A city break in Baghdad

A weekend in the Green Zone as part of the Labour Friends of Iraq’s ongoing dialogue with the Islamic Dawa Party of Prime Minister Al Maliki was gruelling but politically worthwhile.

Talking with the PM and his party colleagues, his bipartisan advisory group, the Sunni Defence Minister, MPs from various parties in the Parliament and others reinforced several themes.

First, the massive burdens of Iraq’s history and geography. The scale of the physical and psychological destruction wreaked by Saddam should never be forgotten. And Iraq is surrounded by countries which are suspicious (some with good historical reasons) and hostile for ethnic, economic and political reasons with some actively fomenting terrorism. Iraq’s neighbours prefer Iraq as a consumer rather than producer and competitor. A successful Iraq would be positive for the wider Middle East, which is why reactionary forces there want it to fail.

However, the Prime Minister’s relatively successful action against the Mehdi Army in Basra which halted the talibanisation of the city and retrieved control over the port and trade routes from them has made him popular with Sunnis and Shias and may allow him to be a popular and unifying force.

Time will tell if Iraqi forces are able to establish their writ in Mosul near the Syrian border and in Sadr City in Baghdad from where the rockets and mortars aimed at the Green Zone originate.

I have visited Iraqi Kurdistan for two week-long visits and now Baghdad for a long weekend. I have met very many politicians and others who have a deep affection for Britain, which I believe is genuine. English is widely spoken and taught at schools from a very early age.

In our meeting with MPs, I raised the issue of whether Iraq would one day like to join the Commonwealth. The answer was positive. It will be a question of priorities and timing. But Iraqi political leaders are very eager to engage with the outside world and overcome decades of isolation. You read it here first.

On a less positive note, the trade unions, which have come from near complete annihilation under Saddam to being a considerable non-sectarian force, still face needless restrictions on their work. We strongly pushed the PM and the Dawa Party to lift such restrictions and have been promised progress on this in the near future.

  • Prionsa Eoghan


    Right about what? The shite Harry accuses me of is just not true. I am not a regular in these discussions and have no heavy slant at all. My earlier remarks aimed at you are still unanswered by the way. Harry tried and then just descended into silly and increasingly deranged attacks. The reasons why are unfathomable to me.

    Why not respond to my earlier points aimed at you bfb?

  • BfB

    I take it then you must have more than the average American income.

    We ate peanut butter sandwiches and took no vacations, happily. We also said fu and tighted our belts when the ‘minority’ financial assistance counselor chuckled when we applied for college assistance. Both boys in college at the same time worked and went to school, while the ‘minority’ kids partied for one semester on our tax money. Both boys are now college graduates, great young men, fathers, good jobs, and bear not a wit of resentment that they had to work hard and earn what they have because they are white men, while the ‘minorities’ are given a free ride (even the mexican citizens who are here stealing everything they can get their hands on). I’m the one that bitches about that;-)
    It’s because of men like my grandfather that this country is great, and it’s because of men like my sons that it will remain great….
    Simple, really.

  • Prionsa Eoghan


    In the name ae the wee man!

  • Greenflag

    ‘Now we are where we are today, would you concede that despite all that may or may not have gone on in the past the only position that decent, liberal minded people could possibly take with those two nations today is that the democracies in both nations survive?’

    What democracies ? Both states would collapse overnight were it not for US and Allied military and financial backing . Iraq has effectively been repartitioned . The ‘surge’ is attempting to mop up the loose ends of the ethnic cleansing which has taken place in Baghdad and other areas over the past 5 years .

    Iraq was never a ‘democracy’ just like the former Yugoslavia and indeed Northern Ireland . It was an artificial state carved into existence by the former colonial powers with the objective of maintaining western control over it’s oil reserves .

    ‘Is that not the only position that anyone could possibly take with a clear conscience?’

    We’d all like to see democracy work in Iraq and Afghanistan but with 350,000 deaths in Iraq , 2 million refugees , and after 20 years of both a civil war and an anti soviet occupation war in Afghanistan with some 4 million refugees and hundreds of thousands dead – how long can the west afford to keep up the pretence that it’s fight for democracy is not that but for for the black gold ?

