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Page added on March 29, 2008

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New Iraq receiving baptism of fire in Basra

This time President George W Bush has got it right. He describes the latest flare-up in the oil-rich southern city of Basra as a “defining moment in the history of a free Iraq”, and no one can argue with that.

The US President’s record of public declarations on Iraq’s future has not always been happy. He will certainly never live down his confident prediction on board the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003 that major combat operations had ended. While it was true the military campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime (which, incidentally, was a stunning success) had achieved its major objective, the actual task of winning the “battle of Iraq”, as the President termed it, had only just begun.

In the past five years America has suffered 4,000 combat deaths and spent the astronomical sum of $3 trillion trying to get post-Saddam Iraq to a position where an elected Iraqi government is capable of running the country on its own.

At the time of Saddam’s demise, the general assumption within the British and American governments was that it would take about three years to get Iraq back on its feet. The country needed a new constitution and the opportunity to elect a government for the first time in its history. But it also needed military and security resources, and they basically disintegrated after Mr Bush had given his blessing to the disastrous deBaathification programme that removed military and security personnel who had held office under Saddam.


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