Heros Or Cannon Fodder – Valued Or Abused – Easy Living Or Overstretched – Reduce Or Increase – Political Playthings Or Saviours of the Nation

 

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Observations of an old soldier

In my time I witnessed many hardships, policy disasters and tragedies visited upon British forces by the governments of Macmillan, Heath, Wilson, Callaghan, Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron. It pains me that nothing ever seems to be learned by politicians,  perhaps since they and their kin are not required to shed their blood. This has been the  fate of many thousands of young men and women who, trusting in their leaders of government, go off to war to be killed or to return home maimed physically and mentally.

 

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The story never changes. The armed forces are badly paid, undervalued, poorly equipped, overstretched and badly led by officers who value their careers more than the welfare of the forces and their dependents whom they command.

Housing,  for forces wives and children are badly in need of repair and renovation in some places they are officially classed as sub-standard, but accomodation and rental charges are levied in full.

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Soldiers are routinely on duty for 45- 50 hours weekly when at their base. This rises to between 80-120 hours at times they are deployed to exercise, assisting the nation at times of internal strife, (fireman, local council strikes etc.) or away to war supporting the policy of the government in power.

 

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Forces are not protected by the minimum wage act introduced by the Labour government in 1997. The commitment was dropped after pressure from then Defence Secretary George Robertson, (now Lord George) who claimed that it would put the military and government into a “financial and legal straitjacket”. His intervention resulted in first level forces eg. private soldiers, being paid the equivalent of under £2 for each hour of duty under fire. And politicians are ever alert to remind the public that they value our forces highly. Twaddle.

In recent times implementation of a recent defence review completed by Con/Dem politicians and civil servants inflicted major damage to our forces at the time many were deployed on active service in Afganistan. On returning home significant numbers were issued with a, “notice of redundancy” and summarily discharged within a few weeks with little prospect of gaining employment in a declining job market. So much for loyalty and camaraderie.

 

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The level of the UK armed forces is now such as to cause many senior military officers and some politicians to speak out asking that the government reverse the policy of armed forces reduction, implementing change markedly increasing conventional weaponry and personnel so as to be able to meet new threats to the safety of the UK.

The Con/Dem  government is refusing a change in policy,  preferring to place the safety of the UK with the Trident nuclear deterrent.  This policy of,  “mutual destruction”  is hardly defending the UK.  In the event Trident would be launched the UK would cease to exist.

 

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NATO, of which the UK is a full member is comprised of the vast majority of European countries, none of which maintain nuclear weapons, all preferring to adopt official NATO policy placing their security under the nuclear umbrella of the USA. But, as usual the UK opted out,  our politicians, for no other reason than the wish to retain the right to remain a, “Big Boy” in the world.

The USA preference is that the UK should give up Trident, adopting NATO policy. Finance released would be  used to significantly increase conventional forces  a more sensible and effective use of available funds. In addition to answering the call for more conventional forces such a policy, if implemented would expand our economy and reduce unemployment.

 

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There follows a number of articles justifying the aformentioned approach to defence favoured by increasing numbers of the public led by the Scottish, Welsh National and Green Party’s

 

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1914-1918 World War – military and political jurisdiction enforced

A total of: 5,952 officers and 298,310 other ranks were court-martialled in the period of the war. Of those tried, 89% were convicted; Of those convicted, 30% were for absence without leave and 14% for desertion. 3,080 of those convicted were sentenced to death. Of these, 346 were actually executed. http://www.1914-1918.net/crime.htm

 

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November 2006: British forces overworked, understrength, underpaid and undervalued

The National Audit Office (NAO) released a report detailing a series of critical difficulties faced by the British Armed Forces in recruiting and retaining sufficient numbers to carry out ongoing military operations. it depicts an army, navy, and air force struggling to cope with the demands placed on them, specifically by the intense military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It cites as reasons for a recruitment crisis, “demographic changes, changing attitudes to careers, and negative publicity affecting public perceptions of the Armed Forces.” The report estimates that the Armed Forces have been operating beyond planned levels of operating strength for the past five years, primarily to keep troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The study cites the figure of at least 5,000 fewer men and women than are needed to meet Britain’s current “defence commitments” around the world.

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In a comment suggesting the situation is even worse than official figures indicate, the report adds: “Manning requirements have not been adjusted to reflect the current levels of activity.” The report also reveals that disillusionment among servicemen and women has increased to such an extent that 10,000 personnel are quitting the armed forces each year before their period of engagement is up. The main reasons given for leaving early are the pressures soldiers face and the effects on family life. Fewer than one in seven British soldiers are getting the rest between operations that Ministry of Defence (MoD) official guidelines say they need. As a result, service personnel are working longer hours and spending more time away from their families. As many as 14,000 army personnel (14.5 percent) had been forced to breach MoD guidelines in the past 30 months, and in some areas, where the shortages are most severe this figure has risen to 40 percent. A survey of those who had recently left showed that up to 70 percent did so because of the impact on family life. Forty percent also cited low pay and too many deployments, and 32 percent blamed poor quality of equipment.

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Pressures are greatest where troop shortfalls are the biggest, and these include key posts. The NAO report revealed that there are 88 different specialities, or “pinch points,” where staffing shortages are seen as critical. The report cites 70 percent shortages in medical staff (including intensive therapy nurses) and a 50 percent shortage in weapons systems operators (including vehicle mechanics, armourers and recovery mechanics). There is also a shortage of “nuclear watch-keepers,” who are essential for maintaining nuclear-powered submarines, and Royal Marine commandos. Shortages in the Royal Navy have meant ships sailing with crews, on average, 12 percent below strength. The three forces are now officially 5,170 under strength, a shortfall of almost 3 percent.

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But this should be measured against successive cuts in official “manning requirements” over the past two years, the report adds. It also says that the military has deployed troops at higher levels than in defence assessments in overseas operations in each year since 2001. More than 8,000 troops are at present in Iraq, around 5,200 in Afghanistan and more than 900 in Bosnia. In addition, there are 8,500 British troops deployed in Northern Ireland and approximately 14,000 stationed in Germany. A senoir civil servant at the MOD admitted to the Commons Defence Committee that having 13,000 troops in two long-term campaigns breached the government’s own policy on the “maximum commitment” of the Armed Forces to overseas operations. http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2006/11/army-n22.html

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November 2006: UK military faces recruitment and retention crisis due to over stress and low pay

The most graphic expression of the crisis facing the armed forces, is the levels of troop desertions and soldiers going absent without leave. Up to June of 2006, at least 1,000 UK soldiers had officially deserted since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and an average of 3,000 soldiers had gone AWOL every year since 2001.

In return for facing the prospect of a horrible death or injury in wars of occupation that many soldiers don’t agree with, those serving in parts of southern Afghanistan and Iraq are actually being paid LESS than the UK national minimum wage according to their hours of service.

 

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The base salary of a private soldier in the British army is just £13,421. According to calculations by Mike Warburton, a leading accountant at Grant Thornton, if soldiers were working 12-hour days in a combat zone, this would mean their base pay would be £3.07 an hour. But they are more likely to be working 16-hour days at least, which takes the figure down to just £2.30 an hour, less than half the UK national minimum wage of £5.35 an hour.

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An additional payment of £6.02 a day, known as a Longer Separation Allowance, is paid to those in a war zone, although there is a qualifying period for this. But even if this additional payment is taken into account, to be paid the minimum wage soldiers in a war zone would have to be working just 62 hours a week—about 9 hours a day. Unlike their coalition counterparts, British soldiers also have to pay income tax on their earnings and the rent on their barrack room back in the UK even when they are engaged in operations abroad.

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A British officer who recently returned from Helmand province in Afghanistan was quoted in the London Independent as saying: “The wages paid to the privates is well below the minimum wage. Frankly, they would make more money emptying dustbins. They are being treated appallingly.”

Anthony Bradshaw, who saw combat as a private in the Pioneer Regiment in Iraq in 2003, said, “Our take-home pay during training was £650 a month after the deductions. When we were in Iraq it rose to £800 a month. Being a current or ex-soldier hardly makes you rich.”

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The armed forces were to be brought into the minimum wage structure by the incoming Labour government in 1997. But the proposal was dropped after pressure from then Defence Secretary George Robertson, who claimed that it would put the military into a “financial and legal straitjacket.” http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2006/11/army-n22.html

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April 2013: Fit for Purpose” Cannon Fodder: Recruiting for Violence in the Military

Has the creation and maintenance of an underclass always been deliberate. After all governments need scapegoats and sin eaters and, given their propensity for waging wars, where else would they get their cannon fodder?

To disentangle the facts it is necessary to identify where so many of the raw recruits come from, the boys and young men that make up the INFANTRY. Often living in the poorest city neighbourhoods, many from single-parent families and broken homes, in foster or local authority care and with lives already full of violence, these are the children who constantly truant from school to roam the streets and form gangs. The truancy, gang culture and a failing social system mean they miss out on the things that might get them out of dead-end lives – education and employment.

 

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Many youngsters, facing a future with no job then, as a last resort, get off the street corner by going into the Army. But oh, how they are cheated. With little experience of the world beyond their small territory, and with parents as ill-informed as them, they believe all they are told by the recruiting teams about how wonderful a career in the army will be – an exciting life, foreign travel, lots of sport and the rest. The Army will train you, they are told; you’ll come out with a good qualification, something that will get you a good job when you leave the army. No one tells them that if you want that kind of training you may have to sign up for perhaps an extra three year’s service, just to get on a three month course.

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Almost a third of new soldier recruits are under 18; and the educational attainment among soldiers is much lower than the national average (in 2008-09 only 8.9% of new soldier recruits with recorded grades for English GCSE had passed at Grade C-A*, compared with a national average of 61% in England in the same year). In 2007 the Basis Skills Agency said, “It is a fact of life that up to half of the British Army’s soldier recruits enter training with literacy or numeracy skills at levels at or below those expected of a primary school leaver.” That is, recruits are accepted with a reading competence of an 11 year-old or under. However, this is rapidly being altered due to the large numbers of soldiers leaving the Army due to the UK’s involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and other theatres of discontent. In an effort to recruit enough replacements, the accepted literacy level was dropped to 7 years old.

 

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Think that’s bad? Then think again. INFANTRY recruits tend to be younger and from more disadvantaged backgrounds than those joining most other branches of the armed forces. Their educational attainment is also lower: provided that potential infantry recruits are fit and healthy, they need only the literacy skills of a five year-old to join. But those eager young lads are ever hopeful. They think maybe they will be trained as a motor mechanic (after all, they’ve probably been driving illegally since they were twelve). So when they’re asked what regiment they’d like to go into they get ambitious and ask to join the Royal Engineers or some such. Only to be told that there are no vacancies there “but we’ve got places in the INFANTRY. Why don’t you go for that?” Could they, with their lack of any real information, understand the difference and just how that difference matters?

