Basra Rewind, Bush Head-fake

I guess I just wasn’t paying attention: I thought we had won the ground, hearts and minds of Basra several years ago. Ah yes, that was actually the British.

I noticed, I believe it was last December, that Bush Jr. made a sudden, unannounced trip to Iraq, from where he gave some kind of speech or other, and then, a few hours later, flew off to somewhere else. At the time, I remember my first thought: what caused this sudden PR move?

A day later, in the foreign press, I caught it: our closest allies, the Brits, had pulled out of Basra, regrouping at the airport and essentially waiting shipment out, under Gordon Brown’s new It’s Over policy. (Tony Blair had become so unpopular by following Bush that he was forced to step down, finally honoring a long-rumored deal with Brown that most feel he would not have honored without the Iraq fiasco.)

What, Brits pulling out? This was HUGE news!!!! Well, no, actually, it wasn’t; rather, the news that day was of Jr.’s speech. That’s a hell of a save: run around the world for a half hour speech, just to avoid the Brits’ pullout getting into US papers.

Before the pullout, it seemed as though the Brits had done it all right: they’d used their heads, made friends with the locals, and presided over a quiet and peaceful city for several years, while Baghdad continued to burn and explode.

The fake success of the surge, as I’ve written here before, was based on the decision of Sadr not to fight for awhile. Some say it was for money, but no one says he was afraid of the US troops, who he had already fought to a draw a couple of times in Baghdad.

When the current administration suddenly started talking about the problems in Basra, it seemed odd: you mean the Brits left, and no one else moved in? Is that possible?

In any case, this fight for Basra would be the Second Battle of Basra, since we already won it during the early weeks of the war, and it had been peacefully governed for long after.

If Sadr’s shiites filled the power void left by the Brits, and then Malaki decided to challenge them, yet one has to ask: exactly what stage are we in here? Are we going forward? Or is the whole thing just rewinding, in the path of a more intelligently-managed British force?

And why aren’t any of these questions being asked in the U.S. media?

Maybe, if they had covered the British withdrawal, they would have an easier time explaining why our side will be shedding blood again to take over the peaceful town of Basra.