Reflections on the Start of the Iraq War

Iraq: the First Nine Days

By Gwydion M Williams

[The Iraq War began on 20th March 2003. On the 9th of April, Baghdad fell. The USA had overrun the entire country by 30th April and George Bush declared the war won on 1st May. But of course, resistance continued.]

[The Wiki rates the war as ending with the US withdrawal in 2011: I’d say it was still going on as of April 2015.

[Here is what I said about it at a time when the end of the invasion was unclear, and no one knew what sort of resistance or settlement would follow. And when there were still people who believed in the actual existence of Iraq’s ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’]


Thursday 20th

The war began overnight, but is still just minor raids. Off to work as normal. But at the bus stop, there were scattered daffodils, it looked like someone vandalised a flower bed.

I’ve been thinking about the suggestion in Scientific American that the dinosaurs Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor probably had feathers. And suddenly saw a connection between the unexpected products of natural selection and the (existentialist?) slogan “practice random kindness, and acts of senseless beauty“.

Lunchtime news, the US government is practicing senselessness, and it’s not beautiful.

Continue thinking about the ‘selfish gene’ concept, part of the cultural package which energises the New Right. But selfishness is not possible without intelligence and an understanding of society, an no scientist supposes that genes are any more than ‘chemical clockwork’. But a wholly random system may occasionally “practice random kindness, and acts of senseless beauty”, just as ice-crystals occasionally line up as ‘Jack Frost’ patterns. It’s a much better way of putting a non-human system into human terms.

Iraq may soon collapse, which would mean at least one more US war, against Iran or North Korea, with China as the long-term goal. My feeling in the run-up to war has been that only the next war might preventable

Evening, briefly joined the peace vigil in the local square, I had already fixed a meeting with friends and couldn’t stay. The vigil had mix of white and Asian protestors, including young people. Police were standing by suspiciously in an armoured van. They should be grateful that we serve as ‘human shields’ against possible terrorism. Assuming our city has any terrorists, as distinct from petty hooligans from all ethnic groups. But it’s nice to see a few people being serious about life.

Late night news, a lot of fighting and no sign so far on an Iraqi collapse or of any dramatic US breakthrough. They are boasting of a grand total of twenty-seven surrenders, ludicrous. Almost all BBC news from a warmongers’ viewpoint, with just a few brief shots of the extensive demonstrations. The local news was more balanced.


Friday 21st

The news still of a slow plodding war. Plus some unfortunate British troops killed in the crash of a US helicopter. Also four missiles, of which two might have been the banned Scud missiles, but evidence is uncertain.

Checked the web, the slogan “practice random kindness, and acts of senseless beauty” is of US origin, vintage California 1982. There’s a lot of good in that society, it’s just that their political system makes electoral politics a game for millionaires only.

[The phrase about random kindness was coined by a writer called Anne Herbert, and the date might have been 1983.]


Saturday 22nd

Thought about the London demonstration, but I think I can do more good writing than as one person marching. If the war is still happening in a fortnight, as seems likely, the demonstrations must get much bigger.

Shopped, then tried to catch upon the news. BBC 24 has continuous live coverage instead.  Via the intranet, I found that the march was about a quarter of the last one, not unexpected. News of some Iraqi surrenders, but also a lot fighting even round Basra, inherently hopeless to hold against such forces. The Iraqis have fought and have not crumpled up like last time. Of course this time it is America coming to rule them


Sunday 23rd

The famous Patriot Missiles have shot down a returning British warplane, apparently sheer incompetence. The port of Umm Qasr is not in fact secured and Basra is not yet taken. And no banned weapons have so far been found—the story about Scuds has faded.

In the afternoon, there was news of US losses, and also apparently US prisoners. And even Iraqis returning from Jordan to fight for Saddam, much to the BBC’s surprise. It is being openly said now on the BBC that the war is not going as expected. It will not be a walkover, even though the massive forces available can hardly lose militarily.

This week’s pre-recorded edition of the excellent Channel 4 archaeology program Time Team was in Tony Blair’s constituency and he made an unexpected guest appearance. A coincidence? The news from Iraq does not suggest his luck is holding very strong.

The news continues to show that the Iraqis have learned a lot from defeat and are now fighting more as guerrillas. Not risking a mechanised war in the desert where hi-tech forces have a huge advantage. Also the BBC is talking about ‘human cost’ only when it is Western losses.

