The victors usually write history.
The British Army’s time in Basra “Operation Tellic” may well be the exception to that rule.
The settled view in the Pentagon and in the Iraqi government is that the British army left the field of battle in Basra and evacuated the city abandoning its inhabitants to the rule of the pro-Iranian, militias.
During their barbaric rule the militias murdered scores of women in Basra for not being sufficiently Islamic.
While this city was under, effectively, mob rule the British were in Basra airfield “providing over watch”.
During this time a journalist friend of mine met with senior British army officers. These military men were aghast at what had transpired in Basra with one them stating that the withdrawal in the face of the Shia Militias was the greatest defeat of British arms since Tobruk in WW2.
I chimed in that I couldn’t see how Basra-humiliating as it was-could be worse than, say, Aden in the late 1960s.
The militias were evicted from Basra in 2008.
However it was the Iraqi army and the US marines who did the heavy lifting while the British “provided over watch” from the safety of the airport.
The Iraq adventure exposed an army that was too small, poorly trained and badly equipped.
There was a steady trickle of stories into the British media of soldiers who died because they didn’t have body armour or enough ammunition or were travelling in poorly protected vehicles.
None of this made good reading.
Iraq should have taught Britain’s political elite that the UK is-finally- a medium size European power.
Tony Blair was quite emotional during a valedictory interview with journalist David Aaronoivitch that to be a middle ranking European power like France or Germany was “ not what I wanted for my country!”
The bare facts are that Britain cannot afford any more the entrance fee to the big boy’s game in global geo-politics.
One of the UK’s strongest cards since the Thatcher-Reagan era was the excellence of the UK’s armed forces.
Iraq found that this is, like most powerful images, a myth.
The British squaddie found himself in a “snatch land rover” that was no protection from IEDs armed with a rifle that the troops had little faith in.
They were up against a fanatical Islamist enemy who would die to inflict death on the infidel invader.
Ultimately Britain’s army did a deal with these militias –they left Basra palace and the city itself.
Today, as Britain formally hands over Basra to the Iraqi governmental and the US forces, the reality is that the UK’s armed forces have not had any major say in Basra for two years.
Today was about Britain spinning rather than winning.
The US officer taking formal charge of the British facility was gushing in his praise for the departing Brits.
Everyone was keeping to the script.
The real view of the US military was being kept firmly under wraps.
The US military’s view is that the Brits failed in Basra and were defeated by Islamist militias who were willing to bleed more for their cause.
There are other militias awaiting Britain’s small poorly equipped badly trained army.
They’re called the Taleban.
Over the next couple of decades the Taleban will bleed the ground crimson in Helmand province for their god and his prophet Mohammed.
The Taleban will force the British to do likewise.
If Iraq was Bush’s war then Afghanistan will be Obama’s war.
Britain will be forced to continue to send its fighting units to Helmand province.
The situation in south Asia looks increasingly like the old “Domino Theory” in action.
Pakistan could yet become a Cambodia eclipsing the Islamic Vietnam in the Hindu Kush.
It is not a fanciful war game to think of a 2nd term Obama administration committing troops into Pakistan.
The brutal reality of this “special relationship” is that the UK splurges blood and treasure and gets-in return- Bradfordistan in the home country.
There will be-I fear-many more Mohammad Sidique Khans with broad Yorkshire voices willing to die for “T’Prophet Mohamed like”.
When British troops last died in Basra and the Hindu Kush Westminster was the legislature of the world’s global super power.
What is Britain now?
If future leaders of the UK realise that Britannia’s days in the big league are over then, perhaps, they can concentrate on providing their people back home with security and a better life.
Foreign adventures at the behest of whoever is in the White House will deliver neither.