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Generals, politicians and the media

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Alistair Burnett Alistair Burnett | 17:07 UK time, Monday, 20 July 2009

Roadside bombs - improvised explosive devices - have caused the deaths of many British soldiers in Afghanistan. Senior British military figures - including the Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir Jock Stirrup, and the Chief of the General Staff, Sir Richard Dannatt - have been calling, through the media, for their forces to be better equipped to face this threat.

The World TonightOne question that's arisen is why are they doing this in public? The chief of the defence staff has a direct line to the prime minister and presumably has been making the same calls in private, but failed to get approval for what he wants.

Students of history will know this tension is nothing new. During World War II, the country's most senior soldier, Field Marshall Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, had a stormy relationship with his Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

At one point, Churchill told his chief military assistant, General Ismay, that Alan Brooke hated him. When this was reported to Alan Brooke he said:

"I don't hate him. I love him. But the first time I tell him that I agree with him when I don't will be the time to get rid of me, for then I can be no more use to him."

In other words, he saw it as his job to argue with the prime minister when he thought he was wrong - and apparently he often did as he thought Churchill tried to interfere unhelpfully in military decision-making.

But little was known of this at the time, what we do know is mainly from memoirs published after the war in question was over. Whereas in today's more transparent times, military leaders talk to the media more often and are prepared to use the media to lobby for what they want.

Some argue that in a democracy where elected civilian politicians are meant to be paramount, the military should not publically question their civilian masters. Others argue that senior officers also have a responsibility to the people under their command and sometimes that responsibility outweighs their duty to the unwritten constitutional convention that they don't contradict ministers in public.

We've had this discussion on The World Tonight with Dr Paul Cornish, head of the international security programme at Chatham House and a former officer in the Royal Tank Regiment, and the former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle.

But with both politicians and senior military officers using the media to put their case, it's clear the media has an equal responsibility to put both their arguments under the same rigorous scrutiny, even though the tone of this needs to be sensitive to the families and comrades of soldiers who have been killed or injured on the battlefield.

Alistair Burnett is the editor of The World Tonight.


  • Comment number 1.

    It used to be said that war was too important to be left to the generals.
    These days it is too important to be left to the politicians...

  • Comment number 2.

    Simple reason the chiefs of staff are going public ; they know Brown and his minions are on the way out and they don't have to care whether they annoy him or not. If Brown was liable to hang on to office , these same gentlemen would no doubt have been much more careful what they said, after all, the sort of jobs and salaries they are sitting on are not something they would readily risk losing. These men are as much politicians as the bench sitters in the House of Commons ; they know which side their bread has the butter on. They see it now as advantageous careerwise to cosy up to D. Cameron so they hang on to their jobs after the election. I suspect that like all the generals that came before, the cannon fodder they command comes well down their list of things to care about.

  • Comment number 3.

    the way this government treats our armed forces is a disgrace and those in the houses of parliment should be ashamed of themselves.
    i know historicaly labour governments have been aimed at reducing this countries military but for this government they seem disorganised due to sending troops into war zones but saving money by scrimping on equipment etc.
    the blood of those troops that have been killed is on the hands of this government and no matter how much they scrub it will always remain.
    our military leaders need a lesson in looking after those whom are under them and do less sucking up to ministers.

  • Comment number 4.

    "But with both politicians and senior military officers using the media to put their case, it's clear the media has an equal responsibility to put both their arguments under the same rigorous scrutiny"

    One thing you don't put under "rigorous scrutiny" is out reason for being in Afghanistan. It's just taken for granted that we are there to bring stability and democracy to the Afghan people. The debate is instead always about whether there is enough political will to get the job done or whether the troops are underequipped etc.

    Yet when it comes to the military adventures of official enemies, the story is quite different. Suddenly their official reasons are held to the utmost scrutiny. For example, there is the case of Newsnight reporting on the Russian operations in South Ossetia.

    I Quote.
    "The Russians are calling it peace enforcement operation. Its the kind of Newspeak that would make George Orwell proud."

    When has the BBC ever referred to British or US Government statements as Orwellian Newspeak? The simple truth is that the BBC, like the rest of the media, does not hold everyone to the same level of scrutiny.

  • Comment number 5.

    @4, Good point, StevenJMUK, Why are we in Afghanistan? I can't remember. Was it Weapons of Mass Destruction? No? Terrorists? No... the 9/11 Hijackers were mainly Saudis... and 9/11 was mainly financed by Saudi Arabia. So did we invade Saudi Arabia? No.

