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Victims and pawns of the war

Nick Robinson | 20:00 UK time, Wednesday, 1 February 2006

The photo of Tony Blair meeting the man who would become the 100th soldier to die in the Iraq war adds personal poignancy to a grim milestone. Of course, it changes nothing. Not the tragedy for his family and friends. Not the tragedy for all those who lost someone who happens not to have been the 100th and happens not to have met the prime minister. Not the question of whether war was right or wrong.

But inevitably those opposed to the war or critical of Tony Blair will use it against him. Some are demanding to know how he deals with the victims of "his war" or are asking why his letters are typed and not hand written, or why he doesn't attend funerals or meet the bereaved families. Number 10 is reluctant to be drawn on any of this knowing all too well the dangers of being seen to parade the prime minister's emotions publicly.

I'm told that he does write to all. I understand that there is a policy of not phoning families or going to meet coffins or attend funerals since some families would not want it and inevitably if it was done for one some would argue it should be done for all. It's all just a reminder that the victims of this war also become pawns in the political battle about whether it should have been fought at all.


  • 1.
  • At 10:40 AM on 02 Feb 2006,
  • Richard wrote:

Do you know if the President of the US has set the precedent of phoning the families of solidiers lost in war. If so he has made 2200 phonecalls, and they can't be getting any easier.

The West Wing would have us believe that he does phone the families.

  • 2.
  • At 03:59 PM on 02 Feb 2006,
  • Nickf wrote:

Should the PM always see the family of every person who has been killed in combat? Probably not, I'd suggest. In the final analysis, he would, if asked, have to say that deaths in combat are inevitable, that, yes, your son's life was expendable, and that this is a soldier's lot.

Although true, I can't believe that this is what the families would wish to hear.

  • 3.
  • At 05:58 PM on 02 Feb 2006,
  • Freddy wrote:

Nickf's comment that soldiers's are expendable is only half the equation.

It's true that we keep an army on the grunds that the soldiers therein may have to fight, kill and risk being killed themselves. They have no choice about their deployment, save desertion, no say in the rights and wrongs of the war they are waging. They must simply do the government's bidding.

Personally, I believe that implies a responsibility on the side of the government to take extreme care in deployment of the nations troops. They are human beings, not cannon fodder. As the death toll mounts on all sides, for a war embarked upon a false premise, I hope Mr Blair reflects upon this.

  • 4.
  • At 08:11 PM on 02 Feb 2006,
  • Jennifer wrote:

This is one of those issues where, whatever the PM does, no one will ever be satisfied. Angry, grieving families will still (understandably) say "You think that is enough? You think that just by doing xyz you can make it all right?" A sensible line has to be drawn and stuck to, and I don't think it would be wise to set the precedent of attending funerals.

It would create an awkward situation for all concerned, and many families probably prefer to grieve in private. Not to mention the practical issue of the best use of the Prime Minister's time... he was, after all, elected to run the country, not to be a grief counsellor.

  • 5.
  • At 10:19 PM on 02 Feb 2006,
  • mike wrote:

What about visiting the families of all the innocent Iraquis that were killed up to now by the British and US troops ? that shouldn't be easier... It would be like 300 visits for each visit to the family of a dead british soldier.
When it comes to Iraquis 100 is not the bookmark: it is more like 100 000 since nobody is counting anyway...


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