Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Polish troops to stay longer in Iraq


But do Iraqis really, really need or want them there?

To the dismay of the opposition Civic Platform, and populist parties propping up the minority government in parliament, Prime Minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz has sent a request to the new Head of State, Lech Kaczynski, for troops to be able to stay in Iraq until the end of 2006. Kaczynski will give his permission.

The previous SLD-led government, kicked out in the September election, had planned to remove troops alongside the Ukrainian withdrawal at the end of this year.

But Poland will be pulling 600 of its 1,500 troops out of the war-torn wreck of a country in March. So how much use will the 900 that remain be to the new Iraq?

Well, not much. Duties will be limited to training new volunteers into the Iraqi army and police.

Marcinkiewicz admitted that it was a ‘difficult’ decision. He knows that 3 in 4 Poles are against the war and think that the troops should come home. And this opposition can be found within most political parties. Roman Giertych of the nationalist, xenophobic League of Polish Families thinks that staying longer in Iraq is a ‘strategic error’. Civic Platform thinks it’s ‘mission accomplished’ in Iraq and time to come home.

So, in the face of such opposition, and with such a small token force to be left in the country, what, many are asking, is the point of staying on at all?

Marcinkiewicz has said that the Iraq government asked Poland to stay longer. But is Baghdad really that desperate that it needs 900 extra Poles?

Probably not. Maybe this is more to do with problems in the United States and the UK than it is with Iraq. Poland is increasingly being used by Bush, Blair and the pro-war movement to give the war and the coalition some sort of credibility. “See how the coalition of the willing is still willing in Warsaw’, they say, trying to keep a straight face.

In reality, if Polish governments were asked by the US/UK to run across burning coals and even dive into a vat of boiling (Iraqi) oil they would give serious consideration to the request. Poland does not have an independent foreign and defense policy at all, and will do whatever it is asked.

Polish opposition?

Though pressure has been building on the government to get out of Iraq, the opposition to the war here has always been weak. When I was on a march in Warsaw in the February before the invasion began, there were only about 1,000 frozen demonstrators marching through the center of the capital. And what a strange bunch we were: a few anarchists with dogs on the end of bits of string marching alongside listeners from the catholic fundamentalist Radio Maryja. I felt about as uncomfortable as I would have marching alongside representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, as over a million were in that massive demonstration in London.

And what of Civic Platform’s statement that the ‘mission has been accomplished’ in Iraq. What mission would that be, then? Invading a country without any concrete plan about what to do next? Smashing up any semblance of civil society, disbanding the army and police force, and encouraging the growth of ‘identity politics’ where your ethnicity and tribe is of more importance than your Iraqi nationality?

What the ‘mission’ has achieved is that it has produced a country on the brink of civil war. I hope Civic Platform are proud of themselves and Poland’s contribution.

But as Brendan O'Neill argues at antiwar.com, the 'mission' appears to have been more to do with a moral vacuum in the West than it has ever been about a genuine liberation of Iraqis, or a search for WMD.

As to whether Poles should be in Iraq or not, then Iraqis themselves will decide that. If a new, credible government does emerge after the recent election, then will it bend to the will of its own people? Most Iraqis do not like having invaders in their country and want to get rid of them as quickly as possible.

My advice to Polish troops is this: keep your bags packed just in case you have to get out quick.

25 comments:

DBN said...

Smashing up any, semblance of civil society

While I agree that the situation in Iraq is horrible, I certainly would not say that you had any semblance of civil society there before the war. Running water and order on the steets are far from being halmarks of such a society. Perhaps you meant civilized...

beatroot said...

I did mean civil society. There was a decent sized and educated middle class, there was a civil service (although it was completly dependant on the baathists). I am not arguing for one second that this was not a very nasty dictatorship. My argument has always been that - to abuse a Maoist phrase - liberation cannot come from the barrel of a foreign liberators gun. It just makes things worse.

Michael M. said...

Surely Poland will get a decent batch of goodies from the U.S. in exchange for leaving 900 soldiers behind? I've always seen Poland's presence as an investment, although I'm not sure what the return on that investment has been.

beatroot said...

But what are the goodies? Washington can't even bring itself to give visa-free travel to Poles...which is quite an insult.

DBN said...

