So far it is a toss up whether events in Libya pose more threat to the careers of Muammar Gadaffi or of William Hague. First we had the sadly typical farce of the inert UK evacuation effort, with British diplomats cowring behind their walls concerned about health and safety, and our Ambassador being tied down with politically correct nonsense about his “Duty of Care” to his staff not to let them anywhere near harm’s way.
Reminiscent of this, isn’t it:
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, British citizens had been evacuated to the horror and squalor of the Superdome stadium, where thousands of people were crowded among what the BBC described as “knee-high piles of faeces”. After the roads in to New Orleans had become again passable, a British Consulate convoy set out to pick them up. Reaching a checkpoint, they were told they were not allowed to enter without a permit from the Governor of Louisiana. Our intrepid diplomats turned back.
Ten minutes later the Australian consul had arrived. Told he had to turn back, he replied “Are you going to shoot me?” and drove through the roadblock, the Southern Cross flying proudly from his bonnet. . The Australians got out their own people and some of ours. When the British finally arrived at the stadium two days later, having gone through the paper hoops like good little bureaucrats, they found they had almost no-one left to rescue, most of the Britons having been helped out by journalists.
And now we have a posse of the SAS and MI6, motoring around the Libyan desert pretending to be Fitzroy Maclean, before ignominiously being captured, detained and thrown back as of no value.
What on earth were they playing (I use the word advisedly) at? WHat on earth came over Hague to authorise this extremely daft blunder into a highly delicate situation? The one thing we do know is that the cover story is nonsense. They were not there to establish contact with the rebel leadership. Our Ambassador, Richard Northern, already had close contact with the rebel leadership and indeed was able to phone the rebel leaders up and beg for the release of our crack squad. Hague had not even thought it necessary to tell our Ambassador about the operation.
If we had really wanted to establish a liaison with the rebels, we would have sent a real diplomat into Benghazi on a ship. Preferably someone already accredited in Libya. I did plenty of that kind of stuff in my career, as recounted in my books. You want a simple unarmed person to liaise, not a Ramboesque raiding party.
And make no mistake, this was a raiding party. But just what were they going to raid? We are not at war in Libya, and the government has no right to undertake armed intervention in a foreign country without telling the British people and parliament. There is no right to mount covert armed operations by military units abroad. William Hague must tell us what he was doing.
I just heard on the BBC that Hague is indeed going to parliament to explain himself. As usual our politicians will be competing to harrumph loudly in a patriotic way, and just as with the similarly embarassing incident of the stray sailors captured by the Iranians, nobody will be asking any sensible questions for fear of not getting the Murdoch seal of approval for supporting “our heroes”.
Very interesting comment here by Ruth which I am elevating to the main body of the post. I recall well the reports of the arms dump explosion – 27 killed was the last total I saw. Assuming Ruth is right (and her source on timing is the Guardian) it appears that this team were in that area, and had been there at the relevant time.
The Guardian quite clearly states that the SAS men had been in the country for two days. Most reports say that they landed in the dark in the early hours of Friday morning. First reports stated they were picked up on Saturday by the rebels. All the reports I have read state that they were found a few kilometres from Benina, Benghazi’s airport. Ramjah, the big arms depot supplying the rebels, is a few kilometres from Benina in the very same direction. The depot exploded at 7pm on Friday. There had been no planes in the vicinity.
I am pretty secure in my contention that this was a raid, not a search for a meeting. It appears it may be physically possible that the mission was succesful and the target the arms dump. No more than a possibility, but a great deal more plausible than the Hague explanation.
Now Blair’s grest rapprochement with his “Friend” Gadaffi led to all sorts of grubby deals, One distinct possibility is that weapons were sold to Libya which the government doea not want people to know about. The US did not join in Bliar’s Libya love-fest. A very large percentage of British manufactured arms include components made under license from the US, with strict controls on to whom they can be sold on. We wouldn’t want that kind of stuff turning up in any arms dumps.
Just a hypothesis which fits the limited facts we appear to know so far. But I repeat, a great deal more plausible than Hague’s explanation.