Iraq: Torture. Corruption. Civil war. America has Certainly Left Its Mark

When you invade someone else's country, there has to be a first soldier - just as there has to be a last.

The first man in front of the first unit of the
first column of the invading American army to reach Fardous Square in
the centre of Baghdad in 2003 was Corporal David Breeze of the 3rd
Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment. For that reason, of course, he
pointed out to me that he wasn't a soldier at all. Marines are not
soldiers. They are Marines. But he hadn't talked to his mom for two
months and so - equally inevitably - I offered him my satellite phone to
call his home in Michigan. Every journalist knows you'll get a good
story if you lend your phone to a soldier in a war.

you guys," Corporal Breeze bellowed. "I'm in Baghdad. I'm ringing to
say 'Hi! I love you. I'm doing fine. I love you guys.' The war will be
over in a few days. I'll see you soon." Yes, they all said the war would
be over soon. They didn't consult the Iraqis about this pleasant
notion. The first suicide bombers - a policeman in a car and then two
women in a car - had already hit the Americans on the long highway up to
Baghdad. There would be hundreds more. There will be hundreds more in
Iraq in the future.

So we should not be taken in by the tomfoolery on
the Kuwaiti border in the last few hours, the departure of the last
"combat" troops from Iraq two weeks ahead of schedule. Nor by the
infantile cries of "We won" from teenage soldiers, some of whom must
have been 12-years-old when George W Bush sent his army off on this
catastrophic Iraqi adventure. They are leaving behind 50,000 men and
women - a third of the entire US occupation force - who will be attacked
and who will still have to fight against the insurgency.

officially they are there to train the gunmen and militiamen and the
poorest of the poor who have joined the new Iraqi army, whose own
commander does not believe they will be ready to defend their country
until 2020. But they will still be in occupation - for surely one of the
the "American interests" they must defend is their own presence - along
with the thousands of armed and indisciplined mercenaries, western and
eastern, who are shooting their way around Iraq to safeguard our
precious western diplomats and businessmen. So say it out loud: we are
not leaving.

Instead, the millions of American
soldiers who have passed through Iraq have brought the Iraqis a plague.
From Afghanistan - in which they showed as much interest after 2001 as
they will show when they start "leaving" that country next year - they
brought the infection of al-Qa'ida. They brought the disease of civil
war. They injected Iraq with corruption on a grand scale. They stamped
the seal of torture on Abu Ghraib - a worthy successor to the same
prison under Saddam's vile rule - after stamping the seal of torture on
Bagram and the black prisons of Afghanistan. They sectarianised a
country that, for all its Saddamite brutality and corruption, had
hitherto held its Sunnis and Shias together.

because the Shias would invariably rule in this new "democracy", the
American soldiers gave Iran the victory it had sought so vainly in the
terrible 1980-88 war against Saddam. Indeed, men who had attacked the US
embassy in Kuwait in the bad old days - men who were allies of the
suicide bombers who blew up the Marine base in Beirut in 1983 - now help
to run Iraq. The Dawa were "terrorists" in those days. Now they are
"democrats". Funny how we've forgotten the 241 US servicemen who died in
the Lebanon adventure. Corporal David Breeze was probably two or
three-years-old then.

But the sickness
continued. America's disaster in Iraq infected Jordan with al-Qa'ida -
the hotel bombings in Amman - and then Lebanon again. The arrival of the
gunmen from Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian camp in the
north of Lebanon - their 34-day war with the Lebanese army - and the
scores of civilian dead were a direct result of the Sunni uprising in
Iraq. Al-Qa'ida had arrived in Lebanon. Then Iraq under the Americans
re-infected Afghanistan with the suicide bomber, the self-immolator who
turned America's soldiers from men who fight to men who hide.

they are busy re-writing the narrative now. Up to a million Iraqis are
dead. Blair cares nothing about them - they do not feature, please
note, in his royalties generosity. And nor do most of the American
soldiers. They came. They saw. They lost. And now they say they've won.
How the Arabs, surviving on six hours of electricity a day in their
bleak country, must be hoping for no more victories like this one.

Then and now

The estimated number of Iraqi civilians killed last year. That's less
than a tenth of the 34,500 killed in 2007 but it's still testament to
the dangers faced each day by Iraqis.

The number of Iraqis known to be still held in US custody - a fraction
of the 26,000 held in military prisons three years ago.

The average number of hours of electricity a day Baghdad receives, a
marked impovement from the six hours it got three years ago but still
not up to pre-invasions standards, when Iraqi cities could rely on
24-hour power.

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