Mulroney – the real crimes are war and imperialism

My daughter was born in 1988, the year of the second Mulroney majority election victory. Growing up as she did under the man who was ultimately to become one of the most hated prime ministers in history, it made absolute sense to her when we gave her a stuffed doll, with the Tory’s face on it, and the label “Lyin’ Brian” on the back. She and her friends got hours of pleasure from the little Tory doll.

The doll would come in handy now, a generation later. Mulroney is today very publicly involved in an embarrassing dispute with international arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber. A man as Tory Blue as Erik Nielsen, Mulroney’s deputy prime minister for two years in the 1980s, might even find the doll appropriate. “I think there was a phrase that attached to Brian years ago where he was known as Lyin’ Brian, and for my own part, I believe that they’re both in the same boat – Schreiber and Mulroney.”[1]

The Schreiber/Mulroney controversy is approaching historic dimensions. December 13, for the first time in recent history, a former prime minister was forced to appear before a House of Commons Committee.[2] Mulroney was there to answer questions about his dealings with Schreiber, under a cloud of suspicions that Mulroney had received a payoff from Schreiber for having Air Canada buy AirBus planes in the 1980s, money that he at first did not declare as income to the tax department.

Now much of this has been in the public domain for more than a decade. Stevie Cameron, in 1995, spelled out in 576 pages well-documented pages, that Schreiber was linked to Airbus, that Mulroney was Canadian prime minister during Air Canada’s last full year as a crown corporation (1988), and that in that year Air Canada bought Airbus planes worth some billions of dollars.[3] As the years went by, more and more details came to the surface. In 2001, Philip Mathias, then a reporter with the National Post, phoned William Kaplan and told him that he had information that in June 1993:

Mulroney sent a government limousine to pick up Karlheinz Schreiber from his Rockcliffe home and deliver him to Harrington Lake, the official summer residence of Canadian prime ministers. Within weeks, Schreiber … opened a secret Swiss bank account and deposited $500,000 in it. One hundred thousand dollars, withdrawn in cash, was handed over to Mulroney, still a Member of Parliament, in August 1993, at the Chateau Mirabel, while the former prime minister’s RCMP driver patiently waited outside. More payments followed in 1994. Three hundred thousand dollars in total. In cash. In hotels.[4]

We’ve all been connecting the dots ever since, and it hasn’t been all that difficult.

Now, a generation later, Mulroney has finally had to try and defend his actions. First he claims it wasn’t $300,000, just $225,000. OK – it can be hard to count bills in envelopes in public in hotels. So maybe $75,000 was missed. Second, he claims it didn’t happen while he was in office, but after he had left. Fair enough Brian. We’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. And, apparently it’s not true that he didn’t pay taxes on it – just not right away. But he fixed this in 1999 by filing a “voluntary tax disclosure correcting record.”[5] We’ve all sometimes made tax mistakes. Let’s even forgive Brian that.

This is all really beside the point. The real scandal is not about sleaze and corruption at the very top of the state. The real scandal involves the services Mulroney did in exchange for this money.

“According to his testimony, Mulroney was making international representations on behalf of Thyssen Canada (part of the ThyssenKrupp Group of Germany) … to explore interest abroad in purchasing armoured vehicles made in Canada.”[6] In Mulroney’s own words, “one of these involved a visit with [then Russian] President Yeltsin where I put forward on a social, personal occasion, the discussion with President Yeltsin as to knowing their requirements for peacekeeping vehicles and their own problems in Chechnya and elsewhere.”[7]

This is far more scandalous than any admission of tax evasions. There is no possible relationship between the words “peacekeeping” and “Chechnya”. Russia has conducted generations of bloody war against the people of that embattled country. In the 1850s, what is today Chechnya was conquered by the armies of the Russian Tsar. After World War II, Stalin followed in the Tsar’s footsteps, sending hundreds of thousands of Chechens into exile in Siberia and Central Asia, unable to begin the return home until 1957.