Those Poles that supported the invasion did so primaraly because they thought it was a good thing to remove Saddam. Many Poles would have loved the US to liberate Poland from Soviet domination. (People used to say that the best thing for a country to do is declare war on the US and surrender right after that).

Anyhow, Japan, I believe is a good example of a democracy that "came from the barrel of a foreign liberators gun." But this is an altogether different case.

DBN said...

Poland, as we all know, has a terrible "marketing" problem and virtually no PR. That's why most people outside Poland still think we're in the Middle Ages here. Of course, no one in the US and elsewhere knows how significantly Poland is involved in Iraq. Basically Poland delivered a product but forgot to advertise it. Compare that to the very stong "marketing" Isreal has via it active lobbying in the US. Poles in US are hopeless in promiting Poland and so have the goverments here.

beatroot said...

It is altogether a different case(and US troops are still in Japan, much to the horror of the Japanese).

Many in the anti-war movement go on about the war being driven by 'Oil' etc. But when I look at those dummies in Washington and London I don;t see a political class with enough purpose and direction as that. Bush and Blair did believe that Iraqis would run out into the street beinging gifts and flowers to their 'liberators'. They did think there were WMD is Iraq.

Neither turnmed out to be the case. The political class in the West are without direction and cannot even form moral coaltions at home. So they use Iraq and the "War on Terror' as a way of making themselves look like the 'good guys' as opposed to those nasty bad people 'over there'.

Amd thousands have died and a country has been wrecked because of their ignorance amd incompetence.

I think that is criminal.

DBN said...

Let's hope that things get back to normal as soon as possible.

I dissagree, however, that US troops are much to the horror of the Japanese. This is certainly the case in Okinawa, but in other parts of Japan there is also a lot of positive feelings for the bases. Try getting into one durring 'open days', such as 4th of July, or the Japanese Bon festival. You can't get in- they're just packed with regualar Japansese families dying to buy a hamburger and practice their English (or American, if you prefer) with a black sergeant. No horror there. So, while I would agree that there might be an uneasy feeling, in general it's far from "horror".

~JS said...

why can't intelligent people have nuance?

you have no problem using moaist phrases to justify your opinions? isn't that a bit ironic? maybe a little snippet from mein kampf next?...and how long should the world have waited until afghanistan got rid of those black-and-whiters, aka the taliban, all by themselves?

for centuries we have seen the consequences of black/white vision -- today we sometimes call these people fundamentalists, or terrorists...

peter, the emotional role of the photo you selected for this article is not lost on me -- why of all photos would you select that photo? i suppose it couldn't be one of saddam and his thugs on trial or the 11 million iraqi voters...and why not? because we have lost nuance on this issue...

if you search the blogopshere for iraqi blogs, you will find a bit more nuance than your post portrays...

for example here is one: http://iraqivote.blogspot.com/2005/12/what-day.html

i guess that in order for your "bush-blair screwed everything up" narrative to work, it must exclude any hint of doubt -- even in the face of positive outcomes -- it's simply ashame...

today among educated, and what have been called the clictivist journalists, nuance has been lost...to the shame of a really serious and constructive discussion...

and on this particular issue, sorry mate, but poland is on the right side of history...supporting iraq is the right thing to do, despite how polarized we are regarding how it all happened...

i hope you truly get what i mean here...even if you disagree...

DBN said...

If I may chip in: while I believe getting rid of Saddam was a good thing, I think the utter lack of preparation for the aftermath was a total failure by all standards.

Going back to the invasion, here is a little analogy I tell strong critics of the war on the grounds that it was "for oil" (I'm not saying Peter holds this view, but rather your "typical" anti-war protester):

Imagine a man drowning in a river with a golden watch. A guy on the beach really wants the watch, but the only way to get it off, is to pull the drowning chap to the shore. So he jumps in, pulls the guy out (and does so rather roughly), strips him of the watch, and walks away.

Your typical anti-war protester says that it is bad to pull the guy out, "because it is for the watch". What I say is: obviously the "saviour" is a jerk and should not be praised, but for God's sake, what he did was objectively good- he saved a drowing man.

beatroot said...

So the watch is the oil? And the jerk is the coalition'? Is the river Iraq?

