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.
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.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Posted by beatroot at 12/28/2005