Divide and rule

There is now near-universal agreement that the Western occupation of Iraq has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster; first for the people of Iraq, second for the soldiers sent by scoundrel politicians to die in a foreign land. The grammar of deceit utilised by George W Bush, Tony Blair and sundry neocon/neolib apologists to justify the war has lost all credibility.

Despite the embedded journalists and non-stop propaganda, the bloody images refuse to go away: the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops is the only meaningful solution.

The argument that withdrawal will lead to civil war is slightly absurd, since the occupation has already accelerated and exacerbated ethnic and religious tensions in Iraq. Divide and rule is the deadly logic of colonial rule—and signs that the United States is planning an exit strategy coupled with a long-term presence is evident in the new Iraqi Constitution, pushed through by US proconsul Zalmay Khalilzad.
This document is a de facto division of Iraq into Kurdistan (a US-Israeli protectorate), Southern Iraq (dominated by Iran) and the Sunni badlands (policed by semi-reliable ex-Baathists under State Department and Foreign Office tutelage). What is this if not an invitation to civil war? The occupation has also created a geo-political mess. Recent events in Basra are linked to a Western fear of Iranian domination. Having encouraged Moqtada al-Sadr’s militias to resist the slavishly pro-Iranian faction, why are the British surprised when they demand real independence?

The Iranian mullahs, meanwhile, are chuckling—literally. Some months ago, when the Iranian vice president visited the United Arab Emirates, he was asked by the sheiks whether he feared a US intervention. He roared with laughter: “Without us, the US could never have occupied Afghanistan or Iraq. They know that and we know that invading Iran would mean they would be driven out of those two countries.’‘

Then there is the war in Britain—a war against civil liberties masked as a defence against terror. In the face of terror attacks, one particular mantra, shrouded in untruth, is repeated: “We shall not permit these attacks to change our way of life.’’ But they do. “Oh, may no more a foreign master’s rage/ With wrongs yet legal, curse a future age!’’ wrote Alexander Pope. Three centuries later, we have Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Britain’s own state security prison, Belmarsh. Nor should one forget the public execution of Jean Charles de Menezes and the attempted cover-up that followed.

Britain is undergoing a crisis of representation: a majority of the population opposed the war in Iraq; a majority favours withdrawing troops; and 66% believe the attacks on London were a direct result of Blair’s decision to send troops to Iraq. There will be no progress towards peace so long as Blair remains prime minister.—Â

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