As expected, the wild and unhinged rantings of John Howard, Alexander Downer, Brendan Nelson and Peter Costello regarding the Kevin Rudd plan for pulling Australian troops out of Iraq, is about to bite them back in the worst way.
Tony Blair is but a few hours away from announcing the withdrawal timetable of UK troops from Iraq, with around 1500 to be pulled out within weeks, another few thousand by Christmas and all but a few ‘trainers’ out by the end of 2008.
From the UK Guardian :
The prime minister is expected to say that Britain intends to gradually reduce the number of troops in southern Iraq over the next 22 months as Iraqi forces take on more responsibility for the security of Basra and the surrounding areas.
Ministers have taken on board the message coming from military chiefs over many months - namely that the presence of British troops on the streets of Basra is increasingly unnecessary, even provocative. The reduction of just 1,000 by early summer cited by officials yesterday is significantly less than anticipated in reports that British troops in southern Iraq, presently totalling 7,200, would be cut by half by May.
A more cautious reduction may reflect concern expressed by the Iraqi and US governments about British intentions. The US has privately admonished Britain claiming it is interested only in Basra. British ministers and officials say the situation in the Shia-dominated south cannot be compared to Baghdad, which is plagued by Sunni-Shia sectarian violence.
Under the plan due to be outlined by Mr Blair, British troops will gradually move into a single base on the outskirts of Basra. They will continue to take part in operations but in a role supporting Iraqi security forces rather than leading them, according to defence officials.
The Brits have suffered more than 130 fatalities in Iraq so far, with more than 600 seriously wounded.
The White House claims the British pullout is a sign of “success” :
“We view this as a success,” (White House spokesman) Mr Johndroe said, suggesting the British move was a sign of increasing stabilisation in Iraq.
“The President is grateful for the support of the British forces in the past and into the future. While the United Kingdom is maintaining a robust force in southern Iraq, we’re pleased that conditions in Basra have improved sufficiently that they are able to transition more control to the Iraqis.
“The United States shares the same goal of turning responsibility over to the Iraqi Security Forces and reducing the number of American troops in Iraq.”
John Howard’s first comment on this news, that Blair was “cutting and running” and ‘abandoning his mates’, was met with a fear-grinnning “I’ll talk to you guys later”.
Yeah, once he sorts out how the hell he’s going to spin his way clear now he and his muck-pack have pre-tagged the British as a bunch of cowards and terrorists appeasers.
Not surpisingly, the British want to focus on training the Iraqi Army up to take care of their own security, and you can expect Tony Blair to announce that such training will take place in Jordan, or Aman, or another neighbour of Iraq.
Of course, this is very much like the plan for Australian troops proposed by Kevin Rudd, and another plan now being considered by the American Democrats.
Despite the bile-drenched spewings of the Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, Rudd has made it abundantly clear that he intends to leave Australian troops in place to guard Australian diplomats and visiting corporate executives for as long as necessary, but to shift ‘trainers’ to a neighbouring country to continuing training Iraqi Army units.
Howard recently, and repeatedly, claimed this was as good as abandoning your mates when they need you most, and Downer, Nelson and Costello took the PM’s rhetorical football and ran for the try line, spouting gibberish all the way through the past week.
Downer in particular disgraced himself, and insulted millions of Australians, when he claimed in Parliament that voting for Labor would mean handing victory to the terrorists because an Australian troop withdrawal would follow, and troop withdrawal means “victory” for Al Qaeda and “terrorists” in Iraq, and around the world.
The man is a pathetic moron who continually embarrasses Australia internationally and insults our allies and members of the Australian, British and American military. And he does this repeatedly.
What’s worse, Downer actually appears to believe the garbage he spews, even though he has access to intelligence that tells him exactly how the “terrorists” view their progress in the Iraq War.
The “terrorists” in Iraq look at their tally of downed helicopters and literally thousands of blown apart Humvees and a stream of American casualties that is now so intense, military hospitals back home can’t cope with the flow, and the “terrorists” know they have already achieved a victory beyond what they could ever have anticipated.