 

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So with literacy and numeracy abilities of a 5 year-old and probably emotionally underdeveloped as well, they sign up to the INFANTRY and enter a world that, even with their experience of violence within their former life, is beyond their imagining. Much of the induction training involves bullying and some leave within the permitted first 6 months of training but many stay on and bond. This is now their ‘gang’, their replacement family. They are all in it together, whether suffering or getting drunk. The Army depends on that bonding. It means they won’t let their mates down, they’ll follow orders – and they’ll hide the fact that they are mentally distressed. But in any other sphere except that of the British Forces, these are considered to be children.

Although serving in the front line puts them at a greater risk of being killed or wounded than any other soldiers, a far bigger risk is that of psychological damage. Taken from a poor background, already angry and violent, bullied into making use of the violence then given a gun and put into the front line – what comes home is a young man even more angry and ready to explode. There’s a stigma attached to seeking help. It’s seen as weakness. Nor does the Army do much of a job, or any job at all, of teaching them how to deal with their anger, how to fit back into civilian life when they leave the Army. Depression, PTSD, drug and alcoholism, all go untreated. The great career descends into homelessness, addiction, more violence and prison.

 

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For all that, life in the Army is great, very satisfying and it’s a wonderful career. Not true. Compared to 35-36% of civilians highly satisfied with their jobs, only 13% of soldiers are. Soldiers are not good at making their complaints known, at least to their superior officers, but some do. Even so, according to a report, released by the Service Complaints Commissioner the complaints process is “still not working efficiently, effectively or fairly”. MPs want the Commissioner to have more powers. The military powers do not want outsiders poking their noses in. As one senior officer said, “We have the highest ranks spending a huge amount of time with the Adjutant-General looking at problems brought to their attention from relatively junior personnel.” The ‘relatively junior’ bit is telling. It probably means that the young soldiers aforementioned are not heard at all.

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Much of the violence that is caused by PTSD does not manifest until perhaps 15 years after the bloody reality of the front line experiences. It is twelve years since the invasion of Iraq, even less since the bloody fighting in Afghanistan. The incidence of violent crime committed by ex-soldiers is rising. Account of the waste of lives, not just the terrible toll inflicted on Iraq and Afghanistan, but on our streets by the too-young men Westminster politicians sent to war.

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Politicians and Generals like sending armies off to war. But young men and women uninformed about their personal responsibility in killing an enemy or their right to refuse to do so, are not educated enough to know the complicated politics behind any conflict they fight in, or to understand the culture and mores of those who, they have been told, are ‘the enemy’, they will do what they’ve been trained to do without question – kill. And they might die, or come home with shattered bodies and minds. And the politicians who loudly called them ‘our brave boys’ when they were on the front line, will not care when they end up homeless or in prison. The country deserves better than this. And so do the young lads who, for want of any better life, enlist for the front line. http://www.globalresearch.ca/fit-for-purpose-cannon-fodder-recruiting-for-violence-in-the-military/5329282

 

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April 2009: Armed Forces In Scotland In Crisis

Figures released by the MOD under the FOI act revealed that 122 staff from a total establishment of 3000, based at the Faslane Naval base were either AWOL or medically unfit for duty. Enough to staff a nuclear submarine.

It was also revealed that in 2008, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, strength about 2500 (deployed frequently to Iraq and Afganistan) had a total of 615 soldiers (approx 25%) AWOL or medically unfit for duty. A figure evidenced in years before and after. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/ONE+OF+OUR+NUKE+CREWS+IS+MISSING%3B+Scandal+of+AWOL+sailors.-a0197328724

 

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21 April 2010: AWOL soldier loses sentence appeal

A soldier who went absent without leave as he was about to be deployed to Afghanistan lost a Court of Appeal challenge against his nine-month sentence today. Joe Glenton, from York, who was handed the custodial term and demoted to private from lance corporal after admitting the AWOL charge at a court martial last month, was present for the ruling by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and two other judges in London.

The military court in Colchester, Essex, heard Glenton was discovered missing on June 11 2007 and was absent for 737 days before handing himself in. The 27-year-old had performed a seven-month tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2006, serving with the Royal Logistic Corps. The judges heard that he was promoted to lance coroporal because of the “exemplary” way he carried out his duties during that operation. Only one year later he was about to be deployed with his unit to Afganistan once more but went AWOL.

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Glenton, who has so far served 75 days of his sentence, said he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after his first stint in the war zone. It was argued on his behalf today that because of a diagnosis of PTSD it had been “wrong in principle” to have imposed an immediate custodial sentence on him. The court was urged to either suspend it or reduce it to allow for his release. But the judges, sitting in London, ruled that his sentence was neither excessive nor wrong in principle.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/awol-soldier-loses-sentence-appeal-1949878.html

 

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August 2013: New Armed Forces chief warns government defence cuts could damage soldiers’ morale

Defence cuts risk soldiers becoming “cynical and detached”, the new Armed Forces head has warned. General Sir Nick Houghton, has admitted he faces a “huge challenge” keeping morale and capabilities up as services are slashed. He said: “We have to recalibrate our expectation of the level of capabilities we can field on new operations from a standing start. “We have got to get back into an ‘expeditionary mindset’ where we will not have the perfect capability for every scenario.”

 

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General Houghton promised an “honest, straight-talking approach” and said he would do more to listen to the concerns and worries of Armed Forces personnel. He added: “I think we’ve risked people becoming cynical and detached from what defence is trying to do.” He also admitted the outcome of the Afghanistan war is still up in the air. He said everything invested “in terms of blood and treasure and effort over the past 12 years” had helped transform security there. But he added: “The enduring outcome for Afghanistan still sits in the balance.” http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/new-armed-forces-chief-general-2207986

 

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December 2014: Osborne’s cuts could reduce Army to virtually useless

If George Osborne is to be taken at his word – and if the Conservatives are returned to power in May – the public spending cuts he is planning will trigger the biggest downturn in Britain’s defence capability we have seen in modern times. In short, the British Army could be reduced to around 63,000 personnel – so small it would be classified by Nato as a gendarmerie. Responsible commentators, including two leading BBC programmes, Newsnight and The World at One, are forecasting between 30 and 40 per cent cuts in the budgets of the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. That means reducing the current military defence budget of £36 billion to somewhere between £20 – £25 billion.

 

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The cuts have to be this severe because the budgets for health, education and overseas aid are to be ‘ring-fenced’. (The aid budget, managed by the Department for Foreign Investment and Development, will run at £12bn, and will rise as the economy grows.) In a worst-case scenario, sketched by several leading commentators, the MoD will be asked to lose a total of at least 50,000 military and civilian posts. The Army, already reduced under present policies to 82,000, is likely to lose a further 19,000 soldiers.

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Osborne’s pledge to have Britain in the black by the end of the decade makes the undertaking given by David Cameron at September’s Nato summit in Cardiff – to spend two per cent of GDP on defence – sound like sheer whimsy or a cynical deception plan. Estimates suggest that Osborne’s cuts would require the UK to spend only 1.2 per cent of GDP on defence – below that of France (1.4 per cent) and roughly equal with Italy. http://www.theweek.co.uk/uk-news/61710/osborne-s-cuts-could-reduce-army-to-virtually-useless#ixzz3T9dWoAQN

 

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Dec 2014: Defence review after the 2015 General Election – Trident for the scrapheap!!

The government recently announced that the Royal Navy is to open a new £15 million base in Bahrain, (the first east of Suez since 1971). And, of course, Cameron promised at Cardiff that the second aircraft carrier, the Prince of Wales, is to be commissioned after all. Further commitments are to be made to the training of friendly forces and the air campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq. (This despite a letter appearing in the press from a disgruntled officer saying that the RAF’s force of Tornados operating over Iraq out of Cyprus are dangerously low on maintenance and spares.) Also this past weekend, a leak to the Sunday Times suggested that RAF planes and UK ground forces may have to return to Afghanistan to help the newly installed president, Ashraf Ghani, thwart the Taliban offensive on Kabul and in the south of the country.

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But in consequence of the, “Strategic Security and Defence Review of Autumn 2010” Britain is in no position to offer sustained help in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, eastern Europe or anywhere much else for that matter. An independent think tank and journal, “Defence Analysis”, suggests that within a few years the UK will be spending 70 per cent of its defence budget on equipment, meaning further savage cuts in forces manpower. In short, the three services will have a lot of swanky equipment, including two new aircraft carriers, but too few personnel to maintain or run that equipment properly. Already the RAF has something in the range of 140 Eurofighters on its books, of which it can man and use about 40.

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Now we get to the elephant in the room – Trident. If the projections of 30 to 40 per cent cuts are accurate, the replacement for the current Trident system of ballistic missiles, Britain’s nuclear deterrent, surely has to be written off for good. But already quite large sums have been spent on developing the weapon and the new submarines to carry it. The submarine order can be delayed – as the Americans have delayed their replacement for the current Ohio class of submarines carrying their Trident. But development of the weapon cannot be halted – it is already half completed. This is a huge political hot potato. The Tories will try to keep the Trident issue out of the election campaign, but the SNP and Lib Dems both want to scrap it and will argue the case for doing so. Labour is still sitting firmly on the nuclear fence. http://www.theweek.co.uk/uk-news/61710/osborne-s-cuts-could-reduce-army-to-virtually-useless#ixzz3T9dWoAQN

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President Clinton’s – Labour Party Conference October 2002 – Do Not Rush To War With Iraq & Alex Salmond’s Input to The Debate 18 March 2003

salmond1. 18 March 2003; Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan):

a. Fundamentally, the debate is not about Iraq, Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction or even oil, though oil is certainly a factor. The debate is about a new world order, with an unrivalled superpower adopting a doctrine of pre-emptive strike, and how we accommodate that and come to terms with that new world order. Eighteen months ago the United States had an atrocity committed against it and it is still in a trauma. The point was made a few minutes ago, and it is undoubtedly correct.

b. On 12 September 2001, the day after the attack on the twin towers, the United States was at its most powerful. In its moment of greatest extremity, the United States was at its zenith. In addition to its unrivalled military might, it carried total moral authority throughout the world. A hundred or more nations signed messages of sympathy, support or solidarity with the extremity that the United States had suffered.

c. Now, 18 months later, that enormous world coalition has been dissipated. I do not take the position that it was only a gang of four who gathered in the Azores. I accept that there are more countries—or at least countries’ Governments — who are signed up, but the coalition of the willing for the campaign against Iraq is very narrowly based. Anyone who wants confirmation of that should just count the troops: 300,000 United States and British troops, and I understand that 1,000 Australians have been asked for, and 100 Poles have been offered. That is a very narrowly based coalition indeed.

d. The Prime Minister believes, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North identified, that the way to accommodate the situation is to accept that the United States will be predominant and that the rest must fall into line. They can try to restrain it, but they will have to fall into line with the views of the United States Administration. That is a wrong-headed policy, and it is taking people into ridiculous positions.

