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Daniel Furr: If we are to fall, let us fall like men

Daniel Furr, an independent liberal who comments international affairs, worries that we have failed both Iraqis and ourselves by winding down operations in Basra.

As the Prime Minister got to his feet to address the House, he opened his mouth and ushered the lines “if we are to fall, let us fall like men”. The Prime Minister was not Gordon Brown; he was Lord North speaking about the war of American independence. Under the pressure to deliver a victory and to protect British integrity and respectability aboard, Lord North would face an onslaught from critics who opposed the American war and his handling of the conflict. Sound similar to Iraq?

Comparing both conflicts we can see two striking similarities in how the operation has unfolded. Both underestimated the insurgency and failed to secure the hearts and minds of the neutral population, who did not support the rebel army. Secondly, more damaging to our nation, the military scheme mirrors Cornwallis' strategy in the Southern States and is operating under the same principles. The tactics were destined to fail from the start. Now in Basra; the British have occupied the airport and barricaded themselves in resulting in a never ending siege. Haunting memories of Yorktown? 

But it seems the British government has no strategy of winning or even preventing a humiliating defeat and Gordon Brown is happy to just wait. Why else would Britain have a part-time Secretary of State for Defence?

The left cabal of Labour think Iraq was a war crime and appeasement was the best solution for dealing with Saddam, anyone believing otherwise is an imperialist or war criminal in their Neanderthal socialist minds. Nevertheless the British armed forces are masquerading as liberators and a monolithic heroic force of good, yet the government refuses to acknowledge or support the coalition in Iraq. No wonder the Iraqi forces called the United States instead of the British to assist the native population.

The lack of strategy, or decisive leadership, has left a huge vacuum in Basra. When the British decided to withdraw from the last base in Basra, the militias unified themselves and repositioned after the main security force vacated. The frightened and indigent population were not best pleased to see Sadr and his Mehdi army patrolling the streets – nor was Prime Minister Mouri Maliki. After the infamous and bloody “Battle for Basra”, the Iraqi army had to vanguard against a vicious and terrorising, titanic amount of violence; which Britain was blamed for ignoring and giving the militias a chance to collect and strengthen in the South.

Recent events depict a level of resentment because the Iraqi army had to send additional troops to replace the British presence. British generals did inform their presence could be called upon if needed, but the Iraqi army would rather call in the United States or do it themselves. As I said previously, the Iraqis must feel insulted and you cannot fault them for any decisions with exclude the British. Adding insult to injury, Gordon Brown's marvellous vox populi plans for withdrawing all British troops by the end of the year confronted an embarrassing outcome when President Bush objected.

Tragically, the heroic liberation for Britain has ended in an Earth shattering worst case scenario; British soldiers are not wanted by the Iraqis, but the coalition command have objected to withdrawing. But we can correct the damage and rebuild the trust, we allowed the militias in and we must drive them out. It is an endeavour which Britain cannot leave to the Iraqis. We will face an even bigger problem if Israel does indeed use military force to deal with the Iranian nuclear programme. Iraq would become the centre of the conflict.

And we elegantly come to the end game. General Clinton refused to send additional forces to Cornwallis; believing instead the rebels would march on New York. Washington did not and the British were outnumbered resulting in the thirteen colonies becoming an independent nation from the Empire.

Britain was deeply humiliated and we are in danger of suffering the same fate in Iraq. If we are driven from the south, or leaving before the mission is completed, Southern Iraq will become a haven for extremists and radicals. This cannot be the legacy of British involvement in Iraq, but each day moves closer to the reality of the potential prospect. 

Her Majesty’s Opposition most stress the following in Iraq; soldiers cannot leave until Basra has been liberated from extremists, surrendering to the airport showed weakness and Al Qaeda cannot use Southern Iraq as a safe haven. Failure would damage Britain, Iraq and the safety of the innocent citizens in the Middle East. 

Running away from the problem is not an option, dithering and weakness is counter-productive. But if we do end up failing in Iraq, I pray we do not, it is significant we remember Lord North’s words to Parliament.


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