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Samir A. Khouri
Ezzat El Alaili,
Even the so-so re-enactments cannot weaken the impact of what this documentary suggests
As Saddam's tanks rolled across the Kuwaiti border to start the Iraqi invasion of 1990, British Airways flight 149 was on route to the far east with a scheduled refuelling stop in Kuwait City. The crew did not know what was happening and had been advised that they were fine to land this even with their radios on for instant in case the situation changed. While on the runaway awaiting refuelling, Iraqi planes start bombing the airport and they flee into the airport proper. All passengers are moved into the airport hotel but this is only the beginning of the ordeal as they become "guests" of the Iraqi government (or human shields, as they would be better called).
This documentary is filled with interviews and testimony from those that were on BA149 that were held by the Iraqis during the invasion of Kuwait. The film acts as a complete recollection of the experience but the really engaging stuff is all up front in terms of the question "why was the plane landed into a country that was in the process of being invaded?". The film suggests that the plane contained a covert team that was being sent to be embedded in Kuwait ahead of the invasion and that the advice to BA that no invasion was happening was given to make sure that the plane got on the ground and the special unit got off. It suggests that Margaret Thatcher misled Parliament at best (lied at worst) when she said the plane landed hours before the invasion occurred.
Knowing very little of this whole affair, this allegation grabbed my attention because it is not one I've ever heard before and it is very serious. It is a point that comes up regularly after this and forms the conclusion of the film. In doing this the evidence is built up well across the film. This is not to say it is perfect then because it isn't. I didn't like the fact that the vast majority of the film was dramatic recreations. This would have been suitable if it was all about the people but it wasn't it was about the politics and the film would have been stronger if it had not spent so much time on recreations and instead pushed the factual contributions and evidence instead.
Even with me disliking these aspects of the film the "revelations" or "accusations" are searing and well laid out. Makes me wonder why I have not heard of this side of the "human shield" issue before and how unfair it is that the UK government continue to refuse any answers to the British passengers and crew.
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