Had Mulroney been successful in selling his “peacekeeping” vehicles to Yeltsin, they likely would have been used December 11, 1994 when Russian troops invaded the newly-independent republic, starting a war that would last until May 1997, then resume in late 1999 when a second Russian invasion led to at least 100,000 deaths, and 400,000 refugees.[8] Mulroney’s defence is appalling – he was peddling weapons to a big-power imperialist for use in a genocidal war against a small, oppressed nation.

Mulroney is not the only former Canadian prime minister to private personally from big-power politics. In June 2003, Jean Chrétien was still prime minister of Canada. There was little publicity when the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, paid him a visit. However, “human-rights groups were aghast – the dictator has led a crackdown on opposition parties, journalists and NGOs.” That political link would turn out to be very useful for Chrétien in a few months. February 3, the Calgary-based corporation, PetroKazakhstan, hired the now private citizen Chrétien as a special adviser on “international relations.” “PetroKazakhstan, which operates in the former Soviet Republic, has been feuding with the Kazakh government over alleged overpricing, and CEO Bernard Isaultier hopes Chrétien can smooth relations.”[9]

Chrétien has spent much of his time in the years since running the Canadian government, as an ambassador for Canadian corporations operating in Central Asia. In 2004, Turkmenistan President Niyazov “invited Oman and Canada to participate in oil and gas projects, including construction of a Trans-Afghan Pipeline … A Omani-Canadian delegation including Yusuf bin Alavi, foreign minister of Oman and Jean Chrétien … met Niyazov to discuss cooperation in the energy and hydrocarbon sectors. Heads of some major Canadian and Omani energy companies were also in the delegation. Chrétien is adviser to Bennett Jones, a Calgary-based law firm specializing in energy issues.”[10]

Mulroney peddles weapons to Yeltsin for use in the slaughter in Chechnya. Chrétien emerges as a hired hand for corporations doing business with Central Asian governments with questionable human rights records, and attempting to profit from a country (Afghanistan) opened to western investment by western (including Canadian) troops. Lets fill the press with the real scandals of our elected leaders – the scandals of war and imperialism.

© 2007 Paul Kellogg


[1] Brian Laghi and Alan Freeman, “Former deputy doubts Mulroney’s testimony,” The Globe and Mail, Dec. 15, 2007, p. A1.
[2] According to Sun Media National Bureau, “Former PM’s appearance of historical significance,” The London Free Press, December 13, 2007
[3] See Stevie Cameron, On the Take: Crime, Corruption and Greed in the Mulroney Era (Toronto: Seal Books, 1995)
[4] William Kaplan, “What Mulroney needs to tell us,” National Post, December 13, 2007
[5] Kathleen Harris, “Mulroney faces gauntlet,” The Toronto Sun, December 13, 2007
[6] Duncan Cameron, “Mulroney’s tank selling troubles,”, December 20, 2007
[7] “Unedited transcript: Brian Mulroney at the Commons Ethics Committee, Dec. 13, 2007”, NP Posted,
[8] Information from “Chechnya,” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, Dec. 28, 2007
[9] Dawn Calleja, “Jean’s help: priceless,” Canadian Business online, February 2004,
[10] “Canadians Eye Pipeline Work In Turkmenistan,” Pipeline and Gas Journal, Oct. 2004, Vol. 231, Issue 10, p. 10

Ten years of PNAC barbarism

It is now a decade since the establishment of the Project for A New American Century (PNAC) – the neo-conservative think tank whose ideas formed the backbone for the two administrations of George W. Bush. The central legacy of PNAC will undoubtedly be the war on Iraq. It is, put simply, a legacy of barbarism.

