British Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to announce the nation's first major troop withdrawal from Iraq, with about 1,500 forces likely to return home in the next few months, British news agencies reported Tuesday.
A total of 3,000 troops, or more than 40% of Britain's forces in Iraq, may be pulled out by the end of the year, the reports said, if a transfer of security responsibilities to Iraqi forces in the southern part of the country goes smoothly.
The prime minister's office refused to confirm the announcement, which is expected to be made to Parliament today. The move would be in line with a pledge the government made to consider drawing down troops this year as the Iraqi military and police shouldered more responsibility for quelling sectarian violence.
The above is from Kim Murphy's "Britain expected to pull some troops out of Iraq: Reports say about 1,500 British forces will leave in a few months. A larger withdrawal plan may be in the works." (Los Angeles Times). Oh, that Mr. Tony! What an important man he is!
All "Mr. Tony" (that's what he wants to be called on the streets of London) has done is say that 1,500 British troops will be returning. Mr. Tony will be stepping down in a matter of months. The troops that "may" be home by Christmas will have nothing to do with him. In fact, it's very likely that his successor will not keep the promise, a promise that Mr. Tony really doesn't give a damn about, but Mr. Tony will grab some quick and easy credit. (This nonsense announcement will not discourage the turnout Feb. 24th to protest the war.)
Mr. Tony's victory lap has been complicated by a number of things. First, there was the leaking of the plans for the p.r. campaign that made it appear "You're So Vain" should be Mr. Tony's theme song. The gushing testimonials and the ego of it all suggested something other than stiff-upper-lip and Mr. Tony's image still hasn't recovered.
Another thing complicating Mr. Tony's victory lap are divisions within his own party and the fact that the illegal war is hugely unpopular in England. He and his flunkies have been promising the troop reduction forever. This is nothing but a (minor) move to set the victory tone for his final lap. The only surprise is that 1,500 was the most he could get Bully Boy to agree to.
Meanwhile John Howard, Boy-Toy in Waiting, tries to cozy up to Bully Boy with talk of sending a whopping 70 more Australian troops to Iraq.
John Howard, if he wants to be the Boy-Toy, will really have to learn to "go all the way."
Today, the US military announced: " A Marine assigned to Multi-National Force-West was killed Feb. 20 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province."
Staying with reality, Jason Farbman and Darrin Hoop interview war resister Darrell Anderson in "'I wanted to stand with these resisters'" (Socialist Worker):
YOU'VE BEEN in the Seattle area to organize support for Ehren Watada. Why do you think that's so important?
ALL OF us resisters are combat veterans, but none of us have had a rank higher than sergeant. Watada isn't a combat veteran, but he’s a lieutenant. His rank adds to our experience.
In Iraq, when we would get called to go check something out, my lieutenants wouldn’t go, and we would resist. My lieutenant would say this is wrong. So it isn't as if Watada is just one crazy lieutenant. There are lieutenants all through the military who are resisting in Iraq.
These court-martials are the front line of where we’re fighting the war. This needs to be the focus for the antiwar movement--Watada and all the war resisters. We need more soldiers like Watada, and more soldiers who come back from Iraq and say, "I'm a veteran, I watched my buddies die in Iraq, and now I'm going to jail because I won't do it anymore."
And we'll close with Matthew Cookson's "US soldier says he won’t fight for Bush" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):
The feeling against the Iraq war is growing even within the US army.
Ehren Watada, a US army lieutenant, refused to fight in Iraq and was court martialled. Earlier this month this was declared a mistrial and he will face another trial.
His and other US war resisters' refusal to fight in Iraq is giving courage to other soldiers to stand up against George Bush’s war.
A number of serving US soldiers have crossed the border into Canada rather than fight in Iraq.
Patrick Hart arrived in Canada in August 2005 after serving in the US military for nine and a half years. He was a sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division.
Patrick told Socialist Worker, "I had already been deployed in Iraq for a year and saw a lot of good friends come back shot up, or not in their right mind.
"I also am a father and a lot of younger soldiers were coming up to me asking me what I thought about the war in Iraq.
"One introduced me to a website showing George Galloway MP addressing the US senate. All the questions I was hearing at the time Mr Galloway was directing at our US senate and they didn’t have any answers.
"I won't put myself or anybody else in harm's way for something needless, especially when the government you fight for is being dishonest about its intentions in Iraq.
"I lost faith in the cause. As in most jobs, if you're just going around faking it you won't be at your best. If I am not at my best in Iraq someone will die. I couldn't live with myself if I had been responsible for someone's needless death."
When asked about the mood among soldiers Patrick said, "I think that I might have run across a few crazies who actually wanted to be there and bought into it all and were still brainwashed.
"However most of them didn't want to be there. I think as the war effort steps up in Iraq we'll see more coming to Canada.
"Most people in Canada are sick of Bush and the rest of his goons.
"Canadian people have opened their arms to us. But the government of Canada has not come around to the idea of letting us stay as of yet.
"However, they are not handing us over to the US either.
"My message to those marching in London this weekend is that if you want to support the troops, then why not listen to them and their families.
"I think you will find that most of them do not want to be involved in this senseless war of aggression.
"If your government is going to put troops in harm's way, you better have a damn good reason. We have already lost too many British and American youth, as well as the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, which our government calls 'collateral damage'.
"Don’t be a part of it."
Carolyn Egan is a member of the War Resisters Support Campaign in Canada. She was also active in a similar movement against the Vietnam War.
Carolyn told Socialist Worker, "The War Resisters Support Campaign has worked directly with 46 US soldiers who have crossed the border into Canada.
"But it is estimated that there may be up to 200 more who are awol (absent without official leave) but haven't formally applied for status.
"At the moment they have to apply as refugees. But the campaign is putting pressure on the Canadian government to give them status in the same way that 60,000 Americans who resisted the draft, or deserted the US military during the Vietnam War, were allowed to stay.
"The support from the Canadian people has been very strong. Trade unions, church groups, students and others have been very active in the campaign.
"People have opened their homes to the resisters and have been very generous. Public opinion is with them.
"Those who came up during Vietnam were often involved in the student and anti-war movements in the US.
"For the most part, the current resisters have not been politically active before going into the military. They often make individual decisions based on their experiences in Iraq and the disillusionment they are experiencing with the role of the US military.
"Since the US troop 'surge' in Iraq was announced by Bush, the numbers coming up have grown from approximately one a month to one or more a week.
"We are expecting this to continue. The strong opposition to the war among the American people is giving more soldiers the confidence to say no."
For more information go to www.resisters.ca
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