Iraq War: Three Years On
By Robert Fisk
22 March, 2006
is the march of folly. In 1914, the British, French, and Germans though
they would be home by Christmas. On the 9th of April 2003, corporal
David Breeze of the 3rd Battalion, 4th US Marine Regiment - the very
first American to enter Baghdad - borrowed my satellite phone to call
his home in Michigan. "Hi you guys, I'm in Baghdad," he told
his mother. "I'm ringing to say 'Hi, I love you. I'm doing fine.
I love you guys.' The war will be over in a few days. I'll see you all
They were tough, those marines,
big-boned men with muck on their faces and ferocity in their eyes -
they had been fighting for days without sleep - but they too were on
the same lonely journey of despair that the Old Contemptables and the
Frenchpoilus and the Bavarian infantry embarked upon almost a century
Was this because we no longer
have leaders who have experienced war at first hand? When I grew up,
Churchill and MacMillan were Prime Ministers, men who fought in the
First World War and who led us through the Second World War. Eden had
been in the wartime Cabinet with Churchill. Tito had been wounded by
German shellfire in Yugoslavia, Jack Kennedy had commanded a torpedo
boat in the Pacific, de Gaulle fought in the Great War, and later helped
to liberate France from the Nazis, but Blair, however much he may claim
to be a friend of God, has no such distinction; nor Bush, who dodged
Vietnam; nor Cheney, who also dodged Vietnam; nor Gordon Brown, nor
Condoleezza Rice; nor John Howard of Australia. Colin Powell was in
Vietnam; but he has gone, trailing his ignominious February 2003 UN
performance on weapons of mass destruction.
Instead, the little men dressed
up in the clothes of dead titans. Bush and Blair thought they were Churchills
or Roosevelts. They flaunted themselves along with Aznar of Spain as
the Big Three: Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin; though I never discovered
which of them was supposed to play the Soviet mass-murderer, as they
conspired in the Azores for war. They claimed that Saddam was the Hitler
of Baghdad. My old, messianic friend Tom Friedman, a New York Times
columnist, got it right when he described Saddam as part Donald Duck
and part Don Corleone, but this was not the kind of reality that Bush
or Blair were interested in.
They were the quick-fix men,
the instant statesmen, the guys who had handle on war. Post-war control
and reconstruction? Forget it, the Iraqis will do as we tell them after
they have greeted us with roses and songs. Winston Churchill set up
a British cabinet committee to organise the administration of post-war
occupied Germany in 1941: four years before the end of the Second World
War, and at a time when we still expected aWehrmacht invasion of Britain.
The Churchill frauds had not even bothered to create such a committee
fordays before their invasion of Iraq.
For this was to be an ideological
war. From its creation by the loonies of the American right - as a pro-Israeli
policy to aid Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu - and then foisted
on Bush, to the hell-disaster that Iraq now represents, the real war
had to be turned into myth; nightmares into dreams; destruction into
hope; terrible truths into profound mendacity.
Even today the occupation
powers tell awesome lies. Democracy is taking hold when the "Iraqi"
government controls only a few acres of Baghdad greensward. The insurgency
is being crushed when 40,000 armed Iraqis are ripping into the greatest
army on Earth; freedom is taking hold when thousands of Iraqis are dying
each month. "Operation Swarmer" is now supposedly targeting
those who want a civil war in Iraq. Some of the men who are trying to
provoke civil war however, work for the Iraqi Interior Ministry, and
are paid, ultimately, by us.
For the truth, we should
turn to a well-known analyst who warned us that in Iraq, the British
have been "led into a trap from which it shall be hard to escape
with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady
withholding of information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated,
insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been
told. Our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public
knows ... We are today not far from a disaster." This is the most
concise and accurate account I have yet read of our present folly.
It was written about the
British occupation of Iraq in 1920 by Lawrence of Arabia. In the long
nights of 2003, when the dangers of each day under US bombardment were
replaced by the insomnia of bomb-blasts in the Baghdad darkness outside.
I would curl up like an animal in my bed and thumb through the predictions
of this present folly.
I read a fearful prophecy
by the evangelical preacher Pat Buchanan written five months before
we illegally invaded Iraq. "This invasion will not be the cakewalk
neo-conservatives predict," he said. "Terrorist attacks in
liberated Iraq seem as certain as in liberated Afghanistan. For a militant
Islam ... will never accept George Bush dictating the destiny of the
Islamic world ... Pax Americana will reach apogee but then the tide
recedes; for the one endeavour at which Islamic peoples excel is expelling
imperial powers by terror and guerrilla warfare." There were the
dreary precedents. Muslims drove the Brits out of Palestine and Aden;
the French out of Algeria; the Russians out of Afghanistan; the Americans
out of Somalia; and Beirut, the Israelis out of Lebanon. As Buchanan
wrote, "we have started up the road to empire, and over the next
hill we will meet those who went before." However, we shall not
count the bodies.
What was it Bush told us
a few weeks ago? That 30,000 Iraqis had been killed since the invasion,
his very words a racist admission; for what he actually said was: "30,000
more or less". More or less, give or take a few hundred. Would
he have dared to say that US casualties were "2,000 more or less"?
Of course not. Our dead are precious; they are individuals with widows
and children. The Iraqis? Well, they are lesser beings whose casualties
cannot be revealed to us by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, on orders
from the Americans and British; creatures whose suffering, far greater
than our own, must be submerged in the democracy and freedom in which
we are drowning them; whose casualties "More or less" are
probably nearer to 150,000. After all, if 1,000 Iraqis could die by
violence last July - in Baghdad alone; and if they are being killed
at 60 or 70 a day, then we have a near genocidal bloodbath on our hands.
Iraqis, however, are now ourUntermenschen for whom, frankly, we do not
Civil war? There never was
a civil war? It is a tribal, not a sectarian society. Some organisation
wants a civil war; oddly, it was an occupation force's spokesman, a
certain Dan Senor, who first warned of civil war in Iraq at an Anglo-American
press-conference in 2003. Why? We talk of civil war far more than the
Iraqis do. Why? Repeatedly, we are told that Iraqis and Westerners are
kidnapped by "Men wearing police uniforms" or by "Men
wearing army uniforms".
What is this nonsense? Are
we really to believe that there is a vast warehouse in Fallujah containing
8,000 made-to-measure police uniforms for potential insurgents? No!
The truth is that many of the policemen and soldiers or Iraq, upon whose
loyalty and courage our retreat, according to Bush, depends, are themselves
insurgents. So deeply have the nationalists/Islamists forces infiltrated
these men that the Bush-Blair promises of withdrawal are the very opposite
of the truth. We are on our own. We may persuade our ex-spooks, like
the former "interim prime minister" Iyad Alawi, who obediently
claimed yesterday that therewas a civil war in progress, to try to frighten
Iraqis. The reality is that our armed presence in Iraq is destroying
an entire people.
So we proceed down the crumbling
staircase. Let us forget the weapons of mass destruction; the 45-minute
warning; the links between Saddam and 11 September 2001; the dossiers;
and the lies; and our torture - yes, torture, at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo
Bay; and the ever-widening chasm between Blair's tomfoolery and the
truth. Bush told us yesterday that "More sacrifices will be required".
You bet they will be if we continue this march of folly.
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and Media Limited