Kevin Myers: 'Libyan lunacy' is widespread and seeking its next victim
Published 09/03/2011 | 05:00
IS there something about Libya that makes usually sensible people a little bit mad? How else can you describe the operation by eight armed SAS men last weekend?
For all its troubles, Libya remains a sovereign and independent republic, into which the SAS has as much right to enter as we have to send the Ranger wing to Peru. They were very lucky merely to have been given a kick up the transom and sent on their way: had I been a Libyan military leader who'd found armed foreigners wandering around my country, I'm not sure I'd have behaved with such swift clemency.
But what did the SAS think they were doing, in the very country where the regiment suffered some of the worst calamities in its history? In the very first SAS operation, 55 paratroops were dropped to attack Italian airfields near Benghazi in 1941. Thirty-four of them never returned -- one of them, Eoin McGonigal, was an Old Clongownian whose name lives on today in his nephew, the senior counsel. The next major SAS operation against Benghazi repeated the errors of its predecessor -- poor intelligence, over-ambitious aims, and a chronic failure to co-ordinate -- but only more so, for now the Royal Navy was involved. This time Italian losses totalled 16 men killed, and 30 aircraft destroyed. But British losses came to 746 men, three warships and over a dozen other vessels sunk. The SAS should spell Libya with one K, two Es, a P, an O, a U and a T.