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The Iraq War: Three Years On - The march of folly, that has led to a bloodbath

by: Robert Fisk on: 20th Mar, 06

It is the march of folly. In 1914, the British, French, and Germans though
they would be home by Christmas. On the 9th of April 2003, corporal David
Breeze of the 3rd Battalion, 4th US Marine Regiment - the very first American
to enter Baghdad - borrowed my satellite phone to call his home in Michigan.
"Hi you guys, I'm in Baghdad," he told his mother. "I'm ringing to say 'Hi, I
love you. I'm doing fine. I love you guys.' The war will be over in a few
days. I'll see you all soon."

They were tough, those marines, big-boned men with muck on their faces and
ferocity in their eyes - they had been fighting for days without sleep - but
they too were on the same lonely journey of despair that the Old
Contemptables and the Frenchpoilus and the Bavarian infantry embarked upon
almost a century ago.

Was this because we no longer have leaders who have experienced war at first
hand? When I grew up, Churchill and MacMillan were Prime Ministers, men who
fought in the First World War and who led us through the Second World War.
Eden had been in the wartime Cabinet with Churchill. Tito had been wounded by
German shellfire in Yugoslavia, Jack Kennedy had commanded a torpedo boat in
the Pacific, de Gaulle fought in the Great War, and later helped to liberate
France from the Nazis, but Blair, however much he may claim to be a friend of
God, has no such distinction; nor Bush, who dodged Vietnam; nor Cheney, who
also dodged Vietnam; nor Gordon Brown, nor Condoleezza Rice; nor John Howard
of Australia. Colin Powell was in Vietnam; but he has gone, trailing his
ignominious February 2003 UN performance on weapons of mass destruction.

Instead, the little men dressed up in the clothes of dead titans. Bush and
Blair thought they were Churchills or Roosevelts. They flaunted themselves
along with Aznar of Spain as the Big Three: Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin;
though I never discovered which of them was supposed to play the Soviet
mass-murderer, as they conspired in the Azores for war. They claimed that
Saddam was the Hitler of Baghdad. My old, messianic friend Tom Friedman, a
New York Times columnist, got it right when he described Saddam as part
Donald Duck and part Don Corleone, but this was not the kind of reality that
Bush or Blair were interested in.

They were the quick-fix men, the instant statesmen, the guys who had handle on
war. Post-war control and reconstruction? Forget it, the Iraqis will do as we
tell them after they have greeted us with roses and songs. Winston Churchill
set up a British cabinet committee to organise the administration of post-war
occupied Germany in 1941: four years before the end of the Second World War,
and at a time when we still expected aWehrmacht invasion of Britain. The
Churchill frauds had not even bothered to create such a committee fordays
before their invasion of Iraq.

For this was to be an ideological war. From its creation by the loonies of the
American right - as a pro-Israeli policy to aid Likud Party leader Benjamin
Netanyahu - and then foisted on Bush, to the hell-disaster that Iraq now
represents, the real war had to be turned into myth; nightmares into dreams;
destruction into hope; terrible truths into profound mendacity.

Even today the occupation powers tell awesome lies. Democracy is taking hold
when the "Iraqi" government controls only a few acres of Baghdad greensward.
The insurgency is being crushed when 40,000 armed Iraqis are ripping into the
greatest army on Earth; freedom is taking hold when thousands of Iraqis are
dying each month. "Operation Swarmer" is now supposedly targeting those who
want a civil war in Iraq. Some of the men who are trying to provoke civil war
however, work for the Iraqi Interior Ministry, and are paid, ultimately, by

For the truth, we should turn to a well-known analyst who warned us that in
Iraq, the British have been "led into a trap from which it shall be hard to
escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady
withholding of information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere,
incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told. Our
administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows ... We are
today not far from a disaster." This is the most concise and accurate account
I have yet read of our present folly.

It was written about the British occupation of Iraq in 1920 by Lawrence of
Arabia. In the long nights of 2003, when the dangers of each day under US
bombardment were replaced by the insomnia of bomb-blasts in the Baghdad
darkness outside. I would curl up like an animal in my bed and thumb through
the predictions of this present folly.

I read a fearful prophecy by the evangelical preacher Pat Buchanan written
five months before we illegally invaded Iraq. "This invasion will not be the
cakewalk neo-conservatives predict," he said. "Terrorist attacks in liberated
Iraq seem as certain as in liberated Afghanistan. For a militant Islam ...
will never accept George Bush dictating the destiny of the Islamic world ...
Pax Americana will reach apogee but then the tide recedes; for the one
endeavour at which Islamic peoples excel is expelling imperial powers by
terror and guerrilla warfare." There were the dreary precedents. Muslims
drove the Brits out of Palestine and Aden; the French out of Algeria; the
Russians out of Afghanistan; the Americans out of Somalia; and Beirut, the
Israelis out of Lebanon. As Buchanan wrote, "we have started up the road to
empire, and over the next hill we will meet those who went before." However,
we shall not count the bodies.

What was it Bush told us a few weeks ago? That 30,000 Iraqis had been killed
since the invasion, his very words a racist admission; for what he actually
said was: "30,000 more or less". More or less, give or take a few hundred.
Would he have dared to say that US casualties were "2,000 more or less"? Of
course not. Our dead are precious; they are individuals with widows and
children. The Iraqis? Well, they are lesser beings whose casualties cannot be
revealed to us by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, on orders from the Americans
and British; creatures whose suffering, far greater than our own, must be
submerged in the democracy and freedom in which we are drowning them; whose
casualties "More or less" are probably nearer to 150,000. After all, if 1,000
Iraqis could die by violence last July - in Baghdad alone; and if they are
being killed at 60 or 70 a day, then we have a near genocidal bloodbath on
our hands. Iraqis, however, are now ourUntermenschen for whom, frankly, we do
not greatly care.

Civil war? There never was a civil war? It is a tribal, not a sectarian
society. Some organisation wants a civil war; oddly, it was an occupation
force's spokesman, a certain Dan Senor, who first warned of civil war in Iraq
at an Anglo-American press-conference in 2003. Why? We talk of civil war far
more than the Iraqis do. Why? Repeatedly, we are told that Iraqis and
Westerners are kidnapped by "Men wearing police uniforms" or by "Men wearing
army uniforms".

What is this nonsense? Are we really to believe that there is a vast warehouse
in Fallujah containing 8,000 made-to-measure police uniforms for potential
insurgents? No! The truth is that many of the policemen and soldiers or Iraq,
upon whose loyalty and courage our retreat, according to Bush, depends, are
themselves insurgents. So deeply have the nationalists/Islamists forces
infiltrated these men that the Bush-Blair promises of withdrawal are the very
opposite of the truth. We are on our own. We may persuade our ex-spooks, like
the former "interim prime minister" Iyad Alawi, who obediently claimed
yesterday that therewas a civil war in progress, to try to frighten Iraqis.
The reality is that our armed presence in Iraq is destroying an entire

So we proceed down the crumbling staircase. Let us forget the weapons of mass
destruction; the 45-minute warning; the links between Saddam and 11 September
2001; the dossiers; and the lies; and our torture - yes, torture, at Abu
Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay; and the ever-widening chasm between Blair's
tomfoolery and the truth. Bush told us yesterday that "More sacrifices will
be required". You bet they will be if we continue this march of folly.
source: The Independent