Some of the signatories on the original PNAC “Statement of Principles” were hard to take seriously (remember Dan Quayle, the vice-president who couldn’t spell “potato” – or Francis Fukuyama who thought that history had ended?). But others – Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld in particular, would rise to prominence in the regime of George W. Bush, and cause nightmares for millions. By 2006 of these three, only Cheney remained in high office – Wolfowitz sent out to haunt the halls of the World Bank and Rumsfeld quitting to focus on writing his memoirs. The departure of these two PNAC advocates is not a coincidence. The entire PNAC vision has come crashing down around the heads of the U.S. administration, and Iraq is the poster child for its failure. But serious or not, disgraced or not, their advice provided the main justification for the attack on Iraq, and we are today living with the consequences.

The June 3, 1997 “Statement of Principles” by PNAC reads like a wish list for right-wing utopians. Its authors argued for a “Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity.” Such a vision “may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next.”[1] When it came to Iraq, its goals were clear. In 1998 they urged then-president Bill Clinton to “act now to end the threat of weapons of mass destruction.”[2] Of course we now know that such a threat never existed. In the same year, in a letter to Newt Gingrich (remember him?) and Trent Lott, they warned of the consequences of not attacking Iraq. If the U.S. didn’t attack Iraq, then “We will have suffered an incalculable blow to American leadership and credibility” and “The administration will have unnecessarily put at risk U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf.”[3] Nine years later, the U.S. has followed their advice, and U.S. credibility is at an all-time low, and nearly 4,000 dead U.S. soldiers have been flown back to the U.S. In 2003, one day before the horrible opening of “Shock and Awe”, they wrote that “Regime change is not an end in itself but a means to an end – the establishment of a peaceful, stable, united, prosperous, and democratic Iraq free of all weapons of mass destruction.”[4] Again, the latter part was easy – the WMDs never existed. But “peaceful, stable, united, prosperous and democratic” – no one, anywhere can maintain that any of these goals have been achieved.

One estimate in November, 2006, said that 1.8 million Iraqis had fled to neighbouring countries, while at least half a million had been internally displaced since the 2003 invasion.[5] According to UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), by April 2007, there were more than 4 million displaced Iraqis around the world (including those displaced before 2003), 1.9 million of who were still inside Iraq. “By 2006, Iraqis were once again the leading nationality seeking asylum in industrialized countries.”[6] By September 2007, the situation was even worse, the number of refugees in the region rising by close to 200,000, the number of internally displaced by 300,000 so that there were an extraordinary 2,256,000 internal refugees inside Iraq.[7]

Those were the ones who lived. We have no idea how many Iraqis have been killed. Iraq Body Count, basing its statistics on “cross-checked media reports, hospital, morgue, NGO and official figures,” estimated as of December 2007, that between 78,743 and 85,813 Iraqi civilians had met a violent death since the 2003 invasion.[8] This is the low end of estimates for civilian deaths. An authoritative 2006 study estimated that “approximately 600,000 people” had been “killed in the violence of the war that began with the U.S. invasion of March 2003.”[9] And in September 2007, a British polling firm produced an estimate of a minimum of 733,158 deaths since the war began. But, ORB indicates, the actual figure could be as high as an unbelievable 1,446,063.[10]

That is the legacy of PNAC – a country in ruins, body bags by the thousands, and the U.S. more isolated internationally than at any time since the end of the Second World War.

Sections of the U.S. elite are bitterly aware of PNAC’s failure. December 2007 is another anniversary – the first anniversary of the publication of the Iraq Study Group Report.[11] With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that the report represented a watershed in U.S. ruling class thinking about wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, and the beginning of an attempt to find a way to retreat from the mess. But, as the Duke of Wellington is often quoted as saying, “The hardest thing of all for a soldier is to retreat.”[12]

This call for a retreat was not because its authors were converts to the cause of peace. James Baker, one of the two principal authors, was a high-up Reagan and Bush loyalist in the 1980s and 1990s, who “helped orchestrate the international coalition that opposed Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait” in 1991, and directed the campaign of George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential elections. [13] Baker is an empire loyalist from way back. His concern was the way in which the Iraq debacle was undermining the empire’s credibility.