All across the Middle East, and the Arab and Muslim world, media discusses the post-US defeat environmnet in Iraq, and what happens next in the Middle East. They are not discussing or debating a coming US defeat in Iraq, they talk continually of the one they believe has already happened.
Downer is not interested in salvaging what he can from the Iraq fiasco and helping to repair the damage done to this souvereign nation by the invasion and occupation. He still buys the Bush line that one day they can declare victory and say nah-nah-nah to all those who ever claimed otherwise.
If it was just political weaponry from Downer, it would barely be excuseable. But it’s not. Downer thinks the Iraq War can still be won in a way where Victory bells will chime out and grateful Iraqis will fawn at his feet. But even worse than these deluded fantasies, Downer also believes that Australians who don’t vote for the coalition this year want “terrorists” to win in Iraq.
It’s beyond pathetic. And way beyond a joke. Downer treats the most serious issues of our age like they’re just more games for him to play, just more opportunities for him to try and show how clever he thinks he is. He cares not a fig for the damage he does, or the pain he causes good and decent people, with his mindless propaganda.
Downer should apologise to all Australians, to the American generals he insulted last night on Lateline, he should apologise to the British troops who want to go home, he should apologise to Tony Blair, who still leads a country that remains a key ally of Australia, and most of all Downer should apologise to the Iraqis who have suffered the most of all from his dreams of transforming the Middle East via the big stick of war.
Downer will no doubt back-track and try and downplay the filth he has uttered in the past two weeks, but it’s too late. The historical record of what he has said, and how it applies to troop withdrawals by the Brits, the Americans, or Australians, is locked in.
He deserves nothing less than to be held in total contempt, and disgrace.
There’s more on this British troop withdrawal over at ‘The Fourth World War’ blog, with a round up of Iraq-related news, but the key details known so far of the UK withdrawal plans are above.
Blair is expected to make his (according to Downer) “Cut & Run” speech in the UK Parliament tonight, Australian time.
UPDATE : John Howard claimed today that he has "known for a while" about the UK's plans to announce their withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
If so, how does he explain these words, straight from his own mouth, on February 14 :
"If governments start nominating dates by which forces are going to be withdrawn, what they are doing is inviting our enemies, inviting the terrorists in Iraq, to persist with the destabilisation and the mayhem and the bloodshed."
But today, Howard now says this :
There are plenty of people in Australia now wondering if the prime minister has "lost it". And not just "lost it" in the frame of his once formidable political powers. They're now talking "lost it" in terms of his mind, his sanity.
"A reduction has been in the wind and the reason I understand Mr Blair will give is that conditions have stabilised in Basra. I don't think it follows that there should be a reduction in our 550. I mean you have got to maintain a critical mass..."
UPDATE : The UK prime minister has formally announced the withdrawal of more than 1600 British soldiers from Iraq, to take place over the coming months :
Mr Blair told MPs in the House of Commons that Britain's 7,100-strong deployment in the south of the country would be reduced to around 5,500.
Further withdrawals could cut the force to less than 5,000 by late summer, but British troops will remain in Iraq to support local authorities into 2008 "for as long as we are wanted and have a job to do", Mr Blair said.
Mr Blair said that the pull-out of troops had been made possible by the successful conclusion of Operation Sinbad, which has seen UK and Iraqi forces going through Basra district by district removing insurgent hotspots and supporting reconstruction.
This meant that Iraqi authorities were now able to take over responsibility for security, he said.
UPDATE : Almost to the hour that Tony Blair made his official announcement on withdrawing troops from Iraq, John Howard made public the news that he intends to nearly double the number of Australian military personnel in Afghanistan to almost 1000 :
Cabinet's national security committee has approved initial planning for the deployment - which includes sending a special forces task group back to Oruzgan province and additional air support - with a Defence team to report back soon on its scope.
The result could be the deployment of up to 450 extra personnel and new capabilities, possibly including Black Hawk helicopters and an air defence radar team.
The security cabinet is expected to sign off on the new commitment next month, pending the results of a reconnaissance mission to Afghanistan.
The plan to commit a new force of up to 250 ground troops - composed of elite SAS and commandos - comes as NATO-led coalition forces face an uphill battle to stabilise Afghanistan and as security in Oruzgan province remains precarious.