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e. In his undoubtedly powerful speech today, the Prime Minister argued that the weapons inspection process had never worked. He came close to saying that it had all been a waste of time. I remember a speech on 2 October at the Labour conference in which another powerful speaker went into enormous detail to show how successful the weapons inspection process had been in the 1990s and how it had led to the destruction of chemical weapons, the chemicals used to make weapons, the armed warheads and the biological weapons facility. He concluded that, “the inspections were working even when he(Saddam Hussein)was trying to thwart them.”

f. I watched that speech on television. Many hon. Members were there. The speaker was President Bill Clinton. The television was doing cutaways to Ministers, including the Prime Minister. They were all nodding vigorously last October when President Clinton said that through the 1990s that policy worked and destroyed far more weapons of mass destruction than were destroyed, for example, in the Gulf war. The Prime Minister now seems to be denying what he accepted only last October.

g. We are told that the majority of the Security Council would have voted for the second resolution, if it had not been for the nasty French coming in at the last minute and scuppering the whole process. Let us get real. Have we listened to what other countries were saying? The Chileans proposed an extension of three weeks, but they were told by the United States that that was not on. In the debate in the General Assembly, country after country expressed their anxieties about not letting the weapons inspectors have a chance to do their work. They were told that the nasty French—I am not sure whether the Conservative party dislikes the French more than the Liberals, or vice versa were being extremely unreasonable, but the French position, and the Chinese position in order to become acceptable, resolution 1441 had to be amended. Everything has been consistent in the opposition of countries that are against a rush to military action.

h. Somebody should speak up for the French, because their position has been consistent, as has that of the Russians and the Chinese. The Chinese, the French and the Russians issued a declaration on the passage of resolution 1441. It sets out exactly how the British and the United States ambassadors agreed that it was not a trigger for war. The reason that those countries did not want a second resolution was not that it would be a pathway to peace I wonder who dreamed that up in Downing street. The reason was that they saw it as a passport to war, so obviously they opposed a resolution drawn in those terms. The majority of smaller countries in the Security Council and the General Assembly countries did not want to rush to war because they saw that there remained an alternative to taking military action at this stage of the inspection process.

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i. We are told that the Attorney General has described the war as legal. We could go into the legalities and quote professor after professor who has said the opposite, but one thing is certain: when the Secretary General of the United Nations doubts the authorisation of military action without a second resolution, people can say many things about that action, but they cannot say that it is being taken in the name of the United Nations.

j. The argument is that it will be a salutary lesson, that a dictator will be taught a lesson and that that will help us in dealing with other dictators. I suspect that the cost of the action — I do not doubt the military outcome for a second will be so high in a number of ways that it will not provide a platform for an assault on North Korea or Iran, which form the rest of the “axis of evil”. I do not think that the policy of teaching one dictator a lesson and then moving on to other dictators can work. Most of us know that it will be a breeding ground for a future generation of terrorists. That is not the case because people like Saddam Hussein. The images that will be shown throughout the Muslim world will not feature him, although, without any question, he will be more attractive as a martyr when he is dead than he has ever been while alive. The images that will be shown are those of the innocents who will undoubtedly die in a conflict that will be a breeding ground for terrorism.

k. Will the nation building work? The record of the United States on nation building has not been impressive. Let me say something about one of the other countries that is being reviled at present Germany, which commits far more troops as a percentage of its armed forces to helping to secure the peace in the various trouble spots of the world for the United Nations.

l. We are told that the Prime Minister, (this is the essence of his case) will try to restrain some elements in the United States Administration and make them take a multilateral approach, but that, if that does not happen, when push comes to shove he has to go along with their policy. I say that there is a broader United States of America than the United States Government. I believe that many sections of opinion in America would welcome a vote from this Parliament today that says “Not in our name”, because the real America wants to see a stand for peace, not a rush for war

2. Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North):

a. There is only one issue that we must consider today: whether we should go to war at this time and set what is, to me, the terrible precedent of starting a pre-emptive war on a dubious legal basis without the support of the United Nations. Nothing else should matter. The issue should transcend party politics. We know how the Front Benchers, Whips and others will argue that support for the war is a vital party loyalty test—whether that is support for the Conservative party or for the Labour party—but the issue is too serious for that. It should transcend our careers, whether we are Back Benchers or Front Benchers, because in this context we should regard ourselves as here today, gone tomorrow politicians. I do not remember the Prime Minister’s exact words, but he summed it up when he said something to the effect that we are talking about the future safety of the world and therefore we should be concerned about the future of our children and future generations.

b. It is not a matter of whether or not we like France as a result of what it has done. It is not a matter of trade-offs: this will not become a just war simply because we say as a trade-off that we will do something about the middle east peace process or that we will tidy up in the aftermath in a very decent way. Let us be clear about the position on UN support. The three original proposers had support from only one other member of the Security Council. Five other states said that they were opposed and there were six swing states. The Prime Minister made a lot of the position of Chile, but it proposed a delay of three weeks and was turned down out of hand by the United States. There are others who have been “unreasonable”. Those of us who put a lot of faith in the Prime Minister’s promise that war would be regarded as a last resort fear that the Bush Administration have not regarded war as a last resort.

c. The question put to the Prime Minister by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) in respect of the unreasonable veto was not satisfactorily answered. If it was really just a question of France, why did we not put the issue to the Security Council? If the vote had been 14 to one in favour, we could have done what we did with regard to Korea and gone to the General Assembly and asked whether we had its support. We know that we would not have done that because we did not have the support of the majority of Governments in the world, and those Governments who do support us do not have the support of the majority of their population.

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d. The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has suggested that if we go ahead in this form we will be breaching the United Nations charter. I respect the Attorney-General’s view on legality, but we must respect the fact that a wide range of senior international jurists take a different view. Therefore, the only basis on which we could go ahead would be if there was an immediate threat to justify immediate war.

e. Reference has been made to weapons of mass destruction. Iraq does not only not have nuclear weapons, but, in answer to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Newport, East (Alan Howarth), Dr. el-Baradei has said that so far he sees no evidence for the suggestion that Iraq has restarted its nuclear weapons programme. Iraq has had most of its biological and chemical weapons—if it still has them, and I suspect it has—for several years. Do we believe that there is an immediate intent to attack the United Kingdom, the United States, neighbouring states or other states?

f. Mr. Francois: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons programme in the early 1980s and that the main reason that it did not develop the nuclear bomb was that its nuclear reactor at Osirak was destroyed by military action?

g. Mr. Savidge: I accept that it had such a programme and I have no doubt that Saddam would like to develop a nuclear bomb, but it is important to be realistic about the nature of the threats from different countries.

h. Mike Gapes: My hon. Friend refers to weapons of mass destruction. Has he read page 98 of the Blix report, which makes it clear that; “Iraq currently possesses the technology and materials, including fermenters, bacterial growth and seed stock, to enable it to produce anthrax”?

i. Mr. Savidge: That is very possible. The major threat that is suggested is not that Iraq intends to attack anyone with such weapons but that it would pass them to terrorist organisations. I have already quoted what George Tennet said on behalf of the CIA on that, and I repeat that it is important when talking about what connections countries have with terrorism to distinguish between unconditional terrorist organisations, which would be liable to wish to use weapons of mass destruction, and political terrorist organisations, which, however unpleasant or vile, probably would not have a purpose in doing so. I am talking about groups such as the Mujaheddin-e Khalq Organisation and Hamas, with which I accept that there is evidence that Iraq has had connections. As for al-Qaeda, my right hon. Friend the Member for Newport, East referred to evidence given by Vaclav Havel; in fact, Vaclav Havel later said that the information provided no clear evidence of a connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

j. The Prime Minister said today that the question before us is how Britain and the world face the central security threat of the 21st century. I believe that he was referring to weapons of mass destruction, which brings us to an extremely important point. The general belief in the House has been that we should deal with that problem through a regime of non-proliferation and multilateral disarmament. That has been the common view of UK parties. That does not rule out the possibility of a counter-proliferation strike against a country that is disobeying that regime.

k. However, we have to recognise that the Bush Administration are adopting a wholly different scheme, whereby counter-proliferation, as they call it, takes absolute precedence. In a sense, they are saying, “It is okay if our friends develop nuclear weapons, but not if our enemies do,” and they choose who are the friends and who are the enemies. Let us remember that Iraq was regarded as a friend and was supplied during the 1980s, but is now regarded as an enemy. I find that approach capricious and destabilising.

l. Even more worrying is that the policy of the Bush Administration seems to be tending towards saying, “We can develop new nuclear weapons or try to make nuclear weapons more usable, and we can decide to breach the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the security assurance that we gave under that treaty.” That is a serious aspect of the overall problem of weapons of mass destruction, especially when it is added to the doctrine of pre-emptive war.

m. I have heard the Prime Minister speak twice today, and I apologise for not being able to remember whether he said this at a meeting of the parliamentary Labour party or in the House, but it is not an internal party matter in any case. He made the point that war on Iraq was not on his agenda when he became Prime Minister in 1997, and he said that George W. Bush had told him that two days before 11 September it was not on his agenda. However, I fear that, long before 11 September, it was on other people’s agenda—namely, that of several of the hawks whom George Bush appointed to his Administration. Some time ago, I sent hon. Members an e-mail entitled “Why Now?”, which outlined some of the different things that they had said and gave original documents that one can get from various websites.

n. That raises another question. If war with Iraq was not on the Prime Minister’s or the President’s agenda in 2001, can we forget that it was not on their agenda for 10 years and say that we have been waiting for 12 years? If full-scale war was not on the agenda, why is it on the agenda now? Is it a logical response to 11 September?

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o. The Prime Minister said that we can view the United States as a major power and seek a rival pole, as a unilateral power or as a partner. I want partnership, but I have doubts. I am not happy about partnership if it means that the United States takes the decision and the rest of us are expected to follow—that to me is not partnership—or if, as seems to be happening, the Bush Administration decide what action should be taken and what should be done immediately, and allow us to supply some of the rhetoric or some of the long-term wish list.

p. If we vote for a pre-emptive war against Iraq now, we should ask ourselves what precedent we will be setting, because the hawks have already said that they have plans for other pre-emptive divisive wars. We should contrast their plan of the world with the inspirational vision set out by the Prime Minister in Brighton in 2001, when he spoke of, “the moral power of a world acting as a community”.