    Japan and Germany were already ‘democracies ‘ before the military in the former and the nazi party in the latter usurped their democracies.

    What we understand by western democracy cannot simply be installed over the heads of the peoples of the Middle East not when their religious and cultural background, and historical experiences have been for centuries ‘autocratic’.

    If it was’nt for the oil there would be no talk and even less action of trying to export ‘democracy’ by force to Iraq or Afghanistan just as there is no talk of exporting democracy by force to China or Myanmar or Zimbabwe or any other non democratic State.

    The USA has money and military power . The peoples of the Middle East have oil , numbers and time . The USA will run out of money long before the Middle East runs out of time .

    If the Islamic peoples want democracy they have the perfect place to start just like the French in 1789 and the English in 1649 . Somehow I can’t see the USA standing idly by and watching the risen people of Saudi Arabia remove their King and introduce ‘democracy’ into Bahrain, Kuwait , etc.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    Can’t understand why you even deign to answer the nonsensical charges brought to our door Greenflag. However this;

    “If the Islamic peoples want democracy they have the perfect place to start just like the French in 1789 and the English in 1649 . Somehow I can’t see the USA standing idly by and watching the risen people of Saudi Arabia remove their King and introduce ‘democracy’ into Bahrain, Kuwait , etc.”

    Is a fuckin scream! LOL!

  • Greenflag

    ‘We ate peanut butter sandwiches ‘

    I like peanut butter but not as an exclusive diet . It’s fattening and in excessive amounts not healthy and life shortening .

    ‘and took no vacations’

    This is a strange custom pertaining in the developed world mostly to Americans . Back in 1865 or thereabouts America had a great President who ended slavery for African Americans . Since the early 1970’s America seeems to have elected Presidents whose main mission in politics appears to be the re-introduction of slavery for all Americans . The only people doing well out of America are the large corporations -the financial con men and the fat cats of the Republican and Democratic parties who are at the beck and call of the Health Care Company Gougers , the Insurance Company thieves and the Credit Card criminals who have been bleeding the average American dry for the past couple of decades .

    American ‘productivity ‘ has increased over the past 15 years but the American ‘middle’ and ‘working class’ has seen very little benefit . You know that but instead of choosing to put the blame where it should go you accuse the ‘immigrants’ and ‘dark skinned minorities ‘

    Wise up man . We have a similar ‘problem’ in the UK and Ireland although it’s not yet at American levels .

    You might be better off cheering for the re-introduction of real democracy for Americans instead of exporting the fatally flawed ‘product’ where it’s not wanted and will only be used to screw the indigenes out of their ‘natural resources’.

  • Greenflag


    ‘Can’t understand why you even deign to answer the nonsensical charges ‘

    Harry F makes some reasonable points however where he misses not just the boat but the bigger picture is somehow seeing Irish nationalism as something almost exclusively separate from Irish Republicanism and the latter exclusively separate from militant Republicanism .

    Being a Muslim ? or Muslim convert I can understand why HF might not be enamoured of an American /Allied withdrawal from the Iraq/Saudi etc etc . The Israelis are reputed to have 150 to 200 nuclear weapons and presumably would not hesitate to use them if the Americans pulled out and the Iranian /Arabic hordes decided to drive the Israelis into the sea .

    Understandable fears if one was Israeli . And if the Middle East were to be consumed in nuclear armageddon then the planet itself could be tilted into a ‘nuclear winter’ .What we call civilisation could indeed come to an end . Bush’s ill prepared ‘adventures’ I believe have increased the likelihood of regional conflict ending in disaster all round .

    Bfb means well . It’s just that his perspective is distorted from looking at the world through star spangled opaque glasses . Somebody out there has to be responsible for America being in deep shit and it can’t be Americans themselves nor his dearly beloved Republican Party President . Germans had a touch of the same syndrome in the 1920’s when their middle class hit rock bottom – a nasty little man with a mustache found their scapegoat. For Bfb it’s the ‘mexicans, socialists, liberals , muslims etc etc . It’s simple but that’s Bfb when push comes to shove -simple .

