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TONY PARSONS' COLUMN: Heroes who've inspired rebirth of national pride.


HERE is a question for the pollsters to place before the British people: "Does this war make you less proud of your country, or more?"

The reason I ask is that in recent weeks I have lost count of the number of times I have heard commentators, politicians and peaceniks of every hue utter the phrase: "I am ashamed to be British."

And yet I strongly suspect that for the vast un-mouthy majority of British people, exactly the opposite is true.

The longer this war goes on, the stronger grows a strangely unfamiliar feeling.

Pride in being British.

We spend so much of our time running this country down - our trains, our hospitals, our schools - that we have almost forgotten what national pride feels like. The war in Iraq has reminded us.

No wonder the rest of the world wants to come and live here.

I have felt pride in my country every time I see images of British soldiers. Those soldiers are ferocious in battle, magnanimous and humane when the fighting is done.

I felt pride when I saw soldiers from the Black Watch removing their helmets and replacing them with soft Tam o' Shanters - quite literally risking their lives for a gesture of peace and goodwill.

I felt pride when I saw Royal Marines playing football with local lads from Basra - a low-key gesture of common humanity in the middle of a dirty war.

And I felt pride when I read about Sergeant Gary Hughes, who picked up and carried an Iraqi woman who was giving birth to a hospital in Az Zubayr.

There is now a baby boy in Southern Iraq who rejoices in the name of Yussuf Gary.

How can you think about baby Yussuf Gary and not feel an overwhelming gladness that you come from this little damp corner of the globe?

The war hasn't quite worked out the way the peace camp must have hoped.

Not enough mindless slaughter.

Yes, there have been deeply disturbing images of dead and burned Iraqi children. But do we honestly imagine that Allied forces, fighting a war unrestrained by political concerns, didn't kill and maim countless numbers of innocent French, Dutch and Belgian children in the Second World War, never mind the babies we burned alive in Japan and Germany.

We just didn't see pictures of them.

The peaceniks must be fuming. You would be hard pressed to search through history and find an army that has behaved with the dignity and decency of the British forces in Iraq.

And who can now doubt that it was right to fight this war?

The weekend brought the sickening discovery of a Saddam Hussein death factory in Az Zubayr, an entire warehouse full of the tortured, mutilated and finally executed human beings discarded in bin liners and fertiliser bags.

Their horrific wounds were lovingly documented, their moment of death photographed for Saddam's records. Some of the victims were women. It seems that most of them were soldiers. Iraqi soldiers. This is how Saddam treats his own people.

And the peace camp still has the gall to call Bush and Blair butchers. They are the war criminals even when the evidence against the bestiality of Saddam's stinking regime is overwhelming.

In Iraq's western desert British forces have discovered evidence of mass ear amputations. If an Iraqi man, woman or child dared to complain about a lack of food, transport or education, then their ears were chopped off to silence the others.

"They weren't rebels, just normal people trying to live a normal life," says Captain "Mac" McGee, of Army Air Corps. "It was a record of people who had their ears chopped off to set an example."

And it gets infinitely worse.

Former United Nations worker Vanessa Lough says that over the past two weeks children as young as four have been snatched from their parents and hung from lampposts or burned alive in southern Iraq. Scores of children have been executed as a way of punishing their parents.

ONE man had committed the terrible crime of laughing with British soldiers. They (Ba'ath party goons) told him he had betrayed Saddam in an act of treason, says the former UN worker, who now works as an interpreter for aid organisations.

"He received a broken leg and a severe beating. The men made the father watch as they set his son alight with petrol."

Bush and Blair are the war criminals?

I hope the peace camp makes it out to Iraq some time soon to explain to the Iraqis that it is actually the West who are the cold-blooded killers.

I hope that George Galloway, Tony Benn, John Pilger and Robert Fisk can make the Iraqi people see the light - that it is the Coalition forces who are neo-Nazis, intent on stealing oil and slaughtering children. Still ashamed to be British? Personally I couldn't be more proud that British troops are risking their lives to free this ravaged country.

When I see the faces of British servicemen who have given their lives in this conflict, when I see the wives and children they have left behind, young women made widows, small babies who will never know their dads beyond a fading photograph, I feel proud of them, and proud of the country that they called home.

The country we call home. On BBC News 24 they keep referring to the British forces in Iraq as "they" - as though the axis of weasels at BBC News 24 doesn't have their every penny funded by British people.

They can burn all the Union Jacks they like in the streets of the Middle East, Pakistan and all those other fonts of democracy and freedom.

They can string up effigies of Blair and Bush until the sacred cows come home.

They can scream and shout about the Great Satan, the big cowboy and his pal the Yankee Poodle.

They can sit on their spreading bottoms in the coffee shops of the Middle East, vowing to get up quite soon - really quite soon, honest - and embrace martyrdom to help their Iraqi brothers defeat the Western dogs.

But this fact remains - the British and American troops are not slaughtering the Iraqi people, they are setting them free.

Saddam Hussein is going down in history as one of the greatest tormentors of his own people that the world has ever seen. The British can be proud of our role in the downfall of a regime that believes shelling your own civilians is often sound military strategy.

British men and women are instrumental in Saddam's destruction, and of all the despicable goons, thugs and torturers that have done his bidding. Some British families have already paid the price.

The British are a warrior race. Waging war is something we are very good at. One example - the number of Americans we have accidentally killed in Iraq is zero.

Throughout history we have invariably been on the right side. We rarely start a fight but we know how to finish one. That's why the Iraqi people are about to be freer than they have been for years.

And that's why I am so proud of my country today.

Let the malcontents burn the Union Jack. Right now I feel like kissing it.

Welcome to the world, Yussuf Gary.
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Apr 7, 2003
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