SO FAR Britain has been the only country to provide troops in any numbers to aid the US occupation.
The other big powers, led by France’s right wing president, Chirac, have not seen any reason to provide troops so that the US can control the oil they depend on.
Now Chirac’s government is hinting at a compromise.
Its foreign minister, Villepin, says, “It is not a question of demanding the departure of the American troops today. President Bush can expect solidarity and strength from France.”
But there is a precondition for French support. It is that Bush “internationalises” the occupation. They want a new UN resolution so France and Germany get some say over what happens to Iraq, to its oil and its reconstruction contracts.
Some opponents of the war in Britain see this as the way forward. The occupation cannot end immediately, they say, because the Iraqis “are not ready” for independence.
Such arguments are wrong.
They were used in the past to justify colonial powers like Britain and France hanging on to their empires which cost innumerable deaths among the colonised people.
Whether it’s just two foreign powers, the US and Britain, or several, including France and Germany, hanging on in Iraq the situation will be basically the same. Self determination will be denied to the people of Iraq, and many will still take up arms against the occupiers.
All reports indicate that the majority in Iraq want the occupation to end now. Any form of continued occupation means continued warfare.
A key way occupying powers keep control in such circumstances is by divide and rule. That is how Britain ran, and gravely damaged, countries like India, Sri Lanka and Cyprus. It means deliberately turning Kurd against Arab, Shia Muslim against Sunni Muslim, tribe against tribe. That is what the whole US scheme for a new non-elected government is based on.
It is a recipe for increased communal hatreds and bloody conflicts between Iraqis.
This strategy also provides a get-out for US imperialism. And it would be a victory for everyone who wants a better world if the US is forced to withdraw, without any sort of face-saver from the UN or anywhere else.
If US forces are humiliated and demoralised, as they were after Vietnam, it would be a long time before they would be pursuing other bloody adventures.