The analogy with Germany and Japan is foolish and told me that ‘Rumsfeld’s Swine’ were deluding themselves about the politics. When the USA was helping build up West Germany and Japan, there was an expanding Communist alternative that persuaded people to work with the USA as the least-bad alternative.

Germany and Japan had had home-grown modernisations before 1914, and had also been experimenting the Liberal Democracy. It was the catastrophie of the Great War that knocked them off course—a war made longer and more vicious than it need have been by British and US involvement.

After 1945, earlier patterns existed that could be used as a basis for the post-war order, in the favourable environment of Keynesian tax-and-spend. And with the Communist threat close and visible, most of the ex-Fascists became pro-American. They teamed up with authentic home-grown moderates and accepted that American forms must be copied.

And in Iraq? Nothing is closer to the Western viewpoint than Saddam.

[Events since March 2003 should have demonstrated clearly that Saddam and the Baath were the best hope of Westernising Iraq.  Pro-Western liberals were useless, being pathetically unaware of how much brutality had gone into making West Europe’s current values in the face of many challenges.  But the Anglosphere’s dominant thinkers and politicians totally failed to learn.  They made exactly the same error in Libya and Syria.  In Egypt they found a military that was subserviant enough to be tolerated, and allowed it to overthrow a democratically elected Islamist President, Mohamed Morsi .  A man who as at May 2015 is scheduled to be executed for having dared to oppose the riots that paved the way for the coup.]


Monday 24th

Now there are British troops lost as well. And claims for an illegal chemical plant discovered. A couple of cruise missiles reached Turkey, fortunately doing no damage. And a Guardian cartoon has ‘Oscar’ awards for The Gangs of Washington DC, Jackass: The Diplomacy and The Dumb American. I had a similar idea that I never developed, the faces if Bush and Blair on the people in the Gangs Of New York film. Rumsfeld’s Swine and Blair’s’ Rats, ganging up on the Babylon Bastards? With a conspicuous non-appearance by Claire Short’s ‘Live Rabbits’?

Even from BBC reports, we find British troops reporting that (a) the Iraqis don’t want them there and (b) the Americans have underestimated the enemy. They risked their lives to defuse possible traps on the oil wells, but found no mines or traps. It seems that Saddam’s people think they’ll get their property back eventually.

[Some of the other oil wells were later blown up, making an immense cloud of pollution.]

The grim reality of battle shows that Iraqis have thought up some ruthless but clever tactics. Such as pretending to surrender and then firing. Which British troops did during the Irish War of Independence back in the 1920s, fighting IRA men led by Tom Barry, whose military skills came from having served in the British army in its long-drawn-out conquest of Mesopotamia during World War One. Anyway, the Iraqis are doing it now, or posing as civilians welcoming the Americans before shooting. And it seems the ITV crew got killed by allied fire on some Iraqis whose surrender may or may not have been genuine.

On the other hand, it seems moot if showing prisoners on television is illegal, as Rumsfeld. What about all the Iraqi prisoners they’ve shown?

The unbearable thing is for Westerners not to be in a superior position, of course.   I thought of sending an e-mail to the BBC pointing out that Iraqi prisoners and dead have been repeatedly shown, but not from my work PC. I checked later and it had been pointed out already, along with the ‘unlawful combatants’ of Guantanamo Bay. Which is blatantly cruel, unusual and unjust, but quite possibly legal. The US constitution as originally agreed by the Founding Fathers defends slavery and does not enshrine democracy.

It is confirmed that that it was a US Muslim serviceman who attacked his fellow soldiers with a grenade. A convert to Islam, almost certainly black. The stock market is falling sharply. And the Red Cross has said that the US showing Iraqi prisoners also breaks the rules.

I was under the impression that people have been showing prisoners for as long as there has been cinema. Argentine prisoners at the Falklands. What is the legal position? Or are they re-inventing it now that accepted standard no longer project the image they like?

Watched a Channel 5 program in which an Italian policeman investigated Julius Caesar’s assassination and concluded that Caesar let it happen because he was dying anyway. I found an interesting analogy with Saddam, who will probably be dead in a few weeks. But has gone from tin-pot dictator to mythic figure since 1990, and is still going strong.

