» Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Put to the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) that he had seemed to suggest people should not hype the hundredth British casualty in Iraq, the PMOS responded categorically that he had not said that. He had said 4 four times throughout his morning briefing that the Prime Minister was first and foremost deeply saddened by the death and that one death was one death too many. The specific question he had been asked was about the tactical implications of this particular attack. He had responded to that question by refusing to get involved in speculating about terrorist tactics because he believed, as experience had proven, that speculation about terrorist tactics only feeds terrorism. It did not do us any good and it was only those on the ground that had the knowledge to actually answer such questions. This was why he had talked about the need not to hype. He repeated, for clarity, that he had said four times during the morning briefing that the Prime Minister was deeply saddened by the death and that one death was one death too many.

Put to him that John Reid had said in his statement that it was an appropriate moment to mark the deaths, the PMOS said this was precisely why, as had been widely reported, he had said that the Prime Minister was deeply saddened by the death. It was wrong to and people should not confuse talking about this tragic death with speculating about terrorist tactics. It was wrong to get drawn into that kind of speculation because it was not for him or anyone to second-guess the views of operational commanders on the ground as he had said this morning.

Put to him that he had said he did do not think we should do the terrorists job for them by hyping this kind of incident, the PMOS read out the extract from the morning’s briefing note: "Asked if we were not concerned by the tactical implications of this particular attack, given that it had taken place in an area which had previously been secure, the PMOS said that we should not do the terrorist’s job for them by over-hyping this kind of incident." What he had clearly been referring to there was the tactical implications as asked in the question. He had then said immediately after giving that answer that "we should recognise that any death was deeply sad and deeply regretted." This was something he had said four times this morning so there should be no misunderstanding.

Asked if the name would be released, the PMOS said that was entirely a matter for the MOD to disclose after they had gone through all the appropriate procedures to notify next of kin and to notify the relatives of those that had also been injured. The next of kin of L/Cpl Douglas had been informed before his name had been released, which was standard procedure. Asked how worried the British Government was about the role of Iran and it’s involvement in roadside explosive devices in Iraq, the PMOS firstly acknowledged that it was a legitimate question, but went on to say that he was not aware of anything that suggested their involvement in this or yesterday’s attacks at this stage. In general terms the concern had been raised and it was a matter that continued to be addressed.

Asked what the answer was to the suggestion that the British presence was part of the problem in Iraq, the PMOS said that the views of the Iraqi government were what mattered in this regard. The elected Iraqi government wished us to remain. One death was one too many, never mind one hundred, but it was important that people did not lose sight of what had been achieved in Iraq. In a country that had been brutalised for decades we now had seen three free elections. We now had democratically elected groups negotiating to form a new government. Nobody underestimated the challenges and nobody underestimated the continued real problems that our forces faced there, but equally we should not underestimate what had been achieved there so far.

Asked whether the Prime Minister thought the security situation was improving, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had been briefed by MNFI commanders about the security situation when he had visited Basra just before Christmas and the security forces on the ground there had been talking about how the process of Iraqi-isation and training of Iraq’s forces was proceeding well. We had always recognised however that there were real threats to our forces in Iraq and unfortunately the last 24 hours had sadly reminded us all of that, again. In terms of the overall political picture real progress was being made.

Briefing took place at 13:00 | Search for related news

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