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Year 2005 No. 112, September 23, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

No to the Incitement of Civil War in Iraq!
British Troops Must Be Withdrawn!

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

No to the Incitement of Civil War in Iraq! British Troops Must Be Withdrawn!

British Troops in Pitched Battle in Basra

British Agents in Local Drag Saved by Cavalry

Fake Terrorism Is a Coalition's Best Friend

Were the British Soldiers Engaged in Counter-Insurgency Operation in Basra?

To Say We Must Stay In Iraq To Save It From Chaos Is A Lie

Muqtada Al-Sadr's Response to Basra Events

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No to the Incitement of Civil War in Iraq!
British Troops Must Be Withdrawn!

The incidents involving British troops in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, which have not only led to protests from the Iraqi authorities but strong opposition from the Iraqi residents to the US-led occupation of the country, give further indication of the involvement of British forces in inciting civil war in Iraq. On September 19, British troops stormed a Basra jail where two undercover British special forces were detained after opening fire at Iraqi police at a checkpoint. The storming reportedly reduced the building to rubble, leaving at least five people dead. 

            The next day, hundreds of Iraqis, including policemen in uniform, protested against the presence of British troops in Basra. "We condemn the illegal acts of British troops," read a banner carried by the demonstrators. "No, no to the occupier," they shouted, carrying banners which called for the return of the two soldiers to face Iraqi justice.

            Despite these developments and the resistance to the occupation which is growing daily, Defence Secretary John Reid said that Britain would stay in Iraq. "We will not cut and run, and we will not leave the job half done," John Reid said. He defended the use of force to free the commandoes and said nothing about what they were doing dressed up as Arab civilians with a car full of explosives.

            These latest incidents expose to the light of day who the "foreign terrorists" in Iraq really are. They underline that the policy of the occupation forces is to incite civil war, and put in context who the bombings and assassinations of targets of no value to the resistance actually serve. The British state forces are past masters at the policy of divide and rule, which they have for long implemented in Ireland and brutally imposed in their colonies and empire. This is the policy which is being exposed in these recent events in southern Iraq. WDIE condemns this policy of inciting civil war in the strongest possible terms, and calls on the working class and people to step up their movement for the withdrawal of all British troops and the end of the occupation of Iraq without further delay.

Article Index

British Troops in Pitched Battle in Basra

By Chris Marsden and Julie Hyland, 21 September 2005, World Socialist Web Site

Bloody conflict between British forces and Shiite civilians, police and militias has exposed the myth of Iraqi sovereignty and confirmed that the British Army acts as a colonial occupier.

            On Monday, September 19, two British Special Air Service (SAS) soldiers were arrested in the southern city of Basra. The SAS is the British Army’s covert special operations and dirty tricks unit.

            Dressed to look like Arabs, the two soldiers were driving a white car, allegedly packed with weapons and explosives, when Iraqi police challenged them at a security checkpoint.

            Mohammed al-Abadi, an official at the Basra governorate, told newswires that police had believed the SAS men were “suspicious”. When one policeman approached the car, “one of these guys fired at him,” Abadi said. One police officer was reportedly killed and several others wounded.

            “Then the police managed to capture them,” al-Abadi continued. “They refused to say what their mission was. They said they were British soldiers and [suggested] to ask their commander about their mission.”

            Reports of the men’s arrest led to protests outside the police Felony Crimes Department where they were being held. Reuters television footage showed two British armoured personnel vehicles sent to the station attempting to reverse away from the crowd as it came under attack. As flames engulfed the vehicles, one soldier was seen scrambling from a top hatch, as he was pelted with stones and set on fire.

            Ismail al-Waili, head of Basra’s Security Committee, said that more than 10 British Army vehicles and helicopters proceeded to attack the facility, in what al-Waili described as a “barbaric act of aggression”. They demolished a wall in the raid, leading to an escape by more than 100 prisoners. But the two soldiers were not there. Having interrogated local police, the army mounted a raid on a nearby house said to be under the control of Shiite militias and recovered the SAS men.

            Two civilians were reported killed in the clashes, and up to 15 injured.