Saddam and the Iraqis have done much better than I expected. I’d rather expected a walk-over, with the US running into trouble later when they tried to govern the place. But clearly the can-do spirit has led them astray. Ordinary British troops are telling the BBC that they were expecting surrender and are meeting tough resistance. And also that after risking their lives to clear booby-trapped oil wells, they found that there were no booby-traps, just a few set alight to fool infra-red sensors. Unlike Kuwait, the Iraqis seem to think that they will recover it all in the long run.

Even if they’d kill Saddam on the first day, he’d have been well ahead of the game. The suggestion now from government sources is that he recorded enough messages to make them fit later events. If it were so, that’s hardly they something they should find reassuring. Because it would imply an unbreakable hard core that could carry on regardless.

If Saddam is already dead, then he will prove very hard to kill.


Tuesday 25th

News about supposed plans for the Iraqis to use chemical weapons in the defence of Baghdad. It turns out to be a Runfeldism, I’d be surprised if they did such a thing in their own city, though it is a ruthless regime.

Saddam’s best policy would be to keep the Allies continuously worried that he might use chemical weapons. But not to actually use them, which would loose him the vital ‘soggy centre’ that needs to shift towards peace before he has any hope of survival.

I’m not sure how good he is at figuring his own best interests. He’d have been much wiser to have quit Kuwait as soon as it was clear that the USA was serious about fighting. Extra issues were introduced to give a pretext for a war regardless. But there was a sporting chance that Bush Senior could not have actually launched a war under such circumstances.

I’d assumed that they could get in but not out, because there is no coherent Iraqi identity separate from Saddam. Getting in has proved harder than expected. Getting out without obvious defeat is now pretty well impossible.

Someone should do a set of Russian dolls for Iraqi leaders. The outer one is Saddam. And so is the next, Saddam in a different costume. And also the next, in fact all of them are Saddam in his various guises.

The war plan is possibly unravelling. It was foolish to plan for Turkey allowing the troops through, without prior permission. Unwise to assume they’d take the enormous bribes on offer. Do none of them understand that Turks are part of an ancient political tradition that goes back well before the first days of the British Empire?

These ‘Turkish Non-Delights’ reminded me of the Economist cartoon showing Turkey as a compliant belly-dancer with her scanty garments stuffed with money. Now I wonder how most Britons feel if a Turkish newspaper used a Soho stripper as representation of Britain? Or had a version of the Statue Of Liberty doing a belly-dance? The journalists at the Economist are a classic cases of ‘streetwise, life-foolish’. Outside of their own sharp narrow little world, they are ignorant of most things, including their own ignorance

Contrary to Western expectations, the Turkish parliamentary vote mysteriously failed, the army was enigmatically quiet and now Turkey has just said no. No to US troops, at least. With no gigantic US division in the area, the Turkish army can move into Iraqi Kurdistan any time it chooses. So I doubt if the secularist army is all that displeased by the mysterious failure by the Islamic Democrats to get all of their MPs to vote as they were supposed to vote.

McLunatic Globalisation has not been good for Turkey. They’ve suffered economic damage, and the rise of racist and anti-immigrant feeling makes it less and less likely that they will ever get into the European Union.

It’s Operation Desert Hubris, indeed. Or maybe Thunder-Lite. Almost awe and very nearly shock? The US military gone back to its normal habit, the Complete Bloody Obvious. Use a sledge-hammer to crack nut, and then miss the nut. As in past US military operations, everything went to plan, except that the enemy failed to cooperate.

Someone needed to take a can’t-do attitude, it would be much better to wait. You’d have thought Colin Powell would have done that. Whatever has happened to Colin Powell? He’s become as enigmatic as the Cheshire Cat (brilliantly portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg in a recent BBC dramatisation of Alice In Wonderland. But Miss Whoopi is a comic and Powell was supposed to be serious, the positive model for young black Americans.

Colin in Rumsfeld-land? Despite the real and death and suffering, it has the feel of a farce. But Nesting With Vipers might be a better title.

The newspapers are full of the POW issue, mostly confused. Guantanamo Bay is offensive because the American government claim to have found a loophole in the law that prevents anyone supervising their actions. It is also unreasonable to hold them, since most were volunteers in a civil war rather than terrorists.

