7 November 2003

Britain is furious with America

It is no good for British supporters of George Bush to accuse his critics of anti-Americanism. It is a plain statement of the facts that the allies are today in a dreadful mess in Iraq, as a direct consequent of culpable blunders by Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and their friends, who understand everything about American military power and nothing about the human behaviour of societies other than their own.

They were told again and again, long before the war, that Iraqi celebration and gratitude for the fall of Saddam would last five minutes, to be followed by a huge requirement for troops to maintain security, and vociferous Iraqi demands to make the sewage system work. In 1945, the Germans and the Japanese did not show themselves penitent, but they knew that they were defeated, and abased themselves accordingly. The Iraqis, however, have been told that they are not enemies, but victims. In consequence, they are today behaving with the extravagant petulance of all other paid-up members of the compensation culture. They treat the allies as if they were political leaders who have failed to deliver on election promises.

The British urged the Americans not to disband the Iraqi army, but to keep it in being and continue to pay its soldiers. They advised strongly against President Bush's Leninist policy of telling Iraqis that 'he who is not for me is against me'. They urged that it would be wiser instead to treat as a potential friend any Iraqi who did not take up arms against the occupiers. All this was ignored.

The British have no confidence in Paul Bremer, the American overlord of Iraq, whose political process is advancing at a snail%u2019s pace. As for the American military performance, four years ago I attended an Anglo-French conference in Paris on peacekeeping. The unanimous view of the soldiers and diplomats assembled, who shared great experience of failed societies, was that the Americans should never be asked to do peacekeeping, because they are so bad at it.

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