Thursday, December 11, 2008

Britain leaves Iraq in shame. The US won't go so quietly

Obama was elected on the back of revulsion at Bush's war, but greater pressure will be needed to force a full withdrawal

Seumas Milne
The Guardian, Thursday December 11 2008

"If British troops are indeed withdrawn from Iraq by next June, it will signal the end of the most shameful and disastrous episode in modern British history. Branded only last month by Lord Bingham, until recently Britain's most senior law lord, as a "serious violation of international law", the aggression against Iraq has not only devastated an entire country and left hundreds of thousands dead - it has also been a political and military humiliation for the invading powers.

In the case of Britain, which marched into a sovereign state at the bidding of an extreme and reckless US administration, the war has been a national disgrace which has damaged the country's international standing. Britain's armed forces will withdraw from Iraq with dishonour. Not only were they driven from Basra city last summer under cover of darkness by determined resistance, just as British colonial troops were forced out of Aden 40 years ago - and Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places, before that. But they leave behind them an accumulation of evidence of prisoner beatings, torture and killings, for which only one low-ranking soldier, Corporal Payne, has so far been singled out for punishment.....

And since his November triumph, Obama has gone out of his way to emphasise his commitment to maintaining a "residual force" for fighting "terrorism", training and protection of US civilians - which his security adviser Richard Danzig estimated could amount to between 30,000 and 55,000 troops.

Briefings by Pentagon officials have also made clear this residual force could remain long after 2011. It turns out that the new security agreement can be ditched by either side, while the Iraqi government is fully entitled to invite US troops to remain, as explained in the accompanying "strategic framework agreement", so long as its bases or presence are not defined as "permanent". And given that the current Iraqi government would be unlikely to survive a week without US protection, such a request is a fair bet. Combat troops can also be "re-missioned" as "support units", it transpires, and even the last-minute concession of a referendum on the agreement next year will not, the Iraqi government now says, be binding.

None of this means there won't be a substantial withdrawal of troops from Iraq after Obama takes over the White House next month. But how far that withdrawal goes will depend on the kind of pressure he faces both at home and in Iraq. The US establishment clearly remains committed to a long-term stewardship of Iraq. The Iraqi government is at this moment negotiating secret 20-year contracts with US and British oil majors to manage 90% of the country's oil production. The struggle to end US occupation and control of the country is far from won......"

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