To any soldier SNAFU is almost always the order of the day. In war situations things can unravel so fast that no planner can afford to ignore the need for flexibility. So when in Basra in 2005 an SAS undercover operation went wrong and two men were captured and held as hostages by pro Sadrist police and militiamen the regiment immediately prepared to mount a rescue mission. The fear was that unless they acted swiftly the soldiers would be smuggled into Iran and paraded in public as part of a humiliating propaganda coup for the Mullahs.
With the troops all ready to hit the ground running word suddenly came down the line from the UK government in London – no rescue must be attempted as it would give the lie to Whitehall’s claims that Basra was under control. The men had to be sacrificed to save the face of the politicians.
The reaction was swift and stark – the SAS ignored London and rescued their colleagues with clinical precision. Belatedly London changed tack and approved the mission (when it was already well under way) having realised that many members of the elite regiment were willing to mutiny and then hand in their resignations in disgust after the rescue had been completed.
So men’s lives could have been risked for the sake of a feelgood PR puff fed to the BBC.
Lions led by weasels?
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