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3. President Clinton’s Powerful Speech to the labour party Conference in Blackpool October 2002, (6 months before the invasion of Iraq

a. His advice, so readily embraced by Tony Blair and all of his ministers was ignored. Bush and Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the terrible consequences have been visited upon the nations of the World, (in particular the middle East) ever since.

b. Bush and Blair are now retired and earning financial fortunes from speeches, advisory activities in support of many governments around the world and other business. But many thousands of our armed forces have died or returned home maimed through physical and or mental injury. There entire lifetime will be spent in pain as will the many thousands of families who lost their sons and daughters.

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c. Why oh Why did Blair not listen to President Clinton, Alex Salmond and Malcolm Savidge. The last 11 years and the forseeable future could have been so different.

d. The full debate: http://www.warmwell.com/iraqwardebate03.html The video: http://www.c-span.org/video/?172964-1/foreign-policy-issues

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The War Game – The Reality Of A Nuclear War – The Harrowing Film Produced By The BBC But Never Shown

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The War Game – The Reality Of A Nuclear War – The Harrowing Film Produced By The BBC But Never Shown

This award winning film was produced by the BBC but never shown on national television due to the messages it carried.

The recent vote in Westminster to retain and further develop Trident nuclear weapons at an astronomical cost expected to exceed £200 billion reminded me of the film I first viewed some 35 years ago. I am fervently against the retention of nuclear weapons which, as sure as night follows day will bring about the scenario enacted in the film.

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We present the US television premiere of Peter Watkins’ film “The War Game,” a graphic portrayal of what would happen in the event of a nuclear attack on Great Britain. The movie was so powerful and realistic that the BBC banned it from TV despite the fact that the film had been commissioned by the BBC and had won an Academy Award in l966 for best documentary. Although it has been shown in a few movie theatres in the US, it has not been presented on TV. “The War Game” is shocking, but is not sensationalized. It was carefully researched and based on actual events which occurred in World War II during and after the mass Allied raids on Germany and the atomic bombings of Japan. Recorded February, 1983 “The War Game” Copyright 1965 Copyright February, 1983 https://archive.org/details/AV_179-THE_WAR_GAME-_THE_REALITY_OF_NUCLEAR_WAR

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The Chilcott Inquiry – Failures Of The Military Elite – Promotion Or Death??

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1. The Chilcott Inquiry – The Role Of the Military Elite

a. Top Brass who failed to stand up to politicians over the rush to war in Iraq are likely to face criticism in the long-awaited report

b. Senior military officers advised the inquiry that they were concerned about the pressure of fighting wars simultaneously in Iraq and Afghanistan, shortages of equipment, and an inability to prepare British troops properly for war because Tony Blair did not want the plans to become public.

c. In a democracy, it is the politicians’ job to give orders to the military and expect them to be carried out, but the report is likely to raise questions over whether the Generals could have highlighted more forcefully, warnings about the army’s shortcomings in terms of it’s readiness for war.

d. Admiral Lord Michael Boyce, the then Chief of the Defence Staff, told the Iraq Inquiry he had been slapped down by ministers for complaining in the run-up to the invasion. He said then Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, who had never served in the Armed Forces, told him to make his military assessments ‘more of a glass half-full rather than half-empty’.

e. He also said he was banned from buying equipment for troops until four months before the invasion – contributing to shortages of body armour and other kit in the early days of the conflict. Some units, including the 7th Armoured Brigade – the historic and war-hardened Desert Rats – were only battle-ready the day before the invasion.

f. Asked by the inquiry if he had confidence Lord Boyce and Mr Hoon had passed the concerns of the time to the Prime Minister, a sceptical-sounding General Lord Richard Dannatt, then the Assistant Chief of the General Staff, said: ‘They told me they were.’ Lord Boyce said he raised his concerns with Mr Blair – but was given short shrift.

g. It was not until November, just four months before the war, that defence chiefs were able to make ‘overt’ preparations.

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h. General Lord Michael Walker, promoted from head of the Army to Chief of the Defence Staff in May 2003 – two months after the invasion – admitted to the inquiry the military was ‘overstretched’. But he has stood accused of pushing politicians to include more ground troops to boost ‘morale’ among soldiers – a claim he vehemently denied. A year later, he said, Britain’s entire military top brass threatened to quit in protest at Gordon Brown’s proposals for savage defence cuts while the UK was fighting on two fronts.

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i. Lord Dannatt, who was involved in planning for the invasion, told the inquiry the ‘desire’ of the Army to send a large force to the war zone was ‘not huge’. But he added: ‘From a professional point of view… there was a bit of a feeling that if the US was going to go in and conduct an operation… there may have been a little bit of a professional feeling, “We should be doing this.”

j. Sir Michael Graydon, a former head of the RAF, said yesterday any criticism in the report would probably look at the advice of the military advisers in drafting the discredited dossiers which made the so-called case for war. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2920788/Jeremy-Heywood-accused-defying-vow-release-documents.html

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2. I previously wrote to many aspects of Tony Blairs rush to war and the many failures of military heirachy and politicians. A number are listed below.

https://caltonjock.com/2014/10/30/sir-jeremy-heywood-the-iraq-inquiry-other-controversies-are-his-hands-clean/
https://caltonjock.com/2014/10/04/oh-what-a-lovely-war-or-how-the-hell-did-we-end-up-here-again/
https://caltonjock.com/2014/08/29/hoon-defence-secretary-iraq-no-answers/
https://caltonjock.com/2014/08/29/iraq-back-to-haunt-the-uk/
https://caltonjock.com/2015/01/20/lest-we-forget-blairs-legacy-month-of-war-our-young-men-die-for-what-remember-very-recent-past-when-you-vote-for-your-childrens-future-in-2015/
https://caltonjock.com/2014/08/28/afghanistan-the-labour-party/
https://caltonjock.com/2014/08/29/part-time-defence-secretary-at-a-time-of-war/

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Lest We Forget – Blair’s Legacy – One Month Of War – Our Young Men Die – For What? – Remember Very Recent Past When You Vote For Your Children’s Future In 2015

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September 2 2006; Nimrod Crashes – British Servicemen killed in Afghanistan 14

Twelve RAF personnel, a Royal Marine and an Army soldier were on board the RAF Nimrod MR2 which came down in the southern province of Kandahar. The reconnaissance plane, based at RAF Kinloss in Scotland, belonged to the Nato-led force battling the Taleban. Officials said the incident appeared to be an accident. The 12 RAF personnel on board the were all based at Kinloss and from the Moray area, a spokesman from the base said. All next of kin have been informed.

Nato forces say the plane was supporting the Nato mission in the area. The pilot is believed to have radioed ground staff about a technical fault shortly before the aircraft came down. The crash brings the death toll of UK forces personnel in Afghanistan to 36 since the start of operations in November 2001. The crash is thought to be the biggest single loss of British troops in Iraq or Afghanistan since military operations began there in 2001.

Those who died were: Flight Lt Steven Johnson, Flt Lt Leigh Anthony Mitchelmore, Flt Lt Gareth Rodney Nicholas, Flt Lt Allan James Squires, Flt Lt Steven Swarbrick, Flt Sgt Gary Wayne Andrews, Flt Sgt Stephen Beattie, Flt Sgt Gerard Martin Bell and Flt Sgt Adrian Davies. Also named were Sergeant Benjamin James Knight, Sgt John Joseph Langton and Sgt Gary Paul Quilliam. The soldier who died was Lance Corporal Oliver Simon Dicketts from the Parachute Regiment and Royal Marine Joseph David Windall.

The crew reported a fire shortly before the crash and the Mail says the crash highlights concerns “over the poor standards of British military equipment”, quoting the RAF describing the plane as “old”. The Guardian says the fleet was due to be replaced more than five years ago.

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy said a routine air-to-air refuelling had taken place just before a mayday call was received. Indications are a technical problem was linked to a blaze, he told Channel 4. “We have definitely got an early report that the pilot reported a technical problem connected with fire,” he said. The Nimrod was said to have completed routine mid-air refuelling at 20,000 ft (6,000 m). “It was obviously carrying out a surveillance operation over Afghanistan and all the indications from the circumstances, from the information that we have at the moment, are that it was technical malfunction,” the air chief marshal said.

Angus Robertson, the SNP MP for Moray, said: “This is tragic news for the families and friends of the service personnel at RAF Kinloss. “It brings home the terrible danger that our service personnel face and that they perform their duties with selflessness. “Our thoughts go out to everybody connected with the victims and RAF Kinloss at this time.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/5308622.stm

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September 4 2006; British soldiers killed in Iraq attack 4

Two British soldiers, Gunner Samuela Vanua and Gunner Stephen Wright of the 12 Regiment Royal Artillery died from injuries suffered in Monday’s explosion near the town of Ad Dayr, north of Basra in southern Iraq. Their patrol was targeted by a roadside bomb and small arms fire near the town of Ad Dayr at about 1300 local time. Another two soldiers were injured – one seriously – and have been taken to the Shaibah Logistics Base by helicopter for emergency medical treatment. The deaths bring the total number of UK soldiers killed in operations in Iraq since the 2003 conflict to 117. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5312344.stm

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September 4 2006; British soldier among Kabul bomb dead 4

A British soldier has been killed and a further three injured in a suspected suicide bombing on a Nato convoy in Kabul. The latest fatality brings the death toll of UK forces personnel in Afghanistan to 37 since the start of operations in November 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5312356.stm

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September 4 2006; Kabul suicide bomber kills British soldier 2

A British soldier has been killed and another very seriously injured in a suicide bomb attack on a Nato convoy in the capital. An Afghan interior ministry spokesman told Reuters news agency the suicide bomber had rammed his car into the convoy. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/5311464.stm

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September 4 2006; Army ‘just’ coping, says general

The new head of the British Army warned that his soldiers can only “just” cope with the demands placed on them by ministers. General Sir Richard Dannatt, who took over from Sir Mike Jackson last week, said: “We are running hot, certainly running hot. “Can we cope? I pause. I say ‘just’.”

Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells said he did not think that the British Army was overstretched but other Nato countries should be doing more. He added: “There has got to be an effort right across Nato and not just concentrated on a certain number of countries like the UK and Canada.

Shadow Defence Minister Gerald Howarth, said the Tories had predicted that British troops would “get sucked into a very much more fierce counter insurgency operation”. However, Parliament was assured by John Reid, the then defence secretary, that this would not be the case, Mr Howarth told BBC Radio 4’s World at One.