            In the past, British-controlled Basra has been considered more stable and friendlier than Baghdad because of its predominantly Shia population. Most of the insurgency is led by the minority Sunni Muslims and can take a communal form, involving attacks on Shia clerics and civilians.

            The British Army is widely reported to have been working with Shia groups, which it has viewed as allies, and taking a “softly, softly” approach. But in recent months, a number of Shiite groupings have become overtly hostile to the occupation forces. This in part expresses the opposition of all sections of Iraqi society to what amounts to a thinly disguised form of colonial rule and, in part, an attempt by the local Shiite powerbrokers to secure their control over Iraqi oil reserves.

            Three British soldiers were killed in two separate roadside bombs earlier this month, taking the total number of British casualties to 95.

            Just one day before the latest incident, British military had carried out a number of arrests, including that of Sheik Ahmed Majid Farttusi and Sayyid Sajjad – two leading figures in the Shia Mehdi Army militia, led by the radical cleric Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr.

            Crowds of several hundred had gathered on the streets of Basra to demand their release, blocking roads in the city centre. On Monday morning, Shiite militias had attacked the house of Basra’s governor, Mohammed Musabah, with rockets and mortars, demanding the release of the two detainees.

            The attitude demonstrated by the British Army towards the Iraqi police – the refusal to stop at a checkpoint, reportedly shooting at them and then the demolition of the police facility – is bound up with this growth of militant opposition.

            Reports have stressed that the British Army no longer trusts the police force, considering it to have been infiltrated by insurgents. But the conditions for this were created by British policy of working with local political parties and militias.

            The British Army in Northern Ireland turned a blind eye to well-known connections between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and various loyalist groups. Indeed, there is evidence that it actively colluded with hit squads against Irish Republican sympathisers.

            In Basra, the army will have been aware that the police were recruiting from amongst the militias and would have looked favourably on this as a means of reinforcing its own control. In recent months, however, the British Army has come to view the situation as having spiralled out of control and the local police as having become an extension of the insurgency.

            In an earlier interview, Basra’s police chief Hassan Sawadi had told the Guardian that he controlled just 25 percent of his police force and that militiamen inside its ranks were using their posts to murder opponents.

            Since May, an estimated 65 people have been assassinated in the city. Last month, US freelance journalist Stevens Vincent was kidnapped and murdered in Basra, after writing in the New York Times criticising the security forces in Basra. On Monday, another reporter for the New York Times, Iraqi Fakher Haider, was also found dead in Basra, after reportedly being seized from his home by masked men.

            Army spokesmen have taken great pains to underplay the significance of the September 19 events, with one senior official describing it as a “bump in the road”. But at issue here is not only that the army faces growing hostility from the civilian population and militia groups. It has lost control of the police service.

            Explaining why British forces had raided the police facility, Brigadier John Lorimer said that under Iraqi law, the soldiers should have been handed over to coalition authorities, but this failed to happen despite repeated requests. It was of “deep concern” that the two had ended up held by Shia militia, he said.

            This is an unprecedented development – something that Britain never faced during its occupation of Northern Ireland. British imperialism has always relied on its ability to cultivate proxy forces from within the local elites to secure its colonial possessions. It has tried to repeat this strategy in Iraq by exploiting the conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

            The fact that it now faces the development of a Shia insurgency no less hostile than the Sunni opposition facing the US in the north throws a question mark over its ability to maintain control of the Basra region.

            Without some local force, British troops would be forced to directly confront the civilian population at every turn, which would require a massive escalation in troop numbers. To illustrate the scale of numbers necessary, Basra has 20,000 police officers and none of them responded to the attack on British forces.

            What has developed in Basra also has implications for the US occupation forces in the north. To this point, the coalition has been able to rely on its ability to recruit Shia personnel who are often the target of Sunni militias. If the emerging hostilities in the south were to be replicated in Baghdad, this would leave the US forces even more isolated than they are already.

