Monday, 16 June 2008

New letter published in The Times

Sir, I visited Baghdad twice in my capacity as a member of staff of the Prime Minister’s special envoy to Iraq on human rights, Ann Clwyd, MP. On both occasions I was hugely impressed by the professionalism, dedication and bravery of the Iraqi interpreters. They would return with us to the safety of the green zone in our armed convoys after meetings, but at the end of the day would have to leave the green zone to travel home through the streets of Baghdad. One interpreter showed me how he secreted his British Embassy identification documents on his body in case he got caught up in an “incident” on such a journey.

It is a tragedy that their bravery, in the service of our country and in the face of possible abduction, torture and murder, is matched only by the cold indifference of British bureaucrats and their political masters. To my mind, the decision to assist the interpreters was not made willingly on the grounds of principle and compassion, but was a half-baked concession made reluctantly after public outrage. This attitude is reflected in the unnecessary delay in taking the decision to relocate the interpreters, which surely cost lives, and in the bungled way the practicalities have been handled.

John Slinger

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