We saw Mrs Thatcher again - that notorious glutton for paperwork and detail - picking at the banquet of documents in front of her and protesting that she could not eat another thing: "I have seen so much paper that I have not seen before," she pleaded, fixing Presiley Baxendale with a meaning look. We saw William Waldegrave confidently declaring his faith in the honesty of Whitehall, the image of a man who has lied to himself so effectively as to what it is he is up to, that he could, with some justice, be acquitted of lying to others. We saw John Major entering the muddy epistemological domain of his own perception, a task for which he had to call on the assistance of a civil servant: "I asked precisely what I had known," said the Prime Minister. You would have thought simple introspection would have been more efficient, but then it might not have returned the same satisfactory result - "there's nothing we can find on paper, PM". We saw Alan Barratt, a civil servant from the Defence Exports Sales Secretariat, again failing to recollect why it was that he had referred to Mrs Thatcher's interest "last time", a wording that clearly implied her direct knowledge of the affair. The image of Manuel the waiter came repeatedly to mind, eyes flickering wildly from side to side, as he was interrogated by Justice Fawlty and repeating, with wretched entreaty, "I know nothink". We also saw some desperately thin monologues, introduced to tickle up your sense of outrage. A whistle-blowing secretary, a Kurd, Paul Henderson himself and a pro-Saddam Palestinian expounded on the black-hearted villainy of the British Government, in speeches that were memorable mostly for their shameless exploitation of sentiment. They were a mistake, a suggestion that the writers did not trust their public to grasp the far subtler issues emerging from the detailed, grammatically tangled dialogue of the transcripts. That is a complacent contempt they should leave to Government ministers, who, as the Scott Inquiry revealed, have far more experience in such matters.
As we are on the subject of escape and invasion, I might as well turn here to The One That Got Away (Sun, ITV), a dramatisation of the story of Chris Ryan, one of the members of Bravo Two Zero, an SAS team landed inside Iraq during the Gulf War. This must now be the most comprehensively documented secret mission ever undertaken and, with every telling, what happened gets more and more obscure (now, why does that sound familiar?). The makers of the film were aiming at something less than elevating - an account of an ill-prepared, incompetently-supplied mission, marred from the start by internal rivalries and war-comic heroics. Despite this disenchanted approach, they could not entirely curb their appetite for the conventions of the form - from bullets kicking up the sand round our fleeing hero's feet (why do enemy soldiers always aim so low?), to the steely-eyed Iraqi adversary, staring out into the desert and cursing the elusiveness of his prey. The directorial style was striking - it had a stark look and formal framing which suggested an avant-garde car advert. As an account of a real mission, though, it was a touch unconvincing. Not so much economical with la verite, as wildly extravagant.Reuse content