Editorial Guardian/UK 4 July 2016
This is not to relitigate the decision to go to war. There will be plenty of that later in the week. The point is that mistaken decisions to go to war have a more terrible cost than almost any other sort of mistake, and to remember the price that the people of Iraq have paid. The years of war pile on their heads like lime. The bomb in Baghdad appears to be a retaliation by Islamic State (Isis) for the loss of the third battle of Falluja. First it was taken by the Americans; then they were expelled by a Sunni uprising. Then they fought their way back in; then it was handed over to the Iraqi government. Two years ago, Isis recaptured it. Now the Iraqi forces, assisted by Shia militias, have recaptured the city again, but the surviving inhabitants are scattered into refugee camps in the surrounding desert.
In Baghdad, it was announced that the completely worthless fake bomb detectors sold to the security forces by a British businessman in 2012 – and based on a novelty golf ball detector – will no longer be used after this atrocity. But the same announcement was first made in 2013.
As both tragedy and farce repeat in an apparently unending cycle, it is tempting to ask whether the deaths in Iraq have led to any greater progress than did the slaughter on the Somme. In purely military terms, the answer is unpromising. Falluja it is only one part of a wider attempt to dislodge Isis from the cities that it overran two years ago, when the Iraqi army, supposedly trained and equipped at incredible expense, simply ran away as the enemy approached. The expense had been real enough, but it had all been translated into foreign bank accounts rather than training or equipment.
The decisive battle will come when an attempt is made to recapture Mosul. This was meant to have been started last year, and then again this spring. Now it seems to have been postponed again in the face of great military difficulties and dissension between the Kurdish and Iraqi forces, who are both fighting Isis together and manoeuvring against each other for position in the scarcely imaginable peacetime Iraq that must eventually emerge from all this horror.
The only consolation, and it is consolation of a very grim sort, is that there is now a clear war aim. Whatever else happens, the military defeat of Isis, and the annihilation of its self-declared caliphate, is a precondition for peace in the ruins. In the meantime, what Britain can do is to continue to supply aid, and see that it reaches the neediest. The war, along with sectarian cleansing, has made refugees of three million people. We need to remember our obligations to a country that we have helped to ruin.
(I must question strongly this continued commitment to a military road to peace. A.)