It’s already 1 May in Australia, so I get to make what will no doubt be (among) the first of many posts on the significance of the day.
First, and still the most important in the long historical view is the holiday (a public holiday here in Queensland) celebrating the achievements of the labour movement.
Second, there’s the admission of ten new members to the EU. As far as the historical significance of this event goes, I’m waiting to see whether Turkey is admitted to accession negotiations later in the year.
Thirdly, and of most immediate interest, the anniversary of Bush declaration of victory looks as good a time as any to date what seems increasingly certain to be a defeat [at least for the policies that have been pursued for the last year] . Of course, this judgement may turn out to be as premature as was Bush’s statement a year ago, but the decline in the US position has been almost as rapid as the collapse of Saddam’s regime, and the events of the last few days have seen the process accelerating.
Among a range of events the most important have included:
* The exposure of torture and rape in Abu Ghraib prison
* The abandonment of the siege of Fallujah, with none of the US objectives achieved
* The publication of opinion polls showing that most Iraqis regard the Americans as occupiers and want them to leave immediately
* The continued standoff with Sadrists controlling Najaf and large areas of Baghdad
* The publication, by the generally prescient Paul Krugman, of the first major opinion piece to take an openly defeatist position, that is, one that treats defeat as being more likely than not, and doesn’t present any alternative road to success
The Administration seems to be inching towards the position I’ve been advocating for some time – dumping the policies of Bremer and Chalabi (though not, unfortunately Bremer and Chalabi themselves), and handing over real military power to Iraqis. If the interim (still inchoate) government has substantial real power, manages to hold early elections and can get enough support to permit a rapid US withdrawal, the outcome might not be too bad. But there’s very little time left, and this scenario assumes exceptionally skilful management of the situation from now on.
fn1. Predictably enough, there have been quibbles about this word. But mock-executions such as the one shown here are among the worst forms of torture – from my reading of survivor accounts, they are mentioned with more horror than beatings. And of course what we are seeing is only what the guards chose to photograph for their own amusement.