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Iraq: the Next Afghanistan

Phillip Adams

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As George W. Bush sinks slowly in the West, let?s look at what he?s achieved at other points of the compass. Afghanistan? The USA-appointed president, previously an associate of the Bush family in the oil industry, needs a Praetorian guard of Americans to keep him safe in Kabul.

Elsewhere in the country, the warlords are back in business, the opium poppies are blooming, heroin sales are booming and the country is returning to the same level of corruption and dysfunction that brought about the rise of the Taliban in the first place. Little wonder they?re regrouping in the south and south-east, preparing for another tilt at power. And don?t be too surprised if many in Afghanistan, embittered by America?s hit-and-run policy in regard to their long-suffering country, welcome them back. Meanwhile, bin Laden remains safe and well.

'In the battle of Iraq the United States and our allies have prevailed.?
<br />
USA President George W Bush, May 2nd, 2003

’In the battle of Iraq the United States and our allies have prevailed.?
USA President George W Bush, May 2nd, 2003

Iraq? The war-damaged sewerage system still oozes muck into the drinking water, adding to the growing crisis in public health. The looted hospitals remain desperate for the most basic drugs and medical equipment. The oil pipeline, intended to provide cash flow to rebuild the country, has been set ablaze time and time again. While Washington has foisted on the Iraqis a wide-ranging program of privatisations (allowing 100 per cent ownership by foreigners who are free to repatriate 100 per cent of the profits), there?s no great rush to claim these spoils of war.

Not with security deteriorating - with the UN, the Red Cross, Care Australia, local religious leaders, members of the governing Council as well as American and Italian troops being targeted.

The escalating attacks come from anyone - Saddam loyalists, Islamic factions, al-Qa?eda blow-ins and other militant groups crossing the borders. Anyone and everyone with a grudge against the USA is operating in Iraq. And Bush?s response? Increasingly desperate manoeuvrings to bring some of his demoralised troops back home to make things look better for his re-election campaign. The USA never released casualty figures after Gulf War I.

The death toll, this time round, is again being censored and talked down. (Incidentally, USA networks are no longer permitted to film returning coffins.) However, respected NGOs in Europe and Britain insist that 50,000 Iraqi troops and 10,000 civilians have been killed, with at least a further 40,000 injured.

Lucky Australia - thus far, not one fatality. But we?ve been party to a slaughter of the innocents that should make every one of us feel deeply ashamed. Oh, and like bin Laden, Saddam Hussein is still alive and kicking.

As for Iraq?s alleged stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, we have witnessed the biggest failure in intelligence in modern history; or been misled with the biggest lies foisted on Western democracy. Or both. It?s now clear that only one man was honest about WMDs in the run-up to the war.

Not Bush. Not Blair. Not Howard. It was, of course, Saddam Hussein, who denied having them. You?ll recall that he was backed up by many among the weapons inspectorate, by those familiar with the devastation in Gulf War I and by observers of the powerful effects of ongoing sanctions. We now learn that there were desperate back-door attempts by Baghdad to prevent the conflict. To cut deals on almost anything and everything Washington wanted. But what Washington wanted most of all was a war. The war in Iraq was guaranteed to lead to political miracles throughout the Middle East. Having been welcomed by cheering crowds, the Coalition of the Willing would inspire peace, freedom and democracy everywhere from Syria to Iran. At least the mess in Iraq has discredited the neo-Cons? neo-imperial fantasies.

Meanwhile, countless new terrorists have been recruited. Saudi Arabia, the principal provider of volunteers and finance for September 11, is now a target of terrorism itself - as is Turkey. And the promised outbreak of peace between Israel and the Palestinians has failed to materialise. The “road map” is in ruins, and Sharon and Arafat, the Tweedles Dum and Dee of that endless crisis, are consolidated in power.

Iran? It?d be a stretch to say it?s behaving itself because of the war in Iraq. In fact, the Iranian people have been involved in a process of reform that owes nothing to the USA and everything to the courage of its own people.

The Bush administration - condemned by almost the entire membership of the UN and supported only by Blair and, God help us, Howard - has been revealed as dangerously delusional. The world is in no way a safer place and Australia no way a safer nation.

Howard?s job is to protect Australians from terrorism. Instead, he?s got us far, far higher on the terrorist hit list. Instead of protecting Australians in Bali, instead of arresting Willie Brigitte as he plotted to blow up a nuclear facility in a Sydney suburb, Howard had us charging off to the other side of the world for a war that was none of our business. At the same time, he was wasting immense military resources rounding up a few desperate refugees fleeing countries like, yes, Iraq and Afghanistan. Madness. All Howard?s posturing at war memorials cannot deflect from the simple fact that he?s put Australia, quite unnecessarily, at greater risk.

Though shouted down at the time by the Conservative chorus, this author predicted much of what would happen in Iraq - as did the writings of the like-minded. As did the millions who marched against the war. Yet Howard still talks as though the Coalition of the Willing has been entirely successful. If this is success, try to imagine failure.

Published Saturday, December 6th, 2003 - 11:38am GMT

Article courtesy of The Australian

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