Get British troops out of Iraq now!

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PRIME Minister Tony Blair told troops in Basra on Thursday: ‘We want to draw down our forces. We don’t want to keep people here longer than we need to.’

Military commanders suggested that troop numbers could be reduced by the summer of 2006, to which Blair responded saying: ‘The trouble with talking about a timetable is that it all depends on the mission being fulfilled. But there is no reason why not if everything goes to plan . . . that’s the strategy.’

His speech was greeted sceptically by troops who listened passively in their heavily fortified compound, where they spend most of their time these days.

Blair is just one of the leaders of the imperialist ‘occupying powers’ who have slipped into Iraq this week like ‘thieves in the night’. His secret visit was only made public when he was on the ground.

He was there at the same time as United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and following in the footsteps of US Vice President Dick Cheney, who was there a few days earlier.

Blair’s message was synchronised with that of Rumsfeld, who said that two brigades destined for Iraq would no longer be deployed and there would be further reductions, ‘at some point in 2006’, to the 150,000-strong force.

It is clear that Bush and Blair are desperately thrashing around looking for a non-existent ‘exit strategy’. Even the propaganda of Bush and Blair about ‘democracy’ in Iraq and the ‘success’ of the recent elections has a hollow ring about it.

Commenting on claims of a 70-per-cent turnout in the December 15 polls, Blair said: ‘Something extraordinary is happening when you get that level of turnout.’ But then he added: ‘The real issue is whether (the Iraqis) can find the way to get the unified government they obviously all want.’

The reality of this imperialist-organised ‘democracy’ is that representatives of 35 electoral blocs are threatening to boycott the new parliament because they say the elections were ‘fraudulent’. They want the result scrapped and new elections.

The main Sunni electoral bloc and that of the former US-backed Prime Minister Iyad Allawi maintain that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) ensured that the main Shia bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), stuffed ballot boxes in districts of Baghdad, where the UIA claimed an unbelievable 58-per-cent vote.

They know that, under the present UIA-dominated puppet regime, hundreds of its political opponents have been imprisoned and tortured, like the 600 found in Interior Ministry cells, so they say that ballot-rigging is only to be expected.

The other more serious problem for Bush and Blair is that most electoral blocs maintained that they were for a speedy end to the foreign occupation of Iraq, in order to win votes.

In addition, many voters went to the polls, while actively supporting the insurgency of the Iraqi national resistance, which is taking its toll on the imperialist occupation forces, killing 2,100 US and 98 British troops, and hundreds of Iraqi soldiers and policemen serving the quisling regime.

Only yesterday, in Baquba, there were two attacks and in one, eight Iraqi soldiers were killed and 17 wounded.

While the declarations of Bush and Blair are increasingly unreal, only imprisoned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s statement from the dock in the American show ‘trial’ in Baghdad, that ‘the man in the White House is a liar’, is rational.

Today, amid the political crises of the Bush and Blair regimes and an increasingly successful national resistance struggle in Iraq, action by the American and British trade unions to put an end of the imperialist occupation of Iraq is long overdue.

It is time to put an end to Blair’s lies and the barbaric atrocities of US, British and stooge Iraqi forces, orchestrated from Washington and London, that have resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of men, women and children in Iraq.

The British trade unions, which face battles against the Labour government over public sector pensions, privatisation of the National Health Service and education and police-state measures against democratic rights, must call mass political strike action to kick out the Blair regime.

It must be replaced by a workers’ government which will immediately withdraw British troops from Iraq and provide support to those fighting to drive out foreign occupiers and re-establish Iraqi sovereignty.