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by RAY FLEMING l THE millions of people in the United States and Europe and elsewhere who opposed the invasion of Iraq will be tempted to shout “We told you so” at President Bush and Prime Minister Blair on the third anniversary of the start of the war.
Yet even those who believed that the war was wrong in principle, illegal misconceived and inhumane, could not have imagined that the United States and Britain had given so little thought to how they would win the peace. Americans' pathetic belief in what Iraqi expatriates, such as Ahmed Chalabi, told them about the welcome that the US intervention would receive was soon shattered. The reality of a complex, fractured, deeply religious country, was beyond the capacity of American administrators to understand. In one of the crudest and most destructive actions, the Iraq army was disbanded and the country's competent administrative machine, mostly run by Sunnis, was dismissed. Iraq was left without any security force or civil service. When American generals realised that they could not keep the peace with the troops at their disposal and asked for reinforcements, they were refused them by Donald Rumsfeld.
The standard response to criticism of this kind is that democratic processes have been established in Iraq and widely welcomed by its people. There is some truth in this and, logistically, it has been a considerable achievement. But what escapes President Bush and, it seems, Mr Blair is that those who go to the polls vote only for their own religious representatives, not for a national government. That is why there is a parliament that never meets and a theoretical government that has no members.
The prospect that a Shia will ever vote for a Sunni, or a Sunni for a Shia, or either for a secularist, is distant. Nor is it likely that any long-term, stable structure of government can be created from among the elected Shias, Sunnis and Kurds. A rickety government may be patched together under pressure from the American Ambassador in Baghdad but it will not survive the first crisis. Meanwhile the insurrection continues and may grow and spread beyond Iraq's boundaries. The inane pretensions of George W Bush are fully exposed and others will have to live with their dire consequences.