Visiting Iraq today, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke of ‘progress’ due to the US troop surge saying "most people know that a democratic and unified Iraq is here to stay." On Saturday 12th January, George W Bush visited US troops stationed in Kuwait. After a briefing by General Petraeus, Bush argued that "the new way forward I announced a year ago changed our approach in fundamental ways." He went on to say "Iraq is now a different place from one year ago. We must do all we can to ensure that 2008 will bring even greater progress."
President Bush’s celebration of the US surge policy is an attempt to rewrite the history of the Iraq war that is factually incorrect. It is also morally repugnant to believe that Iraq has significantly ‘progressed’ or turned a corner when 30 people are killed each day in Iraq, where an estimated 24,000 civilians died in 2007.
He believes the United States is making progress in Iraq, despite about 900 Iraqi deaths in December 2007 (Iraq Body Count website) and despite that fact that Iraqis continue to suffer daily with crime, lack of electricity, poverty and poor health care.
They may believe that a fall in death rates of 50% from the peaks in early 2007 is a cause for celebration. However, effective policy is about genuine problem solving, not about spinning the numbers being killed. In truth, the American surge has had little or no impact on the declining numbers of people killed. The main reason for the decline is that Iraqis themselves have taken the strategic decision to forego sectarian confrontation and seek political efforts to resolve their problems.
If having 160,000 troops on the ground was really the answer, the US would have achieved the current decline back in December 2004. Huge numbers of troops did not allow the Soviet Union to pacify Afghanistan in the 1980’s (with 300,000 troops) nor the Americans in Vietnam with 750,000. The ongoing US occupation of Iraq with its trigger happy approach has no continued justification. Not only does it harm Iraqis, it remains hugely destabilising for the region. Yet Bush, who once promised that troops would leave one day, now talks openly about a US presence in Iraq for 50 years, analogous to what has occurred in Korea.
It is grotesque to claim progress in Iraq when the equivalent of eighteen 7/7’s or Madrid bombings occurred last month alone. It is grotesque to cite progress, while millions of Iraqis continue to live in abject poverty, where access to electricity is confined to a few hours a day and where hundreds of thousands are currently displaced from their homes. Instead of threatening the region with a 50-year presence, the US should admit their occupation has set back Iraq fifty years and withdraw.
Political advisor to the UK Executive Committee
Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain
15 January 2008/ 7 Muharram 1429