Last Wednesday's announcement of a 20% troop reduction in Iraq was a crude exercise in political fudge. Not only did Blair avoid setting a date for the soldiers' departure, but in the same breath, he made it clear that more troops will be needed in the killing fields of Afghanistan!
The timing of this announcement was motivated by political horse-trading. A vote was due in the Commons over the launch of a public enquiry on the war. The odds seemed to be against Blair, who did not want to face even such limited exposure of his policy to public scrutiny. His announcement was the price of getting his own backbenchers to let him off the hook. As a result there will be no public enquiry. But whether the troops will actually be withdrawn remains to be seen.
Nor did Blair fail to make another nauseating display of his arrogant contempt for the Iraqis. He declared a "victory" for the "forces of democracy", claiming that, having made Basra a "safe area", British troops will hand it over to Iraqi forces to restore the country to "prosperity".
It would be hard to accumulate more lies in so few words. A recent report on Basra stated: "Instead of a stable, law-abiding region with a representative government and police primacy, the deep south is factionalised, lawless, ruled as a kleptocracy and subject to militia primacy." As recently as last December, 127 prisoners were found to have been held illegally and tortured in a Basra police station! Is this a "safe area"?
As to Iraq's "prosperity", how is the Iraqi population supposed to make it emerge out of the rubble left by British bombs, not to mention the economic disintegration caused by the pre-war decade of international blockade against Iraq?
But then, by "prosperity", Blair means something else. The Iraqi parliament is about to vote a bill which will give the oil majors a free ride to plunder the country's oil resources. Blair's friends at BP and Shell are already rubbing their hands in glee. This government's idea of "democracy" only means one thing: big dividends for western fat cats!