Union Jacked

Fattah, Hassan
February 2004
New Republic;2/16/2004, Vol. 230 Issue 5, p13
The author claims that the British military's occupation of the Iraqi city of Basra, which appeared to be a success initially, is starting to go wrong. The British government, as well as many members of the Western media, have touted Basra as an example of an occupation done right. But, in recent weeks, that image has begun to fade. British tactics are failing, and Basra's criminal mafias and warring political groups have asserted control over the city, leading to vigilante killings, rampant crime, and general insecurity. In fact, while the situation in Baghdad may be improving, in Basra it's only getting worse. Britain's colonial past supposedly equipped London to handle Basra well. Thanks to years of experience in India, pre-World War II Iraq, and, more recently, Northern Ireland, the British allegedly have developed an agile army, capable of shifting quickly from war-fighting to winning local hearts and minds. At first, the Brits did do well. Overall, the British occupying force adopted a more laissez-faire attitude that allowed Iraqis to take local control sooner than in U.S.-run areas. These tactics seemed to bring a quick payoff. But, over time, the British approach has faltered. Though handing power completely to Iraqis made the Brits popular at first, political parties here used the hands-off attitude to consolidate, and even abuse, their power. The political militias have also begun battling for control of different neighborhoods. Unrest in Basra may grow worse in the coming months.


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