            In addition to the worsening military situation, the events in Basra constitute a political blow for the British and US governments. Washington and London have portrayed their occupation as a necessary transition towards democratic self-rule. The fact that the British Army, when it feels its interests are threatened, is ready to shoot police officers and demolish prison facilities gives the lie to such claims. It underscores that any authority that is developed in Iraq will only be allowed to govern so long as it abides by US and British diktat.

            The British government’s immediate response to the violence in Basra has been to promise to send more troops. Defence Secretary John Reid said that whatever troop numbers were necessary to stabilise the situation would be dispatched. Reid unreservedly defended the actions of the army, when faced with “mob violence”, and also the British occupation. “What we do know is that under the law they should have been handed back to the British forces themselves,” he declared. “That is the law which enshrines our presence there.”

            The scale of the crisis has produced renewed calls from both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives for an exit strategy, but with the caveat that this must be “responsible” – i.e., not undertaken immediately.

            In response, Reid said that the decision to withdraw UK troops would be taken when requested by the Iraqi government and would be “not an event but a process”.

            It is a measure of the lies and sophistry employed by the government to justify its predatory aims in Iraq that Reid coupled his troop pledge with the claim that “as we make the advance towards a democracy and build up the security forces, I freely admit that I expect that the terrorists will get more frenetic, more frantic”.

            The assertion that the birth of a democratic Iraq will provoke resistance from terrorists not only conceals the extent of popular opposition to British and US forces. It provides a blank cheque for yet more troops to be sent.

            Basra proves once again that the precondition for the development of any genuine democratic government in Iraq is the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all occupying forces.

Article Index

British Agents in Local Drag Saved by Cavalry

By Linda S Heard*, September 21, 2005, counterpunch

Monday was one of those rare illuminating days. A juxtaposition of events starkly exposed Western double standards and made the Iraqi government's claims of sovereignty even more nonsensical than it already was.

            Anyone who tuned into the BBC's HARDtalk program during the day would have been subjected to Iraq's corpulent marionette of a president Jalal Talibani, fresh from grovelling around the nether regions of George W.

            There he was sporting his omnipresent grin worming his way around Stephen Sackur's questions over Iraq's so-called democracy, the inclusiveness of the draft constitution and his own shilly-shallying over signing Saddam's death warrant.

            When the Kurdish politician – whose demeanour is more suited to a shisha-puffing carpet trader than a leader – was faced with a query over his government's legitimacy at a time foreign soldiers were still stomping all over his land, he nostalgically looked back to June 2004 when the invaders handed back sovereignty to Iraqis. He thought it was a great day.

            Talabani must be one of the few who took the handover seriously, as anyone with an IQ over 80 quickly realized it was yet another Pentagon production on the lines of the rigged toppling of Saddam's statue, the Jessica Lynch fiasco, and “Mission Accomplished”.

            But wait! I'm being too tough on the old warhorse. His pal Hazem al-Shaalan, who was Iyad Allawi's defence minister, obviously believed Iraq was sovereign, too, when he allegedly siphoned off US$1 billion from his procurement budget, which translated means every cent. A patriot, indeed, especially when one remembers how a whopping US$9 billion went walkabout under the watch of Paul L Bremer.

            So let's explore the unlikelihood that HARDtalk viewers were dim enough to swallow Talabani's sales pitch. Let's imagine they bought the purple finger garbage or the new holy grail of a constitution. And, let's suppose they could even dig deep into their hearts to excuse Talabani from his desire to witness Saddam with his neck snapped and his eyes parted from their sockets as long as he wasn't the one signing the order. I'll be absent on that day, he said, with a grin, admitting that task would be left to some subordinate unfortunate.

            So let's suppose that after that program we were left with starry eyes and a wellspring of gratitude towards America's compassionate conservative leader for freeing the poor, oppressed, long suffering Iraqis, who thanks to him, have a glorious future in store (those who haven't already been carried off by men in white coats, that is)

            The remainder, who had switched off their sets and gone fishing, or used their newspapers for shelf-lining, might still be infused with that rosy Talabani glow. But for newshounds, that glow would swiftly fade into a pallor. Just a few hours after Talabani's schmaltz there came dramatic breaking news.

