WITH British troops in the south of Iraq in danger of taking heavy casualties at the hands of an insurgency that has taken over Basra, and has always been in charge of Amara, the Prime Minister Tony Blair is doing his best to cut and run out of Iraq.
He paid a surprise dash to Baghdad yesterday where he mentioned the words that he has up till now refused to utter, a timetable for withdrawal. Two Labour party conferences failed to extract them from him, but the rapidly worsening situation in Iraq and its impact on oil prices, and the morale of the British army has succeeded where MPs and trade union leaders failed.
The content of his discussion with the new Iraqi puppet Prime Minister, Maliki was summed up by him saying: ‘The key thing is, as the Prime Minister has said, to have a timetable that is objective, in other words governed by the conditions on the ground. . . The short answer is that we want to move as fast as we can on it but it has got to be done in a way that protects the security of the Iraqi people.’
He added: ‘As you can see from the joint statement, the government and the multi-national force are going to be working on the details of this over the coming weeks.’
These words prompted a journalist to ask a leading question. He said: ‘Forgive me if I ask a parochial question. How much do you think your legacy as a Prime Minister, as a politician lies in the hands of the man standing next to you (Maliki).’
Blair paused, could not answer, and then replied: ‘The issue of timetables is set out in the joint statement. The important thing is to understand what the strategy is. The strategy is to build up the Iraqi force capability and as they build up they are able to take on board the task of security.’
However the issue has gone far beyond whether Maliki’s security forces are up to saving any shreds of Blair’s reputation.
British troops, and American troops, are going to be quitting, in a situation reminiscent of the last days of the puppet regime in Saigon, and the whole world will see whether the puppets can take the strain or not.
Maliki had spoken before Blair about how the Iraqi security forces would take over in Amara and another southern province in June this year, and how by the end of the year would have taken control of 16 out of 18 Iraqi provinces, leaving the American armies to tackle Al Anbar, Baghdad and the area around it.
Blair laboured to do what he does best, speak about his virtual world, of how wonderful the new Iraqi democracy was, and what a victory it was for the Iraqi people, and how Iraq today was much better than it was under Saddam.
He effortlessly closed his eyes to the thousands of bodies a month that are turning up at the Baghdad morgue, bloodied, beaten, tortured, and very much dead, and turning up in morgues and on rubbish dumps throughout Iraq, the victims of sectarian death squads, many of whom are made up of police officers and Ministry of the Interior security forces, who he is lauding as the shining knights of Iraqi democracy.
He spoke about the Maliki government as a ‘new beginning’ and not, what it is, the beginning of the end for the occupation and its puppets.
However, Blair did say that the talks on a timetable did not automatically mean the swift repatriation of large numbers of UK troops.
Quite, they are going to be heading for Afghanistan, where the war is now developing rapidly with large scale engagements between the Taleban and coalition forces.
While British troops are going to be sent in as reinforcements, Bush is organising for the worst.
The latest news is that the US is spending $300m on Russian munitions for the Afghan army, enough to keep it going for 10 years, on the basis that a Democratic administration may well pull out of Afghanistan.
It is time for the working class to end this imperialist madness. The trade unions must take immediate industrial action to bring down the Blair government to secure the immediate withdrawal of all British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.