Why is Gordon Brown still backing an occupation that has failed at every level, missed every target and brought misery to millions of people?
When US and British troops poured into Iraq four years ago they promised they would bring prosperity and security.
But their occupation has been a complete failure and the latest strategy to win the war – the “surge” of troops – has accelerated this collapse.
US president George Bush set a series of “benchmarks” that would indicate the success of the occupation.
None of the benchmarks have been met. The Iraqi parliament was required to pass a law that would hand over control of oil to multinational companies. But a campaign spearheaded by the oil workers union has stopped it in its tracks.
The Iraqi cabinet was supposed to work towards “political reconciliation”. However, of the 37 members of the cabinet elected in 2005, 16 have resigned – including Sunni Muslim parties, Christians and the largest and most powerful bloc representing the rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
The current government has no minister for health, higher education, agriculture, public works or transport and has been reduced to a rump whose authority barely stretches beyond the Green Zone in the capital Baghdad.
Those who remain inside the zone are the sectarian factions that fight each other for control over the remaining ministries. None have any real support inside the country.
The US and Britain promised security, yet the country is awash with over seven million weapons.
The US admitted it has “misplaced” 190,000 AK47 rifles and pistols. Now it is shipping 100,000 M16 assault weapons for the Iraqi army. Many of these weapons are finding their way into Turkey and Lebanon where they are fanning ethnic and sectarian tensions.
The occupation has brought with it a new form of terror – the wave of mercenaries that operate as private armies across the country. There are 48,000 of these so-called “security contractors” in Iraq earning around £2 billion a year.
Two British companies alone, Aegis Defence Systems and Erinys Iraq, have netted £271 million in defence contracts. The mercenaries are completely out of control, often firing indiscriminately at Iraqis and in some case shooting at US troops.
The US and Britain said that the economic progress of Iraq would be the clearest indicator of the success of the occupation.
But this has proved their biggest failure.
The lives of ordinary people continue to spiral into misery. Before the war Iraqis in Baghdad could rely on between between 16 and 24 hours of electricity a day, in the four years of occupation this has dropped to 5.6 hours a day.
In early 2004 the majority of Iraqis had access to cheap fuel, supplying up to 90 percent of their needs. Since the occupation authority abolished subsidies, this has fallen to 57 percent.
Meanwhile growing revenues from oil exports continue to flow into the private bank accounts of US companies.
Up to 40 percent of Iraqis are unemployed, four million have fled their homes, one in three children no longer go to schools and the health system is paralysed.
All this in a country that once boasted one of the best educated populations in the Middle East with a health service that was the envy of the region.
At the last count an estimated 650,000 Iraqis have died. A third more Iraqis died in July this year than in June. An untold number have had their lives shattered.
But instead of pulling the troops out, Bush and Brown are beating the drums of war over Iran and pouring billions of dollars of new weapons into Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The occupation has failed at every level, and poll after poll now show that the overwhelming majority of people in Iraq, Britain and the US want it to end. Every day the occupation continues is another day of needless death.
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