All the speculation has forced the British government to come up with a new Official Story on what the two police-murderin', anti-tank-weapon-totin', Arab-dress-sportin' soldiers were up to in Basra:
"TWO SAS soldiers rescued last week after being arrested by Iraqi police and handed over to a militia were engaged in a 'secret war' against insurgents bringing sophisticated bombs into the country from Iran.
The men had left their base near the southern Iraqi city of Basra to carry out reconnaissance and supply a second patrol with 'more tools and fire power', said a source with knowledge of their activities.
They had been in Basra for seven weeks on an operation prompted by intelligence that a new type of roadside bomb which has been used against British troops was among weapons being smuggled over the Iranian border."
"'Since the increase in attacks against UK forces two months ago, a 24-strong SAS team has been working out of Basra to provide a safety net to stop the bombers getting into the city from Iran,' said one source. 'The aim is to identify routes used by insurgents and either capture or kill them.'"
You can replace 'source with knowledge of their activities' by 'Blair spin-artiste' to get a more accurate feeling for what is going on here. As propaganda goes, it's a twofer, simultaneously explaining that these weren't British agents provocateurs, and that Iran is somehow to blame for the problems in Basra. I suppose the secret mission in the hinterland of Basra explains what they were doing in Basra itself, near where there was to be a protest against the British seizure of a local leader blamed by the British for their recent problems in the area. It suppose it also explains why they didn't just identify themselves as British soldiers when challenged, instead of getting into a firefight with local authorities (who, after all, were just doing their jobs). I suppose it also explains why it took the British days and days to come up with their latest version of the truth. The Iraqis, who haven't got the luxury of lying to themselves about the motives of a government which, after all, is a documented liar on the reasons for entering the war in the first place, know what the truth is.
In the meantime, in the last 24 hours we hear that the British are:
- definitely pulling out of Iraq starting next May; or
- definitely not pulling out; or
- sending in more SAS soldiers so they can definitely pull out.
The bottom line is that Tony can't pull out British troops as it would leave his master George too politically exposed, and George - notwithstanding all the planning being done on the 'left' of American politics to make the pull-out as humane as possible - won't remove American troops as long as there are American bases in Iraq. Since there will be American bases in Iraq until the Americans are forced to give them up, I wouldn't be holding my breath on any Anglo-American troop withdrawal any time soon. When it does occur, I can guarantee that it will be done absolutely and completely without the slightest regard to the effect it will have on the Iraqi people, and for totally selfish American reasons.