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Monday, October 23, 2006 

Covered in blood and shit.

The news that the police are searching for a man who has been performing numerous dirty protests on trains is an apt metaphor for the entire British role in Iraq. Ever since we "kicked in the door", our presence has only resulted in an ever growing tide of effluent, mixed in torrents of blood last seen in Stanley Kubrick's film version of the Shining. Not content with just crapping on the pavement and then getting out, we've had to smear it everywhere. There's no cutting and running for us, just a never-ending stink that won't go away, no matter how much mopping up is done.

At least it seems, until around a week or so ago. All of a sudden, after 3 years of crisis followed by crisis, of supposed breakthrough followed by breakthrough, after the deaths of at the very very lowest realistic estimate of 100,000 Iraqis, there seems to be the realisation that "something must be done." More than anything, this is to do with the American mid-term elections, with the Democrats looking as though they're about to decimate the Republicans, as more and more of the population turns against the increasingly deadly occupation which has come to define both Blair and Bush's political careers. It seems the constant macho posturing of Bush, Cheney and all the other neo-cons is finally turning the public off, seeing through the veneer of victory, the cod-Churchillian "never surrender" stance that has become so wearisome. The state department's chief foreign affairs spin doctor, probably thinking that no one in the West would pay any attention to what he said to the Arab audience of al-Jazeera, admitted that America had been "arrogant and stupid." Richard Dannatt tells the truth to the Daily Mail, that British soldiers are only making the situation in southern Iraq worse, and finds that while he's praised by the rank and file on the ground who are willing to risk their lives for the folly of our leaders, that the leaders themselves and their alcoytes are in private demanding his head.

Political life has become so twisted that when a man from the army speaks from the heart, cutting through the layers and layers of Newspeak that has so defined this execrable debacle, that even the Guardian wonders whether his straight talk sets a dangerous precedent. On the contrary, if our military leaders had stood up to Blair, and had rejected Goldsmith's mendacious advice that war was legal after he was told to change his opinion, we would now not be in this mess.

Thankfully, the Guardian still does make the odd decent point in its leaders. While we all gaze at our navels and wonder what this means for our political masters, we've all forgotten about the Iraqis who are suffering so badly right now. The Independent reports that 1.6 million have fled Iraq. We witness the laughable appearance of Iraq's deputy prime minister, Barham Saleh, in Downing Street, talking in the exact same language that has become so tedious and self-serving, telling us that we must not "cut and run." The fact that opinion polls from Iraq show ever mounting numbers not just opposed but strongly opposed to the continued presence of troops isn't even whispered. The most distasteful thing about the Iraqi politicians is that most of them seem to be more concerned with their own political survival, just like they are here, than with actually reducing the violence which has killed around 43 Iraqis every single day this month. Saleh has been on-message to such an extent that it almost makes you wonder if someone has been coaching him in what to say, so as not to further embarrass the Dear Leader.

There does, however, finally, to be something approaching a proper debate of when and how we should get out. Kim Howells let slip that enough Iraqi security forces could be trained and operational within a year that we could finally get out. We shouldn't get overly optimistic about such estimates; the real arbiters in all of this are the Americans. As long as Blair remains, there is no chance of us leaving, his messianic fervour so strong and seemingly growing, that he would never turn his back on his brother Bush. Gordon Brown shows no signs of being any different, although there is always the suspicion that he is simply feathering his basket by paying lip service to the Blair line, rather than anger his opponents who will defend the legacy of their hero to the grave. Blunkett's revelations that Brown would have been sacked had he not came out in public in favour of the war, when it's well known that Brown did everything possible in cabinet to ignore all the talk on Iraq and not get drawn into either side of the debate, still reveal relatively little about his own beliefs on foreign policy.

The Liberal Democrats, after playing the game of being against the war yet still supporting the presence of UK troops, have decided it's time for a debate in parliament. Whether they're honest about the intentions of proper parliamentary procedure or just want to try and getting a few more points on their score in the polls by deciding to align themselves with what the public have long been in favour of is open to debate. What is obvious is the cowardice of the vast majority of politicians in not demanding the removal of troops far earlier. Their fear of Blair and the Scum calling them defeatists is exaggerated. Both are a busted flush over Iraq, if not domestically.

The British policy on Iraq is pretty much summed up by the head smashing inanity of Margaret Beckett, a woman so utterly out of her depth as foreign secretary that she makes Robin Cook and Jack Straw look like colossuses by comparison. Asked on the Today programme if she thought future historians would regard the Iraq invasion as a disaster she said:
"Yes, they may. Then again, they may not."

We can keep up the false pretence that our troops are actually helping to any extent in Iraq, watch the slaughter continue until it eventually reaches fever pitch, or we can get out if not now, then very very soon. Then again, we may not.

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