  • Harry Flashman

    And yet more and more posts from PE and GF, all condemning the Yanks, on and on it goes, but not one word, not a single word, of support for the people who do not wish to be ruled by fascistic, medieval clerics, they just don’t matter a damn.

    Can one of you not say unequivocally that you want the Baathist/Taliban/Al Queda to lose?

    We’ve got your other points, America bad, Dubya evil, it’s all about oil (not a big heap of oil in Afghanistan last time I checked) yadda yadda ya, understood loud and clear.

    Now is your chance to state here for the record, would you prefer to see the UN recognised, legitimate, democratic Republic of Iraq survive or would you prefer to see it fail and go under because your hatred of George Bush is so great that you don’t care how many Muslims suffer in an Islamic terror theocracy so long as the Yanks end up looking bad?

    Given the shameful way many in the west were happy to see millions of Cambodians and Vietnamese be murdered, tortured, starved, enslaved and exiled by Communist dictatorships just as long as the Americans got a bloody nose I feel I know exactly how you’d like to see the future for Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Like I said before, shameful.

    Here’s an aricle you might find interesting regarding the “it’s all about oil” war in Afghanistan;

    “[i]Our Generation’s Spanish Civil War[/i]

    This is not just “George Bush’s war.” This is a liberation struggle. It’s a war of resistance against clerical fascism, against the most unspeakably brutal kind of misogyny, against tyranny, slavery, illiteracy and oppression, [b]so why do my fellow Canadian leftists oppose it[/b]?.

    Over the past six years, poll after poll has provided unequivocal, empirical evidence that the Afghan people want us there to help them win this fight. And the people are winning.

    In 2004, only one in 10 Afghans had access to medical services. Now it’s eight in 10. Three out of every four children under the age of five have been immunized against childhood diseases. There are millions of girls attending school now. More than 100,000 women have begun their own small businesses with micro-loans administered by the World Bank — that sinister institution we progressives are supposed to despise.

    Afghanistan is now an embryonic democracy, and one of every four Afghan MPs is a woman. Just a few years ago, Afghan women weren’t allowed out of doors unless they were accompanied by a man. Under the Taliban, you weren’t allowed to watch television, but now there are seven national television stations, and all sorts of little newspapers, and 10 universities.”

    Our Spanish Civil War

  • Greenflag

    Harry Flashman ,

    ‘And yet more and more posts from PE and GF, all condemning the Yanks’

    Nonsense. Criticism of an unnnecessary war in Iraq and the associated failed Republican economic policies in the USA is not ‘condemning the Yanks ‘ . Would criticism of the UK’s role in Northern Ireland at times during the past 40 years be described as condemning the English ? Would criticism of the Soviet Union’s totalitarian State be described by you as anti Russian . Would criticism of some of the archaic and anti female aspects of Islam be described as anti Arab ?

    Here’s some more ‘condemning the yanks’ not from GF or PE but from a man who has been actively involved with and very close to Bush since he was Governor of Texas none other than Scott McClellan .

    ,Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes in a new memoir that the Iraq war was sold to the American people with a sophisticated “political propaganda campaign” led by President Bush and aimed at “manipulating sources of public opinion” and “downplaying the major reason for going to war.”

    McClellan includes the charges in a 341-page book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” that delivers a harsh look at the White House and the man he served for close to a decade. He describes Bush as demonstrating a “lack of inquisitiveness,” says the White House operated in “permanent campaign” mode, and admits to having been deceived by some in the president’s inner circle about the leak of a CIA operative’s name.

    The book, coming from a man who was a tight-lipped defender of administration aides and policy, is certain to give fuel to critics of the administration, and McClellan has harsh words for many of his past colleagues. He accuses former White House adviser Karl Rove of misleading him about his role in the CIA case. He describes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as being deft at deflecting blame, and he calls Vice President Cheney “the magic man” who steered policy behind the scenes while leaving no fingerprints.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Afghanistan is now an embryonic democracy’

    Is it ? In Kabul perhaps ? Outside Kabul the Afghan Government’s influence is tenous to say the least .

    Over large areas of Southern Afghanistan there is virtully no Afghan Gov control . In the areas close to Pakistan there is even less . The invasion and routing out of the Taliban in 5 or 6 years ago was immediately followed by American neglect as they rushed into war with Iraq . Consequently the neo Taliban have been able to regroup and now control the ‘narcotics’ economy .

