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The end of the biggest military disaster since Vietnam

The final pull-out of US troops from Iraq marks the end, or perhaps just one stage of the end, of the biggest military disaster since Vietnam. Every US-UK goal behind the invasion has been lost, in some cases humiliatingly.

Iran, the target for revenge after the sacking of the US embassy in 1979, emerges as a regional superpower with its political establishment now in full control of Iraq.

The US goal of semi-permanent military bases in Iraq as the custodians of the oil-fields has been abandoned after demands from Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, himself heavily pressurised by Iran. The US army is being rushed to the exit before Iraq has the secuity force strength sufficient to protect it against external aggression. Internally, so far from being the ‘sovereign, stable and self-reliant’ state applauded yesterday by Obama, is in fact rent by schism. If this is winning, what would defeat have looked like?

Iran has its proxies at every force level in Iraq – the Mahdi army militia of the radical Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, its own operatives in place in hundreds and maybe thousands throughout Iraq, and the sinister Qassem Suleimani (the military power behind the Khamenei throne) organising as commander of the Quds force many of the bombings and shootings that are still daily fare in Iraq.

Apart from the oil prize, the other central US goal was to set up a permanent platform for the maintenance and enhancement of US influence throughout the Middle East. The reverse has happened. The jihadists are now looking to send fighters into Syria, the Salafists are again active, the Awakening Council that gave immeasurable help to the US general Patraeus in turning the tide against al-Qaeda have been suppressed by Maliki and are now abandoning Iraq, and Kurdistan where so much of the oil lies has declared a de facto independence.

But the biggest defeat of all lies in the shattered reputation of the West. Not only did the greatest military fighting force in the world patently fail to secure anything like victory on its own terms despite a dissipation of blood and treasure costing nearly $1 trillion, but far more seriously the West’s trumpeting of honesty, morality and democracy has taken a fearful beating from which it may never recover.

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld lied about the collusion between Saddam and al-Qaeda to provided the link needed between the Twin Towers and the invasion of Iraq. Bush and Blair, ever eager to be the foghorn for the dumb ventriloquist, fabricated the evidence to justify a specious ‘war on terror’. Abu Ghraib torture and the physical and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners destroyed any idea of Western moral superiority with both CIA and MI5 involvement now well documented as well as out-of-control soldiers. Not until the main perpetrators Bush and Blair are hauled to full account will this stain on Western democracy ever be effaced.

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