The main news-managed story today should have been brilliant British restraint in aborting a Tornado bombing run on a Tripoli target because intelligence reports that civilians were in the area.
Hats off to the professionalism of the Tornado pilots on their 3000 mile mission and the bravery of the eyes on the ground, or the drones in the sky above Tripoli, or a combination thereof.
But no, today's narrative is the continuing incompetence of the donkeys leading the lions into war. First William Hague, and then Liam Fox, managed to send mixed messages on whether Colonel Gaddafi himself is a target for assassination from 15,000feet. Just what the UK needs to hold the Arab League into the shaky coalition against the Libyan dictator.
Bad enough that Hague messed up his words but for Fox to do it, only to be countermanded General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, is kind of unforgivable.
Richards was quite clear about Gaddafi being: "No, absolutely not. It's not allowed under the UN resolution and it's not something I want to discuss any further."
Now Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy has weighed in big style, saying that Fox ought to be put back in his box. Murphy has just written on his blog:
"Perhaps it’s because I’m too well mannered but in all my interviews this morning on Libya I didn’t criticise any Government Ministers about some of their vague comments on Libya.
As most people will know, Labour supports the decision the UN has taken in resolution 1973 to protect civilian populations from Colonel Gaddafi’s terror.
We will be supportive but will also ask the serious questions that the country would expect the Opposition to be posing.
On my way out of one of my interviews I bumped into Sky News correspondent Sophy Ridge and I was more direct about some of Defence Secretary Liam Fox’s comments. She then tweeted that a Shadow Cabinet Minister had said that ‘Fox needed to be put back in his box’ – no prizes for guessing I was that Shadow Cabinet Minister.
Asked on Radio 5Live whether Colonel Gaddafi might be considered a military target, Liam Fox said “It would potentially be a possibility”.
I support the Government’s decision on Libya but I think Liam Fox’s comments are irresponsible in many ways. His view that the aim of our military effort is to bring about regime change is outside what is a very broad UN resolution. It is wrong but also counterproductive at a time when we are trying to maintain a broad coalition including Arab opinion to talk in such a way.
I agree with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who said, “If we start adding additional objectives then I think we create a problem”.
Gaddafi is a tyrant, but it is up to the people of Libya to decide what happens next in their country and not for any single foreign government. Our government needs to have one clear policy on this."
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