Vir Cantium

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Category Archives: Iraq

Interesting Clients

In this, the week of the fifth anniversary of the Iraq business, there has been much reflection and the usual breast-beating about how we got where we are.

I’ll be honest, I supported the removal of Saddam Hussein, and it would take a nutter like Galloway to argue that the world is not a better place with one less murderous dictator in it. However, one could hardly say that the region or Iraq itself is a better place in many other ways. There is general agreement on all sides that the post invasion situation has been something of a mess-up, yet is there light at the end of the tunnel? The latest polls would tend to indicate so. The statistics on fatalities would also bear out the impression that things are improving (could they have got any worse?)

Even so, it would be easy to underestimate the amount of work still to do … work which our boys and girls in the military won’t be there to carry out. The onus will fall on the domestic security forces, such as the Iraqi police and armed forces.

And there is the problem, if someone I met a few days ago is correct. Mr X wanted some advice on his residency status for UK tax. He is on the sharp end: ex-forces, he now works as a – ahem – security contractor in Iraq. Are things getting better now? No. In some ways they are getting worse, in that Saddam’s old lot are creeping back in charge again. The Iraqi police are under the increasing influence of the Ba’ath party. Many of the abductions nowadays are carried out by the police. Private security teams would rather charge straight through a police checkpoint and have a shooting match than risk abduction of either themselves or their clients.

So how come the polls are so positive? The bombings are subsiding, and Iraqis can get their household supplies in what is a semblance of normality. I suppose, the perception of freedom is a relative one. Citizens of the old Soviet Union probably enjoyed a fair amount of security, and thus freedom from everyday crime, but their “freedom” was a façade which could be shattered if they upset the wrong people, or their neighbours, or said something the wrong way. To take a more relevant example (at least in the sense of the sectarian nature of much of the violence now), even Northern Ireland at any of the peaks of the Troubles was probably significantly “better” than life in Iraq a couple of years back.

I don’t know the answer. We can hardly start pouring troops back in. It is ironic that the anti-war sentiment, backed very effectively by the media classes, has resulted in a withdrawal that may prove premature. Then again, with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps we should have concentrated on stabilising Afghanistan first (which started out as a quite different, and more widely supported, conflict).

If we were resigned to another fundamentalist regime taking charge, then we could work to ensure that they are “our sons of bitches” – though haven’t we been there before in Iraq? Either way, it is probably easier for states to deal with another state than dispersed but well-resourced irregular militia. I guess we’ve missed our chance with partition … ‘cos that’s always worked well before(!) We could have hived off the more stable part (the Kurdish north) – except Turkey might have something to say, and worst case scenario would be another 1948 – with a new homeland state set upon by nervous neighbours. In any case, this wouldn’t have stopped the Shia/Sunni violence.

So it looks like we could be back to square one before long, via some bloody and long ladders and snakes – or should that be the other way round?

Meanwhile, I suspect Mr X is looking to pay off his mortgage, though ideally without using the life insurance route. Stay safe, X.


"The nightmare is ending"

Just a short post for now, and a telling comment from Michael Yon who, as I’ve noted here before, has been sending back some of the best reports from Iraq of any journalist, even bettering the vast news-gathering capabilities of the Beeb and others.

I can’t remember my last shootout: it’s been months. The nightmare is ending. Al Qaeda is being crushed.

Never mind, in place of Iraq, the BBC has today supped from it’s other ever reliable fount of bad news, just so we don’t get too cheerful.

The work backlog is clearing and my light blogging period should be coming to a close by the end of this month. I bet you can’t wait, eh?