Gethin Chamberlain (Neville’s grandson?), in the Telegraph, talks to a senior officer of the British Army in an era of Labour Government, who tells him that they are “tired of fighting,” have concluded that their cause was wrong, have been bled white by 171 casualties, and are ready (in the glorious tradition of Percival of Singapore) to give up.
It was as astonishing an admission as any that has emerged from the lips of a British officer in the four and a half years since the tanks rolled over the Iraqi border. The British Army, said the man sitting in a prefab hut in Britain’s last base in the country, were tired of fighting.
“We would go down there [Basra], dressed as Robocop, shooting at people if they shot at us, and innocent people were getting hurt,” he said. “We don’t speak Arabic to explain and our translators were too scared to work for us any more. What benefit were we bringing to these people?”
The officer â€” one of the most senior in Iraq â€” agreed to speak to The Sunday Telegraph only on the highly unusual condition of anonymity, but he made clear that what he said reflected a major change in British tactics. “We are tired of firing at people,” he said. “We would prefer to find a political accommodation.” ..
For Britain, in southern Iraq, it is all but over. It tried force, and ultimately had to admit that force failed. Since March 2003, 171 British men and women have lost their lives in the war.
British commanders can only hope that the Iraqis have more luck. But if, as the British mantra now runs, the answer is “an Iraqi solution to an Iraqi problem”, the question that must now be asked is why it took so long to reach that conclusion, and whether it should have been reached much earlier, at a cost of far fewer British lives.
Let the bands play Monty Python’s Ballad of Brave Sir Robin as that “senior officer” marches (or scuttles) away.
Packing it in and packing it up
And sneaking away and buggering off
And chickening out and pissing off home
Yes, bravely he is throwing in the sponge