Saturday, October 14, 2006

Why Dannatt is right that our troops should be brought home from Iraq

General Dannatt, the head of the British army, was absolutely right in his statements that the presence of coalition forces in Iraq is exacerbating, not solving, security problems and that a date should be set for them to be brought home. Our forces’ presence in Iraq is part of the problem and isn’t preventing civil war. They should be brought home now from the impossible situation they have been put in by governments on both sides of the Atlantic.

Disbanding the Iraqi army is universally acknowledged to have contributed to mass unemployment and insurgency. What isn’t as widely acknowledged is that every one of our soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan means Afghans or Iraqis ending up unemployed because money that could be given to their government to employ them instead goes to our military operations.

Murders and torture by Iraqi and Afghan government forces are an issue. Let’s be honest this is a problem in our own militaries too and a tacit policy of the Bush administration. Abu Ghraib, as many American soldiers have testified to Human Rights Watch – was only the tip of the iceberg and torture has continued since . Amnesty International says the same.

According to Amnesty International torture is also carried out by the forces of the new Iraqi government which is also meant to be preventing it. The Times newspaper has also reported that the Iraqi government is also behind or infiltrated by some of the death squads and militias creating civil war in Iraq. So how can staying to prop up a government that's helping cause civil war possibly prevent it?

There's also the question of why British and American taxpayers are paying billions for ‘reconstruction’ projects handed out in contracts to British and American firms which are failing to reconstruct anything and employ almost no Iraqis? If that money went to the Iraqi government - or future Iraqi governments - to employ Iraqis as foreign aid or war reparations we would at a stroke become seen as generous rather than greedy by Iraqis, as allies rather than exploiters.

True there are corruption problems – but these couldn’t be worse than the level of blatant over-charging by companies like Halliburton given fixed contracts with no competition just because their former CEO is deputy vice president of the US.

Finally the presence of foreign troops in Iraq , the accidental killing of civilians by some and the deliberate killing or torture of civilians by others is strengthening not only Al Qaeda globally but also extreme nationalist and extreme religious groups in Iraq. This does not strengthen democracy in Iraq but weakens it. Democracy is a culture and a system of belief. It can't survive as a set of institutions if no-one in Iraq believes in it. Only when foreign forces have left Iraq and Iraqis are free to decide for themselves what future they want without being open to the charge of being allied with foreign invaders if they support democracy will democracy have any possibility of developing in Iraq.

The fact that Al Qaeda are fanatics or that many of the 'insurgents' or 'resistance' are murderers and torturers cannot change this fact or justify such abuses when carried out by some on our side. Nor can it make such abuses any less inevitable as long as thousands of troops are left in the position of occupiers in a country most of whose people would rather they left.

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