Empire Is Falling
By Robert Fisk
08 December 2006
Roman Empire is falling. That, in a phrase, is what the Baker report
says. The legions cannot impose their rule on Mesopotamia.
Just as Crassus lost his
legions' banners in the deserts of Syria-Iraq, so has George W Bush.
There is no Mark Antony to retrieve the honour of the empire. The policy
"is not working". "Collapse" and "catastrophe"
- words heard in the Roman senate many a time - were embedded in the
text of the Baker report. Et tu, James?
This is also the language
of the Arab world, always waiting for the collapse of empire, for the
destruction of the safe Western world which has provided it with money,
weapons, political support. First, the Arabs trusted the British Empire
and Winston Churchill, and then they trusted the American Empire and
Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Truman and Eisenhower administrations
and all the other men who would give guns to the Israelis and billions
to the Arabs - Nixon, Carter, Clinton, Bush...
And now they are told that
the Americans are not winning the war; that they are losing. If you
were an Arab, what would you do?
Be sure, they are not asking
this question in Washington. The Middle East - so all-important (supposedly)
in the "war on terror" - in itself, a myth - doesn't really
matter in the White House. It is a district, a map, a region, every
bit as amorphous as the crescent of "crisis" which the Clinton
administration invented when it wanted to land its troops in Somalia.
How to get out, how to save face, that's the question. To hell with
the people who live there: the Arabs, the Iraqis, the men, women and
children whom we kill - and whom the Iraqis kill - every day.
Note how our "spokesmen"
in Afghanistan now acknowledge the dead woman and children of Nato airstrikes
as if it is quite in order to slaughter these innocents because we are
at war with the horrid Taliban.
Some of the same mindset
has arrived in Baghdad, where "coalition" spokesmen also -
from time to time - jump in front of the video-tape evidence by accepting
that they, too, kill women and children in their war against "terror".
But it is the sentences of impotence that doom empires. "The ability
of the United States to influence events within Iraq is diminishing."
There is a risk of a "slide towards chaos [sic] [that] could trigger
the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe."
But hasn't that already happened?
"Collapse" and "catastrophe" are daily present in
Iraq. America's ability "to influence events" has been absent
for years. And let's just re-read the following sentence: "Violence
is increasing in scope and lethality. It is fed by a Sunni Arab insurgency.
Shiite [Shia] militias, death squads, al-Qa'ida and widespread criminality.
Sectarian conflict is the principal challenge to stability."
Come again? Where was this
"widespread criminality," this "sectarian conflict"
when Saddam, our favourite war criminal, was in power? What do the Iraqis
think about this? And how typical that the American media went at once
to hear Bush's view of the Baker report - rather than the reaction of
the Iraqis, those who are on the receiving end of our self-induced tragedy
They will enjoy the idea
that American troops should be "embedded" with Iraqi forces
- not so long ago, it was the press that had to be "embedded"
with the Americans! - as if the Romans were ready to put their legions
amid the Goths, Ostrogoths and Visigoths to ensure their loyalty.
What the Romans did do, of
course - and what the Americans would never do - is offer their subjects
Roman citizenship. Every tribe - in Gaul or Bythinia or Mesopotamia
- who fell under Roman rule became a citizen of Rome. What could Washington
have done with Iraq if it had offered American citizenship to every
Iraqi? There would have been no insurrection, no violence, no collapse
or catastrophe, no Baker report. But no. We wanted to give these people
the fruits of our civilisation - not the civilisation itself. From this,
they were banned.
And the result? The nations
we supposedly hated - Iran and Syria - are now expected to save us from
ourselves. "Given the ability [sic] of Iran and Syria to influence
events and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States
should try to engage [sic] them constructively."
I love those words. Especially
"engage". Yes, the "influence of America" is diminishing.
The influence of Syria and Iran is growing. That just about sums up
the "war on terror". Any word yet, I wonder, from Lord Blair
of Kut al-Amara?
The Baker panel considered
four options, all of which it rejected:
Cut And Run
Baker believes it would cause
a humanitarian disaster, while al-Qa'ida would expand further.
Stay The Course
Baker accepts that current
US policy is not working. Nearly 100 Americans are dying every month.
The US is spending $2bn (£1bn) a week and has lost public support.
Send In More Troops
Increases in US troop levels
would not solve the cause of violence in Iraq. Violence would simply
rekindle as soon as US forces moved.
If the country broke up into
its Shia, Sunni and Kurd regions, it would lead to ethnic cleansing
and mass population moves.
Baker outlines a fifth option
- 'responsible transition' - in which the number of US forces could
be increased to shore up the Iraqi army while it takes over primary
responsibility for combat operations. US troops would then decrease
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited
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