Monday, November 20, 2006

I sense a disturbance in the Farce

Inadvertent and careless targeting of friendly forces in combat, erroniously described as "friendly fire" always puts a strain on allies. However, when the side which "did it" refuses to participate in the investigations surrounding those incidents, the relationship starts to boil-up into hostility.

From the Daily Mail via Newshog: (All emphasis mine)

A diplomatic row erupted between London and Washington ght over George Bush's bid to cover up the way bungling US soldiers killed British servicemen in Iraq.

The President's envoy in the UK has been summoned to a humiliating dressing down in Whitehall tomorrow because of a White House refusal to make American troops answer in British courts for their mistakes on the battlefield.

The unprecedented move by Justice Minister Harriet Harman marks one of the biggest public rifts between the allies since Mr Blair came to power.

She will tell Deputy US ambassador David Johnson, one of George Bush's closest diplomatic advisers, that she is no longer prepared to accept America's excuses for refusing to send its servicemen to UK inquests.

Ms Harman says that in return for backing him in the Iraq war, the President has a duty to tell the truth to the families of British soldiers killed by Americans in friendly fire tragedies.

"The families want to know how their loved ones were killed," she told The Mail on Sunday. "They have got that right. I am hoping the Americans will give us full co-operation in the inquests because our special relationship demands honesty and openness.

"They are our allies in Iraq and should respect the grief of the families and not hide from the court. If any of our soldiers had been involved in American friendly-fire deaths we would expect them to attend hearings."

So far not one American serviceman has attended a friendly-fire inquest.


The inquests row could strain Mr Blair's close relations with Mr Bush - and it comes at a critical time for the PM.

He was forced to admit yesterday that the Iraq war has been a 'disaster'.

It also emerged that loyal Labour Minister Margaret Hodge had privately disowned the war and condemned Mr Blair's 'moral imperialism'.

While Ms Harman has strong backing from Defence Secretary Des Browne, she did not inform Mr Blair in advance of her plan to haul the Americans over the coals, providing fresh evidence of the crumbling authority of the PM as he prepares to step down next year.

The provocative action of Ms Harman, a candidate in the race to succeed John Prescott as Deputy Labour leader, is supported by Oxfordshire Coroner Andrew Walker, who has conducted most of the inquests into British soldiers killed in Iraq.

He has privately voiced his anger with the Americans, accusing them of making it hard to do his job properly.

Ms Harman has been in talks with the Americans for nearly six months in an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the dispute. They refused to change their stance even after she guaranteed no risk of criminal prosecution or compensation.

She decided to go public after they rejected demands to send US service personnel to two recent friendly-fire inquests conducted by Mr Walker.

Earlier this month he ruled the deaths of two RAF Tornado pilots, Flight Lieutenants Kevin Main and Dave Williams, were 'entirely avoidable'. The fliers were shot down by an American Patriot missile.

And last month he criticised US Marines blamed for the 'unlawful killing' of ITN reporter Terry Lloyd after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Mr Walker conducts most of the inquests because bodies from Iraq and Afghanistan are flown home to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.
So... Tony Blair is now getting a look at the underside of a bus... at the hands of his own cabinet. Call it, "friendly fire" if you like.

And, as for the Americans involved and the various layers of superior authority preventing attendance at inquiries, we can make an assumption that there is something to hide.

Unless prepared to demonstrate otherwise, following the example of the idiot that is their Commander-In-Chief, I'll go with too quick on the trigger and sloppily supervised rules of engagement.

Tony Blair's interview with Sir David Foster has also caused all sorts of reaction, from both his own party and the opposition. The Bush administration hasn't said much about the interview - yet. There are those suggesting that since Blair didn't use the word himself, that he didn't mean it. But...

During the interview, Frost suggested that the West's intervention in Iraq had "so far been pretty much of a disaster."

Blair replied: "It has, but you see what I say to people is why is it difficult in Iraq? It's not difficult because of some accident in planning, it's difficult because there's a deliberate strategy -- al Qaeda with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other -- to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war."
That's an admission that has yet to be made by the incompetent clowns of the Bush Administration as Bill Gallagher points out.

The Farce, Tony. Trust the Farce.

(H/T Geoff for the Daily Mail link)

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