"Villagers who fled the fighting and made it to this village on the plains said the military was bombing in Buner with fighter jets and firing rockets from helicopter gunships as Pakistani troops battled the Taliban on the ground for a second day."
Britain says it’s ending “combat operations” in Iraq. But, taking a cue from Washington, London is escalating its neoliberal economic efforts and military training. Old wine, new bottle.
By Jeremy Scahill
The British “withdrawal” from Basra, Iraq is, in a way, a microcosm of Obama’s overall Iraq approach of downsizing and rebranding the occupation. While the British are framing this as an end to “combat operations,” they are simultaneously launching a smaller-scale military training effort and escalating neoliberal economic initiatives.
“Today Iraq is a success story,” Prime Minister Gordon Brown said. “We owe much of that to the efforts of British troops. Our mission has not always been an easy one, many have said that we would fail. Britain can be proud of our legacy that we leave there.” Brown’s line is similar to the co-signing of Bush’s Iraq lies by Obama earlier this year at Camp Lejeune. Iraq is not a success story, nor is it an operation to be proud of. Anyone who calls the deaths of a million people a success is sick. Moreover, violence in Iraq is escalating right now and the humanitarian situation is absolutely dire.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, meanwhile, is in London where has been meeting with UK officials and corporations. As The Guardianreports, “Maliki and the oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, will use the visit to try to cash in on the country’s improved security situation when they meet representatives of about 250 companies – including Shell and Rolls-Royce – to discuss opportunities for trade and investment.”
According to The Independent, Brown “said negotiations would be opened on an investment promotion and protection agreement while a review of export credit guarantees would be brought forward. ‘This is a clear message for companies worldwide: Iraq is open for business,’” declared Brown.
As the British troops were holding their ceremony in Basra on Thursday, Maliki told a conference of investors in London “that his government is working to amend Iraqi law to allow foreign investors to own land” in Iraq, saying, “We need more than at any other time in the past a vibrant private sector and we (the government) will see to it that all obstacles are removed for the private sector.”
This, perhaps, is the success of which Brown speaks.
But, remember, we’ve heard all of this before—from the necons six years ago who painted the “new” Iraq as the second coming of the free market Christ. Now, it is the neoliberals’ turn to declare Iraq open for business.
While the British combat forces prepare to exit Basra, Britain is shifting its focus to two primary areas: training the Iraqi military and, in the words of Brown, “protecting the oil supplies of Iraq.” Like Obama, Brown is moving toward a policy of a smaller “footprint” wherein US and British “advisors” and “trainers” essentially coordinate operations of Iraqi forces, while protecting Western corporate interests. “About 300 Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel will continue to train Iraqi naval forces at the port of Umm Qasr,” according to The Guardian. The substantial US residual forces and mercenaries will always be on stand-by to use mass force if the new experiment gets too out of control for the Brits. The British base at Bara Airport, after all, has been turned over to US control, not to the Iraqis.
The other serious question looming is that the British have been consistent users of private security forces. What is the withdrawal plan for these shadow troops? The US plan is to likely increase the use of these forces and the British haven’t laid out what their plan is. But here is a fact: many of the biggest mercenary firms in Iraq from day one have been based out of the UK. These companies have consistently had more personnel in Iraq than the official British military. There has been no mention of these companies withdrawing. In fact, in early 2007, when Tony Blair first began discussing British withdrawals from Iraq, media reports emerged that the British government was considering sending in private security companies to “fill the gap left behind.”
Note: This evening, I am going to be on BBC World Television as part of its primetime coverage of the “end” of Britain’s “combat operations” in Iraq. I am told that the program will be on BBC America as well.
“There almost surely won’t be a complete reversal” in the progress that’s been made, he said in an e-mail. “But there could be an end to the progress and even a new, somewhat higher level of ongoing violence.”
O’Hanlon speculated that anger among Sunni Muslim militiamen known as the Sons of Iraq may be partly to blame for the rise in attacks. Relations between the militia’s members and Iraq’s Shiite-led government are at an all-time high.
Rahim al Daraji, a former mayor of Sadr City, said the explosions there prove that Iraq’s security forces aren’t effective.
“This will push us back to the sectarian violence,” he said. “The Shiites will be looking for revenge.”
"Beef is not what Jay said to Nas Beef is when the workin’ folks can’t find jobs So they tryna find n***** to rob Tryna find bigger guns so they can finish the job Beef is when the crack kids can’t find moms Cause they in PINE box or locked behind bars […] Beef is oil prices & geopoliticis Beef is Iraq, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.”
What strikes me, however, is the extent to which this is a self-inflicted wound. If Pat Toomey of the Club for Growth weren’t so diligent about enforcing supply-side purity; if Republicans hadn’t made Rush Limbaugh the effective head of the party; Specter might still be GOP, and the Obama agenda much more limited.
Instead, though, we have a party that seems to be in a death spiral: the smaller it gets, the more it’s dominated by the hard right, which makes it even smaller. In the long run, this is not good for American democracy– we really do need two major parties in competition. But I’ll settle for getting that back after we get universal health care and cap-and-trade.
vruz: by the way, Krugman is on a roll. he keeps writing substantive stuff more rapidly than I can reblog. Freak.
i can’t believe on a list that’s heavily inclinated to honouring movies that have pushed technology and CG, and furthered the cinema industry as a whole, that nothing by pixar was even mentioned. unbelievable.
"It just cannot be said enough that our political elites truly do believe that "law" is only for the dirty, filthy masses — but not for them. It really is that explicit. Joan Walsh was on Howie Kurtz’s CNN show yesterday and the other guests — The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and former Bush speechwriter David Frum — responded to her like she was from Neptune all because she repeatedly made one point — torture is against the law and therefore those who ordered it, by definition, committed crimes. This is a point they literally could not comprehend. That’s because they reject the necessary premise in which this simple proposition is grounded: that political leaders are bound by what we call "law." The reason we have become the country we’ve become is because we’ve fallen all the way down to Jon Meacham and David Broder from what, at least in principle, used to guide us — the Hard Leftist, vengeful idea of Thomas Paine:
But where says some is the King of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve as monarchy, that in America the law is King. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other.”
One addendum to today’s column: the truth, which I think everyone in the political/media establishments knows in their hearts, is that the nine months or so between the summer of 2002 and the beginning of the Iraq insurgency were a great national moral test — a test that most people in influential positions failed.
The Bush administration was obviously — yes, obviously — telling tall tales in order to promote the war it wanted: the constant insinuations of an Iraq-9/11 link, the hyping of discredited claims about a nuclear program, etc.. And the question was, should you stand up against that? Not many did — and those who did were treated as if they were crazy.
For me and many others that was a radicalizing experience; I’ll never trust “sensible” opinion again. But for those who stayed “sensible” through the test, it’s a moment they’d like to see forgotten. That, I believe, is the real reason so many want to let torture and everything else go down the memory hole.
“We live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudorealities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives. I distrust their power. It is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing…”—PHILIP K DICK (via hypnogoria) (via buffleheadcabin) (via retropolitics)