Basra: Another embarrassment to the war on terror

Tehran Times

September 28, 2005

"What our police found in their car was very disturbing - weapons, explosives, and a remote control detonator. These are the weapons of terrorists.

We believe these soldiers were planning an attack on a market or other civilian targets," Sheik Hassan al-Zarqani, spokesman for the Mehdi Army said.

What needs to be given more attention in the wake of recent clashes that broke out in Basra following the arrest of two British soldier last week is whether those commandos were planning an attack or not, whether their car did have explosives or not? The answer to this question is crucial for the future of Iraq and Bush's so-called “war on terror”.

If allegations that the soldiers’ car was loaded with explosives were proved, this will strengthen the theory suggesting that the British and American Intelligence is involved in the persistent and violent acts of “terror” spreading across Iraq, which means that the current “counterinsurgency” efforts involve the premeditated killing of innocent civilians to achieve the U.S. policy objectives. Isn’t this the very definition of terrorism?

Numerous news reports, including BBC and the Washington Post asserted that bomb-making material was indeed found in the captured vehicle.

"The Iraqi security officials on Monday variously accused two Britons they detained of shooting at Iraqi forces or TRYING TO PLANT EXPLOSIVES," The Post's Ellen Knickmeyer stated.

Neither the Post nor the BBC have printed retractions or clarifications on the story although it has swept across the world with an outcry almost similar to that sparked by the Downing Street memo. The significance of this story is that it exposes the falseness of Bush’s rhetoric, that the “entire war on terror is predicated on the belief that the murdering of innocent people cannot be rationalized”. The incident in Basra puts all that into question.

Also the Chinese news service Xinhuanet reported that, "A police patrol followed the attackers and captured them to discover that they were two British soldiers. The soldiers were using a civilian car packed with explosives."

The Washington Post's foreign office filed a similar report by Jonathan Finer stating that, "Monday's clashes stemmed from the arrest by Iraqi police on Sunday of two Britons, whom Iraqi police accused of planting bombs".

Similar story appeared on Syrian and Turkish TV, and in other news reports in the Gulf States.

And then there was this from Syrian correspondent in Baghdad Ziyad al-Munajjid: "Many analysts and observers here had suspicions that the occupation was involved in some armed operations against civilians and places of worship and in the killing of scientists. But those were only suspicions that lacked proof. The proof came today through the arrest of the two British soldiers while they were planting explosives in one of the Basra streets. This proves, according to observers, that the occupation is not far from many operations that seek to sow sedition and maintain disorder, as this would give the occupation the justification to stay in Iraq for a longer period." Also Abdel al-Daraji, Muslim cleric in Baghdad told the UK Telegraph that "Britain was plotting to start an ethnic war by carrying out mass-casualty bombings targeting Shiite civilians and then blaming the attacks on Sunni groups." "Everyone knows the occupiers agenda, said al-Daraji. "Their intention is to keep Iraq an unstable battlefield so they can exploit their interests in Iraq." The same is true for the British Prime Minister. Blair acted-out the same rituals as Bush; railing against the "evil ideology of Muslim fanaticism" saying, "We must confront and deal head on with the extremism that is based on a perversion of the true faith of Islam."

The measures Blair adopted have only resulted in the most vigorous attack on civil liberties in the last 100 years. His rhetoric has produced a de facto state of martial law for Muslims living in England.

Like the American President, Blair’s justification for war is facing its greatest challenge; a Ford Cressida loaded with explosives on the streets of Basra. If proved then Bush and Blair’s "war on terror" will collapse. The question now is what can Bush and Blair possibly do to rebuild faith in the stated goals of the occupation?

Indeed Basra incident is another blow to the two leaders’ faltering war on terror.