Britain always sees its role as imperial power

Post 9/11 there have been countless discussions about the lack of accountability for foreign forces and privatised mercenaries in theatres of war.

This debate isn’t so new and Western governments have clearly long believed that they have the right to act and kill as they wish:

SAS soldiers were to be provided with life insurance and legal immunity for killing foreigners if sent on overseas hostage rescues, according to files released today to the National Archives.

Preparations made in the aftermath of the Iranian embassy siege in London included a “pro forma agreement” that could be handed over to foreign governments before special forces were ordered in, Foreign Office files opened under the 30-year rule show.

The televised storming of the embassy building in Prince’s Gate, south Kensington, on 5 May 1980 boosted the SAS’s international prestige and generated invitations to deploy them abroad. Rescue missions were organised under the codename Operation Pulpit.

“The successful outcome ”¦ will lead to a fresh wave of requests for SAS training teams to visit well-disposed Middle Eastern countries,” observed a senior Foreign Office diplomat. “There should be no problem in dealing with such requests, save the limited resources of the SAS themselves.” He also anticipated the use of the SAS “in the event of a future hijack or siege involving hostages”.

The file, marked secret and entitled Future Use of SAS Squads, recorded that the UK’s most highly trained troops might be loaned to “resolve the problem”.

A “pro forma agreement” should be drafted ”¦ covering use of the SAS in a third country. The draft should include: “Immunity from prosecution and all claims in the event of causing casualties; life insurance and so on.”

SAS training tours to friendly countries should stress “that command and control is as important as the actual military gymnastics,” the official cautioned.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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