Time waits for no man

'Now that we are full members of the EU, the bureaucracy is so horrendous that nobody would ever be able to invade Britain again'

By Miles Kington
Friday 24 January 2003 01:00

In a further attempt to take your minds off the nightmare of the approaching Oscar ceremonies, I am arranging another friendly session on the war against Iraq. As yesterday, it is hosted by our guest expert, retired Major-General Woodley Green. Over to you, Major-General.

Same routine as yesterday, is it? Do you want me to sit over here, in this uncomfortable chair?

That's it.

And answer more damn fool questions from your damn fool readers?

Well, yes.

And then take the money and run?

That's the idea.

Fair enough. Fire away.

Our first reader's question is – Is it true that over a quarter of the British Army is being ferried out to the Middle East?


Won't that leave us under defended?

Yes. Especially if most of the remainder will be out on duty putting out fires with Green Goddesses.

Are you at all worried that someone might take the opportunity to invade Britain while all these vital soldiers are away?

Someone invade Britain? Who are you thinking of?

Well, for instance, Argentina, seeking revenge for the Falklands War? Or France, bent on getting the Channel Islands back? Or Zimbabwe, mounting a pre-emptive strike? Or Scotland, just for fun?

No. No danger of that. Now that we are full members of the EU, I think you will find that the bureaucracy and paperwork are so horrendous that nobody would ever be able to invade Britain again. Unless...


Unless somebody infiltrated a whole army into Britain disguised as asylum-seekers, and just waited for the right moment to throw off their asylum-seeking clothes, rise up and slaughter us in our beds.

Good Lord! Is that possible?

Just think about it.

Mmmm... but coming back to the war against Iraq, we keep being told that the British Army is ill-equipped, and hasn't got the right boots or guns or anything for desert conditions, and the individual soldiers all have to buy the correct equipment out of their own money. Any truth in that?

Absolutely true. But that's not the way we put it.

How do you put it?

We now realise that each soldier is the best judge of what he needs in the desert, and that he should be left in charge of getting it. It's all to do with our new policy called Combat Choice, dreamt up by our new Arms Tsar. Chap called John Birt.

Good God almighty! Is Birt in charge of Army policy now? That explains a lot!

Have I said something I shouldn't? Sorry – I'd better plead the Official Secrets Act there. Next question.

President George W Bush said the other day he was sick and tired of waiting for Saddam Hussein to comply with UN demands. It was, he said, "like watching the rerun of an old movie, and he didn't want to watch it again". What old movie do you think he was thinking of?

Well, it obviously wasn't 'Dr Strangelove'. And I don't suppose it was 'Lawrence of Arabia'. So I guess it was 'Waiting for Godot'.


Because waiting for Saddam IS very like waiting for Godot. You know, time for them is not the same as time for us in the West. In Middle East conflicts, as in Beckett's work, time takes on a different dimension. It can stretch, it can contract, it can move at different speeds from the way we perceive time in the West. Time in the West is always hurrying at our back. We are always drumming our fingers, twitching, tapping the table with impatience. Things are different in the existential East. There, the unhurried bargaining in the souk matches the slow games of diplomatic chess played by Arab potentates, and the majestic gait of their camel contrasts strangely with the neurotic galloping of our horse. Saddam is moving at a different speed from us, and it is the right speed for him. As I say in my new best-selling self-help book, 'Discover the Right Tempo for YOU'...

Just a moment. Is that still Major-General Woodley Green talking?

Yes. Or rather, ex-Major-General Woodley Green. I am retired now, you know. Got to find a new source of income. Hence these self-help books. Made a bomb out of them. I can thoroughly recommend them. Not written under my own name, of course. Written under my nom de plume, Arabella Simpkins.

Arabella Simpkins will soon be back to answer more questions on the implications of the war against Iraq, for our personal development and individual fulfilment.

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