Not Saussure

April 11, 2007

No substitute for foresight

Filed under: Iran, Iraq, UK, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 9:46 pm

Tony Blair has said “in hindsight” the navy’s decision to allow sailors held captive in Iran to sell their stories to the media was not a “good idea”.The prime minister said he was not involved in the decision, which he said was taken in “good faith”

Hindsight… decision taken in good faith… Oh, yes, I remember. That’s why they were there in the first place, of course. Though, of course, he still hasn’t acknowledged that the invasion perhaps wasn’t a particularly good idea in the first place, despite the humanitarian catastrophe engulfing Iraq, on which the ICRC today reported. It’s not, it seems to me, a question of whose fault it is any more; the fact of the matter is that we and the US are, along with the Iraqi government, presiding over an horrendous situation without any clear plans for resolving it.

Returning to today’s statements by HM’s ministers, I am at a loss to know what to make of Des Browne’s contortions:

Mr Browne, in his first interview since the row erupted over the weekend, said he had been asked on Friday “to note” the navy’s decision to allow the freed personnel to sell their stories.He said he, and the navy, were “not content” with the decision but felt they had little choice, given that the stories had to be told in the freed captives’ own interests “to counteract the propaganda the Iranians had put out using them”

The view the navy took, following “analysis of regulations”, was that given the stories would have to be told, the people concerned could not be prevented from being paid.

But, the MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun added, after further discussions with officials on Monday his view of whether the selling of stories could be banned changed, he said.

This meant, referring to his earlier decision to give the go ahead, “clearly with hindsight… I could have made a different decision”.

I mean to say, it’s hardly as if this government has a history of meekly deferring to legal opinions it doesn’t like, is it? Since Mr Browne was unhappy with the advice he and the MOD had supposedly received, surely he could have sought a second opinion from Lord Goldsmith?

Maybe it’s me being cynical, but I find it difficult to believe that they haven’t, at least in part, orchestrated this controversy by allowing, in the full knowledge of the fuss it would cause, the sailors and marines to sell their stories. They may well have misjudged, and now be regretting, the level of controversy (no one ever said they were competent, after all), but while everyone’s arguing about the people being paid, we’re not talking about how they came to be in waters the status of which is, pace Mr Blair’s assurances, somewhat contentious, to say the least, with clearly inadequate air support.

Nor, indeed, are we discussing the astonishing thing I heard when Radio 4’s The World This Weekend were interviewing John Boulton, the former US Ambassador to the UN, on Easter Sunday; the BBC reporter reckoned — to Boulton’s astonishment, as well as to mine — that one reason given for the Navy not resuming inspections in the Shatt al-Arab is that, errr, the Iranians won’t give us our boat back and we haven’t got a spare.

Can anyone cast any further light on this astonishing revelation? I don’t know what they cost, but they aren’t particularly big things and I can’t imagine we couldn’t afford another one if we really wanted one. Maybe the released captives could be persuaded to contribute some of their new-found riches towards buying a new one to replace the one they lost….

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