

July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail