Thursday, July 28, 2005

It's a Great Day for Bad News

On 24th March 2005, the House of Commons Select Committee on Defence published a report entitled Iraq: An Initial Assessment of Post-Conflict Operations.

In section 2, Pre-war Planning for the Post-Combat Phase, the committee identified 5 key planning misjudgements in the coalition's handling of the "post conflict" phase of the invasion of Iraq. It is, by any objective analysis, a damning report of the government's handling of the occupation.

Let's put to one side whether invading Iraq was in principle the "right thing to do". As I've said before, I'd be cheering with everyone else if we'd removed Saddam and replaced his regime with something better for the people of Iraq. It is now self evident that our government had absolutely no understanding of how difficult this would be. The select committee report highlights some of the reasons why the government got this so badly wrong. Given that so many people warned that the situation would develop just as it has, I believe the government should be held to account for these key misjudgements.

Of course, we know that this government prefers not to be held accountable for it's actions. Perhaps that's why they chose yesterday to publish their response to the select committee report. There are lots of other events happening to distract the media at the moment. I don't know how such things are scheduled so I admit I'm speculating as to the timing. Given their previous form, it doesn't seem entirely far fetched though.

Anyway, the government has now issued it's response. As you'd expect, it's an honest appraisal of their own failings... oh, don't be silly, it's nothing like that.

The 5 key planning misjudgements are detailed in the report in paragraphs 17 - 25.
The government response starts like this:
The Government welcomes the House of Commons Defence Select Committee's report, "Iraq: An Initial Assessment of Post-Conflict Operations" published on 24 March 2005 (HC 65-I). This memorandum sets out the Government's response to each of the main points of the Committee's report in the order in which they were raised.

Pre-war Planning for the Post-Combat Phase
[From the report]
1. The post-conflict situation with which the Coalition was faced did not match the pre-conflict expectations.... No post-conflict mission in the last 60 years has been as challenging as that which faced the Coalition in June 2003. (Paragraph 26)

[Start of government response]
The post combat operations phase of operations in Iraq has been particularly challenging. Not only have coalition forces been faced by a determined insurgency attempting to undermine an emerging Iraqi government and inflict casualties on coalition and Iraqi security forces, but this has also been one of the first times in recent history that the UK has had to take on the obligations of an occupying power, and operated as a junior partner in a counter-insurgency. As the Committee recognises, UK forces in MND(SE) have also been operating in a situation where the link between tactical success in MND(SE) and the achievement of a favourable strategic outcome in Iraq is limited.
Nevertheless, we accept that there are lessons to be learnt in terms of improving the way that we conduct post-conflict planning, and much effort has been put into this over the last two years.
Yes, the government will respond to each of the main points of the Committee's report, except the points they'd rather not respond to. Like paragraphs 17 - 25 for example. Direct criticism of the government is apparently not worthy of a direct response. The very thought. Don't you know there's a war on?

The government says that hindsight is a wonderful thing and lessons can be learned from this experience. Pardon me a moment. Hindsight? Fuck off! Half the country is now screaming "We told you this would happen, you fucking clowns! Why didn't you listen?"

Not to worry though because the government "accept that there are lessons to be learnt". Everything is right with the world as long as lessons can be learnt. I wasn't aware that willfully deceptive, ignorant, manipulative bastards could learn from their mistakes. Maybe I'm wrong.

Whatever you think about the invasion itself, our government's handling of the occupation has been nothing short of catastrophic. Is anyone going to accept responsibility for this?

Also yesterday, just in case there's any doubt, there was yet another report on how the coalition has made a complete arse of the occupation. This one's from a prestigious US political research body(pdf) co-chaired by Samuel R. Berger and Brent Scowcroft.
In Iraq, pre-war inattention to post-war requirements—or simply misjudgments about them—left the United States ill-equipped to address public security, governance, and economic demands in the immediate aftermath of the conflict, seriously undermining key U.S. foreign policy goals and giving early impetus to the insurgency.
Here's a BBC summary of that report. More lessons to be learnt no doubt.

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