91450742

This is an Article from the Australian yesterday which took my fancy. You can find it online at

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,6187347%255E12272,00.html

A bogged-down cakewalk

THE story thus far. In 1991 a large and largely landlocked nation, coveting its neighbour’s coastline as much as its oil, planned an invasion.

One secular Arab nation against another. Religion was irrelevant.

The invader had in the past enjoyed the goodwill of Washington. So it mentioned its plans to the US ambassador and, far from receiving a stern admonishment, might have felt he’d got the diagonal nod. But the world was so appalled by its thuggery – and the US so concerned for the stability of neighbours such as Saudi Arabia – that an impressive coalition was cobbled together, endorsed by the UN, to drive them out.

For all the arrogance of the leader, a man notorious for his brutalities and his ambitions to become the greatest pan-Arabic leader since Nasser, what followed was a rout.

The retreat of his army became a turkey shoot. At least 100,000 of his troops were slaughtered as, burdened by the loot they’d stolen, they headed for home.

The US failed to press its advantage and stopped short of Baghdad.

Ever since they’ve been steaming with anger. Given the shock and awe of bin Laden’s attacks on New York and Washington, a group of so-called neo-cons, who’d been dreaming of revenge, conflate the issue of a war against terror with a war against Iraq. Deaf to regional concerns – and unwilling to be honest brokers in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict – they decide to use the Pearl Harbor of September 11 as their excuse. They prepare for the biggest military action in half a century. Aghast at the new US foreign policy – the pre-emptive strike – the wider world protests. Washington tries some inept and insincere diplomacy – characterised by bullying, bribery and blundering – to achieve UN backing. They fail ignominiously. So the US goes it alone.

Almost alone. Because the British and, astonishingly, the Australians sign up. And why not? The enemy is a tawdry, run-down nation that’s been pulverised in the first Gulf War, pauperised by a decade of sanctions and effectively disarmed by a decade of UN weapons inspections. The loyal PMs are promised a quick, clean, 24-hour war. Massive bombings of Baghdad will lead to implosion of the regime.

There will be mass defections, mass surrenders, insurrection. Baghdad will be transformed into a Disneyland democracy. Not only will Hussein’s hierarchy be shocked and awed by US might but so will recalcitrants in the region.

It will be a war without mistakes, a war without body bags, a war that will demonstrate the US’s dominance of the 21st century.

More importantly, it will be a demonstration war, a rehearsal for future pre-emptive interventions. That is why the Australian PM thinks it’s a good idea to go along for the ride. Consider the pay-offs in the electorate, in military protection, in trade deals.

But things start to go wrong, with the examples of US miscalculations and ineptitudes that bring back memories of fiascos and failures – from Vietnam to Somalia via the Bay of Pigs.

As critics warn, the war isn’t a series of set pieces in the desert but promises a Stalingrad-style battle in the city.

From day one, the so-called Arab street gets increasingly restless and angry with rulers who’ve agreed to facilitate Washington’s war. Even neighbours who detest Hussein’s regime are outraged by the behaviour of the US bully.

And what is the big excuse? The weapons of mass destruction? They’re neither found nor deployed. Yes, Baghdad will fall. (After all, if Hussein won’t follow the script, the US can always nuke him.)

But it’s time to ask the question – the question that should have kept us out of this mess in the first place.

What’s in it for us? Apart from troubles we didn’t have and certainly don’t need.

Apart from moving up the al-Qa’ida hit list, we’re on the nose in the region – with neighbouring Muslim countries seeing us as US lapdogs.

Not bad for the first six days of a war that was meant to be surgical, a foregone conclusion. Another turkey shoot. A cakewalk. Fish in a barrel.

And where will we be in a fortnight? In a month? In a year? Up the Euphrates without a paddle? Internationally regarded as a nation of 20 million affluent whites in an endless ocean of brown and yellow faces? A nation with just one big and powerful friend? Don’t miss the next exciting episode.

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