The report’s authors said that their “most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly.”[14] They warned against a policy of putting more troops into Iraq. “Sustained increases in U.S. troop levels would not solve the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq … adding U.S. troops might temporarily help limit violence in a highly localized area. However, past experience indicates that the violence would simply rekindle as soon as U.S. forces are moved to another area.”[15] They warned against a strategy of partition. “The costs associated with devolving Iraq into three semiautonomous regions with loose central control would be too high. Because Iraq’s population is not neatly separated, regional boundaries cannot be easily drawn. All eighteen Iraqi provinces have mixed populations, as do Baghdad and most other major cities in Iraq. A rapid devolution could result in mass population movements, collapse of the Iraqi security forces, strengthening of militias, ethnic cleansing, destabilization of neighbouring states, or attempts by neighbouring states to dominate Iraqi regions.”[16]

It is a little ironic, then, that Bush’s response to the report was to a) increase troop levels through the so-called “troop surge” which had the effect of b) accelerating the mass population movements, ethnic cleansing and de facto division of the country into three regions.

In the end, the U.S. will have to leave Iraq. The troop surge cannot last, the allies are withering away, and whoever is elected president in 2008 will be under tremendous pressure to “declare victory” and leave. But this could still mean years more of death, destruction and misery for the Iraqi people, while a divided U.S. ruling class decides how to retreat without losing face.

There remains only one way to begin the reconstruction of Iraq – an unconditional, immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops.

© 2007 Paul Kellogg


[1] Elliot Abrams et. al., “Statement of Principles,” Project for a New American Century, (account suspended – available at, June 3, 1997
[2] Elliot Abrams, et. al., “Letter to President Clinton on Iraq,” Project for a New American Century, (account suspended – available at, Jan. 26, 1998
[3] Elliot Abrams, et. al., “Letter to Gingrich and Lott on Iraq,” Project for a New American Century, (account suspended – available at, May 29, 1998
[4] Ronald Asmus, et. al., “Statement on Post-War Iraq,” Project for a New American Century, (account suspended – available at, March 19, 2003
[5] “Iraqi Refugee Crisis: International Response Urgently Needed,” Bulletin: Refugees International,, December 5, 2006.
[6] UNHCR, “Statistics on Displaced Iraqis around the World,” April 2007,
[7] UNHCR, “Statistics on Displaced Iraqis around the World,” September 2007,
[8] “Iraq Body Count,”
[9] Gilbert Burnham et. al., The Human Cost of the War in Iraq: A Mortality Study, 2002-2006 Bloomberg School of Public Health, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland,
[10] ORB, “More than 1,000,000 Iraqis murdered,” September, 2007,
[11] James A. Baker, Lee H. Hamilton, Iraq Study Group Report, United States Institute of Peace, Dec. 6, 2006
[12] “Quotes of the Duke of Wellington,” Napoleonic Guide,
[13] “Baker, James Addison, III,” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online .
[14] Baker and Hamilton, Iraq Study Group Report, page 6.
[15] Baker and Hamilton, Iraq Study Group Report, page 30.
[16] Baker and Hamilton, Iraq Study Group Report, page 31.

Was ‘troop surge’ Bush’s Cambodia?

By 1970, it was clear to most that the United States could not win the war in Vietnam. But a defeated imperialist power is not a power without teeth. Before it finally left in 1975, the U.S. twice escalated the war massively. The first was April 30, 1970, when then president Richard Nixon announced a joint, U.S./South Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. The second was in late 1972, when Nixon ordered a horrendous bombing campaign against the North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi and its principal harbour, Haiphong.