The general idea of filming or televising enemy dead and captured is long established and its legality has not previously been questioned.

Evening news, an anti-Saddam uprising in Basra is reported. I checked the peace demonstration site, the next big one is April 12th. By which time the US will probably be in Baghdad but without peace. Also two more Britons killed by error. And a US pilot fired on a Patriot missile battery after its radar locked onto him. (They should rename that system the ‘Benedict Arnold’.)

To adapt an old poem:

If any ask us why we died

Tell them ‘because the Bush-men lied’

And Blair believed them!

Weirdly, the stock market has recovered. Or is someone pumping money in, so as to stop a sudden disaster? The money lost by small investors and pension funds must have ended up somewhere, probably among people who want the US war to succeed.


Wednesday 26th

The Basra ‘uprising’ is now in doubt, BBC unsure if it happened. And on Yahoo News, a very interesting report was shown well down the list. It looks as if Rumsfeld has goofed, sent in a force that was too small and lacking some of the best US units.

That famous British regiment, the ‘Desert Rats’ are discovering that their namesakes in Washington DC have not been as truthful or well-informed as they should have been. The present mess is being compared to Northern Ireland—but in Northern Ireland, the Catholics initially welcomed the British Army. I’d expected something more like that: an initial welcome and a later falling-out. But it seems that Bush with his haste and arrogance has lost people

With you or against you, Mr Bush? Fine, then we are definitely against you. It may mean keeping some very strange company for the time being. But right now, it is the US that is the world’s big destabilising influence. Doing the wrong thing, and just now doing it incompetently as well. We even saw them running up the US flag on the first bits of Iraqi soil they took. This was soon corrected, but they should have had an alternative Iraqi government with a distinct flag. True, it was hard to get the opposition together, but they could have had something.

And if they really couldn’t, they should not have had this war.

In 1991, the Iraqi forces were placed in the desert and it was a war of machines and data processing. Areas where the US has always been good, and had made a lot of progress since Vietnam.

In 2003, the USA was even better prepared for a war of machines and data processing. But the Iraqis chose to fight in the cities and hit supply troops in the desert.

If Blair were a great leader—which he isn’t—he’d pull the troops out now. It’s blatant that the invasion was a massive error. I hadn’t expected it to get into so much trouble, so soon. I had no way of knowing whether or not anti-Saddam forces would welcome the invasion. But I was pretty sure that it would turn into a quagmire. Without Saddam and the Baath, there is no coherence. British Intelligence evidently got an accurate picture and warned against. Blair chose to believe the US hard-right.

I now wonder if Saddam could survive. If I were advising Bush, I’d say “fire Rumsfeld, apologise to allies and prepare for a long slow war. But also offer Saddam and his people a chance to quit while they are ahead.” It is better than more of the same can-do spirit that has landed them in this quagmire. I suspect also that Saddam’s people may have suckered the Rumsfeld Swine into attacking too early, on false promises of local support. Similar to the American corporal and black-market operator in Clavell’s King Rat. Appoint your own traitor and keep the enemy dancing to your tune.

Even the BBC is now sceptical of official news. They could get away with lies if the war was succeeding. Hardly anyone remembers that Bush Senior repeated a blatant lie about Iraqis throwing Kuwaiti babies out of the incubators during the invasion. It was soon traced and shown to be false, but the war was one, so who cares.

But the current war is not being won, and it’s not just Rumsfeld. I doubt if the Pentagon planners read Wordsworth. Possibly his poetry, if they have aspirations to culture, but what about The Convention of Cintra, a pamphlet by Wordsworth on the early stages of Napoleon’s war in Spain and Portugal. He was a thinker as well as a poet, and correctly noted that something new had begun. Previously the French army had been fighting other armies, and won easy victories. Now they were fighting a whole people, and such a war was almost impossible to win.

