Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Problem Denied is a Problem Solved

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has been on the radio today. Blairwatch says exactly what I was thinking:
Captain Caravan almost makes Jack Straw look like a competent Foreign Secretary!
Indeed. Of course, the idea that someone could be less competent than Jack Straw would have been ridiculous just a few short months ago. Isn't it strange how quickly things can change?

Anyway, as Blairwatch point out, Jim Naughtie asked her about relationship between Iraq and the current crisis. Here's the relevant part of the interview in full:
Jim: Mr Blair talks about an arc of extremism curving through the Middle East. Isn't it the case that in Iraq what's happened as a result of the invasion is not that terrorism has been obliterated but a new generation of militants has been created?

Idiot: No, it's not as simple as that. And I might...

Jim: No. Not simple, but...

Idiot: And I might have known that you'd somehow drag the situation back to Iraq Jim. Let's concentrate on what is happening...

Jim: Oh, oh! Foreign Secretary, if I may so that is ridiculous. To say "drag the situation back to Iraq". The Middle East is in flames. Lebanon is being destroyed. Israel is being attacked. The President of the United States saying that "Syria has got to stop all this shit", I quote the President. Mr Blair wants to go there; the President doesn't want him to go. 60, 100 and 150 people are being killed every day in Iraq and you say to me, "you're dragging Iraq into it.

Idiot: I speak just as one of your humble listeners Jim, who listens to you every morning, and every, most mornings I turn and I say "aha" I might have known, we're talking again about the situation in Iraq. The situation in Iraq is difficult but Iraq has an elected government and many things are improving in Iraq and that's something we need to continue working on. We've just had the handover of the first province in Iraq to Iraqi security forces.

The situation in Lebanon is actually deteriorating and that is something that does require not only help to nationals who are there but also help to try and bring this situation into a rather better place, into somewhere where we can credibly have and maintain, and I repeat, that is the key, maintain a ceasefire, and that will be more difficult if all of the kind of context of that conversation is "oh, but this is impossible, it isn't working in Iraq, it isn't working in Afghanistan", it is not as simple as that. And there is some good that the international community can do, let's not discourage them from doing it.
And no matter how many times you read it, you still won't find even a hint of an answer to Jim Naughtie's question. The question was this:
Isn't it the case that in Iraq what's happened as a result of the invasion is not that terrorism has been obliterated but a new generation of militants has been created?
Those who believe that the answer to the question is "no, it isn't the case that a new generation of militants has been created as a result of the invasion of Iraq" might want to reflect on the reasons why the Foreign Secretary has gone to such great lengths, preposterous lengths you might say, to avoid giving that answer. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the reason for her evasion is that she knows that the actual answer is "yes, it is the case" and she can't admit that for obvious political reasons. If there is any other explanation, I certainly can't think what it could be.

But that's not the reason why she's the idiot of the piece. The reason is this:
The situation in Iraq is difficult but Iraq has an elected government and many things are improving in Iraq and that's something we need to continue working on.
Many things are improving?

Reuters Alertnet reports the following violence in Iraq over the last three days:
July 18th

KUFA - A suicide bomber pulled his minivan into a busy market in the southern Shi'ite city of Kufa on Tuesday, lured labourers onboard with the promise of jobs and then blew himself up, killing 59 people and wounding 132, officials said.

BAGHDAD – A U.S. soldier died on Monday after a bomb explosion south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

NEAR TIKRIT - Iraqi police found the head of a young woman near Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. A man was killed when a bomb planted under the head exploded as he was trying to take a photo of the head, police said.

KIRKUK - Gunmen killed sheikh Khalid Ahmed Hasan, a tribal leader, near Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad.

KUT - Five Iraqi soldiers were wounded when several rockets landed near a military base used for training Iraqi forces in Kut, Iraqi army said.

HAWIJA - Five policeman were killed and five were wounded, including four civilians, when a roadside bomb went off near a police patrol in Hawija, 70 km (43 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, police said.

HADITHA - Gunmen killed three translators who worked for the U.S. forces in Haditha, 240 km (150 miles) northwest Baghdad, police said.

July 17th

FALLUJA - A U.S. soldier was killed in combat in Anbar province in western Iraq, the military said in a statement.

