The US media reported this straightforwardly and factually, without making note of the implications (domestically as well as in England):
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has insisted that the withdrawal of British troops from the southern Iraqi city of Basra is not a defeat.The Coalition of the Willing is now us, and Poland. And even the Poles are groping for the exit.
The 550 soldiers have handed Basra Palace over to Iraqi control and joined 5,000 UK troops at their last base, near Basra Airport, outside the city.
The MoD said the handover of Basra province was now due in the autumn.
Mr Brown insisted the withdrawal was "pre-planned and organised" and said UK forces would take an "overwatch" role.
I agree with Brown: the withdrawal of these troops is not an admission of defeat. It's an admission that it was a bloody stupid idea in the first place, and that Blair should have curtailed his bloody-minded instincts and cautioned Bush against invading Iraq.
See, Blair, by his own admission, had considered (no doubt in his cups) invading Iraq long before Bush had entered office, but was shackled by the fact that, well, he'd have to deal with the UN and world community. Clearly, he didn't have the chutzpah of Bush, who just doesn't give a damn.
We in the States often wondered why Blair was a poodle to Bush, when in point of fact, he was not going to get the political cover from a Gore administration to invade Iraq and establish a base for democracy in the Middle East with a Gore presidency. Bush was less a Svengali and more a Clyde to Blair's Bonnie.
In fairness to him, Blair announced the troop withdrawal just before his resignation earlier this year, allowing Brown a graceful way to get Britons out of the country without paying a political price himself. Blair himself is trying to broker a Middle East agreement via the Israelis and Palestinians, and it appears that he has had some success, given the recent outbreak of quiet in that conflict.
Bush's surprise visit to Iraq, in point of fact, may have been a way to deflect some of the coverage of the British withdrawal from the region. By sneaking in, and racing out, Bush would hope to draw the attention away from the men behind the curtain, and while Brown can argue that this is not an admission of defeat, Bush's stunt certainly lends credence to that charge.
The Bush White House, while never particularly deft in policy and promotion, has suddenly turned a tin ear to the events of the day.
All this now puts increasing pressure on the Democrats in Congress to come up with a viable plan to get our troops out, quickly, while staunching the blood from this bizarre and ill-advised incursion into another innocent nation's sovereignty.