Det totale nederlag: Briterne opnåede intet i Basra
Den britiske hær trækker sig nu ud af Basra og det sydlige Irak efter fire år. Hvad har man nået?
Reelt intet: Man efterlader et syndigt rod, væbnede styrker gennemsyret af korruption og styret af ekstremistiske militser og dødspatruljer, en by, som man reelt ikke har haft spor kontrol over i lang tid.
The Independents korrespondent Patrick Cockburn opsummerer det således:
The British failure is almost total after four years of effort and the death of 168 personnel. "Basra's residents and militiamen view this not as an orderly withdrawal but rather as an ignominious defeat," says a report by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. "Today, the city is controlled by militias, seemingly more powerful and unconstrained than before."Ingen "mission accomplished", ingen skulderklap for godt arbejde, ingen storslåede resultater af genopbygningen - blot et sviende, rungende nederlag og 168 døde britiske soldaters liv smidt i skraldespanden til ingen verdens nytte - og et land, som den britiske regering er medansvarlig for at have ført ud i en infernalsk, morderisk misere hvorfra folk står i kø for at flygte.
The British military presence has been very limited since April this year, when Operation Sinbad, vaunted by the Ministry of Defence as a comparative success, ended. In the last four months the escalating attacks on British forces have shown the operation failed in its aim to curb the power of the militias.
The pullout will be a jolt for the US because it undermines its claim that it is at last making progress in establishing order in Iraq because Sunni tribes have turned against al-Qa'ida and because of its employment of more sophisticated tactics. In practice, the US controls very little of the nine Shia provinces south of Baghdad.
The criticism of the lack of American preparation for the occupation by Sir Mike Jackson, the former head of the British Army, and Maj Gen Tim Ross, the most senior British officer in post-war planning, rather misses the point. Most Iraqis were glad to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but the majority opposed a post-war occupation. If the Americans and British had withdrawn immediately in April 2003 then there would have been no guerrilla war.
The political parties and their mafia-like militias always controlled the institutions. When a young American reporter living in Basra bravely pointed this out in a comment article he was promptly murdered by the police. One militia leader was quoted as saying: "80 per cent of assassinations in 2006 were committed by individuals wearing police uniforms, carrying police guns and using police cars."
Could any of this have been avoided? At an early stage, when the British had a large measure of control, there was a plan to discipline the militias by putting them in uniform. This idea of turning poachers into gamekeepers simply corrupted the police.
In terms of establishing an orderly government in Basra and a decent life for its people the British failure has been absolute.
En nyttesløs og ulovlig krig, hvorfra man flygter med halen mellem benene: Tony Blairs arv til det britiske (og irakiske) folk.