            According to the BBC, two British servicemen dressed like local Shiites drove up to an Iraqi-manned checkpoint near Basra. They were apparently driving a scruffy civilian car and when challenged they opened fire resulting in the deaths of an Iraqi policeman. A confused- looking BBC anchor struggling to make sense of the incident described it as “murky”.

            Naturally, the sleazy Laurence-emulating pair was carted off to the slammer –  along with their eclectic arsenal of weaponry and communication devices – where a rioting crowd soon gathered, furious over the killing.

            The Basra police told the British army that the soldiers were due to appear before an Iraqi court, which sounds reasonable to me. Isn't this exactly what would happen in any so- called civilized country where the rule of law applies?

            But this wasn't good enough for Iraq's Ramboesque British guests, ostensibly there to set this “sovereign” country on the road to security even when, after heavy diplomatic arm twisting, Iraq's defence minister ordered their guys' release.

            "Last night, British forces used up to 10 tanks supported by helicopters to smash through the walls of the jail and free the two British servicemen," reported the Independent, adding, "around 150 prisoners were said to have escaped during the assault”, which was condemned as “barbaric, savage and irresponsible” by Mohammed Al-Waili, the provincial governor.

            Then after this Hollywood-style blockbuster – thought to have terminally eroded whatever trust there was between the occupation forces in the south and the Iraqi police – the Brits discovered their men had been moved to a private house; the home of a militia-man.

            Thank the Lord that the Brits are home and dry and even though a British tank was fired with petrol bombs its occupants have got away with minor injuries. Never mind that three Iraqis lost their lives during those incidents or that 15 were wounded in their own “sovereign” democracy appears to be the attitude of most media outlets.

            The British army in Iraq should be ashamed of itself. Its members have behaved like a gang of thugs who wouldn't look out of place rescuing banditos in a banana republic. But in a way, it's done us all a favour.

            We are surely forced to cast off our rose-colored specs mine are terminally grey and face reality. Iraq is still occupied. And its government is made up of employees of the Bush administration, its “jump to it” allies, and its crony companies. Talabani and crew have clearly sold-out, else they would order yes order – the occupier to sling its hook without delay.

            Instead, Talabani told the BBC that the allies are welcome to stay as long as they like. And they will. Don't worry about that!

            After all, there are reconstruction contracts, still to be doled out. There is the privatization of Iraq's resources to complete. There are four permanent military bases to build and we mustn't forget that foreign carpet baggers and mercenaries have starving babes of one kind or another to feed back home in London and Los Angeles.

            When the Kurdish leader dared ask Mr. Bush how long that might be during his recent visit to the White House he was apparently told "as long as it takes to do the job". Pity he didn't enquire to which job the US President was referring. Could it be the paint job which would allow George W. to stick up two fingers instead of the usual one perchance?

            I know all about the arguments which defend the presence of allied armies, warning darkly of a full-blown civil war were they to exit. And it is true that there will be bloodshed, but, on the other hand, the cities and streets are running with the red stuff now. And, unfortunately, the sight of Brits trying to pass themselves off as Arabs and taking part in shoot- outs simply feeds into insurgents' claims that the allies are working on a “divide and rule” ethic.

            There is more and more of a consensus that our armies are no longer part of the solution but are the problem. Studies have shown that ordinary Iraqis unable to stomach the horrors of Abu Ghraib, the levelling of Fallujah and the brutal “pacification” of Tal Afar are joining the insurgency.

            Others, mostly Sunnis, are outraged over the draft constitution, which they view as either a prelude to an Islamist state or the break-up of Iraq into three segments. Just about all are just sick and tired of the lack of electricity, jobs and opportunity and the abundance of backed-up sewage.

            Sure, allied fingers point at foreign fighters as being the insurgency's fountainhead but the US military has admitted that these make-up only six per cent of insurgents. But this isn't something they like to dwell upon; not when a low-hanging fruit like Syria is being slowly ripened by accusations that it supports the insurgents by facilitating their entry through its borders.

