Remarkably frank piece in the Times reporting on the way in which British Marines have handled Umm Qasr compared with their US partners.
It took five days and nights of intermittent American airstrikes and artillery bombardments to subdue this scruffy little town of 4,000 people that sits at the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab waterway. About the only time the US Marines got out of their vehicles was to raise the Stars and Stripes on the very first day, a move they were hastily ordered to reverse as it smacked of occupation, not liberation. Then on Monday morning the British took over. It took the men of 42 Commando barely 24 hours to win over the locals and by last night their commander, Brigadier Jim Dutton, was confident they had extinguished the last flickers of resistance from Saddam Hussein’s diehard Baath party loyalists. One senior British officer said: “The Americans don’t care for going in on foot as we do to secure a town, whether it be Belfast or Umm Qasr. They prefer to try and flatten everything in front of them which we think only scares the living daylights out of the locals, not get them on your side.” The Royal Marines had to insist that the Americans, who are under their command in southern Iraq, did not destroy the port as it is crucial to their humanitarian operation which is already behind schedule.
I suspect we are going to hear more of these kind of stories in the coming weeks. If I were an Iraqi I know who which coalition partner I would be hoping came to town.