End of UK combat operations in Iraq leaves huge task of repair

By staff writers
May 1, 2009

Organisations working for a reversal of the tide of violence in the Middle East welcomed the end of the six-year British military mission in Iraq just after midday yesterday, and called for continued investment in development, peacebuilding and social change.

A ceremony was held in Basra to mark the official end of UK involvement in combat operations, focusing on the British war dead and those returning home to families who have lived in daily anxiety.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including many who opposed former dictator Saddam Hussein and who sought a different future, have also lost their lives.

The change came as 20th Armoured Brigade took part in a flag-lowering ceremony with a US brigade.

A major PR campaign from backers of the Iraq war and occupation swung into action as the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown claimed that the operation in Iraq had been a "success story" because of UK troops' efforts.

But witnesses on the ground, including those who have worked with nonviolent change agencies such as Christian Peacemaker Teams, say that the devastation wreaked by war and its botched aftermath, following years of dictatorship, has in many instances made the situation worse rather than better - aggravating the terror and conflict it was supposed to address.

The Stop the War Coalition in Britain said the outcome had been "a disaster", and that sorrow for the 179 British military deaths in Iraq was made more acute by the pointlessness of the UK presence.

Christian Peacemaker Teams was formed in North America in 1992 with the aim of "getting in the way" of violence in conflict areas. It came to international attention in 2005-6 when four supporters on a short-term visit, including Briton Norman Kember, were captured. One, Tom Fox, was subsequently killed, and the other three released without the need for violence.

CPT has been established in the UK. With colleagues in North America, it provides training for Peacemaker Corps applicants "to give skilled, courageous support to peacemakers working locally in situations of violent conflict."

An intensive, integrated, four week training course involves participants in action, reflection, and the practise of a variety of peacemaking skills. More information is available here: http://www.cptuk.org.uk/ Ekklesia is a partner of CPT UK.

The UK section of worldwide Catholic peace movement Pax Christi has also made available educational resources on the Afghanistan and Iraq tragedies six years on. http://www.paxchristi.org.uk/ME.HTML

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.