            Put simply, the double standards we impose are nauseating. What if Iraqis had stormed Abu Ghraib to free the prisoners there from sexual abuse, torture, beatings and assaults on their religious beliefs? If they had succeeded bashing down the wall of that jail and plucking their friends from their cells, would that cavalry have been termed "rescuers" or "terrorists"? We already know the answer to that one don't we?

            Get with the rule: The allies are honour-soaked heroes when they drop bombs, fire depleted uranium tank shells, send missiles into heavily-populated areas, use cluster-bombs or napalm and force people into rivers when they cannot swim. But any Iraqi who would dare retaliate is “a terrorist” even if that Iraqi happens to be a policeman at a checkpoint guilty of arresting two trigger-happy drag artist foreign spooks.

* Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Mid-East affairs based in Egypt.

Article Index

Fake Terrorism Is a Coalition's Best Friend

By Matt Hutaff, Sep 20, 2005 (The Simon.com)

The story sounds amazing, almost fantastical.

            A car driving through the outskirts of a besieged city opens fire on a police checkpoint, killing one. In pursuit, the police surround and detain the drivers and find the vehicle packed with explosives – perhaps part of an insurgent's plan to destroy lives and cripple property. If that isn't enough, when the suspects are thrown in prison their allies drive right up to the walls of the jail, break through them and brave petroleum bombs and burning clothes to rescue their comrades. 150 other prisoners break free in the ensuing melee.

            Incredible, no? Yet this story took place in the southern Iraqi city of Basra recently. Violence continues to escalate in the breakout's aftermath... just not for the reasons you think.

            You see, the drivers of the explosive-laden car were not members of an insurgency group – they were British Special Forces. Their rescuers? British soldiers driving British tanks.

            That's right – two members of the British Armed forces disguised as Arab civilians killed a member of the Iraqi police while evading capture. When the people of Basra rightfully refused to turn the murderers over to the British government, per Coalition "mandate," they sent their own men in and released over 100 prisoners in the process.

            Winning the hearts and minds, aren't we?

            Sadly, this story is really not all that surprising. After hearing countless accounts of using napalm and torture against innocent civilians in addition to the other daily abuses dished out by American overseers, the thought of British scheming seems perfectly reasonable.

            So what we have here is a clear instance of a foreign power attempting to fabricate a terrorist attack. Why else would the soldiers be dressed as Arabs if not to frame them? Why have a car laden with explosives if you don't plan to use them for destructive purposes? Iraq is headed towards civil war, and this operation was meant to accelerate the process by killing people and blaming others. Nothing more, nothing less. That the British army staged an over-the-top escape when it could rely on normal diplomatic channels to recover its people proves that.

            Such extreme methods highlight the need to keep secrets.

            There have been a number of insurgent bombings in Iraq recently. Who really is responsible for the bloodshed and destruction? The only tangible benefit of the bombings is justification for Coalition forces maintaining the peace in Iraq. Who benefits from that? Certainly not the Iraqis – they already believe most suicide bombings are done by the United States to prompt religious war. After reading about this incident, I'm not inclined to disagree.

            Even though this false-flag operation was blown wide open, I'm afraid it might still be used in the mainstream media to incite further violence in the Middle East. Judging by the coverage that has emerged after the incident, my fears seem warranted.

            Several articles have already turned the story against the angry Iraqis who fought the British tanks as they demolished the jail wall, painting them as aggressive Shia militia attacking the doe-eyed, innocent troops responding to the concern that their comrades were held by religious fanatics. A photograph of a troop on fire comes complete with commentary that the vehicles were under attack during a "bid to recover arrested servicemen" that were possibly undercover. All criminal elements of British treachery are downplayed, the car's explosive cache is never mentioned and the soldiers who instigated the affair are made victims of an unstable country they are defending.

            Hilariously, all of this spin has already landed Iran at the top of the blame game. Because when the war combine botches its own clandestine terrorist acts, what better way to recover than by painting the soulless, freedom-hating country you'd love to invade next as the culprit? In a way, I almost admire the nerve of officials who are able to infer that Basra's riots have nothing to do with fake insurgent bombing raids and everything to do with religious ties to a foreign country. It's a sheer unmitigated gall that flies in the face of logic and reason.