MAHMUDIYA - Gunmen stormed a crowded market in the town of Mahmudiya, 30 km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, amid mortar or grenade explosions, the U.S. military, police and the mayor said. A local hospital put the death toll at 56, with another 67 wounded. But the Ministry of Defence had a different account, saying two car bombs had exploded, killing 42 people.

TUZ KHURMATU - Police said 25 people were killed and 18 wounded in Sunday night's explosion in a popular cafe in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, 170 km (106 miles) from Baghdad, in which a suicide bomber blew himself up.

DIWANIYA - Two U.S. soldiers were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near their convoy in Diwaniya, 180 km (112 miles) south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - A U.S. soldier died from wounds after coming under fire in western Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

HADITHA - Gunmen killed Laith al-Rawi, local leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, one of the main Sunni parties, in Haditha, 240 km (150 miles) northwest of Baghdad, on Sunday, the Islamic Party said.

July 16th

BASRA - Residents heard several dozen explosions from apparent mortar attacks on British bases around the Shi'ite southern city of Basra. A British military spokesman confirmed at least one raid had taken place. Residents said it was one of the heaviest such attacks they could recall in recent times.

BAGHDAD - A U.S. soldier was killed after his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in southern Baghdad on Sunday, the U.S. military said.

MOSUL - A car bomb targeting a U.S. patrol killed three women and wounded six in the northern city of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - The head of Iraq's North Oil Company, Adel Qazaz, was kidnapped in northern Baghdad on Sunday, an Oil Ministry official said. Qazaz was being driven back to the northern oil capital of Kirkuk following a meeting at the Oil Ministry when gunmen in two cars stopped his vehicle.

BAGHDAD - A blast inside a Sunni mosque in Baghdad's Saidiya district wounded three people, police said. It was not immediately clear what caused the blast.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen who kidnapped some 30 people from an Iraqi Olympics Committee meeting in a brazen daytime raid have released six, colleagues said on Sunday, but the fate of the others remains unknown.

BASRA - A British soldier was killed and another wounded during an operation to seize a suspected "terrorist" in Iraq's restive southern city of Basra, 550 km (340 miles) south of Baghdad, the British military said.

BAGHDAD - Four people were killed and 10 wounded when two mortar rounds landed on al-Rasool village 30 km (19 miles) northeast of Baghdad, police said.

KIRKUK - A gunman was killed and two wounded in clashes with Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers in Kirkuk in northern Iraq. The gunbattle erupted after the gunmen ambushed an army major in his car, wounding him, police said.

BAQUBA - Gunmen attacked the medical detention department in Baquba main hospital and freed at least 13 prisoners and killed four policemen, police said. Three mortar rounds landed around the hospital before the attack, police added.

NEAR TIKRIT - Gunmen killed three people near Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

BALAD - Two bodies were found shot dead with signs of torture in two separate incidents in Balad, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, on Saturday and Sunday, police said.

MUQDADIYA - Gunmen killed Faris Abdul Latif, a former member of the ousted Baath Party, along with his son in a market in Muqdadiya, 100 km (60 miles) northeast of Baghdad, police said. A woman passer-by was also killed in the attack.

MOSUL - The bodies of three women with gunshot wounds were found in the northern city of Mosul, a medical source said.

DIWANIYA - The body of a police officer was found in Diwaniya, 180 km (112 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. He was one of four policeman abducted on Saturday, police added.

NEAR KIRKUK - Gunmen killed two truck drivers and abducted a third on the main road between Baghdad and Kirkuk, police said.

ZUBAIR - Two British soldiers were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near their patrol in Zubair, a town south of Basra, British military spokesman said.

BAGHDAD - Two people were killed and 30 wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near a gathering of labourers in southeastern Baghdad, police said. The target of the explosion was not clear.

KIRKUK - Gunmen killed two barbers on Saturday in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

KIRKUK - The body of a dead person was found shot dead with signs of torture on Saturday in Kirkuk, police said.

MOSUL - The bodies of three people were found shot dead on Saturday in Mosul, police said.
Many things are improving? There are somewhere in the region of 170 deaths in the above reports and it is highly unlikely that all deaths are being reported in such in insecure environment. In reality, there's a case for arguing that civil war has actually started in Iraq.

