Any life saved is a victory, and I am delighted that the maritime incident has been resolved with nobody being killed or even injured. That is the right perspective on this.
Today four more unfortunate British serviceman died in Southern Iraq as a result of Blair’s crass Middle Eastern policy. Think of them and their families, and the seventy Iraqi civilians who on average will be killed today. Yes, rejoice at the fifteen who came home safely today, but remember those who did not, and their families.
Less than a week before this fifteen were captured, the media received the confirmation that British government scientists believed that 655,000 dead in Iraq a year ago was a good estimate. That received almost no press coverage. The detention of fifteen Britons for ten days is more important than the agonising deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
There was a revelatory moment on BBC Breakfast TV this morning when Admiral Sir Alan West said he was sure we had been in “our” waters. He corrected himself afterwards to “Iraqi waters” but the slip reveals the mindset of the occupying forces.
It is an extraordinarily wide interpretation of the UN occupation mandate to use it to interdict neutral merchant shipping in the Gulf. For me one of the most amazing things about this sorry dispute is that HMS Cornwall was, by the MOD’s own account and according to the embedded journalists on board, attempting to prevent the smuggling of cars. Am I really paying my taxes for incredibly sophisticated warships to be involved in the collection of Iraqi vehicle excise duty?
The Iranian release caught the UK on the hop and was a political coup, but followed British diplomacy offering technical talks on the disputed boundary area and the conduct of future operations. I hope that in the not too distant future Iran and Iraq will negotiate their maritime border; but thanks to us Iraq has a government that controls a tiny proportion of its land, let alone its seas.
Let us hope that the safe return of the fifteen shall be followed swiftly by the safe return of all our forces. They should never have been there in the first place.