“It is manifest that, though a great army may easily defeat or disperse another army, less or greater, yet it is not in a like degree formidable to a determined people, nor efficient in a like degree to subdue them, or to keep them in subjugation–much less if this people, like those of Spain in the present instance, be numerous, and, like them, inhabit a territory extensive and strong by nature. For a great army, and even several great armies, cannot accomplish this by marching about the country, unbroken, but each must split itself into many portions, and the several detachments become weak accordingly, not merely as they are small in size, but because the soldiery, acting thus, necessarily relinquish much of that part of their superiority, which lies in what may be called the enginery of war; and far more, because they lose, in proportion as they are broken, the power of profiting by the military skill of the Commanders, or by their own military habits. The experienced soldier is thus brought down nearer to the plain ground of the inexperienced, man to the level of man: and it is then, that the truly brave man rises, the man of good hopes and purposes; and superiority in moral brings with it superiority in physical power.”

In the same work he says:

“In France, there is no universal provision for the poor; and we may judge of the small value set upon human life in the metropolis of that country, by merely noticing the disrespect with which, after death, the body is treated, not by the thoughtless vulgar, but in schools of anatomy…

“Sights of abject misery, perpetually recurring, harden the heart of the community. In the perusal of history, and of works of fiction, we are not, indeed, unwilling to have our commiseration excited by such objects of distress as they present to us; but, in the concerns of real life, men know that such emotions are not given to be indulged for their own sakes: there, the conscience declares to them that sympathy must be followed by action…

“How discouraging, also, would be the sense of injustice, which could not fail to arise in the minds of the well-disposed, if the burden of supporting the poor, a burden of which the selfish have hitherto by compulsion borne a share, should now, or hereafter, be thrown exclusively upon the benevolent.”

Wordsworth helped lay the foundations for One-Nation Conservatism, which gave Britain an historic stability and continuity up until the 1980s, when Thatcher successfully undermined it.  [The same view was put more coherently by Coleridge, more famous in his lifetime as a thinker than as a poet.  I have detailed this in an article at this site, Coleridge and the end of Christian Economics.]

More news, less judgement. A friend complained how he had searched several news channels and found all of them showing exactly the same US briefing. It was LIVE NEWS, even though nothing important was said. Someone else said that France could not have acted without the Euro. There would have been a run on the Franc, but the Euro is too big and there are too few places to run to. While on the BBC, you have LIVE NEWS with a talking head telling you that those bangs in the background are probably bombs.

On the BBC late evening news, the talk is of more battles, including an Iraqi break-out from Basra. How could they break out, with all of those British regiments surrounding the place? The BBC pushes the idea that they are fleeing the ‘Basra Rising’, even though another BBC report reveals that Shiite exiles in Iran say it was some sort of food riot.


Thursday 27th

The Basra ‘uprising’ is now admitted to be unreal. The break-out is said to have been defeated in a big tank battle. But the happy idea of Basra Shiites paying a price in blood so as to spare British lives does not now seem believable even to the British.

There is talk about British experience of street fighting. Which amounts to loosing in Aden, and being held to a stalemate in Northern Ireland. Now the US are trying to volunteer the British for street-fighting in Basra. Will it happen?

The overall picture is that Rumsfeld’s Swine have thrown away 20 years of US recovery. 20 years of re-building the idea of Western superiority. They’ve been doing the wrong thing ever since 1990. But up until now, they have been doing it competently. Brilliant, in the case of Schwartzcoff’s organisation of the First Gulf War. With plodding brutality, in Bosnia and Kosovo and the Blair-Clinton air war on Iraq. And then along comes Rumsfeld. Any idiot can be radical and original. The trick is to combine this with immediate competence, and this is where Rumsfeld’s Swine have failed in a quite spectacular fashion.

And perhaps accidentally done some good: the anti-war demonstrations show that the society is still diverse and the Muslim minorities in the West much less isolated that the official culture tries to make them. By bungling the war, the US has accidentally done a lot to undermine the suicide-bomber mentality. This and the extensive protests at US extremism

The strategic position is that the Iraqi army sits in Mesopotamia, the fertile land in and around the Two Rivers. The USA has successfully pushed into the Parallel Desert—a political-strategic entity, probably not different from land the other side of the Saudi border. But the fact that that Saudis are neutral makes everything much harder. Supplies must be funnelled through Kuwait and a small area of Southern Iraq. I’d have thought it would be well defended on that account. But it’s been all-thud-and-blunder up until now, so who knows?

The Guardian is now sneering at 24-hour TV, which hypes minor matters and elevates rumour. ‘There’s a war on, moron’ is the main live-media attitude. For real news, most of us now go to the Internet (‘Unleash the blogs of war!’). Television scores only for interesting images. A live picture of a routine skyline is a total waste.