            "The Iranians are careful not to be caught," a British official said as the UK threatened to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for sanctions. Too bad the British aren't! Maybe then they'd be able to complete their black-ops mission without looking like complete fools in the process!

            Make no mistake – any and all violence to erupt from Basra over this incident lands squarely on the shoulders of the British army and its special forces. Instead of stoking the flames of propaganda against a nation it has no hope of ever conquering, maybe Britain should quit trying to intimidate the Iraqis with fear and torture and start focusing on fixing its mistakes and getting out of the Middle East.

            These actions are inexcusable and embarrassing; however, they should make you think. If a country like the United Kingdom is willing to commit acts of terror, what kind of false-flag operations do you think the United States is capable of?

            If you thought the US wouldn't blow up people it claims to support in the hopes of advancing its agenda, think again. Use this incident as your first reference point.

Article Index

Were the British Soldiers Engaged in Counter-Insurgency Operation in Basra?

By Yamin Zakaria, London

For certain, the “free”, “independent” and embedded Anglo-US mass media would have tried to spin the evidences surrounding the events in Basra to suit the interests of their governments. However, in this case it was too late, as the facts seemed to have already been reported by various other media outlets. Let us examine what cannot be denied, on the basis of what has been reported and corroborated by the Iraqi police and Interior Ministry officials, who are allies of the coalition forces.

            a) British undercover soldiers were on a mission wearing traditional Arab dress, driving a civilian car. What was their mission in Basra, considering that we have hearing how happy and peaceful Shi’ite-dominated Basra is. According to the earlier embedded media reports, resistance is almost negligible in the region.

            b) When the Iraqi soldiers (not the Sunni Insurgents), approached the suspicious looking car at a check point, carrying the British soldiers in question, they were fired upon. Clearly, the British Soldiers did not fire in fear but to avoid capture and/or interrogation by the Iraqi police. Therefore, they must have had something significant to hide from the Iraqi police who are their allies in the region. It would be safe to assume that the “legitimate” Iraqi government installed by the coalition forces were also ignorant of the facts; so far they have been quiet about the whole affair.

            c) According to the Italian press, when the British soldiers fired, two Iraqi police were shot and one of them died later. But that matters little for the mass media and no one seems to even know their names. The benevolent liberators are not perturbed by such small details of killing an Iraqi here and there! However, the event raised the temperature even more, after the earlier arrests of two prominent members of the Mehdi army militia (led by the radical Shi'ite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr), carried out by the British forces.

            d) After capture of the undercover British soldiers, they refused to state what their mission was. Iraqis in the mean time had been driving through the streets, with loudhailers demanding that the undercover Britons remain in jail for their crimes. It was then reported through numerous sources that the British forces with Tanks surrounded the prison, where the two British soldiers in question were detained. This led to the protest developing into a riot and pictures were aired showing the British soldiers being attacked by the mob.

            e) An Iraqi Interior Ministry official said British forces stormed and demolished the walls of the jail using six tanks and that dozens of Iraqi prisoners escaped. Basra's governor said the demolition was a "barbaric act of aggression".

            f) However, Britain's Ministry of Defence disputed that the prison had been stormed, on the contrary, stated that the release of the two soldiers was negotiated. Contradicting the statement of the Basra governor and the numerous reports (point d), that clearly alluded to the British forces action to release the British prisoners sparked of the riot. Why was there no statement from the so-called new Iraqi government?

            Whatever the case, the British forces were not happy with two of their soldiers kept in an Iraqi prison, controlled by their Iraqi allies. Inside the prison, their lives were not under any threat. But what the two soldiers concealed as regards to their mission must have really worried the British government. Thus, they moved quickly to get the undercover soldiers out of the prisons by storming it with Tanks and demolishing the walls.

            Now, what has been deliberately avoided by the mainstream TV and Satellite stations is the reference [1] to allegation from the Iraqi police, that the British soldiers were planting bombs. Turkish and a few other media outlets also reported that the Iraqi police allegedly found bombs in unidentified cars owned by Britons.

