27.11.06

It is strange how in Iraq slaughter soon seems to be part of normal life

Independent Online Edition > Middle East:

I remember a team from a US network news channel staying in my hotel in Baghdad complaining to me, as they buckled on their body armour and helmets, that they had been once again told by their bosses in New York, themselves under pressure from the White House, to 'go and find some good news and report it.'

Times have changed in Washington. The extent of the disaster in Iraq is admitted by almost all, aside from President Bush. Even before the Democrats' victory in the Congressional elections on 7 November the magazine Vanity Fair commented acidly that 'the only group in the Bush camp at this point are the people who wait patiently for news of the WMD and continue to believe that Saddam and Osama were once lovers.

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For more than a year, the astute US envoy in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, tried to conciliate the Sunni. He failed. Attacks on US forces are on the increase. Dead and wounded US soldiers now total almost 1,000 a month..

An Iraqi government will only have real legitimacy and freedom to operate when US and British troops have withdrawn. Washington and London have to accept that if Iraq is to survive at all it will be as a loose federation run by a Shia-Kurdish alliance because together they are 80 per cent of the population. But, thanks to the miscalculations of Mr Bush and Mr Blair, the future of Iraq will be settled not by negotiations but on the battlefield.

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