Col Tim Collins, who commanded the First Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, said the British troops needed more resources. “We have to ensure our troops have sufficient fire power and numbers to ensure the best chance that our servicemen will achieve their mission, and with the lowest cost in lives. Cutting corners and saving money, the basest of all motives, may well cost lives and could spell disaster for the UK. “It’s a very dangerous environment, nothing like what was conceived when the force package was put together.”

Senior Conservative MP Sir Peter Tapsell told the BBC that British forces were involved in a battle which could not be won. The former soldier said: “Of course they’re overstretched and they’re doing a wonderful job in the circumstances but it really is childish nonsense to think that just adding a few thousand more troops from Nato countries or from anywhere else is going to do the trick. “We couldn’t do the job if we had a hundred thousand men there.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5311544.stm

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September 6 2006; British soldiers killed by Afghan mine 7

Two British soldiers have been killed and four others “very seriously injured” by a landmine in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said. They were part of a Nato-led security patrol which had strayed into an unmarked minefield. A seventh soldier received minor injuries in the incident in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. The MoD said the injured were being treated at a military medical facility at the main British base in Helmand, Camp Bastion, and that it was too soon to establish exactly how the incident happened. A statement from the headquarters of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Kabul confirmed seven soldiers were injured. “There was no contact with insurgents during the incident,” it said. “An extraction operation was successfully undertaken and the injured evacuated to an Isaf medical facility. “Sadly one soldier has since died of his wounds.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5320900.stm Later report stated Corporal Mark William Wright, 27, from Edinburgh, of the Parachute Regiment, died attempting to save the life of an injured paratrooper. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5325718.stm

September 25 2006; MoD dismisses Chinook death claim Follow up to previous report

The Ministry of Defence has dismissed claims a UK soldier died in Afghanistan because the helicopter rescuing him accidentally set off landmines. A report in the Sun newspaper said that the Chinook sent to help Corporal Mark Wright and his colleagues caused the explosions because of downdraft. However, an MoD spokesman said there was no evidence for the claims. Cpl Wright, 27, from Edinburgh, of the Parachute Regiment, died on 6 September in the Helmand province. An MoD spokesman said: “It is regrettable when soldiers take their view of an incident – especially one involving a death – to the media rather than their own chain of command.” The corporal died after a patrol strayed into an unmarked minefield. He was attempting to save the life of an injured paratrooper when he was killed in the incident in which five soldiers were injured, with three of them losing their legs. They had all been part of a Nato-led security patrol. It has been alleged that Cpl Wright specifically asked that a Chinook should not be sent and that the helicopter eventually left empty.

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September 9 2006; British soldier dies two days after shooting 1

The death of Lee Darren Thornton, 22, from Blackpool, who died on Thursday, was said to have “numbed” colleagues. The gunner served in 58 Battery, 12 Regiment Royal Artillery – the same unit that lost two soldiers on Monday. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5326874.stm

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September 10 2006; Ex-army officer blasts Afghan campaign

Captain Leo Docherty was so unhappy with operations in Helmand province he quit the British Army last month. The campaign was “a textbook case of how to screw up a counter-insurgency” the ex-aide de camp to the commander of the UK taskforce told the Sunday Times. He also criticised a lack of equipment and tactics which he said had turned Afghans against British forces. “Having a big old fight is pointless and just making things worse, Now the ground has been lost and all we’re doing in places like Sangin is surviving” the former Scots Guardsman was quoted as saying.

He added: “All those people whose homes have been destroyed and sons killed are going to turn against the British. “It’s a pretty clear equation – if people are losing homes and poppy fields, they will go and fight. I certainly would.” Capt Docherty described the campaign as “grotesquely clumsy” and said the British were no different to US forces by bombing and strafing villages. He said when troops took the town of Sangin they did not have night-vision goggles and were so short of vehicles they had to borrow a pick-up truck. The British threw away the opportunity to win over locals by failing to carry out development work because of a lack of support, Capt Docherty added. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5332570.stm

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September 19 2006; Defence Secretary says Taleban fight ‘hard but winnable’

UK troops have been involved in heavy fighting with the Taleban after taking over from a US-led coalition in southern Afghanistan in July. This month 19 servicemen have lost their lives, including 14 who died when an RAF Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft crashed.

The threat posed by the Taleban in Afghanistan has been under-estimated, the UK defence secretary has admitted. Des Browne said the fight had been “even harder than we expected” but insisted Nato was pursuing a “noble cause” and its mission would succeed. Addressing the Royal United Services Institute, he urged other Nato members to respond to a call for 2,500 extra troops for Afghanistan. “Nato nations must decide whether to back their investment, re-affirm their original intent and send a clear signal that Nato as an alliance is strong and determined to see the task through,” Mr Browne said.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5358654.stm

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September 22 2006; British Army Army Major calls RAF support ‘useless’

The RAF are “utterly, utterly useless” in protecting troops on the ground in Afghanistan, a major with the main UK battle group says in a leaked e-mail. Major James Loden of 3 Para, based in the north of the southern province of Helmand, said more troops and helicopters were desperately needed. He said “plenty of tears” had followed Harrier incident when pilot ‘couldn’t identify the target’, fired two phosphorous rockets just missing our own compound so that we thought they were incoming RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades], and then strafed our perimeter missing the enemy by 200 metres.

The head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, hit back, saying the RAF had performed “exceptionally”. “Irresponsible comments, based on a snapshot, are regrettable,” he added in a statement. The Ministry of Defence had earlier confirmed the e-mail was genuine. The “tears” Maj Loden refers to were “not tears of exhaustion or frustration”, a spokesman said. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/5371392.stm UK military deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq. Interactive presentation. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10634102

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September 23 2006; Dead soldier’s emotional letter

The fiancee of a soldier killed in Iraq has released an emotional letter which he wrote with instructions for it to be opened only in the event of his death. Lee Darren Thornton, 22, from Blackpool, serving with, 58 Battery, 12 Regiment Royal Artillery, died two days after being hit on patrol in Basra on 5 September. In a letter to Helen O’Pray, 21, Gunner Thornton tells the “love of his life” she had “shown me what love is and what it feels like to be loved”.

The couple had planned to marry in August 2008. The letter, which the soldier had left with his fiancée in April with instructions she was only to open it should he die, says: “I know God put me and you on this earth to find each other, fall in love and show the rest of the world what true love really is. “I know this is going to sound sad but every night I spent away I had a photo of you on my headboard. “Each night I would go to bed, kiss my fingers then touch your face. I put the photo over my bed so you could look over me as I slept.”

I miss him dearly and this letter just shows how much I meant to him. “Well now it is my turn to look over you as you sleep and keep you safe in your dreams.” It tells how she was the “love of my life, girl of my dreams”, “my soul mate” and “my whole world” without whom “I am nothing”. It says she had “shown me what love is and what it feels like to be loved”. Miss O’Pray, a student, from Marton, Lancashire, told how she felt reading the letter. “There are no words to describe how I felt when I read the letter for the first time,” she said. “I loved him so much. He was kind, generous and everything you would want in a man.

Miss O’Pray told the Times newspaper she decided to make the letter’s contents public ahead of the service. He was the 118th member of the British armed forces to die while serving in Iraq since the conflict began in March 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5373094.stm

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September 23 2006; Thousands at city’s anti-war demo

Thousands of anti-war protesters have gathered in Manchester for what organisers said was “one of the biggest mobilisations outside London”. Demonstrators were protesting against government policies in the Middle East and nuclear weapons, on the eve of the Labour Party conference in the city. The theme was “Time To Go” – a call to get troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Police estimated 20,000 people took part. Stop The War Coalition had said it expected about 100,000. One of the organisers, Yasmin Ataullah of the British Muslim Initiative, told the BBC they put the figures of demonstrators at 40,000 or higher. “This is one of the biggest mobilisations outside London and I think there are tens of thousands here – 40 or 50,000 at least,” she said. The march began in Albert Square outside the city’s town hall, before heading down Lower Mosley Street, Deansgate, Market Street, Cross Street and back to Albert Square for a rally.

Some protesters lay down in the road as part of a “die-in” to symbolise the number of casualties in Iraq. Andrew Murray, chairman of the Stop The War Coalition, which helped organise the event, said: “The tens of thousands of people marching through Manchester represent the opinion of the majority of people in this country.” They held up banners which read “time to go” and “bring troops home”. Supt John O’Hare, public order commander at Greater Manchester Police, said: “We estimate that up to 20,000 protestors came to Manchester to take part in the ‘Stop the War’ march. “On behalf of GMP I would like to extend my thanks to the organisers and those who took part in today’s protest, for co-operating with us and behaving peacefully and lawfully.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/5373128.stm

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September 28 2006; One mother’s son

Every time Lesley Frost hears of casualties among UK soldiers, her heart freezes as her thoughts turn to her son Jay, a British Army officer, posted to Afghanistan. When I heard Jay was going to Afghanistan, my initial reaction was absolute panic. Although he hadn’t lived at home for the previous five years, the thought of him going so far away filled me with apprehension. He has always visited regularly and I suppose I’ve known he was just a few hours away if I needed him. He was home in Devon on leave for the week before he flew out. Most of this time was spent sorting out his kit and catching up with family and friends, but we also spent a lot of time talking about Afghanistan. We discussed the situation there, how he felt about going, how I felt about him going. We even had the dreaded conversation about what to do if the worst happened. This increased my anxiety but Jay remained calm, positive and at times excited. Above all, he was proud. Proud to be chosen to do the job he was going to do and proud to be serving his country.

Saying goodbye was the hardest part. I drove him to the airbase to catch a 6am flight. I stayed in the car while he took his kit inside. It was April, it was dark, it was cold and raining. As I watched all the other lads arriving, dressed in khaki camouflage uniforms and carrying huge amounts of kit, the enormity of what was happening hit me. Some were laughing and joking, some were sombre. I felt so proud as I watched them preparing to leave their families and serve their country. I knew they were about to experience conditions and circumstances the majority of us back home can never imagine. This triggered the tears I swore I would keep under control.

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Keeping in touch has been easier than I expected. His letters sometimes take up to three weeks to get here, and sometimes two or three arrive at once. He’s tried to make telephone contact once a week. Two weeks was the longest we went without hearing from him, but for us, the expression “no news is good news” really does apply. For the first few months we also got regular e-mails. These came to be eagerly anticipated by family and work colleagues. They were entertaining and newsy, complete with pictures and descriptions of his surroundings and experiences. True to form, they were filled with great wit and compassion.