            So the facts are, the British soldiers were caught wearing Arab dress in a civilian car, armed, may have been carrying bombs, shot the Iraqi soldiers when approached by them, later the British government in desperation stormed the prison to get them out; clearly they were on a secret mission. It was secret because it would be too embarrassing to conduct openly in an area that is supposed to be the calmest with no insurgency. Given the facts, the only plausible explanation is that the undercover soldiers were engaged in counter-insurgency operations. This incident may well prove to be another Abu-Ghraib, confirming the strong rumours of counter-insurgency operations, particularly the bombs exploding in the markets and mosques, away from coalition and Iraqi forces that would benefit no one, except the coalition forces.

            Without a shadow of doubt, a full scale sectarian war would help the collation forces; they would be the primary beneficiary. In fact from the very beginning of the conflict the media has been constantly stoking sectarian tensions, the language employed was crafted accordingly. They kept on repeating minority Sunni Arabs of 20%, who become minority Sunnis of 20%! The majority Shi’ites became the oppressed Shi’ites, as if the hearts of the Anglo-US government bleeds for them! The Arab nationalist Baath party became a Sunni party, as if religion defined it!

            But the sectarian conflict failed to ignite, and then the coalition forces engaged in counter-insurgency activities by exploding bombs in markets, mosques and churches. There have been earlier reports and independent eyewitness accounts of coalition soldiers caught planting bombs. However, like hurricane Katrina, this time they were caught and exposed, the world can now see their fork-tongue and insidious nature.

[1] http://www.iraqwar.mirror-world.ru/article/63808

Article Index

To Say We Must Stay In Iraq To Save It From Chaos Is A Lie

Simon Jenkins, Wednesday September 21, 2005, Guardian

Don't be fooled a second time. They told you Britain must invade Iraq because of its weapons of mass destruction. They were wrong. Now they say British troops must stay in Iraq because otherwise it will collapse into chaos.

            This second lie is infecting everyone. It is spouted by Labour and Tory opponents of the war and even by the Liberal Democrat spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell. Its axiom is that western soldiers are so competent that, wherever they go, only good can result. It is their duty not to leave Iraq until order is established, infrastructure rebuilt and democracy entrenched.

            Note the word "until". It hides a bloodstained half century of western self-delusion and arrogance. The white man's burden is still alive and well in the skies over Baghdad (the streets are now too dangerous). Soldiers and civilians may die by the hundred. Money may be squandered by the million. But Tony Blair tells us that only western values enforced by the barrel of a gun can save the hapless Mussulman from his own worst enemy, himself.

            The first lie at least had tactical logic. The Rumsfeld doctrine was to travel light, hit hard and get out. Neoconservatives might fantasise over Iraq as a democratic Garden of Eden, a land re-engineered to stability and prosperity. Harder noses were content to dump the place in Ahmad Chalabi's lap and let it go to hell. Had that happened, I suspect there would have been a bloody settling of scores but by now a tripartite republic hauling itself back to peace and reconstruction. Iraq is, after all, one of the richest nations on earth.

            Instead the invasion came with tanks of glue. Decisions were taken, with British compliance, to make Iraq an experiment in "ground zero" nation-building. All sensible advice was ignored on the assumption that whatever America and Britain did would seem better than Saddam, and better than our doing nothing. Kipling's demons danced through Downing Street. Britain did not want to colonise Iraq. Yet somehow Blair's "fighting not for territory but for values" needed territory after all, as if to prove itself more than a soundbite.

            The scenes broadcast yesterday from Basra show how far authority in southern Iraq has collapsed. This is tragic. When I was there two years ago the south was, in its own terms, a success. While the Americans were unleashing mayhem to the north, the British were methodically applying Lugard-style colonialism in Basra. They formed alliances with sheikhs, bribed warlords and won hearts and minds by going unarmoured. There was optimism in the air.

            British policy demanded one thing, momentum towards local sovereignty and early withdrawal. There was no such momentum. An ever more confident insurrection was allowed first to impede and then dictate the timetable of withdrawal. Sunni terrorists now hold American and British policy in their grip. The result has been an inevitable civil collapse. We do not even know on which side are the Basra police.

