6 hours ago
Few can forget the words of Tony Blair’s government aide hours after the World Trade Center was destroyed on 9/11. “It is now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury,” wrote Jo Moore. Donald Trump obviously thought the same thing.
As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps over America, he has ordered US troops to abandon three vital military bases in Iraq – to spare them further attacks from Iranian-supported Iraqi Shia fighters.
Trump has always boasted of the need for withdrawals – but this was a retreat. The official line – that the US was “repositioning [sic] troops from a few smaller bases” – was almost as laughable as the final US marine abandonment of Beirut in 1984 after months under fire from Shia militias. Almost four decades ago, the Americans said they were “redeploying to ships offshore”.
As in Napoleon’s “redeployment’” from Moscow. Or the British “redeployment” from Dunkirk. Now US forces are going to “reposition” from their bases at al-Qaim, Qayyarah and the K-1 base near Kirkuk in Iraq. As in George Washington’s “repositioning” from Brooklyn Heights in 1776, I suppose, or the British “repositioning” from Kabul in 1842.
Back in 1984, President Reagan said the Americans would not “cut and run” from Lebanon. But they did. In January this year, Trump said of Iraq: “If we leave, that would mean that Iran would have a much bigger foothold [sic].” He was trying to smother a letter written by Marine Corps Brigadier General William Seely who had just told the truth about US strategy to the deputy director of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, Major General Abdul Amir. The US led coalition, Seely had told his Iraqi opposite number, “will be repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement.”