News of the first British soldier to be killed in Afghanistan during my son’s tour came as a huge shock. He was home on compassionate leave at the time, and the thought of him going back into what I began to appreciate was a war zone made my blood run cold. The nagging doubt never goes until the name is confirmed – then it’s relief first, guilt, then grief again for those affected this time Every time I hear news that a British soldier has been killed, everything freezes, just for a minute. My heart begins to race, my legs take on a life of their own – or just fail completely – and a cold hollow feeling grows in the pit of my stomach. It seems like this goes on forever but I’m sure in reality, it’s just a moment or two. The logic clicks back in and I start thinking rationally again. Even when you’re pretty sure it’s not your son, the nagging doubt never goes until the name is confirmed. That’s when the next roller-coaster of emotion begins. Relief first, followed by guilt, followed by anger and then grief again. Grief for the soldier and for the relatives who are affected this time. I have mixed feelings about the news coverage of Afghanistan – too little is known about the situation, and we hear little about why British troops are there in the first place. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/5376428.stm

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September 29 2006; UK majority ‘oppose Afghan fight’

Most people in the UK oppose British military operations in Afghanistan, a survey conducted for the BBC suggests. Only 31% support the decision to deploy 5,000 troops to fight the Taleban, while 53% of the population are against the move, according to the ICM poll.

Nato is extending its mission to cover the whole of the insurgency-hit nation. Meanwhile Defence Secretary Des Browne has rebuffed reports that commanders wanted soldiers withdrawn from Iraq to bolster the UK presence in Afghanistan. “My view, and military commanders share this view, is that we have a vital job to do in Iraq. We have a responsibility to the Iraqi people. “There is no division between us and military commanders about what we are doing at the moment,” Mr Browne told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.

Currently Britain has nearly 5,000 troops in Afghanistan – including 3,600 in the violent Helmand province – with a further 900 on the way. A separate development will see the 12,000 US troops involved in Operation Enduring Freedom – a mission in Afghanistan which is separate to the Nato deployment – coming under Nato control. The decision will give the alliance a total of 32,000 soldiers.

Asked why British troops were fighting in Afghanistan, 63% said it was to help the Afghan government fight the Taleban. Some 71% believed it was part of the international fight against al-Qaeda, while 46% thought they were focusing on cutting the supply of drugs from the country. Mr Browne said he believed support for British military operations would increase “as we begin to see the results and improvements” of spreading the Nato force to all areas of Afghanistan. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5393030.stm

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September 29 2006; Mistakes made in Iraq, says Straw

Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has described the current situation in Iraq as “dire”. Mr Straw, who held the job at the time the UK decided to take part in the 2003 war, said there were things he regretted about the campaign. Speaking on BBC One’s Question Time, he said “I think many mistakes were made after the military action – there is no question about it – by the United States administration. Why? Because they failed to follow the lead of Secretary (of State, Colin) Powell. “The State Department had put in a huge amount of effort to ensure there was a proper civilian administration put in straight away afterwards.”

Mr Straw, now Leader of the House of Commons, said some people would see the Iraq war as “Tony’s folly” but that was not a view he believed would stand “in time” about Prime Minister Tony Blair’s role. He said that while he felt the current situation in Iraq was “not satisfactory” he had expressed such a view before leaving the post. “I certainly said there were mistakes made,” he told Question Time. Mr Straw added that there were people in the US administration in 2003 who wanted to invade Iraq “in any event” but he did not believe President George W Bush was one of them. “The thing that people forget in this situation is the successful efforts Tony Blair made, which I played a part, to shift the American administration from that position to one where we took it to the United Nations,” he said. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5390784.stm

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September 30 2006; West ‘will fail’ without Pakistan

Pakistan’s president has warned the West would be “brought to its knees” without his country’s co-operation in the so-called war on terror. “If we were not with you, you won’t manage anything,” said President Pervez Musharraf in a BBC Radio 4 interview. He said the Taleban, not al-Qaeda, was now the focus of the struggle against militancy in the region. “The greatest danger today is if the Taleban movement gets converted into a people’s movement,” he warned.

Earlier this week Tony Blair assured Gen Musharraf a leaked paper condemning Pakistan’s intelligence service did not reflect his government’s view. In the leaked report, a naval commander at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed Pakistan’s intelligence service, ISI, had indirectly helped the Taleban and al-Qaeda. In the BBC interview Mr Musharraf rejected these claims and said ISI’s support was vital.

He also claims the US and Britain had a historic debt to pay as Pakistan had helped “win the Cold War” for the West. He argued that the West’s strategy in Afghanistan towards the end of the Cold War helped to create the conditions which led to al-Qaeda’s rise. President Musharraf said mujahideen fighters went into the area from all over the world and the West armed and trained the Taleban. He said Pakistan was then left “high and dry”. His comments develop arguments he has made over the past few days at meetings with US President George W Bush and Tony Blair and a speech given in Oxford.

Gen Musharraf said the Pakistani government’s aim in the country’s tribal border areas was to “wean the people away” from supporting the Taleban, pointing out that while al-Qaeda was mainly comprised of “foreigners”, the Taleban’s support was more locally based. He denied the suggestion that the tribal elders with whom the government has forged a recent agreement are a front for the Taleban. He said the tribal elders were the “only way” to establish support from the local population: “The army cannot get them on our side”.

Of the leaked MoD paper, British defence officials claimed it was written by a junior official, was unfinished and had not been seen by anyone who actually makes government policy. After two hours of talks on Thursday Downing Street said Gen Musharraf had accepted Mr Blair’s reassurances. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/5394278.stm

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$3trillion spent on wars by the US and UK – Over 1.5 million deaths. No end to bloodshed – Assad will win his war by Christmas then turn his attention to recovering the oil rich Golan Heights from Israel – that’s a conflict to be avoided

 

 

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Iraq Under Saddam Hussein-the First War-UN Sanctions-the Second War-The New Iraq

In the 1970s and 1980s, under Saddam Hussein, Iraq boasted one of the highest standards of living and most educated and skilled populations in the Arab world.

After the First Gulf War in 1991, the quality of life deteriorated markedly and worsened throughout the UN sanctions period. The war dealt a severe blow to the country’s infrastructure, with enormously detrimental effects on public health: hospitals were forced to accommodate heavy patient loads, major cities lacked electricity for weeks on end, and communications systems and water purification systems were destroyed Throughout the 1990s, UN sanctions further eroded the medical system and led to severe shortages of basic goods.

The U.S. invasion and subsequent developments in Iraqi politics brought about an increasing fragmentation of social and political life along sectarian lines, rampant corruption, further breakdown of public services and declining well being in the population.

The root cause therefore of the poor quality of democratic governance in Iraq was a lack of inclusion in the post-invasion state-building process. Beginning in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. invasion, the processes that generated the new constitution and governing institutions were flawed. The rushed effort, (forced through by the USA) to draft the new Iraq Constitution excluded key stakeholders, most notably representatives from Iraq’s Sunni Arab population.

 

 

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The new constitution was approved in 2005 in a national referendum, despite continued Sunni Arab opposition. Since the drafting of the constitution, Sunni Arabs continued to feel excluded from the new Iraq. Then came the breakthrough. In late 2009, (following protracted discussions) a group of Sunni’s, led by Mr al-Hashemi agreed to join the coalition. A decision greatly welcomed by the USA.

Not long after, at the time of compiling electoral lists, the Supreme National Commission for Accountability and Justice announced, just before the 2010 election that hundreds of candidates were to be banned, for a number of reasons, from standing for election. lists of excluded candidates included many more Sunni’s than those of other sects, further enhancing fear and anger among Sunni’s that they had been sold out.

The move, perceived as gerrymandering by many Sunni voters, backfired on the authoritarian and unpopular, State of law Coalition government, since it simply garnered support for Mr al-Hashemi, a Sunni and leader of the Iraqiyya List coalition. Iraqis in Fallujah, the West and North of the country voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Iraqiyya List coalition, which ended up as the largest single party, (by 2 seats).

Following many rounds of discussions a government was formed, to be led by Mr Nuri al-malaki, a shi’a who had led the first government in the New Iraq. Mr al-Hashemi, (leading the al-Iraqiya List), the largest political group was appointed to the post of Vice President.

The new government soon fell apart, mainly due to the insistence of the Prime Minister Mr Nuri al-malaki that he would exercise direct control over just about all aspects of power in the country, including the military. The opposition parties fell into disarray and back-stabbing under the onslaught.

Then in May 2011 arrest warrants, alleging murder and other charges were issued against the Vice President al-Hashemi who, avoiding arrest, escaped to Turkey. He was subsequently found guilty, in a show trial, of all charges and sentenced to death, (in his absence).

Ankara, Turkey;  Exiled Iraqi Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi announcing his official resignation from post stated, “My post doesn’t have any value any more, Iraq’s political process is stuck in the mud by a man by the name of Nouri Maliki”. He went on to give his backing to Sunni opposition, in Anbar province against Nouri al-Maliki’s government.

Sunni Arabs protested against the President throughout January 2013 calling for him to resign his office in favour of a more unifying person. In recent days tensions and protests against Maliki have engulfed the western province of Anbar after Iraqi authorities arrested Iraqi Sunni MP Ahmed Alwani and murdered his brother on charges of helping Sunni militants.

 

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The New Iraq- A Success or a Failure?

The new, democratic Iraq is plagued by rampant corruption with bribes, kickbacks and embezzlement a routine part of politics and everyday life. In 2012, Transparency International ranked Iraq as the 8th most corrupt country in the world.

Furthermore, civil liberties are increasingly under threat, even if Iraqis enjoy far more freedom. Independent journalists are targeted for their coverage of anti-government protests and the government routinely fails to enforce laws designed to protect the media. In its 2013 World Report, Human Rights Watch reported that the Iraqi government uses draconian measures against opposition politicians, detainees, demonstrators and journalists

Sectarianism characterizes political and social life, a trend that dates back to many centuries. But the new Iraq is not supposed to allocate political offices according to sect. Rather, the new Iraqi political system of selecting leaders is based on negotiation among the winners of national parliamentary elections.

In practice, however, key offices are still distributed by sect and the largest communal group in the country garnered the largest number of votes, enabling them to claim the most powerful position, the office of the Prime Minister. Whilst the Kurd’s took the presidency. The trend towards political sectarianism, however, should not suggest that sectarian identity explains all politics in contemporary Iraq.

By a basic definition, Iraq is a democracy but the formal institutions of democracy, however, do not entail more than a minimum of democratic rights and they have not guaranteed tangible improvements in the lives of citizens. Nonetheless, the case of Iraq shows that the quality of democratic governance can be very poor, even after the institutionalization of formal democracy. Indeed, Prime Minister al-Maliki alienated Iraqis from all sects not just Sunnis for reneging on promises to form a unity government.

