Iraq Errors Could Be Repeated and Multiplied

Compelling commentary from the Guardian‘s Simon Jenkins, in which he notes that there is danger of history repeating itself in the Middle East, and specifically, in increasingly perilous Afghanistan. This is a long excerpt, but be sure to read the entire editorial:

This has to be the beginning of the end. The UN mandate for the western occupation of Iraq expires next month, to be replaced by a US-Iraq treaty about to be ratified by the Iraqi parliament. This sets a limit of three years on the presence of foreign troops. It is sovereignty for slow learners.

… Britain and now the US are both led by men whose heart was never in this war, and want only to get out with some dignity intact. The much oversold “surge” has offered such a screen. War fever has given way to war weariness. Nobody has a clue what will happen next in Iraq, and ever fewer care.

The wreckage will probably be the same patchwork of feuding provinces and sheikhdoms as was always going to follow Saddam Hussein’s downfall, with each arguing over the spoils of the country’s phenomenal oil wealth. … Only when the west has gone will locally initiated reconstruction be secure. But the scars of 2005-07, when Iraq was the most hellish place on earth, will remain for a long time.

Never in recent history has a western intervention been so misguided and so bungled. On Monday the former lord chief justice Lord Bingham savaged the British government’s decision to join the invasion as “a serious violation of international law”, so much so as “passes belief”. He castigated its failure to curb its own and the American abuse of human rights during the occupation.

He might have added such outrages as the driving of 2 million Iraqis into exile, the abandonment of Iraqi collaborators, the failure to restore public services to their condition even under Saddam, the continued “cleansing” of Christians, and the desecration of heritage sites.

After five years of occupation and seven billion pounds of public money, London’s finest minds joined with those of Washington to reduce what should be one of the world’s richest countries to shambles. Iraq is still an economic and social basket case compared with its neighbours, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Jordan.

… The reason not to let Iraq slip un-mourned into history is that the episode has one last service to perform. It should teach a lesson that foreign expeditions undertaken in a spirit of jingoist revenge, with a crazed optimism and no strategic plan, are usually a bad idea.

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