Leading article: Thank you, and good night

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Some dos and don'ts on the etiquette of gratitude. If you are a British general in charge of special forces who have just completed a successful Iraq operation and you are giving a self-congratulatory interview, do not complain about the lack of a thank-you letter. And if you are a peace activist rescued by said special forces, it looks churlish to preface your thanks with a political statement on the undesirability of the "armed force" that has come to your aid.

It might be suggested that General Sir Mike Jackson and Norman Kember are elderly and confused men who may not, under the pressure of the moment, have understood the public-relations requirements of their positions.

Those basics of politeness one more time. Gratitude is meaningful only if offered spontaneously and without qualification. Courage is heroic only if it is deployed without expectation of gratitude. The rest of us can simply give thanks that this long story ended without further bloodshed.

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