By Editorial
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 286

Editorial: Tortured Logic

This article is over 17 years, 7 months old
The 30 June 'transfer of sovereignty' to a puppet government in Iraq has rapidly become the source of foreboding for the governments of George Bush and Tony Blair.
Issue 286

Whoever appointees US proconsul Paul Bremer and UN special representative Lakhdar Brahimi appoint as Iraqi prime minister – and whoever he in turn appoints to a provisional administration – it is a process that has been stripped of the last vestiges of credibility by the experience of a year of occupation. As the US army’s War College concedes in a report titled ‘Iraq and Vietnam: Differences, Similarities and Insights’, ‘In Vietnam, we were trying to prop up a government that had little legitimacy. In Iraq, we’re trying to weave together a government and support it so it can develop legitimacy. Both are extremely hard to do.’

The ‘handover’ of 30 June will mark the most cosmetic of changes. The corporate vultures that have preyed on Iraq since the invasion will continue to have their security underwritten. US and British troops will remain in huge numbers, their immunity from prosecution a precondition for the transfer of ‘sovereignty’. The US military is even invoking new measures to trace 50,000 inactive reservists through the taxation system, such is the expectation of ongoing deployment.

This is necessary because the facade of benign stewardship is belied by every disgusting new revelation about prisoner abuse within Iraq. The sickening images from Abu Ghraib – the torture facility seamlessly inherited from Saddam Hussein by US forces – illustrate how depraved the occupation has become. The claim that this was the work of ‘a few bad apples’ will not wash. This is the result of policy at the highest level that has disregarded the most basic standards of legality and human rights. As Cofer Black, the former director of the CIA’s counterterrorism unit, testified to Congress, ‘There was a before 9/11 and an after 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves came off.’

The uncritical support for such outrages is no longer viable for large swathes of the establishment. The whispers and the intrigues against Tony Blair’s premiership begin to recall the last days of Thatcher. Whereas it was the movement against the poll tax that fatally weakened her, the defining issue for Blair is unquestionably Iraq. It has focused every grievance about privatisation, low pay, pensions and racism into a critique of the very nature of Blairism. Set to exceed the £3.8 billion allocated to it, the occupation is now the most expensive military campaign since the Second World War. The argument that there is no money for public services has never looked so weak.

The enthusiasm with which the Respect coalition has been greeted – raising over a quarter of a million pounds within weeks to launch its campaign – suggests that opportunists such as the Liberal Democrats need not be the only beneficiaries of this. Like the Democrats’ John Kerry, the Lib Dem leadership want to increase troop deployments to ‘stabilise’ Iraq before withdrawal. They back a ‘UN solution’ – precisely the kind of face-saving exercise that Bush and Blair are planning.

Genuine opponents of the war will not want US and British troops bailed out by the UN to spread their destruction elsewhere. They will not want proxy forces in blue helmets doing Bush’s dirty work for him. The most desirable resolution is a humiliating withdrawal forced by both resistance in Iraq and domestic protest, which would allow a real chance for Iraqi liberation and revive what Henry Kissinger, ‘Vietnam’s Rumsfeld’, famously bemoaned as the ‘Vietnam syndrome’.

The 10 June elections and the build-up to the European Social Forum in London offer an opportunity to deepen that crisis for Tony Blair, the fig leaf in chief for this nakedly imperial project. They also contain the prospect for an alternative that goes beyond the dead-end option of Gordon Brown, the butcher’s banker, in favour of a world that respects human life over corporate profits.

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