Timing is everything in so many things in life.
Whoever is responsible for leaking the video that is reportedly from the cock-pits of the US fighter planes that attacked a British convoy in Iraq, killing a soldier, you have to applaud their timing.
Just as the pressure was beginning to intensify on the US Government to either release the coverage or put forward the personnel at the centre of the incident to give evidence to the inquest into the death of Lance Corporal Matty Hull, the crucial tape turns up in the hands of journalists at The Sun.
Quite a coup for the tabloid, hugely embarrassing for the US and our own Government, plus plenty for those caught up in this unfortunate incident to ponder.
But what is a little embarrassment when the truth is at stake?
More importantly, who cares about a few red faces when the family of the British soldier killed by friendly fire want answers and action?
The tape leaked to the media “records the US pilot, and another on the same mission, swearing after they realise they have attacked coalition forces, one of them possibly weeping” (http://www.guardian.co.uk).
When informed of the presence of friendly forces, one pilot states: “Yeah, this sucks”. The other responds: “We’re in jail, dude.”
L/Cpl Hull was killed in his burning armoured vehicle after the US planes opened fire on a Household Cavalry Regiment near Basra in southern Iraq. Four other British soldiers were injured.
The US had steadfastly refused permission for our Ministry of Defence to release all the tapes, which point towards a fairly damning catalogue of errors leading up to the fatal strike. The inquest was adjourned last week by the frustrated coroner until March 12 to give MoD officials more time to try and persuade their American counterparts to release the tapes.
Now, it appears, someone has taken the decision to leak one of the tapes and it raises all sorts of difficult isssues for both the UK and US administrations.
The failure of the US to co-operate with the British authorities provides further evidence for those who maintain there is no such thing as a “special relationship” between the UK and the US. If the UK was such an important and equal ally, the argument goes, why the attempt to cover up the truth?
It also does little to improve the already strained relationships between UK and US personnel still on active duty in the war-torn Iraq and will increase pressure on the British Government to withdraw forces as a matter of urgency.
The leaking of the tape is a great piece of timing. But it also provides depressing confirmation of so many concerns that surround our relationship with the US and our involvement in Iraq and in other “war on terror” conflicts.
The fact that the US has now seemingly bowed to pressure and agreed to the release of the cock-pit tapes is welcome (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6334769.stm).
But the overwhelming sense is that, for once, the US has been backed into a corner so effectively that it has little option but to agree to the release.
Perhaps now we’ll have an inquest into a “friendly fire” death that has the full facts available in order to come to the right verdict.