What if the guy wasn't drowning, he was trying to kill himself because he couldn't afford to keep up the payments for the watch? :-)

I agree with you that getting rid of Saddam was a good thing. But I don't believe that it was anyone's business, or right, to get rid of him apart from the Iraqis themselves.

I know that the opposition to that regume was weak and fragmented and the only spokespeople for it were a few dodgy exiles who fed Bush and co the type of stuff about WMD etc that they wanted to hear. And more fool them for believing Chalabi etc.

And I know that there were no signs that anyone was going to topple saddam in the forseable future.

But I was at university in the late 1980's doing a degree studying social change. amd i was looking at all the sociogists who specialised in the Soviet bloc. Not one of them - not one - foresaw the Round Talks in 1989 and then the fall of the Berlin Wall and so on. And I finished that course 1987 - only 2 years before the whole thing came coming down.

Justifying the invasion on the spurious (and belated) humanitarian angle of 'liberating the Iraqis' demonstrates a contempt for iraqis, a complete disregard for their right to self determination and national sovereignty. And we cannot predict the future.

And no, I didn't suppport the invasion of Afghanistan either.

Yes, the Taliban were a nightmare. But they were just one group many forces that fought the Soviets. They were unusual in that they were funded by the Pakistanis - most of the others werer supplied by the US.

The Taliban moved into Kabul and mainly southeatern areas after a period of chaos after the Soviets withdrew. It was only a matter of time before another group would force the Taliban from power...that's what Afghanistan is like. Always has been.

And the Poles have not supported the invasion of Iraq - never did, do not now. The politicians certainly are falling over themselves to look like good new members of NATO, but the people just are not that interested.


Oh, and enough of the personal comments, please.

DBN said...

You write:
And the Poles have not supported the invasion of Iraq - never did, do not now.


and in your original post:
the opposition to the war here has always been weak

This lack of active opposition shouldn't be read as support for the war- I think we both agree on that; but for some it will show that Poles endorse it. The anti-homophobic marches in Warsaw clearly show that Poles will protest something they don't like.

Anyway, thanks for this interesting chat.

beatroot said...

And thank you for great comments.

You mention that the anti-homophobic marches show that when Poles don't like something they protest it.

But the marches you refer to are very small...the biggest one was in Warsaw in June that got maybe 2 - 3 thousand people.

The anti-war marches here never get half that amount, inspite of the fact that most Poles are against the war.

The culture of this country still lacks the idea of a participatory democracy - people think that politics is something that happens on the television. The membership of NGOs here is one of the lowest in Europe.

When Poles do start to take control of the political process here then that will be a massive step in the nation's modernisation.

Until then people will moan about corruption, the war, etc, but do nothing about it.

But thank you for coming to the beatroot and can I point people to kurczeblade.pl - a great site in Polish.

beatroot said...

JS said: "You have no problem using moaist phrases to justify your opinions? isn't that a bit ironic? maybe a little snippet from mein kampf next?"

JS, can you notice the difference between these sentences:

"Power comes from the barrel of a gun," (Chairman Mao)

"To abuse a Maoist phrase - liberation cannot come from the barrel of a foreign liberators gun." (the beatroot)

That was a silly thing to say, now wasn't it?

DBN said...

I'm glad I didn't try to get you on that one :)

For some "humour" have a look at this ad created for Boing and Bell's new Osprey aircraft:

http://www.kurczeblade.pl/?p=33

~JS said...

opps! you're right, i lost my nuance on that one...shame on me...

and, yes, it was a silly thing to say -- especially your creative, or journalistic license with the phrase...because it's only half true...

but wait, what do you mean by 'liberation'?

beatroot said...

:-) Happy New Year to the three of you at polblog! (polblog grew in human assets this year by one third due to birth of a baby!).

DBN said...

Congratualtion to PolBlog!

Best in the New Year to The Beatroot and all!

www.kurczeblade.pl

Bicyclemark said...

I think Mao wrote primarily in chinese anyway, so you're in the clear.

What strange bedfellows the IRaq quagmire produces... xenophobic parties and progressive parties joining seemingly sharing a common platform when it comes to ending the occupation. Ah well.. it takes all kinds.

beatroot said...

Sorry, I'm a bit slow, but could you expand a little...

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