    The Afghan people have been used by both Soviets and Americans for the past 25 years and abused by the clerical fundamentalists the Taliban -who lest we forget were armed by America in the war against the Soviets .

    Afghan is a mess and it will require a major UN peacekeeping force with a mandate to impose ‘peace ‘ and a generation of investment before the Afghans can hope to put the prospect of a Taliban return to rule behind them .

  • Harry Flashman

    Goodness, another two more posts from Greenflag and still not a peep out of him to say that he wants to see the Baathists/Taliban/Al Queda defeated.

    Just more criticism of the Americans and the struggling democrats in Afghanistan.

    Yup, not too hard to see where GF’s sympathies lie.

  • Greenflag

    ‘not too hard to see where GF’s sympathies lie.’

    Indeed . And they are not with the degenerate feudal monarchies of the Persian Gulf States nor the ill prepared and even more ill implemented western policies in the region which have only exacerbated the fundamentalist takeover of large parts of the Islamic world .

    Here’s another clue below as you look forward to another decade of the USA pouring money into a bottomless pit in Iraq . As I said before the USA will run out of money long before the Islamic fundamentalists run out of oil or fananatical religious zealots .

    May 27 (Bloomberg) — U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant Jeffrey VerSteegh, who repairs F-16 jets for the 132nd Fighter Wing, departed Des Moines, Iowa, in April for his third tour in Iraq. The father of four may lose his home when he returns.

    The four-bedroom farmhouse he and his wife, Kathleen, own near the Iowa State Fairgrounds went into default in December after their monthly mortgage costs doubled to $1,100. Kathleen missed work because of breast cancer and they struggled to keep up the house payment, falling behind on other bills. Their bankruptcy was approved by the court a week after VerSteegh left for Iraq.

    In the midst of the worst surge in mortgage defaults in seven decades, foreclosures in U.S. towns where soldiers live are increasing at a pace almost four times the national average, according to data compiled by research firm RealtyTrac Inc. in Irvine, California. As military families like the VerSteeghs signed up for the initial lower rates and easier terms of subprime mortgages, the number of people taking out Veterans Administration loans fell to the lowest in at least 12 years.

    “We’ve never faced a situation like this, not in the Vietnam War, World War II, or the Korean War, where so many military are in danger of losing their homes,” said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, a Washington-based advocacy group started in 2002 by Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans. “No one asked them for their credit score when we asked them to fight for us.”

    Military Foreclosures

    Foreclosure filings in 10 towns and cities within 10 miles of military facilities, including Norfolk, Virginia, home of the Navy’s largest base, rose by an average 217 percent from January through April from a year earlier. Nationally, the rate was 59 percent in the same period, according to RealtyTrac, which tallies bank seizures, auctions and default notices.

    The biggest surge was in Columbia, South Carolina, home to Fort Jackson, where the Army trains recruits for combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. Properties in some stage of foreclosure rose 492 percent from a year earlier, RealtyTrac said. The second-biggest increase was 414 percent in Woodbridge, Virginia, next to the Marine Corps Base Quantico.

    Foreclosure filings tripled in the cities surrounding Norfolk Naval Base and the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base near Oceanside, California, RealtyTrac said. Havelock, North Carolina, site of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, saw foreclosures more than double.

    Weak Credit

    Military families were targeted as customers during the boom in subprime lending because their frequent moves, overseas stints, and low pay meant they were more likely to have weak credit ratings, said Rudi Williams of the National Veterans Foundation in Los Angeles. In 2006, at the peak of U.S. subprime lending, the number of VA loans fell to barely a third the level of two years earlier, according to VA data.

    VA loans totaled 135,000 last year, its fourth consecutive annual decline.

    An Army or Marine Corps sergeant with four years of experience makes $27,000 a year, plus combat pay of $225 a month, according to the 2008 Military Authorization Act, which increased basic pay rates 3.5 percent from a year ago.

