Volume 41, Number 5, May 2003
It seems that the war in Iraq is all but over, the “Coalition” victorious and the “Regime” conquered, at this stage it isn’t known whether Saddam is alive or dead but one thing is for certain he isn’t in charge any more, his forces have fled and any resistance still left is sporadic, small and whilst inconvenient is by no means deserving of the presence of a full scale invasion force. So it is that our forces are already being scaled down, the exercise in Iraq is now one of winning the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi people, it is maybe a policing exercise, a peacekeeping one; war is over and soon the soldiers of the coalition will all be returned home. To what though, one wonders. Certainly this was no Vietnam, the crowds won’t boo the returning servicemen in the street and indeed many will cheer (public backing for the war has increased greatly since it was seen that we’d win!) but there is still much unease amongst many, both at home and abroad, that this pre-emptive war was fought at all, and so it might be that once again we see a military campaign for which no official medallic recognition is forthcoming. As with the war in Afghanistan, which to date has only had gallantry medals assigned to it, not a campaign medal or clasp, and of course the Suez emergency, it is perfectly possible that the soldiers who fought and died in the desert and towns of Iraq will have nothing to pin on their tunics once this is all over. The award of a medal could be seen as overtly militaristic, this was no liberation force as it was for Kuwait in 1991, or before that for the Falklands in ’82, and even though Public Opinion is more in favour than once it was there will be no particular celebrations now Saddam has gone, there will be no dancing in the streets or parties to mark the heroes’ return. Indeed there seems to be a very muted feeling about the end to this one-sided conflict and it is easy to see how that mood will be taken as justification for withholding anything (i.e. a medal) that smacks too much of triumphalism. Not only that but the “Coalition” Governments, ever mindful of the need for diplomacy, may well see a decoration as over-inflammatory to the other Arab Nations with whom they have already lost much standing and credibility and it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that the whole issue will be quietly sidelined in the hope that it will go away.. I could, of course, be completely wrong, and even now, as I write this at the end of April there could be plans afoot for a new medal, (although what it will be called is bound to be a moot point, the pundits never being able to agree whether this was “War on Saddam”, “War on Iraq”, “War in Iraq”, “War on Terror” or Gulf War II). We might see a second striking of the Gulf Medal with new dates or, as seems more likely, a clasp to the new Operational Services Medal. It is just possible we’ll see a new medal entirely, one that encompasses this war and the war in Afghanistan maybe? A “War on Terror” medal with campaign clasps for Iraq, Afghanistan and, if things carry on as they are maybe Syria, Iran and North Korea too! Whatever is decided it is to be hoped that the issue isn’t simply ignored in the name of public opinion or diplomacy. Whatever your thoughts on this war it cannot be denied that the men and women who fought out there did so bravely and doggedly, they did the job they were trained to do and many died doing that, they deserve to be recognised for that and traditionally such recognition comes with a medal or clasp. To deny them one would be wrong and, as this and previous Governments have found with Suez, this is an issue that isn’t easily forgotten by those to whom it matters most.
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