Lions Fighting for Donkeys    
    Iraq: Colin Vernon looks at nationalists' dilemma    

While Hans Blix was still inspecting, and the permanent members of the UN Security Council still wrangling, as many as three out of four Britons were firmly against war in Iraq, although most of them sensed that war was inevitable: inevitable, not because of the intransigence of Saddam Hussein but because the Bush regime had already made up its mind to invade Iraq, with or without United Nation's sanction. And, in that vast majority of us who opposed any conflict, there were even a few misguided individuals who actually believed that Washington's little lap-dog might somehow get off the hook and leave George to go it alone.

The firing starts

But when it became clear that our forces were to be involved there was a remarkable shift in opinion. According to some polls, as many as four fifths of our folk said that they supported the coalition offensive against Iraq. As someone who had vehemently opposed the illegal attack explained to me, "Well, they're there now and we have to support them." While this was commendable, it was also illogical. Blair had sent our soldiers, sailors, and airmen miles from their homeland to become parties to atrocities and war crimes in defiance both of reason and of international law. It seemed to me that we should comfort our wounded and, as becomes us, mourn our British dead, yet still remain detached from the unjust, bloody and unnecessary conflict.

Even the mealy-mouthed assertion that a quick victory with only a few killed would be the best option seemed less than appealing. We should not want to see naked aggression successful in Iraq or anywhere else. Nor would we have wished to see our brave men and women slaughtered by people who have no choice but to defend their native land by whatever means they could.

Taking stock and taking sides

One of the grave disadvantages of being British is that we naturally support the underdog. And here we have a classic case of international bullying: little Iraq, a nation of just 22 million souls; a brave army but one primitively equipped by modern standards; a poor people already distressed by savage sanctions, these inoffensive folk scandalously attacked, bombed and battered by all the firepower the Pentagon can lay its hands on, plus a voluntary contribution from the madmen in Westminster. Underdogs do not come much more ‘under’ than that. Even so, maybe we should look at the progress and some of the events in this ‘war’ before reaching a serious and definitive conclusion.

Longer than they thought

Both Houses of Congress and both Houses of Parliament were lied to, as the Labour Party now knows to its cost. Saddam would not last a week. Joyous Iraqis would strew flowers in the path of coalition soldiers, and treacherous puppets, schooled for the job in Washington, would install their own version of western democracy in no time at all. Predictably, it did not happen; but something else, extremely interesting, did. The chief war aim, the decommissioning of weapons of mass destruction was abandoned, and the unprovoked attack was designated ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’. Moreover, finding that the president's ‘henchmen’ were loyal to their leader, he lost the distinction of being the only villain of the piece, and journalists were required to refer to a war against the ‘regime’. That regime, of course, was required to respect...

...the Rules of Engagement

This concept took us back over a thousand years, and we imagined our great Saxon King Alfred addressing his forces: "Look chaps, I know these bloody Danes are rampaging throughout East Anglia. We know they were not asked to come, but that doesn't mean that we can ignore the rules. I don't want to see any dirty tricks played on our enemies, such as farmers suddenly producing spears, and our commanders flagrantly displaying the severed heads of our foes in public places." Nonsensical of course, but very much what the coalition expected of Iraq. Having launched a violent and wholly unprovoked assault of this relatively small nation, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld became irked when they failed to abide by the so-called Geneva Convention. Yet surely, when your land and folk are threatened, all that matters is survival; and to hell with whatever rules the enemy would like you to observe. And, in any case, why should we expect these people to conform to our rule book? The Iraqis, as a Syro-Arabian nation, have manners, morals and mental make-ups quite different from those of Western Europeans. Unfortunately, neither the gangsters in the Pentagon nor the wretched occupant of 10 Downing Street have the slightest understanding of different and inherent racial characteristics. Their attitude is simply: "Accept our One-World Order, or else!" Recently the Iraqi people have been on the receiving end of the "Or else"