BBC 24 has always been fond of giving you live coverage of people with nothing much to say. Now they surpass themselves, and I gave up looking for anything as old-fashioned as a 10-minute summary of the main events.

News of supposed British soldiers held prisoner, but they were black. The British Army is a hold-out of racism and has very few blacks. The later explanation that these were Kenyan lorry-drivers makes sense.

UN arms inspector Hans Blix now agrees that it was not Scuds that hit Kuwait on the first day of the war, it was short-range missiles that Iraq was entitled to have. There is no evidence so far that Iraq has any banned weapons.

As for finding gas masks and other chemical weapons defences, Iraq had been using poison gas for years with US and British approval, up until 1991. They seem to have abandoned the gas, but why discard defence equipment? It remains quite legal!

A friend had recommended a Russian news site. And I then that the Russians had been suggesting my ‘King Rat’ scenario from last week. “Analysts believe that an overthrow plot against Saddam Hussein prepared by the CIA during the past few months is the reason behind such expectations. However, Russian agents are reporting that this plot was either uncovered in time or was under control of the Iraqi security agencies from the very beginning. This information is confirmed by a certain air of unease within the CIA command center in Qatar, as the expected overthrow of Hussein was supposed to take place several days ago.” ( The same articles—and much else besides—are posted at the Bevin Society site.  [No longer there.]

The Russians also have something to say about the ‘Scuds’ that the BBC has not mentioned lately.

“At lest two of the eight supposedly Iraqi missiles that hit Kuwait turned out to be US sea-launched cruise missiles that strayed off course… After detonation the “Scud” warhead leaves a crater as much as 8 meters deep. What was observed in Kuwait, however, is the typical crater left by the detonation of a cruise missile’s warhead.”

Carry on developing my idea of the Gangs Of The New World Order. Lined up against the Babylon Bastards are a powerful alliance of the Bush Babies, Colin’s Cats, Rumsfeld’s Swine, the Chickenhawks, the 40 Senators, the Crude-Oil Angels, the Sweet Alabama Racists and the Embedded Newsrats. The Wild Bill Clintons, while admitting to having had ‘warlike relationships’ in the past, are awaiting events before they decide what their principles are. But the Bush Babies can count on the Who-Blairs-Wing Gang, including the Brown Knowses, the Straw Moralists, the Islington Rats, the Wanabie Americans and the Westminster Hellcats. The Red Bearded Dwarves are currently sitting it out, but who knows. Meantime the Bald Blue Eurotrash are competing to be seen as the Bush Babies’ best friends. The Marsh Shiites have been quiet (has someone been mispronouncing their name?) The Sunny-Boy Turks are also doing nothing for now, and who knows which side they’re really on

There was a real 19th century New York gang called the Swamp Angels—no connection with the Californian Hells Angels, who name comes from a 1930 Howard Hughes’ film, perhaps transmitted by former aircrew who took to motorbikes. And in the 1920s there was a Chicago gang called Regan’s Colts who were allies of Al Capone.

There is a lot more material than just the stuff shown by Scorsese. Why not a life of Dion O’Banion, Capone’s most notable rival? Or the two rival New York police forces who spent more time fighting each other than catching crooks, a matter Scorsese’s film just briefly touches on.

Of course the present war may spoil the US taste for violence.

A ‘Northern Front’ has been opened, but the BBC man mentioned that the first stage of the northern deployment was done via parachute rather than an airstrip that is under Kurdish control, indicating a certain lack of trust in ‘allies’. Separately, a reporter on BBC’s Newsnight showed also a US tank that had been knocked out by an Iraqi close attack.


Friday 28th

Rumsfeld is hoping now for an uprising in Baghdad. There or in Washington DC, I figure.

The Shiites know that Iran could be next on the list. They have every reason to let the Allies pay a large price in blood for getting rid of Saddam. Meantime the Iraqi Kurds are being cooperative, but for how long? It’s hardly possible to please the Kurds without enraging the Turks, and vice versa. (It would be possible to enraging both at the same time: Rumsfeld’s diplomatic skills seem equal to the task.)

The Daily Mirror features the family of an ‘executed’ British soldier who are indignantly saying that he died in combat. The ‘spin’ is now boomeranging.

