THE leaking of a Ministry of Defence poll commissioned by senior British army officers has acted as an antidote to the fatuous pro-war propaganda of the Blair government – that the vast majority of the Iraqi people are in favour of the occupation and view the occupiers as liberators.
The poll revealed that 65 per cent of the population in the British occupied province of Maysan favours attacks on British and US forces, while 82 per cent of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the occupation armies.
The poll finds that 72 per cent of Iraqis have no confidence in the occupation armies, while just one per cent of the population believes that the occupation forces have improved the security situation inside the country.
The poll takes place at the same time as the commanding officer of the first Batallion of the Coldstream Guards, which is serving in Iraq, is leaving the army having taken voluntary redundancy.
That such a senior officer is being allowed to abandon ship in the middle of the ‘war against terror’, while army reservists are being kept in Iraq well beyond their expected tour of duty, denotes a certain defeatism, or even demoralisation, in the higher echelons of the British army over a war that many of them did not want in the first place, and is now going from bad to worse.
It was just a few weeks ago that the chief of the general staff, Walker, was complaining that the army was suffering from ‘guilt by association’ with a war that even the Attorney General had said might be illegal if there was no second UN resolution.
Walker pointed to falling recruitment figures as a sign that the army was suffering from ‘guilt by association’ with Blair’s war.
Walker advised the government that it would have to be satisfied with a less than perfect outcome of the war in Iraq, ie a strategic defeat, and having to leave without Britain or the US having control over Iraq’s oil fields and oil reserves.
Some senior officers are said to be worried that in future they will have to watch their foreign travel carefully, lest they should have the same experience as the Israeli general who could not leave an El Al plane at Heathrow after he was tipped off that there was a warrant out for his arrest on war crimes charges.
The relations between the military chiefs and the government are now bad, and they are going to worsen in the period immediately ahead.
Britain has already agreed to send 4,000 additional troops to reinforce the US forces in Afghanistan, where the war has begun to go badly wrong.
These were to come out of the Iraqi garrison of 8,500 men.
However, in a situation where the US is planning regime change in Syria, at the same time as it is making threatening noises to the Iranians about their nuclear power programme, more British troops will be needed in southern Iraq not less.
The Iranian government is already accusing the British government of being behind terrorist attacks in south western Iran. These rapidly rising tensions will inevitably lead to more attacks on British troops in southern Iraq, and a rising casualty rate.
It will prove to be much more difficult getting out of Iraq in one piece, than it was to get into it.
With the armed forces rapidly losing their appetite for the war, what the situation demands is a determined campaign by the trade unions in Britain for a withdrawal from Iraq now.
This is precisely what is lacking. The trade union leaders in 2004 let Blair off the hook at the Labour Party conference by voting against the motion demanding withdrawal from Iraq. At this year’s Labour Party conference they did not even use their weight to see that there was such a resolution on the agenda.
Millions of British trade unionists must take their leaders to task. They must be told that either they start fighting for a withdrawal of British troops from Iraq at once, or they will lose their jobs in a series of regime changes throughout the trade unions.