    Soldiers authorized to live off-base also receive a housing allowance that this year starts at about $500 a month, 7.3 percent higher than in 2007, paid even when they are deployed. Counting the stipends, they still fall short of the 2007 median U.S. household income of $59,224 as measured by the National Association of Realtors in Chicago.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    ‘Can’t understand why you even deign to answer the nonsensical charges ‘


    I actually meant Harry lining us up as the perennial bad guys with all his made up accusations. Ahhh fuck it in for a penny and all that.

    >>And yet more and more posts from PE and GF, all condemning the Yanks, on and on it goes, but not one word, not a single word, of support for the people who do not wish to be ruled by fascistic, medieval clerics, they just don’t matter a damn.< >Can one of you not say unequivocally that you want the Baathist/Taliban/Al Queda to lose?< >We’ve got your other points, America bad, Dubya evil, it’s all about oil(not a big heap of oil in Afghanistan last time I checked)…<

  • BfB

    More bad news.
    Sure I’m not as well written as Harry, or paid by the word, like the green man…but as you label me one way or the other…you can’t say I’m wrong….I’ve got the truth on my side. Obviously most of you guys have too much time on yours. And some wicked subtle irony skills /sarc.
    BTW, I’m no Bush fan..never said I was. Sadly, he is an open borders wanker…but good on him for sticking to his promise to fight the murdering jihadist wherever they may be. This war isn’t over by a long shot…..pardon the pun.

    I’m done with this one.

  • Greenflag

    PE ,

    Harry is in deep denial unlike Scott McClellan – Mr Bush’s right hand man from 2003 to 2006 who has now blown the whistle on the artifice and machinations of the Bush administration which have led the USA to the present disaster and cost hundreds of thousands of lives including 4,300 Americans . There are tens of thousands maimed and crippled for life and some 40,000 suffering post traumatic stress syndrom .

    Not since World War 1 has a war been so poorly planned and even more poorly executed with apparently none or very little thought put into the political aftermath.

    ‘And whether democracy, as we understand it is really suited to Iraq.’

    If you look at the American ‘experience ‘ of exporting ‘democracy ‘ since 1945 the results were initially promising i.e with Japan and Germany .

    Since then we’ve had the Vietnamese conflict which left 56,000 Americans dead and one million Vietnamese – The ousting of the nationalist Iranian leader and the installation of the puppet Shah sent Iran down the road to Ayatollah rule . And now we have Iraq and Afghanistan to add to the mess .

  • Greenflag


    ‘paid by the word, like the green man’

    No idea what you mean by this but so far I’ve received no cheques in the mail from anybody neither do I expect any.

    Glad to hear you are no Bush fan and as for the murdering jihadists there’s more ways of killing a cat than one -the same goes for jihadists.

  • Harry Flashman


    “Ok Harry I want them to lose.”

    Good man Eoghan, glad to see that on the fundamental moral issue of our time you are on the right side, I admire that and can therefore accept that any criticism you make of the handling of the Iraq and Afghan campaigns are genuinely made and not the smokescreen that most people use to hide their deep rooted wish to see the Americans lose this war.

    Greenflag on the other hand still throws up the usual student union guff about Rapture and house foreclosures and oil and Dubya and health care in Canada (no sorry I think that was in another thread) and Michael Moore and no doubt he’ll be telling us about the hanging chads in the Florida recount of 2000 very soon. All the dreary talking points of the adolescent left.

    Yet in all of that waffle there appears not one iota of support for the idea that the struggling democrats in Iraq and Afghanistan should win and the Jihadists lose.

    So taken is he with his childish anti-Americansism he cannot bring himself to state plainly where he stands on the greatest moral challenge facing the world today, the Spanish Civil War of our time if you will.

    You know why? Well I think it’s because he actually wants the Taliban/Baathist/Al Queda to win, he knows they’re medieval fascists, but as long as the Yanks get a bloody nose he’s all for them. Like the Cambodians who were condemned to the horrors of Pol Pot while Noam Chomsky praised their “agricultural reforms”, so Greenflag couldn’t give a flying fuck about Afghan schoolgirls being murdered for wanting to learn how to read or Iraqi trades unionists being beheaded for having the audacity to support democracy, to him the Americans are always the villains and so he wants the jihadis to win.