The anti-war movement today has been bracing for our own “Cambodia”. We, like the earlier generation, know that the U.S. cannot win in Iraq. But how will it cover its retreat? Will it be an attack on Iran? Will it be an attack on Syria? Should either of these take place, the movement will need to get tens of thousands onto the streets as has been done again and again. We know what can happen when an outrage against war comes up against imperialist adventure. In May 1970, in the aftermath of the invasion of Cambodia, came one of the great student protests of all time. “Over one third of all the colleges and universities in the country simply shut down as faculty and students joined in protest.” This was the context in which six students were gunned down – four May 4 at Kent State, and two May 6 at Jackson State.[1]

But is it possible that we have already had “our Cambodia,” that the so-called “troop surge” of 2007 was George W. Bush’s last-gasp face-saving measure, and that he will not be able to get away with an attack on Iran? This is one of the conclusions that can be drawn from the extraordinary report from the Director of National Intelligence, released December 3. The report reads in part:

We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program … We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons. We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon. … Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs. This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might – if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible – prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program. It is difficult to specify what such a combination might be.[2]

Once you interpret the dry as dust prose of these Washington spies, this excerpt from the report is more fraught with tension than a Len Deighton spy novel.

The report was released on the authority of Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence (DNI), which “serves as the head of the Intelligence Community”[3] in Washington. For this Chief Among Spies to go public with a report which, in plain language, says a) that Iran does not have a nuclear bomb; b) has not been developing one since at least 2003; and c) that the Iranian regime makes decisions on a “cost-benefit” basis, and not on the basis of some unspecified fanaticism – this is the Chief Spy saying to George W. Bush: “go to war if you want to, but let the world know what we think – Iran is not a threat.”

This is the “WMD” scandal of 2003 coming back to haunt an increasingly isolated president. The war on Iraq in 2003 was justified by the supposed presence of WMDs – Weapons of Mass Destruction – in the hands of Saddam Hussein.

Two days before the launch of the war, Bush announced that:

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised,” George W. Bush told The Nation two days before he launched the war on Iraq. … “We know for a fact that there are weapons there,” Ari Fleischer declared in January. A month earlier Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “It is clear that the Iraqis have weapons of mass destruction. The issue is not whether or not they have weapons of mass destruction.[4]

But there were no weapons. And as the years went on, Bush again and again would cover his tracks by pinning the blame on the “intelligence” community, quoting among others former CIA director George Tenet as telling him that it was a “slam dunk” that Saddam possessed WMDs.[5] Tenet took the blame for a while, but early in 2007 went public with his version of events.

“[T]he hardest part of all this has been just listening to this for almost three years, listening to the vice president go on Meet the Press on the fifth year (anniversary) of 9/11 and say, ‘Well, George Tenet said slam dunk,’ ” Tenet says. “As if he needed me to say ‘slam dunk’ to go to war with Iraq.” Leaking the “slam dunk” quote, Tenet says, was the “most despicable thing that ever happened to me.”[6]

It was only October 17, 2007, that Bush told the press, “I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them [Iran] from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”[7] But McConnell does not want to be 2007’s George Tenet. He has released a report, which completely undermines the position of the president.

This is a sign of a split in the U.S. ruling class at the very highest levels. Bush might still launch an attack on Iran. (Or for that matter, so might Hillary Clinton, if elected to office). But there is a growing fatigue in the U.S. public with the never-ending parade of dead coming from Iraq – a figure that is now approaching 4,000.[8] That fatigue has Bush’s approval rating sitting at extremely low levels, creating the conditions for the incredible split at the top, described in these paragraphs.

The first weekend of December, 1,200 delegates from 26 countries met in London, U.K., for a “World Against War Conference” and called for actions March 15-22 to the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.[9] With Bush in a weak position, but still seemingly committed to spreading his war, we need to, again, organize to put thousands on the streets against imperialist war in Iraq (and in Canada’s case, Afghanistan).

