The Sunday Times and the Scotsman are both reporting on a memo highly critical of American “heavy handed tactics” in Iraq and accusing the US of responsibility for the uprisings currently engulfing Iraq:
THE FIRST cracks in Britain’s coalition with the United States over the occupation of Iraq were exposed last night by a leaked government memo which revealed deep misgivings about America’s “heavy-handed” tactics in the war-torn country.
The damning document, produced by a team working for Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, disclosed private reservations within Tony Blair’s administration about Washington’s approach to the post-war occupation.
The detailed memo, sent to senior ministers and top officials last week as a “progress report” on the occupation, stressed the need for the UK government to press the Americans to soften their approach and avoid aggressive responses “which would jeopardise our objectives”.
It also talked of “the need to redouble our efforts to ensure a sensitive and sensible US approach to military operations”.
The revelations shatter the government’s long-held insistence that there are no differences between Downing Street and the White House over Iraq.
The six-page memo suggests that the US tactics have particularly damaged support among ordinary Iraqis and stirred up much of the unrest which has exploded into violence in recent months.
And, in a startling admission, it also declares that the “scandal” over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Coalition-run jails has damaged the “moral authority” of Britain and the US as they struggle to justify their decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime.
“We should not underestimate the present difficulties,” the document states, in a section headed ‘Problems’. “Heavy-handed US military tactics in Fallujah and Najaf some weeks ago have fuelled both Sunni and Shi’ite opposition to the Coalition and lost us much public support inside Iraq.”
The memo, reported in the Sunday Times, adds: “The scandal of the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib [prison] has sapped the moral authority of the Coalition, inside Iraq and internationally.”
The memo continues to detail two possibilities for UK troops in Iraq, neither of them having anything to do with British troops mixing with the Americans. The Independent writes, in an article titled “‘Spray and slay’: are American troops out of control in Iraq?“
“The British military tends to have far more open dealings with the local population than the Americans,” said Christopher Bellamy, professor of military science at Cranfield University. “While the British rely more on local intelligence to warn them of trouble in advance, US forces have a ‘stand-off’ posture, which means trouble tends to erupt without warning. As a result they need to deliver enormous amounts of firepower to overcome it.”
Eleanor Goldsworthy, UK forces specialist at the Royal United Services Institute, said the approach taken by British forces in Iraq was: “If we behave, we earn their goodwill.” The American attitude, by contrast, was: “If they behave, they earn our goodwill.” And if they don’t, others might add, US forces will punish them – the policy that appeared to be adopted when the Marines moved on Fallujah last month in the wake of the deaths of four American private security men.
The insistence of the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, on a “war lite” policy, said Professor Bellamy, meant that “American forces have to make up in firepower what they lack in manpower”. Because US soldiers specialised early in their careers, and received less overall training than their British counterparts, the majority were not effective combat troops, and had to be protected by those with the appropriate training.
“The philosophy is almost that of the wagon train, and tends to lead to the ‘spray and slay’ behaviour we have seen,” said the analyst.”It is hard to over-estimate the lack of awareness of most American soldiers in Iraq,” said a military source. “Many, perhaps most, have never been abroad before. They see their mission as giving democracy to the Iraqis and enforcing stability, and find it very difficult to understand why the Iraqis aren’t grateful. They have no idea that they are seen as arrogant and aggressive.”
In the view of British forces, the source added, such attitudes had led to a succession of “fundamental mistakes”, and had made senior officers extremely hostile to being put under American command. This is one of the options reported to be under consideration by Downing Street this weekend as the deployment of more British forces is weighed.
The US wants Britain to take over from the departed Spanish contingent in the Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, where American firepower is being deployed against militias loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric declared an outlaw by Washington.
“Seeking to adopt normal low-profile British tactics in the wake of American aggressiveness would be difficult enough,” said the military source, “but to have to go in under US operational command would be a disaster.”
The situation is clearly becoming untenable and unsustainable, as the Scotsman reports another scoop:
Scotland on Sunday has discovered that a private security company headed by former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind is making millions from a contract to protect Foreign Office staff working in Iraq.
ArmorGroup, the biggest security firm working in Iraq, is one of two companies that have raked in a total of £15m between them for providing round-the-clock cover in the treacherous environment of post-war Iraq during the past year.
Rifkind, the Tory candidate for Kensington and Chelsea, sparked protests from political opponents last month when he took over the chairmanship of ArmorGroup, which has 700 employees in Iraq.
Straw has admitted ArmorGroup and Control Risks are being paid a combined total of £50,000 every day to protect bureaucrats stationed in Iraq, amid mounting concerns about the safety of civilians in the war-torn country.
The fee was described as a “minuscule amount” by one government official last night. But furious MPs condemned the outlay as “appalling value for money”, and claimed the government should not be ploughing money into a controversial industry that is making huge profits as part of the reconstruction effort in Iraq.
More than a dozen firms, many employing former servicemen, have been registered to work in Iraq, protecting politicians, civil servants and staff at several of the companies that have won contracts to rebuild Iraq’s shattered infrastructure.
But the security bill is swallowing up a huge chunk of the $18bn set aside by the Americans for rebuilding the country.
“Some of the firms in Iraq provide very good protection, but I am very concerned that the government is paying so much money for it,” said Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay.
“There are few ground rules for what these companies are allowed to do. I would like to think our government could provide this sort of protection from its own forces, particularly when so many of the people working for these security companies have left the forces.”
Private security companies have an estimated 10,000 guards in Iraq. Their lucrative trade has provoked a series of complaints about the influence of heavily armed personnel who are not under the direct control of official forces.
Clearly, the British military realizes the disaster the American approach in Iraq has been since American-fostered hatred of the occupation is endangering the lives of British troops and bureaucrats. None of the “coalition” countries envisioned being dragged into a quagmire of the dimensions the US has created. Finally, some of them have realized that they must break ranks with the Americans and speak out against the violent American response to virtually every situation in which they find themselves, lest UK troops be overrun by enraged Iraqis, forced to fight in desperation by aggressive American arrogance and ignorance.
Tagging this on from one of my favorite Brit bloggers:
Whether Greenstock is dumb enough to believe the situation can still be turned around, which is possible given his previous statements; or whether he is trying to drum up support for the deluded Blair, one can’t say. But you can be sure that Greenstock has about as much credibility these days as Chalabi and should be taken about as seriously.
What Greenstock means of course is that when the US admits defeat in Iraq the whole Western policy towards the Middle East is finished and life will not look so good. So Greenstock is preparing us for the apocolyptic fight he thinks we should have. But of course no matter what happens now America and Britain have lost. Iraq has been turned into Afghanastan, we have enraged Muslim opinion worldwide, and the American military have been shown for the incompetent barbarian army many suspected they were.
“If” we lose indeed. What a fool.