The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Great Britain:
The “withdrawal” of troops from Iraq, Blair’s sleight of hand

Mar 5, 2007

The following article appeared in the March 2 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Last September, the government announced that the number of British troops in Iraq would be reduced. It didn’t happen. Five more months were necessary until February 21, when Blair decided to remember the announcement. According to his declaration, 1,600 British soldiers are going to leave Iraq (one-fifth of all British troops in Iraq) and they will go ... soon.

Blair is careful not to set the date. He adds that an aggravation of the situation could delay this plan. No one knows if there will be a partial withdrawal, or when. On the other hand, it’s clear that new troops are going to go to Afghanistan. Last summer, the British army ran into unforeseen resistance when it relieved U.S. troops in Helmand province in Afghanistan. The general staff has been clamoring for reinforcements for a long time.

This little game is nothing other than a sleight of hand, in many respects.

It wasn’t by chance that Blair chose February 21 to announce this “withdrawal.” That day there was going to be a vote in Parliament on the creation of a commission of inquiry on Blair’s Iraqi policy. Such commissions are used by the British parliament to bury political scandals under tons of paperwork. Nevertheless, they attract the attention of the media. Blair wasn’t about to let the vote for this commission come to pass, especially two months before municipal elections. Everything indicates that his announcement of a “withdrawal” is the price he had to pay to get a certain number of his Labor Party Members of Parliament to vote against the commission.

Since he had to make this gesture, Blair hastened to turn it to his advantage by using another trick. If we believe him, this “withdrawal” is only possible due to the improvement of the situation in the Basra region, so that the Iraqi authorities will now be in a position to assure the population’s security and even to “restore prosperity.” Put another away, they’ll finally be on the road to victory, a victory he has already declared so many times before.

Blair’s demagogy becomes ever more grotesque. Without even speaking about the situation in the rest of Iraq, British troops saw the number of their victims increase by nearly 200% over the past year, compared to the year before. Less than two months ago, a thousand British soldiers laid siege to a clandestine prison in Basra set up by one of the Shiite militias in an official building of the Iraqi police! They found 127 severely tortured prisoners.

Is this the “security” for the Iraqi population that Blair dares to congratulate himself on? Is this what the militias that the British and U.S. invasion armed and backed are reserving for the population? When he speaks of “prosperity,” Blair undoubtedly has in mind the stockholders of the oil company BP (British Petroleum), who will be among the beneficiaries of the new law on foreign oil concessions being adopted in Baghdad.

We can only rejoice at the large number of people who took part in demonstrations against the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan in the largest British cities on February 24. This showed that Blair’s revolting lies haven’t made people forget that his government and the bulk of the British political class have hands covered with Iraqi and Afghani blood.