Iraqis of my acquaintance are numb at the violence unleashed by the west’s failure to impose order on their country. They are baffled at the ineptitude, the counter-productive cruelty of the arrests, bombings and suppressions. They are past caring whether it was better or worse under Saddam. They know only that more people a month are being killed than at any time since the massacres of the early 1990s. If death and destruction are any guide, [the US/UK] pre-invasion policy of containment was far more successful than occupation.  Infrastructure is not being restored.

Baghdad’s water, electricity and sewers are in worse shape than a decade ago. Huge sums – such as the alleged $1bn for military supplies – are being stolen and stashed in Jordanian banks. The new constitution is a dead letter except the clauses that are blatantly sharia. These are already being enforced de facto in Shia areas…

Signalling withdrawal would, it is said, give a green light to the gangs and private militias, to revenge attacks, ethnic cleansing and even partition. That threat is no longer meaningful since these are all happening anyway. The militias have reportedly infiltrated at least half the police and internal security forces in each area. Barely a tenth of the army is considered loyal to the central authority. That a Basra police station should be vulnerable to al-Sadr irregulars is appalling. 

The 150,000 foreign troops on Iraqi soil are overwhelmingly committed to self-protection. They do not do law and order any more. Power is finding its new locus, in the mafias, sheikhdoms, militias and warlords that flourish amid anarchy. Where there is no security, the gunman is always king….

America left Vietnam and Lebanon to their fate. They survived. We left Aden and other colonies. Some, such as Malaya and Cyprus, saw bloodshed and partition. We said rightly that this was their business. So too is Iraq for the Iraqis. We have made enough mess there already.   

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