© 2007 Paul Kellogg


[1] Marilyn B. Young, The Vietnam Wars: 1945-1990 (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), p. 248.
[2] National Intelligence Council (NIC), National Intelligence Estimate – Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities, November, 2007,
[3] “About the ODNI”,
[4] Editorial, “Missing WMD Scandal,” The Nation, June 23, 2003
[5] CNN, “Woodward: Tenet told Bush WMD case a ‘slam dunk’”,, April 19, 2004
[6] Richard Willing, “Tenet: Bush administration twisted ‘slam dunk’ quote,” USA Today, April 26, 2007
[7] “World War III Threat?”, October 18, 2007
[8] “U.S. Casualties in Iraq”,
[9] “World Against War Conference, Dec 2007: A call for international demonstrations on 15-22 March, 2008,” Stop the War Coalition,

End game in ‘Operation Iraqi Liberation’

The British are withdrawing from the province of Basra in the south of Iraq, and the occupation of that country is now clearly exposed as an almost completely U.S. affair.[1] When the Iraq war began in 2003, it was already considerably different than the earlier war in 1991. The “Coalition of the Willing” put together by George W. Bush was just a shadow of the massive force, which backed his father’s war. France, Germany and Canada were among the major powers that refused to participate in 2003. Now, this already weak coalition is starting to completely unravel – it is not just the Brits who are drawing down their troop numbers.

Just days after defeating Bush ally John Howard, newly elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced during a radio interview in Melbourne, that Australia’s “combat force in Iraq we would have home by around about the middle of next year [2008].”[2] Australia joins the now very long list of countries to have pulled out of the Iraq war. As of this writing the following countries had departed from this catastrophe:

1) Nicaragua (Feb. 2004)
2) Spain (late Apr. 2004)
3) Dominican Republic (early May 2004)
4) Honduras (late May 2004)
5) Philippines (Jul. 19, 2004)
6) Thailand (late Aug. 2004)
7) New Zealand (late Sept. 2004)
8) Tonga (mid-Dec. 2004)
9) Portugal (mid-Feb. 2005)
10) The Netherlands (Mar. 2005)
11) Hungary (Mar. 2005)
12) Singapore (Mar. 2005)
13) Norway (Oct. 2005)
14) Ukraine (Dec. 2005)
15) Japan (July 17, 2006)
16) Italy (Nov. 2006)
17) Slovakia (Jan 2007)
18) Denmark (August 10, 2007)

In addition, South Korean soldiers “will be withdrawn before the Dec. 19 [2007] presidential election” officials of the Defence Ministry were quoted as saying, and Poland’s new defence minister said that Poland’s troops would likely be gone by mid-2008.[3]

However, the really big story has been the end of the British role in the south of Iraq. Britain was the only one of the allies in the Coalition of the Willing to supply a militarily significant troop deployment to back up the U.S. But September 3, 2007, the last British troops remaining in the city of Basra – capital of the province by the same name, occupied by the Brits since 2003 – abandoned the presidential palaces in the city and withdrew to the Basra air station. They left under the cover of darkness, and this withdrawal took anywhere from 12 to 16 hours (depending on the reports), in spite of the fact that the air base is only five miles from the outskirts of Basra, ten miles in total from the presidential palace.

Why would they be so careful and slow about their departure? It might have something to do with the fact that they are, well, hated. A survey for BBC Newsnight showed that “more than 85% of the residents of Basra believe British troops have had a negative effect on the Iraqi province since 2003.” Putting the case the other way makes the situation even more transparent. “Only 2% of Basra residents believe that British troops have had a positive effect on the province.” Two per cent – that is the “margin of error” in many polls, so small as to be effectively, zero. Not surprisingly, given these figures, “83 % of those surveyed said they wanted British troops to leave Iraq, including 63% who wanted them to leave the Middle East altogether.”[4] This is the statistical profile of anger against occupation.

