The pointlessness of being in Basra

It now looks as if the penny has dropped and that Gordon Brown is preparing the way for withdrawal of British troops from Iraq. An article in the Guardian (8/8/2007) makes it look as if the only reason fro being there is to fly the British flag somewhere in the country. That makes George Bush look less isolated than he is.
“Ken Pollack, a foreign affairs expert at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, who returned last month from an eight-day visit to Iraq in which he spoke to US officers and officials, predicted that US and Iraqi forces would have to go to the south to fill the vacuum with the same level of commitment they were showing with the surge.
He said Mr Bush would prefer the British to stay: ‘What Bush needs is for there to be a Union Jack flying somewhere in Iraq so he can trumpet that as full British participation, but that participation has been meaningless for some time.’
Mr Pollack, who wrote on his return that there were signs that the surge was working, was dismissive of the British contribution over the past 12 to 18 months. He said: “I am assuming the British will no longer be there. They are not there now. We have a British battle group holed up in Basra airport. I do not see what good that does except for people flying in and out.
‘It is the wild, wild west. Basra is out of control.’ “
Source Guardian 8/8/2007.


If that is the situation troops should come out. Today. British young men and women remain sitting targets. While the situation is being described as “a success” the comments of Ken Pollack tell a different story. His dismissive attitude to the British “non-presence” emphasises the futility of any continuance or pretence that things will change. How can any further loss of life be justified given this view of the stark reality? That of course leaves Afghanistan.
I find it difficult to judge the greater evil. Extremists of any shape or form are dangerous, but in some cases they get into very powerful almost unassailable positions. Dick Cheney is a match for any terrorist, representing a band of neocons who believe in “armageddon”. No different from those Muslims who promise the glory in the afterlife to would be suicide bombers. To them the expenditure American troops leads to glory hereafter. The misery left for loved ones pales into insignificance. For them.
The very presence of foreign troops in Iraq, in Afghanistan, has been described as “a magnet” for “insurgents”. The futility of the deaths of innocent civilians fuels support for extremism. It’s self-defeating. Regrettably troops withdrawn from Iraq may well find themselves in Helmand province.

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