The British Military Presence in Basra, part of that joint mission with the United States to extract oil from bring peace and democracy to the benighted country of Iraq, has been zipped up in a body bag as troops withdrew relocated to the airport – marking the end of a foreign adventure with all the mishap-free success of M. Hulot's Holiday.
The British Military Presence in Basra was first established in 1917 as our brave Tommies secured the Anglo-Persian Oil Company’s interests in neighbouring Persia freed the region from the evil clutches of the Ottoman Empire, and formed the modern state of Iraq from three rival ethnic groups – the Kurds, the Shi’as and the Sunnis – who have, ever since, co-existed peacefully with their new neighbours.
Granting independence to Iraq in 1932 the British retained a military presence in the region because large deposits of oil had been discovered there, re-invading the country in 1941 to stop Germany from stealing the oil and just “minding it for the Iraqis” for a short while as part of the struggle against the evils of Hitler. Despite British heroism in defence of the oil 17 years later an ungrateful Iraqi Army overthrew the Anglophile puppet government monarchy and set about using their new-found freedom and economic independence to terrorise their population all by themselves.
And so, for a while, Britain withdrew altogether from Iraq. In 1991, however, the latest of Baghdad's loyal friends of the West despots, Saddam Hussein, had set his sights on Kuwait’s oil fields and American and British troops again invaded to restore peace and democracy. While the Americans stopped short of Baghdad, our brave boys conquered Basra and soon felt at home there amidst its ancient streets and traditional Officer’s Club and NAAFI (est. 1917). Withdrawing from the city after a regimental sherry and bridge evening got out of hand, British troops were powerless to intervene as the Republican Guard slaughtered Shi’as in their thousands.
Following the discovery of weapons of mass destruction
a dodgy thesis written by a Canadian student a fictional link between the Saddam regime and Al Qaeda, the Allies were welcomed back into Iraq as heroic liberators in 2003, as Tony Blair decided to make his mark in history and to be judged by God back Donald Rumsfeld's George W. Bush’s daring plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein and free Iraq’s giant oil reserves.
Although it was our American allies who were to bear the brunt of Iraqi ingratitude for bombing their country back to the Stone Age liberating their oil them from the nightmare of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, even in Basra mutterings of discontent were heard. Soon these mutterings grew into a more audible collective tut and British troops found they were no longer welcome in the city’s clubs and late-night kebab houses, unless accompanied by a large amount of bombing and rifle-fire from local insurgents.
So it was this week that the “pre-planned” decision to withdraw all British troops to the city’s airport was taken amidst much criticism from the Americans whose decision to “surge” more troops into Baghdad earlier in the year had so successfully pushed the insurgents into the rest of the country and enabled the Iraqi government to take a well deserved holiday.
Denying accusations that they were abandoning Basra to the Iraqi Army – an organisation with all the effectiveness of Warmington-on-Sea's Home Guard (but with better weapons) and all the loyalty to its leadership of a member of the Tory party, the Queen’s Own Light Baggage Handlers Brigade and 2 Para Confiscation of Water Bottles and Nail Files Battalion quickly established control of Basra airport and began merrily wishing happy tourists and business travellers “a good one-way flight out of Basra”.
And so it was that with the US accusing the UK of abandoning Basra and the UK accusing the US’s policy in Iraq of being “fatally flawed”, the last post was sounded and the owners of Basra’s clubs and late-night kebab houses breathed a sigh of relief.
The British Military Presence in Basra will be buried very quietly. The service will be conducted by the CEO of British Petroleum. It is not expected that our American allies will attend. It is survived by The British Military Presence in Afghanistan and The British Military Presence in Aldershot – both of which have been causing much
hardship and unhappiness to locals since the 19th century.