Monday, September 03, 2007

Opinion (Peter Beaumont): Was any of it really worth it?

Bad wars, in the modern age at least, end slowly amid exhaustion. They drag on through investigations and reports and speeches whose function is an endless search for justification. In the end there remains a simple question: was it worth it: the loss and the destruction, the ruined lives, the corrosion of public trust? Approaching the latest dreary benchmark in the war in Iraq - the presentation of the report prepared by General David Petraeus and US ambassador Ryan Crocker and the White House and Congress, it is a question that is gaining a powerful urgency on both sides of the Atlantic.

Yesterday it was the turn of General Mike Jackson, former commander of British forces, to say what many have said before and paint the US conduct after the invasion of Iraq as a miserable catastrophe driven by hubris and stupidity. His intervention joins an increasingly fractious debate between London and Washington, played out between proxies, in the shape of former generals such as Jackson on the British side and Jack Keane, an adviser to Petraeus, on the other, who has attacked as feeble the performance of British troops in Basra and the south, as troops are gradually withdrawn.

And while the political leaderships on both sides have scrambled to paper over the cracks and deny that there is a split, it is a disingenuous attempt. Recently retired generals speaking to dramatise the concerns of the present command are a deeply established military tradition. Se we must assume that a very real split exists.

So, in British terms, was any of it really worth it?

Read the rest at the Guardian