The government spin was working overtime in the wake of the September withdrawal from the city of Basra. “Let me make this very clear” said new Prime Minister Gordon Brown, “This is a pre-planned, and this is an organized move from Basra Palace to Basra Air Station,” this in response to a question asking if the move was a “pull-out in defeat … a retreat.”[5] In fact, “British soldiers effectively withdrew from the streets of Basra two years ago and have spent much of the time since hunkered down in their barracks,” according to Brendan O’Neill, editor of spiked.[6] While “hunkered,” the troops had to endure constant assaults. Among the troops withdrawn were the 4th Battalion, the Rifles Battle Group, who had held “the last British base in Basra against a huge rebel onslaught. In a three-month stand at Basra Palace, the Rifles endured 2,000 mortar and rocket attacks, 100 roadside bombs and 400 rocket-propelled grenade strikes … In total they had 11 killed and 62 wounded on tour – more than any other unit in Iraq.”[7] But defeat or not, the fact is that there are now no coalition troops in Baghdad’s second major city. All 5,500 British troops are in the air station – and they have company: the British and U.S. consulates are also based there.[8] If it wasn’t so serious it would be funny – the occupiers are so isolated and weak, that the two consulates and all the troops huddle together at the air station, with absolutely no presence in the city of 1.8 million.

But the British are leaving, and trying to avoid a “Saigon moment” – referring to the chaotic last hours of the U.S. retreat from Vietnam in 1975, where helicopters ferried the last remaining, terrified Americans out of the country, leaving thousands of Vietnamese supporters behind to meet their fate.[9] Gordon Brown’s plan is to reduce troop levels by half sometime in 2008, a plan challenged by some saying that “the 2,500 troops left will be unable to do more than defend themselves at their base in Basra”[10] something that would make a “Saigon moment” quite plausible.

What does that leave in Iraq as allies for the Americans? After subtracting the British, South Koreans, Australians and Poles, the list of allies is very short, and involves very few troops.[11]

1) Romania (865)
2) El Salvador (380)
3) Georgia (300)
4) Azerbaijan (150)
5) Bulgaria (less than 150)
6) Latvia (136)
7) Albania (120)
8) Czech Republic (100)
9) Mongolia (100)
10) Lithuania (less than 50)
11) Armenia (46)
12) Bosnia & Herzegovina (37)
13) Estonia (34)
14) Macedonia (33)
15) Kazakhstan (29
16) Moldova (12)

This is, to say the least, a very weak coalition. We are approaching the end game of this horrible imperialist adventure, which has cost so many lives. And for what – when the occupiers leave a city under a hail of bullets, and are visibly hated, this war has clearly had little to do with “liberation” – unless of course it had kept its short-lived initial name – OIL – Operation Iraqi Liberation.[12]

© 2007 Paul Kellogg


[1] Paul von Zielbauer, “British Hand Over Basra to Iraqis,” The New York Times,, December 16, 2007
[2] Barbara McMahon, “Rudd sets date for Iraq pull-out,” Guardian Unlimited,, December 1, 2007
[3] Information from “Iraq Coalition Troops: Non-US Forces in Iraq – February 2007”, ; “Rest of Danish forces withdraw from Basra,” Iraq Updates,, August 2, 2007 ; “S Korea announces to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan,” China View,, November 5, 2007 ; Associated Press, “Report: Poland could pull troops from Iraq in summer 2008 defense minister says,” International Herald Tribune,, November 27, 2007
[4] “Basra residents blame UK troops,” BBC News,, December 14, 2007
[5] Thomas Harding, “British troops leave Basra city,” Daily Telegraph,, September 4, 2007
[6] Brendan O’Neill, “Basra withdrawal: a media stunt to end a PR war,”, September 4, 2007
[7] Tom Newton Dunn, “Our lions roar back from Iraq”, The Sun,, November 24, 2007
[8] Thomas Harding, “British troops leave Basra city”
[9] Michael Smith and Sarah Baxter, “Army chiefs fear Iraq exit will be Britain’s Saigon moment,” The Sunday Times,, August 19, 2007
[10] Mark Deen, “U.K.’s Iraq Pull-Out Plan May Not Work, Lawmakers Say (Update 1),”, December 3, 2007
[11] Information from “Iraq Coalition Troops: Non-US Forces in Iraq – February 2007”, www.globalsecurity,org
[12] Ari Fleischer, “Press Briefing”,, March 24, 2003