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Showing posts with label Linda Norgrove. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Linda Norgrove. Show all posts

Monday, 11 October 2010

Linda Norgrove rescue attempt – operational judgments in question?

Linda Norgrove's death touched us all - a young, idealistic woman from the island of Lewis, born in Altnaharra, Sutherland - a fellow Scot, intelligent, committed, with a bright future ahead of her - a future that now, tragically, will never be realised  We should also remember that at least two other women were killed in this rescue attempt, but because they were Afghan women, we will never know who they were, what they were, and what they could have become.

Yesterday and this morning the media gave huge prominence to the initial version of events put out by the American forces. The tabloids could hardly conceal their delight, under a mask of grief, at the opportunity to run headlines like "murdered by the Taliban", "killed by Al Quaeda" etc. and The Herald, the one remaining Scottish quality newspaper, ran a front page story that accepted uncritically at face value the version of events provided to them by the ISAF task force. Any journalist worth their salt would at least have looked hard at the assertions about the hostage takers killing Linda, or detonating their suicide vests, on the old principle that the dominant force in a military engagement writes the narrative to serve their own ends.

But it is worth recognising that our democracy still permitted the truth to emerge, and it is to General Petraeus’s credit that he went beyond the first, predictable version of events, and sought the truth, which is still emerging.

That the Taliban are capable of such a brutal murder I do not doubt for a moment, nor that Linda's kidnapping was an act of utter cynicism by her captors, with no regard for the fact that this incredibly brave young woman was there to unselfishly serve the people of Afghanistan. They are therefore ultimately responsible for the events that led to her death.

But questions must now be asked about the strategic and tactical judgments that led to the decision to mount an assault in darkness on Linda's captors instead of following the route of negotiation that had earlier led to the release of other hostages, after intervention by tribal elders. Such operations are fraught with risk, the primary danger being that the hostage or hostages will be inadvertently killed. The Iranian embassy siege and assault by the SAS in London many years ago was a model of how this can achieved the desired result. As the ex-SAS man on the programme sadly observed, one thing the rescuers don't do is throw grenades.

The sight and sound of William Hague, our new Foreign Secretary, inflated with Churchillian pomposity, attempting to gloss over the clear inadequacies of the judgements that led to this tragic failure sicken me. Churchill, as a young man, saw active service, placed his life at risk in the Boer War, and was captured then escaped. William Hague is a precocious schoolboy grown into a right-wing Tory, who has made himself rich by his undoubted public speaking talents, but he has never seen any active military service as far as I know, has never been in harms way, and all his rhetoric seems hollow and, frankly, revolting in the present situation.

We needs some answers, for Linda's sake, for her parents sake, and for all our sakes.

Linda Norgrove almost certainly killed by IASF task force grenade

There is nothing I can offer except my deepest sympathy to Linda's family.

R.I.P. Linda Norgrove - brave, unselfish human being.