They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Brown's Wars Part 2: Meltdown on the frontline in Basra

The blast that killed Private James Kerr and Private Scott Kennedy, both 20, and Corporal Paul Joszko, 28, would have been heard across half of Basra. It happened at 1am on Thursday in the deserted streets of al-Antahiya, on the southern outskirts of the city.

The men would have known their mission was dangerous. They had left the relative security of Basra air station - Britain's main base in Iraq, which is spread across a wide expanse of desert bordering the city's airport - to resupply the only British contingent still within the city limits, at Basra Palace. There are only a few possible routes between the two bases, as local insurgents well know, and most journeys are undertaken by helicopter.

To minimise the risk of travelling by road, the convoy had gone to Basra Palace in darkness, when ordinary residents of the city remain indoors, behind high walls. The only people to venture out are British troops - and those they are fighting. The soldiers had delivered their supplies, and were on the way back when they left their Warrior armoured vehicles to check their surroundings. At this point, it appears, a hidden watcher triggered the bomb that killed the three men and seriously wounded a fourth.

The loss of three soldiers in one attack, the second worst in Iraq so far this year, brought the British toll since the 2003 invasion to 156. Not only did it come on Gordon Brown's first full day as Prime Minister, but one of the victims, Pte Kerr, was from Cowdenbeath, in his constituency. In significant contrast to his predecessor, Tony Blair, who never had contact with relatives of British soldiers lost in Iraq or Afghanistan, Mr Brown telephoned Pte Kerr's mother to express his condolences. Some wonder if that signals a change of approach on Iraq. Read more