 

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Introduction of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

At the start of the Northern Iraq offensive, beginning in June 2014, the, “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS) vowed to take power over the state of Iraq away from al-Maliki. In response he called upon Kurdish forces to help keep Northern Iraq out of the hands of (ISIS), he also requested and was refused air support from American drones in order to eliminate dangerous jihadist elements in the country. The US position was that the United States was not actively considering using warplanes or armed drones to strike jihadist havens.

During the crisis, al-Maliki became the main target of a propaganda campaign by (ISIS), which made clear the group’s disdain calling him an, “underwear salesman,” stating he “lost a historic opportunity for your people to control Iraq, and the Shiites will always curse you for as long as they live.”

Prime Minister Nuri al-malaki resigned his office in August 2014, following months of pressure from the USA and a collapse of support in the Iraqi parliament.

The newly appointed Prime Minister, Mr Haider al-Ibadi (approved by Iran and the USA), is, not surprisingly a Shia and a member of the same political party as his predecessor. It is of the utmost importance therefore that the leaders of the two key ministries of Defence and the Interior, (presently vacant) be taken up by Sunni’s.

Allowing the return of former Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, (who remains in exile in Turkey) to take up one of the posts would be major coup for the Sunni’s who would readily rally to his leadership and allow an early formation of an inclusive government, sealing an early defeat of ISIS who would retreat back to Northern Syria where they would be dealt with by the Assad forces.

The Formation of a truly national government would be one that honestly ensures the on-going needs and desires of all sects are met, thereby bringing about a feeling that all members of society are pulling together in the same direction.

 

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Easy Ask-So what can possibly go wrong?

Shia’s refuse to share power with any competent Sunni capable of exercising any measure of real authority over their sect. would leave the West and North of Iraq at the mercy of ISIS and may well result in an invasion, (by invitation of the US) by Turkish ground forces from the North.

What Turkey fears most is a powerful Kurdish state on the disputed border with Kurdistan/Iraq adding to continuing internal strife in the south of the country. They are also wary any major supply of arms to the Kurds by the US might encourage them to get involved in the north of Syria bringing about the overthrow of Assad which would result in an extension of the troubled border further to the West.

Repeated showing in the media of, “war porn” i.e. destruction, (using a missile costing £500,000) to destroy a Toyota pick-up or enemy machine gun post. This is an early indication that ISIS is operating, “Apache Indian” tactics. Melting away, in small groups before the onslaught of the major air-power of the Coalition. In this case the air war would be considered a failure and ground troops would need to be introduced.

Any further major setbacks for Iraqi forces to the West and North of the country could be catastrophic for the state of Iraq.

The continuing dominance in Baghdad and areas to the South of large groups of Sh’ia militia acting, often at odds with the regular army is counter productive.

Any move, on the part of the US to base air power in Iraq would be seen as a breech of trust between Iran and the US.

Any increase in air attacks by the coalition near to Baghdad and/or any incidents of collateral damage would be a setback.

Any involvement, tacit or otherwise, on the part of other Arab states, either in Iraq or Syria would result in a widening of the conflict.

 

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What About Iran?

Iran exercises great influence over the Shia’s in Iraq and as such it is central to any final settlement of conflict in Iraq and Syria. The active support of Assad in Syria is overt, resolute and includes a regular supply of weapons and manpower, usually achieved by overflying Iraq. So the airspace is getting a bit cluttered.

It might well be Syria will end up being partitioned, the northern half being administered by Turkey but there are many other conflicting outcomes.

 

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So where do we go from here?

The coalition would do well to maintain an air presence in the north of Iraq. Monitoring, but not getting involved in petty attacks, leaving ground forces to sort out their differences.

Hopefully the Iraqi’s will agree new ways of working so that they will be able to deal with the ISIS problem themselves.

The coalition should not become involved in any pursuit of ISIS in Syria. Assad and the Iranians are well capable of sorting ISIS and any other groups out themselves.

Funding should be provided to Turkey through the UN so that they will be able to maintain safe havens for refugees.

http://costsofwar.org/sites/default/files/articles/45/attachments/Democracy_in_iraq1.pdf        http://icasualties.org/OEF/Nationality.aspx?hndQry=UK

 

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Demography of Syria

Shiites worldwide are mainly supported and funded, where needed by Iran. Sunni Islam is the largest sect of Islam in the world, and is supported through Saudi Arabian efforts.

The Shiites (about 14% of the population) are viewed as heretics by many Sunni Islamists, and this guarantee’s Assad the support of Shias in Syria who fear, (with justification) a genocide should Sunni’s (about 68% of the population) ever gain power.

It is no surprise therefore that Syrian Sunni’s provide unqualified support to the rebel forces reflecting the hostility directed at Assad’s minority Shia Muslim government.

The Kurds are spread along the northern border of Syria and Iraq. They comprise about 10% of the Syrian population. Within Syria and Iraq they have largely been afforded a large measure of autonomy within the government’s of both countries.

Whilst the “civil war” has presented opportunities for the Kurds to join forces and create a new Kurdistan they have avoided the pitfalls of embarking on a dearly loved path of self governance in preference to attacking ISIS forces in Syria and Iraq.

Kurdish independence aspirations can only be deferred and at some future time in the near future the UN will need to give precedence to the Kurds and their passionate wish to become an independent nation.

Assad is very likely to give support to the creation of a Kurdish state along the border with Turkey since this would establish a border/buffer.

Assad has no love for Turkey which in turn would be vehemently against the creation of an independent Kurdistan since there is a very large Kurdish population in Turkey which has been brutally suppressed for many years.

The Druze, (who make up about 3% of the population) are regarded by all sides as a bit weird and friendless.  They live in close, often isolated communities and are treated badly by Muslims, of all sects.

The Assyrians, descendants of one of the oldest civilisations in the world (make up around 4% of the population) Assyrians are Christians and as such have been attacked by the varying Islamist sects in the course of the war. Their loyalties are split between Assad and the Kurds.

The Syrian Turkmen (make up about 1% of the population). The occupy an enclave in the North of Syria. They speak Turkish and enjoy full Turkish support.

Effectively the area is Turkish but perhaps recognising their position is tenuous they are extremely militant in the protection of their identity. They are anti Assad and just about any other group/sect.

 

 

March 2011: Clinton’s kiss of death – USA and Syria foreign  relations

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton on Bashar al-Assad, 27 March 2011:

“Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.”

 

 

May 2011: Syrian Insurrection

I advised previously that  the West (USA, France, UK etc.) should restrict military action against ISIS to those units operating in Iraq, allowing Assad, assisted by the Iranians to deal with any ISIS challenge to the state of Syria.

A few short months later the USA and some other coalition members expanded their attacks on ISIS to include Syria.

The war of attrition against ISIS became hopelessly confused, which soon  exposed the hypocrisy of Obama and Clinton who decided that “Regime Change” mirroring the brutal removal of Gaddafi in Libya would be to the benefit of Syrians and the free world.

President Assad and the predominant Alawite Shia Muslim ruling class, (which have retained control over almost all aspects of the government since 1971) chose to fight.

Regardless of the high risk of civilian casualties, the USA created, armed and provided extensive military support to a number of “fifth columnist” type militias gathered from  a number of sects opposed to the Syrian government, (including air cover and special forces on the ground in Syria).

 

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December 2012: Assad, at the end of another day of intense fighting I.S

Assad, under increasing pressure to step down from  the USA , UK  and rebel groups. His Russian and Iranian allies to  meet in Moscow to discuss the crisis.

 

 

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March 2014:  Israeli air-force launched air-strikes against Syrian Army positions in the Golan Heights claiming it to be in retaliation for an attack against Israeli forces the day before.

Tension in the disputed Golan Heights has increased recently and the exchange of fire was the heaviest since the Civil War in Syria started.

 

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April 2014:  President Assad praised a visiting Russian delegation thanking them for the assistance Russia is providing Syria in it’s time of need.

President Putin emphasised Russia’s pledge to support Syria during its “war against international terrorism,” which is also being supported by some Western and regional countries.

 

 

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October 2015:  Golan Heights oil discovery.

Reports of a huge Golan Heights oil discovery played down by Israeli press.

It is confirmed however that a robust oil-bearing strata has been identified but more tests will need to be completed to establish if hydrocarbons are extractable and usable.

 

 

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May 2016: The centennial of the badly flawed Sykes-Picot Agreement looms

the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of the World War in 1918 providing opportunity for Britain and France to carve up the Middle East creating countries with borders that had never previously existed, installing puppet regimes, propped up, where needed by the British Army.

The agreement never worked and brought with it endless wars, death and destruction on a massive scale. Borders are being redrawn in blood with no end in sight.

It is time to sign its death warrant and recraft the cartography rather than continue to dress the agreement up and parade its rotting corpse.

 

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May 2016: The conflict in Syria is not between the regime and it’s rebels

Early on it seemed like a revolution similar to that which occurred in Egypt and Tunisia. But the conflict in Syria is more complicated.

Foreign powers have turned the situation from a public uprising into a bloodbath. It is no longer about replacing one regime with another – it’s a fight for existence.

 

May 2016:  Foreign diplomats from many of the world’s nations held a summit to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Syria with the expectation that a failing peace accord could be rescued.

The main power brokers; Russia, USA, Iran, Saudi Arabia, UK, France and a number of other European countries were in attendance.

But, presented with the usual impasse, even after nearly 5 years of brutality resulting in excess of 400,000 Syrians there was no way forward.

 

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May 2016:  The war against ISIS and President Assad and Syria provides opportunity to review strategies used by the US and Russia.

It reveals worrying patterns last witnessed at the time of the Cold War.

 

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May 2016: Reinforcing Israel’s off stated claim to a part of Syria.

Netanyahu stated “Israel will never give up the Golan Heights. Damascus had the region for 19 years, but we’ve had it for 49.”

The response from Syria’s Foreign Minister was swift and direct. He said “We’re ready to retake the area by force. Syria is prepared to use military means to recapture the Golan Heights.”

 

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May 2016:  The USA assisted by the UK has been fighting wars in the Middle East for 15 years.

The cost of conducting campaigns has cost the long suffering taxpayers in excess of  $2trillion.

The wars, with radical Islamist factions have not been won.

Governments deny the public the truth with result that the wars will probably continue for decades.

 

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May 2016: Dennis Ross,  veteran US diplomat

I worked with the administration of President Barak Obama who took a conscious decision to try to distance himself and his administration from Israel.

The White House policy assumes that “Israel to be more of a problem than  a partner.”

 

 

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September 2016: The U.S. military admitted it had unintentionally struck Syrian troops while carrying out a raid against the Islamic State group.