            The British government - and opposition - is in total denial. Ministerial boasts can't conceal the gloom of private briefings. Blair has done what no prime minister should do. He has put his soldiers at a foreign power's mercy. First that power was America. Now, according to the defence secretary, John Reid, it is a band of brave but desperate Iraqis entombed in Baghdad's Green Zone. He says he will stay until they request him to go, when local troops are trained and loyal and infrastructure is restored. That means doomsday. Everyone knows it.

            Iraqis of my acquaintance are numb at the violence unleashed by the west's failure to impose order on their country. They are baffled at the ineptitude, the counter-productive cruelty of the arrests, bombings and suppressions. They are past caring whether it was better or worse under Saddam. They know only that more people a month are being killed than at any time since the massacres of the early 1990s. If death and destruction are any guide, Britain's pre-invasion policy of containment was far more successful than occupation.

            Infrastructure is not being restored. Baghdad's water, electricity and sewers are in worse shape than a decade ago. Huge sums - such as the alleged $1bn for military supplies - are being stolen and stashed in Jordanian banks. The new constitution is a dead letter except the clauses that are blatantly sharia. These are already being enforced de facto in Shia areas.

            British soldiers are in a war over whose course, conduct and outcome their leaders have no control. Their government's exit strategy is no longer realistic, indeed is dishonest. Talk of reducing troop levels from 8,000 to 3,000 next year has been abandoned. Everyone seems on the wrong planet. Meanwhile daily groping for good news and the sickening litany of the bad is reminiscent of Vietnam. Nobody reads Barbara Tuchman on folly.

            Signalling withdrawal would, it is said, give a green light to the gangs and private militias, to revenge attacks, ethnic cleansing and even partition. That threat is no longer meaningful since these are all happening anyway. The militias have reportedly infiltrated at least half the police and internal security forces in each area. Barely a tenth of the army is considered loyal to the central authority. That a Basra police station should be vulnerable to al-Sadr irregulars is appalling.

            The 150,000 foreign troops on Iraqi soil are overwhelmingly committed to self-protection. They do not do law and order any more. Power is finding its new locus, in the mafias, sheikhdoms, militias and warlords that flourish amid anarchy. Where there is no security, the gunman is always king.

            The alleged reason for occupying Iraq was to build security and democracy. We have dismantled the first and failed to construct the second. Iraq is a fiasco without parallel in recent British policy. Now we are told that we must "stay the course" or worse will befall. This is code for ministers refusing to admit a mistake and hoping someone else will after they are gone. By then the Kurds will be more detached, the Sunnis more enraged and the Shias more fundamentalist. A hundred British soldiers will have died.

            America left Vietnam and Lebanon to their fate. They survived. We left Aden and other colonies. Some, such as Malaya and Cyprus, saw bloodshed and partition. We said rightly that this was their business. So too is Iraq for the Iraqis. We have made enough mess there already.

            British soldiers may indeed be the best in the world. But why then is Blair driving them to humiliation?

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Muqtada Al-Sadr's Response to Basra Events

Gilbert Achcar writes: "The office of Muqtada al-Sadr published tonight (Sept 19) the following press release that I have translated from Arabic FYI. It is – of course, one might say – in full contradiction with the official version of the British Ministry of Defence."


Statement of the Office of Muqtada al-Sadr

            "Two soldiers from the British occupation forces opened fire on passers-by in the vicinity of a religious centre where the people of Basra use to go, after which police patrols have a white car and arrested two persons riding it. It was found that they are British, and British occupation forces intervened to try to set them free. The people of Basra demonstrated to prevent this from occurring, and occupation forces reacted by opening fire on the demonstrators killing and wounding many of them. In retaliation the inhabitants burned two British tanks. The two Britons that were arrested had in their possession explosives and remote-control devices, as well as light and medium weapons and other accessories.

            Late this night, British forces raided the police headquarters of the Basra province, set free the two Britons as well as close to 150 terrorists, and burned the police vehicles."

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