0

by MONITOR
THE letter which relatives of British servicemen killed in Iraq delivered to No 10 Downing Street yesterday asked Mr Blair to meet them face-to-face so that they could tell him how they felt and give him the opportunity to justify his decision to go to war. It was a dignified and reasonably expressed letter, acknowledging that those family members they had lost “knew and accepted that their duty could take them into danger”. It added, however, that “They always had faith that no British prime minister would ever commit them to fight in an unjustified war.” These families have asked before for a meeting with Mr Blair but have had no response and their letter now says that his refusal “seems to us a serious dereliction of your responsibilities” and continues, “If you truly believe your policies, and the continuing need for the presence of British servicemen and women in Iraq, you should surely have the courage to face the families of those who have paid the ultimate price, and explain them to us.” It is difficult to be sympathetic to Tony Blair over anything to do with the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent debacle there, but in this case it is understandable that he thinks he should refuse the meeting the families have asked for. After all, it was the House of Commons which backed his view that war was appropriate and it there that he must explain and defend the consequences. He has given his reasons for believing that the war was necessary on many public occasions and, questionable thought they may be, it is hardly reasonable to ask him to go over the ground again with individuals, however great their loss. It is also reasonable to ask whether an encounter of the kind the families have asked for might not exacerbate their grief; Mr Blair would be bound to defend himself. The Troops Out demonstration in London on March 18 will be an opportunity for all those who feel outraged at Britain's involvement in Iraq and who want the troops brought home, to express themselves in the most direct and powerful way possible.