Good morning Mr. President.
Good morning. When we last met I said I wanted you to tell me about José Aznar. He seems quite an interesting guy. Very upbeat.
He is probably still basking in the glory of his country's victory at the Battle of Parsley Island.
I'm glad you mentioned that. Just as I was leaving for the Azores, one of my advisers told me to ask him about parsley. I thought that, for once, I might have misunderstood. There suddenly seems to be an awful lot of talk about food. First Tony Blair goes on about eggs and then my guys asked me to talk to José Aznar about parsley. I was beginning to wonder if I was missing something.
No, Mr. President, you were not mistaken. The reference was to Isla del Perejil, known in English as Parsley Island, which is just off the Moroccan coast, close to Spain, and claimed by the Spaniards.
What of it? Did something happen there I should have been told about?
Last year the Moroccans invaded it and Mr. Aznar was forced to rally the country behind him, making thunderous proclamations of Spanish sovereignty over the territory and calling on the Spanish people to defend it whatever the cost. He said no steps would be spared to throw the invaders out. Many say it was his finest hour.
And did they succeed in getting rid of the invaders
Indeed they did. By mustering all the might of the Spanish armed forces, gunboats, submarines, attack helicopters, their special ground forces, they got rid of the Moroccans in very short order.
Wow! So they've got a great rapid response facility?
Yes, Sir. The operation only lasted a few hours until the Moroccans withdrew.
Well, I always knew the Spaniards could win great battles. I remember at school we learned about the battle of the Spanish Armada.
I don't think that would be a good subject to bring up with Mr. Aznar.
In any case, why on earth didn't my people tell me about the Battle of Parsley Island before? I could have asked José to get his generals to talk to ours. I suppose their helicopters were used to vertically envelop the key Moroccan positions?
I'm not sure about that. I don't think there were any key Moroccan positions.
What do you mean no key positions? The invaders must have been stationed somewhere.
I believe they just stood there.
How big an invasion force are we talking about?
There are conflicting reports on that. Some say they were six, others go as high as twelve.
It's no use giving me numbers unless you explain what they were. Battalions. divisions, platoons, units?
Definitely units, Sir.
Well what size were they?
All different sizes I should imagine.
Were there many casualties?
None, Mr. President. Neither on the Spanish side nor on the Moroccan side.
That's amazing. You mean not even casualties from friendly fire? Didn't the Moroccans use their weapons to resist?
I am sure they would have, if they'd had any.
How big is the territory? They tell me Iraq is about a quarter of a million miles.
Parsley Island is about one.
A million miles. I never knew there was an island that big near Spain.
No, Sir. It's the one that counts, not the million.
What about the inhabitants? Did they welcome being freed by the Spaniards, or are they Moroccans?
Their reaction can best be described as one of utter indifference. They are neither Spaniards nor Moroccans. Actually, they are goats.
You don't say? But why aren't they called Parsleans if the country is Parsley Island?
I've no idea Sir. I do not believe anyone has ever given the matter any thought.
I have to say I find this all very strange. Are you sure you got it right?
Quite sure. If I seem to be rather vague it's because I have not been able to discover anything in the annals of military history to compare to the Battle of Parsley Island. So I'm finding it somewhat difficult to describe.
Well, maybe I won't bring it up with our military leaders. But I might ask State about it. They must have heard something and maybe they could fill me in on a few more details. There's one thing I'd like to know. How did the Moroccan forces get there, what landing craft did they use?
Again there are conflicting versions. Those who put the invading force at twelve units say they saw a few rowboats take off from the Moroccan coast. Those who say they numbered six, swear they stormed the Parsley shores with half a dozen pedalos borrowed from a nearby amusement area where they were celebrating their King's marriage.