Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Hand of history to be unkind to Iraq

The American flag has been formally lowered in Iraq and all troops will be out of the country before the end of this month.

The campaign, originally designed as a relatively-brief shock and awe assault to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein, has lasted nine years, cost 4,500 American dead, 32,000 wounded and more than £516bn. The American public must wonder if it was worth it and were they hoodwinked into going to war in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

It was essentially a folly based on a lie. Sure, the allied forces got rid of a despot, but they have dismally failed to bring peace to an important Middle East country and the withdrawal of troops may seriously weaken the position of the current administration as grave doubts exist on the readiness of Iraqi's to police their own nation.

When the history books are written will they find this was nine years of an attritional war with no satisfactory outcome? Will it be a military campaign likened to Vietnam, serving only to weaken the image of the west, especially American and Britain? Let us not forget western troops are still engaged in a war in Afghanistan, part of the same war on terrorism, also running into the sand.

The men who sent the troops to war, George Bush and Tony Blair, are now out of power, Bush to enjoy his gold-plated retirement, Blair, ironically a peace envoy in the Middle East. Alastair Campbell, Blair's spin doctor, is still spinning if less influentially. There are times when military intervention is justified without question such as during the Balkan war to prevent further genocide. But the invasion of Iraq - would the troops have gone in had it not been an oil-rich country? - is even now still a questionable exercise.

It will be interesting to see if the Arab Spring uprisings this year, in which citizens revolted against their own leaders, will result in more positive change in countries such as Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt - perhaps even Syria - than the regime change by outside forces did in Iraq.

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