A British soldier killed by so-called “friendly fire” while serving in Iraq was unlawfully killed by the American pilot who attacked an Army convoy, a coroner has decided.

The circumstances surrounding the death of Lance Corporal Matty Hull and the inquest itself has raised some uncomfortable issues as the inquiry was dogged by delays and the refusal of military heirarchy on both sides of the Atlantic to fully co-operate. It has also called into question the way in which operations in Iraq have been handled.

The Oxford assistant coroner Andrew Walker descried the death of the 25 year-old British soldier in 2003 as a “criminal act” and maintained that his death was “entirely avoidable”.

He also criticised the MoD and US military officials for the continual delays to the inquest and added: “I believe that the full facts have not yet come to light.”

His scathing comments and the dignified stance taken by L/Cpl Hull’s widow and the rest of his family in the last 3 years make the apology issued by the MoD sound a little hollow.

The fog of war is often used to explain why incidents, accidents and fatal assaults on allied forces can and do take place – although I accept I’ve never been in such a situation (and hopefully never will), I struggle to understand how it can be used as a justifiable excuse.

Equally, the use of the term “friendly fire” has never sat easily with me and hopefully the decision of the coroner in L/Cpl Hull’s inquest will persuade people to stop using it in such cases.

This particular case raises serious doubts about the way in which operations in Iraq have been – and still are – mounted and the reluctance of both the UK and the US to present an open and honest account of the incident is alarming to say the least.

It surely raises questions about the level of protection being provided to our own armed forces by senior officers and the UK Government.

If we cannot protect our own, how can we trust them to protect others caught up in the nightmare that is currently being played out in Iraq and Afghanistan?

I do believe our armed forces are the best in the world and I do hold those on the front line in the highest regard. I’m just fast losing any trust or respect for those supposedly in charge of our forces.

Both the military top brass and senior politicians have been discredited by the death of L/Cpl Hull and the three-year delay in completing the inquest.

As for our “special friends” on the other side of the Atlantic, the categorical refusal of the US to co-operate in any way with the inquiry into L/Cpl Hull’s death shows exactly how distant this relationship actually is in reality.

It is becoming increasingly hard for our Prime Minister to show how we benefit from the close bonds that supposedly exist between Downing Street and the White House.

Tony Blair may be friendly with George Bush on a personal level, but having the US President as a close ally is not exactly doing the Prime Minister or the country as a whole any favours.


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