It is hard to ignore the similarities between the deaths of 13 Iraqis, shot by US forces and our own Bloody Sunday. Were there shots fired from the crowd as the US army claimed? Or was it merely a peaceful protest as the local Iraqis say? Or was their an element of both – were Ba’athist provacateurs in a crowd of peaceful protestors attempting to provoke a reaction from the soilders? Whatever the truth, something should be learned from this sorry episode.
The problem is that while the US army has proven itself effective at removing a dictatorial regime by force, they have very little experience of the nation-building role they have now taken on. For supposed imperialists they are in new territory here. Contrary to the fantasies of their opponents, the US has very little experience at invading and occupying countries in this manner. In the cold war their proxies had a free hand, in the recent humanitarian interventions, the US have handed over much of the reconstruction work to others. There is little sign that they are willing to do that in Iraq though.
After all in his victory speech to Iraqi Americans on Monday, George Bush did not manage to find time for even a passing reference to the role that British forces played in liberation, let alone suggest America might need a hand in reconstruction. And you only need to watch a little Fox News to realise that the mood on the American right is not exactly multilateralist. People in Europe might lament the abence of a multinational nation-building force in Iraq but it was the refusal of ‘Old Europe’ to tackle Saddam that led to this situation – they should be learning some lessons now as well.