When is a new government announcement really a new government announcement?
During his visit to Iraq on Monday, Gordon Brown "announced" that military control would be handed over to the Iraqi authorities before Xmas, thereby allowing an earlier British troop withdrawal. However, he stopped short of committing himself to an actual reduction in the number of soldiers stationed in Iraq.
The joke about all of this is that it is the third time such an "announcement" has been made by a British prime minister. The first time was in February - when it was Tony Blair who said this handover and troop withdrawal would be taking place. Then in October, it was Brown himself who said so - causing a big hoo-hah, because he made the announcement in the middle of the Tory Party conference and was accused of deliberately trying to upstage them.
Does it make this announcement more credible because it has been repeated three times? Hardly, given that the number of soldiers actually increased by over 500 during the year. But in addition, it is an outright lie to claim that peaceful conditions, allowing a successful handover, have been made to prevail in Basra.
Just one example bears out this point. Over the past year, the Iraqi authorities have officially recorded 40 cases of women who were killed and mutilated because of the way they were dressed. Which only reflects the fact that in reality, Brown's government is preparing to hand over power to Iraq's armed religious militias, which are ruling over Basra, just as they are ruling all over Iraq, in fact.
This kind of reality does not, however, prevent Brown from pledging continued British involvement in Afghanistan "for the next few years". This is yet another case of a country which, because of imperialist interference, is being torn apart by armed militias - those allied with the West and those fighting the occupation.
For the likes of Brown, though, the interests of the majority of the Afghan population have no more importance than the interests of the majority of the population of Iraq, or, for that matter, of Britain.