The polite way to express their scepticism about the mine-clearing skills of the dolphins is to question their reliability and cost-efficiency, but one diver spoke more plainly yesterday.
"Flipper's f----ed, mate," he said.
The handlers of the five dolphins at work in the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr confirmed yesterday that one of their charges, a male named Tacoma, did disappear when put in the water to go to work.
"Two days later we found him in the same spot where we put him in the water," said Lieutenant Robert Greene, the officer in charge of the M-7 series of mine-clearing dolphins.
Tacoma was yesterday resting in his holding pool with the Navy's oldest dolphin, 33-year-old Makay.
Makay has been more diligent in Iraq, perhaps learning from a painful experience when he, too, took off from duty once in Florida.
A shark attacked him during his self-declared holiday, leaving him with scars on his back.
No word on whether Tacoma had any bad experiences during his hooky. I think he just wanted to take a swing around the neighborhood.