Thursday 3 April 2003

Britain is up to its neck in this mire

We should not pretend that we can come out of the war unsullied

It's hot out there. Damned hot. On the one side, beastly Ba'athists - and on the other, bloodthirsty and trigger-happy American cowboys. In between, struggling to behave decently in a world gone mad are our own British soldiers, effortlessly making friends with the locals, wryly dismissive of their US allies, brimful of compassion and pluck.

This is barely an exaggeration of how an important sub-theme of the Iraq war is being written up. Day after day now, we are reading stories about how the British are better. We are better at not killing our own side: most of the "blue on blue" deaths are caused by Americans. We are better at not killing innocent Iraqi civilians: it was US troops who failed to fire early-warning shots and so killed those women and children at a checkpoint. (Of course there are many more American troops out there, which tips the odds anyway.)

We are better at winning over hearts and minds: the Americans wear intimidating sunglasses and stay inside their armoured vehicles, while the British take off their helmets at the first opportunity, don picturesque regimental tam o'shanters and stride boldly into the middle of Iraqi crowds, handing out their own chocolate rations.

From Umm Qasr to the suburbs of Basra, it is British forces who have been busy distributing aid and working to get the water flowing again, while the American vengeance machine thunders north.

Full story...