We shelter behind the myth that progress is being made

By Robert Fisk

The Independent

23 June 2005

So we are going to support the myth. As the headless bodies are found along the Tigris, as the mortuaries fill up, as the American dead grow far beyond 1,700 - and, let us remember, the Iraqi dead go into the tens of thousands - Europe and the rest of the world still support the American project.

The Brussels summit was - and of course I quote our good friend Mr Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations - "a clear sign that the international community will be determined and dedicated to [the Iraqis] on the tough walk ahead".

You can say "tough" again. How many suicide bombers have now immolated themselves against the Americans and their mercenaries and the new Iraqi army and the new Iraqi police force and their recruits? The figure appears to stand at around 420. Back in the days of Hizbollah's war against Israeli occupation in Lebanon, a suicide bomber a month was regarded as phenomenal.

In the Palestinian "intifada", one a week was amazing. But in Iraq, we reach seven a day; Wal-Mart suicide bombing that raises the darkest questions about out ability to crush the uprising.

Condoleezza Rice says she wants more Arab ambassadors in Baghdad. I bet she does. When King Abdullah of Jordan promises to send his man to Iraq "as soon as it is safe", you know that the Arabs have understood the situation in a way the Americans have not. Who wants to be a late ambassador? Who wants to put his head on the block in Baghdad?

The reality - unimaginable for the Americans and their self-deluding allies, tragic for the Iraqis themselves - is that Iraq is a hell-disaster. Visit any Iraqi embassy in Europe, talk to any Iraqi in Baghdad - unless they live in the dubious safety of the pallisaded "Green Zone" - and you will hear their narrative of violence and have to accept that we have failed.

We are to be, so the myth-makers of Brussels claimed yesterday, "a full partner in the emergence of a new Iraq", to prove that "the people of Iraq have plenty of friends". Oh yes indeed. Except that most of these "friends" dare not visit Iraq (like the putative Jordanian ambassador) lest they have their heads chopped off.

American journalists now writing optimistically about the war - or the "insurgency" as we still insist on calling it - either travel with US forces in Iraq or conduct a form of "hotel journalism" from their heavily guarded Baghdad hotel rooms, working their mobile phones to talk to the self-imprisoned people of Iraq or their foreign mentors. A few American reporters still venture out - may they receive their appropriate awards (preferably not in heaven) - but the voice that now speaks of Iraq is that of officialdom, the narrative written by men and women who will, so they fervently hope, never have to visit real Iraq.

The representatives of more than 80 countries are urging the elected Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to reach out to Sunnis - the same Sunnis who are destroying American and Iraqi lives on a shocking scale across the country - but the official line, so cringingly enunciated by the BBC last night, was that "top diplomats" (I like the "top" bit) had "thrown their weight behind US efforts to build a democratic Iraq". Only the word "efforts" suggested the truth.

The reality is that Iraq is more insecure than ever, that no foreigner dare now travel its highways, that few will venture into the streets of Baghdad. And we are told that things are getting better. And still we believe these lies. And still we fool ourselves in the movie-world of the Pentagon and the White House and Downing Street and, these days, the UN.

If all those dignitaries and puffed-up politicos and self-important diplomats were so sure that Iraq was going to be a success story, why didn't they meet in Baghdad rather than Brussels? And of course, we all know the answer.