Beckett's would no doubt counter that despite the "difficulties", "real improvements" are being made in some parts of the country. This is actually true in a sense. But then, applying a new coat of paint to a wooden house sitting right in the path of a rapidly approaching firestorm is also an improvement. It is not generally considered to be a sensible approach to the problem at hand, however.

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5 comments:

Peter Jackson said...

I'm not quite sure what your point is here. Margaret Beckett is an idiot? We knew that, surely.

The occupation caused the sequence of events you lay out later? Perhaps so. Although the responsibility of the occupation forces for booby-trapping a severed head seems tenuous, unless you're suggesting that under Saddam nobody would have dared to do that.

So we're left with the idea that Iraq should never have been invaded, so that the deaths could have been Government-controlled and thus somehow OK, or that the invaders should now leave and allow the barbarous factions to get on with it. Which is your preference?

CuriousHamster said...

Er, this post was accidentally posted while I was halfway through writing it. Apologies. I hadn't realised it had been published.

CuriousHamster said...

Peter, hopefully the general point of my post is a bit clearer now I've finished writing it. I blame my fat thumbs.

Anyway, your question reminds me of the classic "have you stopped beating your wife yet?". I'll answer
but let me ask you this in return; would you currently advocate an immediate military invasion of North Korea or are you an apologist for the crimes of brutal murdering dictator Kim Jong Il?

The point is that there are other positions which might also conceivably exist outside of those two. My phrasing of the question in that way doesn't actually mean that there are only two possibilities. In fact, if I was trying to force you to adopt one position or the other rather than accepting that there are other possibilities, that wouldn't be very fair or useful to anyone.

So, my answer to your question is that neither of the options you propose is my preference. I am not a diehard non-interventionist and would probably have supported a competent well considered effort to remove Saddam which took into account the likely consequences and had plans in place to deal with them. But this wasn't it.

This was an entirely predictable disaster in the making. And it's the people of Iraq who are suffering for Bush and Blair's inability to grasp what would face them in Iraq. If they'd understood, if they'd listened to the warnings, they might have taken more care. Instead, the went in and broke the country without having the slightest idea how it could be put back together again. And the Iraqi people are now living the the chaos this has created. To me, these are not the actions of men who care greatly about the ordinary people of Iraq.

Peter Jackson said...

Thanks for the fixed post, and for the response. I had no intention of posing a wife-beating question, so apologies if it came over that way.

Leaving aside the pro- or anti-intervention cases, and starting from here, we can only look with horror at what's going on in Iraq. What I was trying to get at is whether the current violence is the result of the occupation in demolishing a pre-existing structure that sort-of worked, or whether the violent pressures were always there, but brutally suppressed when they flared up.

If it's the latter, then withdrawal is the only course unless the occupation forces are prepared for Saddam-style techniques to cram it back under the lid. If that is even possible now, let alone desirable.

If it is the former, then withdrawal is the only course, with profuse apologies for kick-starting such mayhem and some head-shaking over the inability of the locals to take the democratic chance when it was offered to them.

Either way, the country's as buggered as Yugoslavia after Tito died.

What, I wonder, would have happened after Saddam's death with no outside intervention?

As I said, your point about Beckett's now clearer. Sorry again if I appeared less than thoughtful about the issue.

CuriousHamster said...

Thanks Peter, I see what you're saying.

What I was trying to get at is whether the current violence is the result of the occupation in demolishing a pre-existing structure that sort-of worked, or whether the violent pressures were always there, but brutally suppressed when they flared up.


I think the causes of the violence are pretty complex and it's certainly a bit of both. There were tensions which were suppressed, particularly among the Shiites, and these were released when Saddam was removed. The UK and US govts never seemed to have any sort of plan to deal with that which was criminally negligent in my view.

But I also think the coalition presence and their tactics and actions, particularly things like Fallujah and Abu Ghraib, have been fueling the violence and making it much worse than it would otherwise be.

And they've also attracked Jihadi nutters from all over who want to create chaos in Iraq. This was also predictable but again, there didn't seem to be any sort of plan as to how to deal with this.

All in all, a total mess. It's the situation the locals find themselves in, the lack of security, and the history of the country, which have made progress so very difficult. A

s I sometimes say, it's a bit like Northern Ireland but many times worse. They still can't get democracy to work in NI years after a ceasefire. What chance do the Iraqis have in the midst of so much sectarian violence?