A few British soldiers were killed in Iraq, and the British politicians are asking the question “Why?”. Some call for “bringing the murderers to justice”, others seek the answer in the behaviour of the British soldiers, or in whether this attack was organized or spontaneous.
But is it not something that had to be expected, regardless of the behaviour of a particular group of British soldiers, or of the identity of those who killed them?
The reason for the surprise and the outcry at the deaths of the soldiers lies in the false picture of the situation in Iraq, that the politicians have painted for themselves. They are victims of their own spin.
They see themselves as “law‐abiding, law‐enforcing benefactors and liberators of the Iraqi people”, who are opposed only by “a handful of evil terrorists, remnants of the old regime, foreign mercenaries, and religious fanatics”. “But the majority of the Iraqis”, they say, “will come out in support of their benefactors and liberators, would not they?”
But, if instead of believing their own spin they would look at the situation in Iraq, not as self‐glorifying political demagogues, but as honest and competent administrators seeking to know the truth, they would notice that while some Iraqis are indeed glad that Saddam is gone, they do not want to be ruled by either the Americans or the British, or by their “puppets”. And, whatever grudges they had against Saddam have become matters of dead past history, but whatever grudges they have against the Americans and the British are matters of the living present.
The British and the Americans are not seen by the Iraqis as liberators and benefactors, but as uninvited foreign occupiers who are to blame for anything bad that happens to the Iraqis today and will happen tomorrow.
And as neither the Americans, nor the British, are quite sure why they attacked Iraq and how they should govern it, there is little prospect of the situation of the Iraqis improving at a pace that would turn their hostility towards the foreign occupiers into goodwill and gratitude. And this means discontent. And in a country where each family has more weapons than furniture, a partisan war.
So, the choices before the occupying forces are (1) a quick “graceful” pull out, saying to the Iraqis: “We have liberated you, now it's up to you to make the best of it!”, or (2) a prolonged and costly occupation culminating in a humiliating withdrawal after acknowledgment that the whole thing was a horrible tragic mess.