The British have formally handed Basra back to the Iraqis. Of course, they haven't really been in charge of the place for months; if indeed they ever were.
So what have been the achievements of the occupation? First and foremost, of course, the British presence has enabled peace and democracy to flourish in the country. The police and security forces in Basra have, under British tutellage, developed into fine, upstanding, impartial units, a credit to the warlords and religious militias who control them. The oil is flowing once more: back to its pre-war levels.
Everything, in a word, is excellent. Unless of course you happen to be:
- a Sunni
- a Christian
The Basra police chief Jalil Khalaf, an honest man in an impossible position, was forgiving.
I don't think the British meant for this mess to happen. When they disbanded the Iraqi police and military after Saddam fell the people they put in their place were not loyal to the Iraqi government. The British trained and armed these people in the extremist groups and now we are faced with a situation where these police are loyal to their parties not their country.
We, however, should be angry. Very angry. Angry for the people of Iraq, who can now look on Saddam's ruthless dictatorship as a golden age of peace and liberty. Angry with Tony Blair, now off making millions on the lecture circuit. Angry with ourselves, who allowed and continue to allow the government to escape retribution for its lies and incompetence.