They said the strike had been halted “when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military.”

The Syrian military said the air-strike hit a base that is surrounded by IS, allowing the extremists to advance.

Russia’s military said it was told by the Syrian army that at least 62 soldiers had been killed and more than 100 wounded.

The strike could deal a crushing blow to a fragile U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire that has largely held for five days despite dozens of alleged violations on both sides.

The cease-fire, which does not apply to attacks on IS took effect on Monday, and despite reports of violations, it has largely held.

However, aid convoys have been unable to enter rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo — a key component of the deal.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin questioned the U.S. commitment to the cease-fire, suggesting that Washington wasn’t prepared to break with “terrorist elements” battling Assad’s forces.

Russia has also accused Washington of failing to rein in the rebels, and on Saturday Putin asked why the United States has insisted on not releasing a written copy of the agreement.

“This comes from the problems the U.S. is facing on the Syrian track — they still cannot separate the so-called healthy part of the opposition from the half-criminal and terrorist elements,” Putin said during a trip to Kyrgyzstan.  “In my opinion, this comes from the desire to keep the combat potential in fighting the legitimate government of Bashar Assad. But this is a very dangerous route.”

He appeared to be referring to the Fatah al-Sham Front, an al-Qaida-linked group previously known as the Al-Nusra Front, which is deeply embedded in rebel-held areas and fights alongside more moderate groups. Abu Mohammed al-Golani, the leader of the group, condemned the cease-fire agreement.

 

People dig in the rubble in an ongoing search for survivors at a site hit previously by an airstrike in the rebel-held Tariq al-Bab neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

Aleppo

 

September 2016: On September 19, the US reported in breech of a peace deal that a convoy of trucks delivering aid to a rebel-held area of Aleppo had been attacked from the air. Anti-Assad government activists were emphatic the helicopters had dropped barrel bombs, followed by fighter jet strikes, which also used cluster bombs and-or machine gunned the area, keeping rebel help at bay so more witnesses would bleed to death. A video, submitted to the media by the US in support of the alleged attack showed trucks damaged by small-scale shrapnel (and/or bullets?) and gutted by fire It seemed to be consistent with the assertion, but it was unclear.

But Russia, which denied it’s aircraft or those of its Syrian government allies were involved, said it believed the convoy had not been struck from the air at all but had caught fire because of some incident on the ground.

It transpired that the US funded “White Helmets” had been involved in setting up the incident. See: http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/09/21/false-flag-us-nato-and-rebel-coalition-appear-to-have-fabricated-un-convoy-evidence/

 

 

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October 2016: Aleppo: It may take some weeks but Aleppo will fall to Syrian government forces backed by Russian air power. Capturing the strategically important city, which is key to controlling Syria’s Northwest, will be an important military triumph for President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies. But it will be a crippling setback for the Western-backed Syrian rebels who, without quick reinforcements from their foreign backers, will be forced out of their stronghold.

Russia says it is targeting the Al-Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s Syrian branch changed its name in July 2016 stating it had cut ties with the network founded by Osama bin Laden.

 

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October 2016: U.N. envoy De Mistura has urged Moscow and Damascus to accept a deal under which the fighters around 1,000 members of the hard-line Islamist group Nusra would leave the city, while other insurgents and civilians would be allowed to remain. He offered to lead them out of the city himself to guarantee their safety.

It was put to De Mistura that his proposal getting the fighters out of Aleppo would make it easier for Syrian forces to take the city if their most effective opponents were removed, the official replied: “potentially.”  Russia accused the United States of failing to ensure that other rebels separated themselves from Al-Nusra, which Moscow and Washington both regard as a terrorist group excluded from the ceasefire.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Paris on Oct. 19 to discuss Syria with his French counterpart Francois Hollande, the only diplomatic track still active over efforts to bring peace to the country.

President Assad, in an interview on Swedish television accused Washington of using al-Nusra as a proxy, and said this was why the ceasefire had collapsed. “It’s an American card. Without al-Nusra, the Americans cannot have any real, let’s say, concrete and effective card in the Syrian arena,” he said.

 

 

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October 2016: The Syrian army has been greatly strengthened through the addition of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. It is now a formidable fighting force and is well placed to win the war against rebel groups before the year end. What comes next?

Russia and Iran have proved to be unshakable in their support of Syria and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Recovery of any part of Syria not under the control of President Assad and the Syrian government would be given top priority.

The Golan Heights, illegally occupied for many years by Israel is very likely to be targetted by Assad, supported by his allies and this is a potentially catastrophic event since any involvement of Russian forces against the Israelis in support of Syria would bring about a confrontation with the USA.

 

 

1914-1918 World War Disaster-Role of the Generals

The Son of former BBC election night star Peter Snow, Dan was hired to be the public face of the celebrity better together campaign, (as he has previously for other high profile campaigns.). He is married to the fabulously wealthy Duke of Westminster’s daughter, Lady Edwina. Their families enjoy the friendship of the five richest families in the UK, whose combined wealth is in excess of the total wealth of 20% of the population of the entire UK. In a recent BBC1 about WW1, (which he produced and presented) there is a hint to his warped view of the world.

He Said, “Many soldiers enjoyed WW1. If they were lucky they would avoid a big offensive, and much of the time, conditions might be better than at home. For the British there was meat every day – a rare luxury back home – cigarettes, tea and rum, part of a daily diet of over 4,000 calories. Absentee rates due to sickness, an important barometer of a unit’s morale were, remarkably, hardly above peacetime rates. Many young men enjoyed the guaranteed pay, the intense comradeship, the responsibility and a much greater sexual freedom than in peacetime Britain”.

His great Great-Grandfather was David Lloyd George, British Prime Minister from 1916 until 1922. And his great grandfather was Sir Thomas D’Oyly Snow, one of the generals who planned and executed the battle of the Somme. On just the first day at the battle, 1 July 1916, the army suffered over 57,000 casualties, including more 19,000 dead. Even Snow admitted, “That is the darkest day in British military history, arguably British history, and my great-grandpa was one of the key guys in the planning and execution of that attack”

As well as being part of a TV dynasty second only to the Dimblebys, Snow has a deeply personal connection with the elite responsible for the disasters of the First World War. Now none of us are responsible for the mistakes of our ancestors, but we can seek to learn from them and not to justify them. But Snow has chosen justification, in spite of the fact that his great grandfather’s account of his experience directly contradicts his defence of the war.

Dan Snow describes Thomas D’Oyly Snow as, “a hardened enforcer for the Queen Empress Victoria”. And indeed he was. “He fought Zulus in South Africa and the Mahdi in Sudan, where he carried a bottle of champagne with him to Khartoum and drank it when his troops had avenged the death of General Gordon, who was killed fighting the Mahdi’s warriors in 1885…On the eve of war he was commanding the 4th Division in Britain, assimilating the lessons of the 1899-1902 Boer War for the possibility of war in Europe”.

In the current debate Dan Snow has made a great play of the fact that the, “lions led by donkeys” interpretation of the war is false. Today he insists that the Generals were at the forefront of military innovation. But when it comes to assessing his ancestor’s exploits it’s a different story. Indeed Sir Thomas D’Oyly Snow saw the war first hand and in very different terms to young Snow. Sir Thomas D’Oyly wrote, “The higher staffs had had no practice in command, and although they had been well trained in the theory of the writing and issue of orders, they failed in the practice…Added to this we all suffered from the fault common to all Englishmen, a fault we did not know we suffered from till war revealed it, a total lack of imagination”.

It was 2008 when Dan Snow discovered this family history and 2011 when he wrote about it. Back then he thought his great grandfather was, “deeply critical of himself and others, from the inexperience of the British gunners to the shortage of ammunition”. Churchill refused to re-supply artillery shells to the front claiming there was no money available. In defence of Sir Thomas, Dan Snow wrote, “The revolution in firepower had given the defending side the ability to bring a wall of steel and explosives down on anyone brave enough to attack. Radio was in its infancy. Telephone cables were severed, messengers were picked off by snipers armed with rifles of hitherto undreamed of power and accuracy. Thousands of miles of newly invented barbed wire posed an intractable problem”.

Sir Thomas recorded; ‘We lost several men on the first night, drowned or smothered. The men had either to stand in water, knee deep, with every prospect of sinking in deeper still, or hang on the side of the trench. Later in the war we should have overcome the difficulty but at this time the men were overworked in keeping the front trenches in order, and we were all inexperienced. On one occasion one of my staff said to a Corporal of the Engineers, “Now you are an engineer; cannot you devise some method of draining this trench?” to which he replied, “I am afraid, Sir, that I cannot; you see before the war I was a Christmas card maker by trade.”’

And the high command did nothing to help: ‘We were not provided with wood wherewith to make trench-boards, and no extra socks or waterproof boots were forthcoming. We were only censured for having so many sick.’

Dan Snow says that the General’s memoirs finish before, “his darkest days of the war”. At the Somme Sir Thomas’ men, “attacked the strongest stretch of German line as a diversion for the main assault, which went in to the south. Even by the standards of that bloody and futile day, the attack of Snow’s VII Corps was a disaster.”

But Sir Thomas D’Olyly Snow was at a chateau, not the front. Even Dan Snow admits that when he went to the chateau, “It feels a long way from the carnage of the trenches”. Worse still, it appears Snow attempted to shift the blame away from himself, writing to his seniors, “I regret to have to report that the 46th Division in yesterday’s operations showed a lack of offensive spirit.” This was after the men had fought their way through unbroken barbed wire. Then, once they did manage to get into the German trench system, they held off counterattacks until they had run out of ammunition and were forced to use shovels and their bare hands.” It was says Dan Snow of Sir Thomas, “an inexcusable attempt to shift the blame”.

Does all this really sound like Dan Snow’s recent claim, “Many soldiers enjoyed WW1. If they were lucky they would avoid a big offensive, and much of the time, conditions might be better than at home. For the British there was meat every day – a rare luxury back home – cigarettes, tea and rum, part of a daily diet of over 4,000 calories. Absentee rates due to sickness, an important barometer of a unit’s morale were, remarkably, hardly above peacetime rates. Many young men enjoyed the guaranteed pay, the intense comradeship, the responsibility and a much greater sexual freedom than in peacetime Britain’.

Doesn’t it sound rather like the myths that the Dan Snow of 2014 is trying to dismiss. Are there not here poorly trained troops, unsupported by the high command? Do the generals not seem to know what they are doing? Are they not versed in colonial warfare but unprepared for an industrialized total war? Are they not in the chateau and not the trenches? Are they not trying to shift the blame for failure onto others?

If we want to know about the realities of the First World War it would seem the old imperial warrior is a better guide than his historian great grandson.