The US accidentally included Slovenia among their allies, giving it a slice of the war budget. The Slovenes protested and the US had to admit an error. Regarding the Battle of the Basra Break-Out, the victory was million-pound modern tanks destroying some old T55s that go for about £5000 in Eastern Europe. They were first deployed in 1955—hence the name—and cannot shoot accurately while moving.

Bush and Blair continue to insist that things are going to plan. When they have to admit it’s not so, what next? I was never impressed by Bush Junior’s Consumer Christianity. They are not people who are used to losing, and right now they are ‘in denial’.

Consumer Christianity is soft on the sins of the congregation, who might otherwise switch to another channel of Divine Authority. The whole Puritan-Independent idea of letting individuals chose has led to this sort of rubbish. But in Mesopotamia, they have bumped up against another sort of reality.

Before the war, there was a correspondent talking about the Iraqi leadership living in a ‘bubble of unreality’. It sounds very much like the 1960s-left idea of False Consciousness, tarted up for a new cause. But Baghdad’s ‘bubble of unreality’ is getting bigger every day.

Commentators who talk about bombing ‘breeding resentment’ have missed the point. Resentment is the starting-point for anti-Saddam Iraqis. What’s happening now is breeding hatred.

It’s also likely to produce something much more coherent and targeted than the al-Qaeda system. After all, it’s been visible to everyone that large parts of the Western population have been against Bush and Blair.

Evening, found that the Russian site clarifies the situation round Basra, where there is not yet a complete siege. The Iraqis were moving along lines they already control.

“The Iraqis control the city and its suburbs, as well as the area south of Basra and the part of the adjacent Fao peninsula, which the British have so far failed to take. The British forces are blockading Basra from the west and northwest. However, due to difficult marshy terrain crossed by numerous waterways the British have been unable to create a single line of front and to establish a complete blockade of the city… On the contrary, under the cover of the sand storm up to two battalions of the “surrendered” Iraqi 51st Infantry Division were moved to the Fao peninsula to support the local defending forces.”

An e-mail poster on the site commented

“Thanks for clarification. From the BBC, there was first a puzzling break-out by 120 tanks, then the Desert Rats had wiped out all 14 of them.”

The same Russian news-source says:

“Rumors about an uprising by the Basra Shiite population turned out to be false. Moreover, the Shiite community leaders called on the local residents to fight the “children of the Satan” – the Americans and the British…

“Information coming from northern regions of Iraq indicates that most of the Kurdish leaders chose not to participate in the US war against Iraq. The primary reason for that is the mistrust of the Kurds toward the US. Yesterday one of the Russian intelligence sources obtained information about a secret agreement reached between the US and the Turkish government. In the agreement the US, behind the backs of the Kurds, promised Turkey not to support in any way a formation of a Kurdish state in this region. The US has also promised not to prevent Turkey from sending its troops [ to Northern Kurdistan] immediately following [the coalition] capture of northern Iraq. In essence, this gives Turkey a card-blanche to use force for a “cleanup” in Kurdistan.”

News at ten, the US has hit another Baghdad market. Monstrous of Saddam to arrange for his cities to be full of civilians, isn’t it?

So ends Friday the 28th. A lot will more will surely have happened by the time you read this, possibly even an Iraqi collapse. Regardless, I take the long view.

There were millions of years when Velociraptor strode the lands. Perhaps as feathered eagle-like predators, definitely beautiful but savage. The after a drastic meteor-impact, random kindness broke out elsewhere, with the warm mutual aid of the mammals winning out against the odds.

Dinosaurs and mammals both originated near the end of the Triassic. In free competition, the dinosaurs won and mammals were insignificant mouse-like creatures. A dinosaur smart enough to reason near the end of their dominance might have seen those mammals as an insignificant remnant of the ‘Mammaloids’ of the Triassic, trivial compared to the modern go-ahead dinosaurs.

In the ‘struggle for existence’, daffodils are more formidable and persistent than tigers, did you realise that? Top predators like the tiger have a solid record of going extinct and being replaced by bulked-up versions of smaller fox-like animals. Flowering plant began in the late days of the dinosaurs, and may have contributed to their decline.


First published in Labour & Trade Union Review, April 2003.

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