A very revealing exchange took place on Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday of last week.
Presenter Evan Davies, sitting in London, asked veteran reporter Hugh Sykes in Iraq what the mood was like as the US “combat mission” was allegedly ending.
Davies speculated that the departing US troops were “a sort of victorious army but perhaps not quite feeling like leaving liberated France at the end of the Second World War.”
Sykes, a consummate broadcaster, was for a moment speechless. When he could find the words, they were damning: “Oh no, absolutely no comparison whatsoever with the liberation of France.”
He added that the words of a US soldier who had screamed “We’ve won, we’ve won” as he crossed into Kuwait would return to haunt him, if not the entire US administration.
The truth is that the US has achieved only the sordid destruction of an entire society. Over a million Iraqis are dead because of the war, as are thousands of US, British and other troops.
Some four million Iraqis have been driven from their homes, and the vast majority are too terrified to return. Basic services are in short supply and the reality for the majority of the Iraqi population is poverty and fear.
July saw the highest number of violent deaths in Iraq for two years: August will be worse.
Sectarianism has been created and entrenched. Al Qaida did not exist in Iraq before the war—but it does now. The lie that the US has made Iraq a better place is on a scale of the lies about weapons of mass destruction.
And of course the US is not withdrawing from Iraq. “Combat troops” are meant to be out, but 50,000 “trainers and advisers” will remain until the end of 2011, and 10,000 even longer. The US is in the process of recruiting 7,000 security contractors (mercenaries) to back up their power.
US planes and helicopters will continue to deliver death from the air for years to come. But there is another point to make which most analysts have missed. The US has already lost in Iraq.
Turning Iraq into a slaughterhouse has not brought victory. When George Bush (flanked by Tony Blair) launched the war in Iraq seven and a half years ago he had clear aims. He wanted to deter any other state from seeking to challenge the US’ military superiority and economic dominance.
The US hoped to control oil supplies, install a pro-Western regime in Iraq and trigger a series of “democratic” revolutions across the Middle East that would isolate and weaken Iran.
Such hopes lie in ashes. The US has shown it can spill blood and tear flesh. It has not demonstrated that it can hang on and mould societies to its will. Iran is stronger, not weaker now than in 2003. Part of its confidence to defy the US over nuclear development is because at any moment it can deepen the crisis in Iraq.
The US has not just failed to secure a pro-Western government in Iraq—there is no government at all. Almost six months after the 7 March elections, there is utter deadlock.
Prime ministers from Blair to Spain’s José María Aznar have been brought down by the opposition to the war.
Even the oil supplies have not gone to plan. A consortium made up of BP and China National Petroleum Corporation won a contract to develop southern Iraq’s giant Rumaila oil field. For China’s national oil company, it was the second major deal after a $3 billion contract to develop the Ahdab field in Wasit province in south-eastern Iraq, making it the biggest foreign player in the country.
As the Financial Times editorial said on Monday, “Humiliated in Iraq, the US is less feared by enemies and less loved by friends.”
The battle against the US goes on in Iraq—and in Afghanistan where the US and its allies are in the process of repeating the same bloody pattern.
But the courageous resistance to imperialism in Iraq, and the anti-war movement here and elsewhere, means that in many important ways the US has already lost.