George W Bush, a born-again Christian from the new world and Prime Minister TonyBlair a staunch Catholic from the not-so-new world, find themselves fightingside by side in the Garden of Eden! The area between and around Iraq’srivers Tigris and Euphrates has been variously referred to as “the cradleof civilzation” and the “fertile crescent”. Ancient civilizationsflourished here in a sort of prehistory silicon valley, long before the empiresof Egypt, Greece and Rome

The dusty scrub land where the tanks and support vehicles of the US 7th Cavalry charge Baghdad-bound is the land where the concept of agriculture was first developed. Tanks steered by satellites with an armory guided by microchips thunder over the land where astronomy, the calendar, alphabet and mathematics were invented. Billions of dollars are required to liberate the place where commerce and double-entry bookkeeping were first used.

The area of our planet we call Iraq today was known through history by many different names and has been ‘liberated’ many times: today it is Bush and Blair in the past it has been such illustrious names as Alexander the Great and Genghis Kahn.

Iraq is where the ancient city of Ur was sited. Ur lay undiscovered and unacknowledged by experts, its only reference being in the Bible as the original home of Abraham, father of the Jews – and Arabs. In 1922 British archeologist Leonard Woolley uncovered burial sites of many Mesopotamian kings and tombs of great wealth. Inside these tombs were large paintings of ancient Mesopotamian culture at its zenith, along with intricate pieces of gold and silver jewelry, proving the incredible ancient history of the area.

Further north as the American forces rumbled nearer Baghdad, they crossed the area where a much greater city once was – Babylon. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, home to the mightiest ruler of his day, Nebuchnezzar – a fact that has not gone unnoticed by Saddam Hussein, who is reported to see himself as a modern day Nebuchnezzar. Nebuchadnezzer rebuilt Babylon and, more important to Saddam, conquered Israel and destroyed the Temple. But, it should also be noted that Nebuchnezzar spent a period of his life in complete madness, walking on his hands and knees and eating grass.

140 kilometers south east of old Babylon lies the site of Fara, where 2000 years before Nebuchadnezzar the ultimate shelter against destruction was built by Noah.

Islam arrived in the area 634 AD in the form of 18,000 troops with the call "A people is already upon you, loving death as you love life". The philosophy of the suicide bomber was declared over thirteen centuries ago.

Where facts end and legend begin is hard to tell in Iraq’s history, rather as it still is in present day Iraq. Are there weapons of mass destruction? Is Saddam Hussien still alive? Can America and Britain hope to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people and convince the larger Arab world in general that what they are doing is right?

The American government may want to think in clean clear objectives. Arrive with “shock and awe”, the regime falls within a day or two, the oppressed people take to the streets with flowers and cheer for the coalition troops. Democracy replaces the nepotic dictatorship. After a pause for commercials, the heroes ride off into the sunset, the cameras of the media focus on a small Iranian boy who looks up his father “who were those men” he asks. “They, son” the father replies with a tear in his eye “were the Americans”.

Reality is very different. In June 1944 the allied invasion of Normandy to liberate France, a country the same size as Iraq, required 10 times the number of troops currently deployed in Iraq. It was 10 months before the Second World war was finally ended in Europe.

Democracy, freedom, prosperity and much of what US president Bush wants to shower on the Iraqi people are unknown quantities to them. They sound as tempting to the Iraqis as a bowl of sheeps’ eyes at a Texan barbecue. An Arab newspaper explained the reality with the headline “Better Saddam’s Hell, than America’s Heaven”.

Reality is that Iraqis do not have the same definition of words that the west has: “victory” for Saddam means tempting the American coalition to attack his country. This one act has brought Saddam great kudos within the Arab world, even from those who do not sympathize with him. For Saddam “victory” does not mean winning.

Reality is that more British soldiers have been killed by Americans than by Iraqis. Reality is that when it is all over, the US will find that Iraq never really existed, just as Yugoslavia and Afghanistan evaporated without iron leadership.

This war is likely to be like Iraq’s history: long, complex, confusing and often brutal, with various versions depending on what you want to believe. Who the victors will be is also unclear. The American coalition will win the war but, whether there will ever be any peace to win is another matter. There is one comfort in the present conflict: one place that is not in modern day Iraq is Armageddon (that is generally accepted as being the Vale of Megiddo in Israel).