23 August 2007
Aden and Iraq: two colonial wars, but only one outcome
November of this year will mark the fortieth anniversary of the British withdrawal from Aden. The plan was to withdraw in 1968, but mounting casualties led to the hasty retreat. There were no formal ceremonies as power was handed over because there was nobody around to actually take power. Two rival guerilla groups would sort out the spoils, but since neither of them actually controlled the city outright on that 30th November, all the British could do was leave. The governor walked backwards up the steps of the aeroplane that was taking him home, a pistol in his hand. British ministers who had visited the colony in the years prior to that final scuttle had been under orders to proclaim loudly that they would never abandon Aden, but they did, in the end.
So it is today in Iraq. The British know that they are leaving, and are simply hanging on in their last two outposts, waiting for the final orders. When they come through it will then be a matter of getting the equipment to the docks and onto ships, before the last of the troops fly out.
We shall wait and see if the last civil administrator is able to walk up the steps in the normal way, or whether he has to back up, pistol in hand.