The latest assessment of the price paid by the Iraqi population for the invasion of their country by US and British forces is horrifying.
According to a survey published by a team of scientists from Johns Hopkins university, 654,965 Iraqis died as a direct result of the invasion and occupation, between March 2003 and July this year. Among these deaths, over 600,000 were due to violent causes, the most common being gunfire. Of those, as many as one third were killed by the occupation forces.
Bush reacted to these figures by deriding them. As to the British Foreign Office, it is said to be "studying" this survey, while Labour's spin-doctors must be working overtime to find a way of playing down this bloodbath.
The truth is that, far from receding, as Blair's ministers had promised, when they were hailing the "emergence of democracy" in Iraq, the level of violence has never ceased to increase.
The so-called "democratic" regime propelled into office by the occupation forces has already shown its true face. It is a coalition of warring factions, which only agreed to take their seats in parliament in order to share the bounty of western subsidies. But all along, their militias, armed thanks to these same subsidies, if not with the weapons of the new western-equipped police and army, were fighting each other for political power.
In this civil war, the Iraqi population is a pawn in the political game of ruthless would-be dictators. By whipping up religious and ethnic fears, the warlords are using the population as cannon fodder in their power games. And today, Iraqi women, men and children are footing the bill of the warlords' ambitions with their own blood.
The occupation stokes the fires
Of course, the western leaders may have the nerve to claim that, on the basis of these latest figures, they are "only" responsible for one third of the casualties in Iraq. But this is pure hypocrisy. If the warlords are able to terrorise the population today, it is only because the invading powers offered them the resources and protection which allowed them to form fully-armed militias. Western bullets and shells may have killed "only" one third of the victims, but the Western governments are responsible for every single one of these deaths!
Today, 40 months after the invasion, Bush and Blair cannot expect to fool anyone with grandiose speeches about "bringing democracy to the Iraqi people". Even the top generals in Blair's army do not believe in it and dare to say so.
Several times in the past, retired high-ranking British officers have expressed doubts about the objectives of Blair's policy in Iraq.
This time, it was the newly-appointed army Chief of Staff, Richard Dannatt, himself, who said in an interview to the Daily Mail that the government should "get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems". So far, no-one in officialdom had dared to state the obvious - that the military occupation can only make matters worse for Iraq. And if such a high-ranking government appointee dared to say it, it is not hard to imagine what the feelings in the ranks must be!
A policy of destruction and death
Of course, within hours, Defence Secretary, Des Browne, was instructing Dannatt to retract his statement. As to Blair, he had the nerve to claim that he agreed with everything Dannatt had said, since he is in favour of withdrawal as soon as this is "feasible" - i.e. once the situation is "stabilised". Except that the whole point of Dannatt's statement was precisely to stress that the continued occupation only made the situation even more unstable!
Dannatt will keep his job as army Chief of Staff, even if he has "breached official protocol" by speaking out on political matters. The last thing the government would want to do right now is unsettle the army which they rely on to carry out their policy, no matter how bloody and costly it is to the poor populations on the receiving end, or how damaging for the soldiers themselves.
What remains of Blair's policy in the Middle East are these intolerable wars, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, with all the destruction and terrible bloodbaths they have caused. Once again, the determination of the rich western capitalist classes to tighten their stranglehold over the Middle East, will have resulted in a catastrophe for the populations of the region.
As to the working class, it can have only one clear and unambiguous position: against both these terrible wars, for troops out now!