Saturday, January 20, 2007


Tim Pendry writes:

I strongly endorse your and Ambassador Hambley’s first three paragraphs. I am not qualified to comment on the last advisory paragraph but it strikes me that throwing large numbers of politicized police on to the streets will merely create soldiery for the insurgency. There is no political will in the West to put in the massive troop numbers to take their place any more than to put in what is required in Afghanistan. The killing of these young students indicates just how desperate the situation has become. I understand that market bombings have also just taken place so it is clearly getting worse.

However, I suggest that references to the ‘liberation’ of Iraq indicates a continued blindness to the causes of this violence – not just the ill-will of violent men but the blundering intervention of romantic idealists who have been allowed to play with armed force. In time, romantic idealists will understand that there are only two types of liberation – of people by themselves or of peoples by others where these others have the will, the power and the competence to do the job decisively and honorably and then hand power back to the people when they have done.

Sadly neither has been the case in Iraq. Worse, many insurgents now see themselves as liberating themselves not against Saddam but against the West. The West clearly does not have the will to do more than buttress a one-sided government as it tries to hold control of its own capital city. The situation is really not that much better in Kabul and Mogadishu. The nice liberals from the West are associated with foreign invasion, cultural imperialism, civilian casualties, de facto warlordism (in the latter two) and economic depression for the poorest where the hand-outs are not near-by for the cameras.

It would have been far better for the Iraqi people if they had not been punished for their history with sanctions and then war and now occupation. It is good to remember that if the US and the UK were ever invaded by a country claiming to bring something better through the barrel of a gun, many of us would still choose insurgency against the occupier rather than collaborate. This is a natural reaction to invasion of space regardless of liberal democratic theory. It seems never to have been considered by the invaders as a political driver. Once war starts, it gets out of control rapidly.

Ruthless guerrillas have chosen a brutal strategy but because Western policy-makers set up a situation where violence, civil war and anarchy became inevitable. The proponents of liberal intervention could theorise but not think – they have made matters infinitely worse on many fronts by promising what can no longer be delivered and opening the space for a widespread insurgent challenge to the myth of Western military superiority. So the war extends and more innocent people die.

That particular university was inevitably going to be targeted as soon as a war of national liberation between two determined parties, each claiming the mantle of liberation, had truly begun. It was the tit-for-tat for the incursion into Haifa Street and it is going to get worse. Ten perceived ‘collaborators’ will probably die for every Westerner. That should cause interventionists to sleep uneasy at night because the option is now defeat or counter-terror – and we will certainly have lost the plot when ‘our side’ start replying in kind. The manner of Saddam’s execution is a taster of what may be to come.

Western policy-makers are (in my view) as culpable through a sin of omission as the insurgents are through a sin of commission. These are two sides of a bad coin and, as always, it is the relatively innocent who suffer – allegedly 34,000 civilians in Iraq in 2006, probably more. Stupidity is as murderous as malice. So, we should never call what happened in 2003 a ‘liberation’ but an ‘intervention’ (if we are kind) or a ‘blunder’ (if we are not). The policy of liberal armed intervention is now intellectually bankrupt and it is time to reflect that bankruptcy in our use of language.

In the meantime, my deepest condolences to the families of these young people – an example of the barbarity of war for which no words could be comfort. This constant killing across the region makes me sick to my stomach.

Kindest Regards

Tim Pendry

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