The battle for hearts and minds

In most movies we soon get to know who is the villain. In real life it is more difficult. On the one hand, we have seen the Washington propagandists, Bush's henchmen, such as Ari Fleischer, and the coalition military commanders safely tucked away, and miles from the battlefield, giving press conferences. Contrast this with a city where missiles have been raining down all night and day, and the appearance, almost from the rubble, of seemingly indefatigable middle-aged men in black berets, wholly unflustered and ready to cope with all the questions flung at them, in both Arabic and English, some with a better command of the latter language than the US President himself. Generally composed and factual in their comments, they occasionally stooped to the level of the aggressor. At one morning conference, I believe it was the defence minister who observed that Rumsfeld was not merely a bastard, but a lying bastard to boot. Of course they made the most of the atrocities committed against their folk during the previous 24 hours but - and this was always impressive - one gained the feeling that nothing but a bullet, a bomb or a bayonet would silence their belief in ultimate victory over the invader.

Gaffes galore

Even before hostilities commenced, the critics amongst us were guessing as to how soon the US forces would be shooting up their own people or ours. It did not take long to happen. First it was a British Tornado aircraft returning from a mission, and then a clearly marked British tank and its crew strafed from the air. In neither case was there the slightest excuse for the blunder. Clearly, having the technology is one thing, and having personnel with the brains to use it is another. And, even as we write, there has been another fiasco costly in human life, this time a bombing attack on Kurds and Americans. The desert is, we suppose, so thickly populated that picking out friends from foes presents a real problem!

So far, I have not said much about the little lap-dog. His big moment came when, with Bush at Camp David, he announced that British prisoners had been executed by the Iraqis. Understandably this caused immense distress to the relatives of these soldiers, who subsequently, and thankfully, learnt that, as usual, our Tone was lying through his teeth. There was not an atom of truth in his wicked accusation. Meanwhile Donald (that is Mr. Rumsfeld again) was getting very cross with the Syrians. They had, it seems, supplied the Iraqis with those most deadly weapons of mass destruction, night-vision goggles. The fact that Bush allows this congenital idiot to remain on stage has to say something about the fundamental weakness of his administration.

Terrorists get the green light

Literally hours before hostilities began, Bush offered the world, and the Arab world in particular, the prospect of a new ‘road map’which would lead to the eventual setting up of an independent Palestinian state. It is instructive for us to realise that this arrogant and ignorant little man actually believes, or pretends to believe, that the United States can and will solve all problems everywhere in the world. In fact, Bush is perfectly well aware that Israel will calmly veto all the bits of the ‘road map’ that are not to its taste. If he thought he was successfully bribing the Arab nations then he was wasting his time.

"When it is over... this war will have horrible consequences," said President Mubarak of Egypt. "Instead of having one bin Laden we will have hundreds." Thousands would perhaps be nearer the mark. If popular Arab feeling moved Arab governments, then the coalition would be fighting on several fronts. As it is, every day would-be martyrs stream across the Iraqi borders, some volunteering as suicide bombers, others just happy to pick up a gun and have a go at the infidel. Washington, as already said, has no concept of the Arab mentality. Maybe Saddam was once less than popular amongst his neighbours. Today, to the ordinary folk in those countries, it is he and his Republican Guard who are the martyrs of the Arab world. This has been George W. Bush's singular achievement.

No happy ending

At the time of writing, it seems to me that sheer firepower has brought the Zionist lackey his hollow victory; that after a poor nation's infrastructure has been ripped apart, and thousands of civilians killed or maimed, the carnage will be followed by the arrival of food parcels. Meanwhile, the computer games industry is not missing a trick. Young Americans are already playing Command and Conquer, in which players are rewarded for destroying Iraqi mosques with stealth bombers. For my own part, I would like to take ‘Field Marshal’ Blair to a Baghdad market place, to a side street where a little girl five years old, innocent, pretty, young face downwards, lies dead in the gutter next to her dad, whose head has been blown off. And if I am told that my patriotism requires me to endorse such crimes then I would as soon be labelled ‘traitor’.

Q. "What's the difference between an Iraqi and a Yank?"

A. "An Iraqi kills fewer Brits."

Joke going the rounds among British forces in Iraq, as reported in The Sunday Telegraph (13/4/03)

    Spearhead Online