    Ah I got it. Osama Bin Laden was there in training camps. So we obviously had a tight legal case to invade... but where is it? The FBI doesn't have OBL on their wanted list. The OBL videos could be faked... So where is the link of the hijackers to OBL?

    Did the FBI actually identify the hijackers promptly? The BBC ran a story on the hijackers identities were open open to question. What happened to that? Did the 9/11 Commission provide the answers? (Sadly, no).

    What about the "magic" passports that survived air crashes? And the evidence found in a car park? Doesn't this look like planted evidence!? It's just too incredible to believe that this evidence was available. Where is the background checks on the hijackers? What: they rented property from an FBI informant? But they must be a pretty tight group to commit suicide the way they did... What? They planned the attack in a motel across the road from CIA Headquarters (according to James Blamford)? And they never all meet up together? And they bought onward flight tickets (you know, for after their desperate suicide mission).

    How come I never hear about this stuff on Newsnight?

  • Comment number 6.

    Echo 4 & 5.

    Quote from Mr Burnett "Whereas in today's more transparent times, military leaders talk to the media more often and are prepared to use the media to lobby for what they want."

    "Transparent"??? Tell me Mr Burnett, how did we get into the Iraq mess? Was it an open and shut "the enemy is there" or more a case of a sexed up document that the BBC knew about because a certain person was "prepared to use the media", an action that cost him his life?

    And as for your forked tongue on the media as a lobby, isn't the truth that you want anything that signifies a story developing - that means a falling out between key players? I don't recall the BBC running a "campaign" on the lack of equipment our soldiers have because that wouldn't be a story would it?

    And lets analyse Afghanistan. We are there for what reason exactly? To give women a better life free from the Taliban when our presence in Iraq has removed women's rights gained under the regime we overthrew?

    And what exactly did the BBC do in its coverage of Russian action in South Ossetia? Tell the truth? Well did you Mr Burnett? Or did you pay into the yarn that the Russians were doing a "Soviet style military operation" destabilising the Georgian Government? Ninety eight per cent of South Ossetia's electorate want independence from Georgia - isn't that kind of stronger as an argument for the west to support them than being in Afghanistan?

    Does the BBC like playing politics?

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    With all the pros and cons discussed here, I prefer the generals to go public BEFORE retirement rather than after. And in the atmosphere surrounding disgraced MPs, I can understand a government soon to be brought to book by the electorate, not wanting the deaths of our soldiers laid on their doorstep just before an election.

    So. Are the generals getting in first for they, too, have had a decade or more to get their house in order? I don't know. But I suspect we are seeing the first shots of the blame game which will explode later in the year when the electioneering starts?

    Now there's a thought. How many of these retired generals will turn up on my doorstep seeking the Tory vote under Cameron's recent 'come and join us' strategy?

    Makes you think. Imv.

  • Comment number 9.

    i don't think it's helpful for the media to report every single casualty as if it's completely intolerable that anyone should die in a war. It does nothing but whip up an anti-war sentiment which will ultimately undermine what the troops are trying to achieve, AND it prompts the angry public to demand that someone (a General or a Politician) take personal responsibility for every single death. It's little wonder that both Generals and Politicians are squirming and pushing each other into that spotlight.

    Regarding the level of equipment provided to troops in Afghanistan, it's true of EVERY combat situation that 'more is always better'. Right up to the point where every single soldier is equipped with a Star Trek force-field, phaser and a personal jet-pack, it would be true to say that 'more and better equipment will save lives'. In reality, what extra equipment would have saved the life of a soldier who walked too close to a bomb hidden in a wall? A helicopter? How???

    I heard a politician bleating recently about how shameful it is that soldiers are 'having to buy their own equipment'. In fact ALL the soldiers I know are only too keen to spend their wages on fancy gadgets and lightweight alternatives to the standard, perfectly serviceable and functional, army-issue kit. It might make their pack a bit lighter, for example, but it does not in any way suggest that the standard army-issue equipment is inadequate.

    Almost half a million soldiers died in 6 years during WW2, compared to 187 (to date) in 5 years of the Afghanistan combat. I think it's time a sense of perspective was restored, and the troops (including Generals) are allowed to get on with the job as best they can, without having to endure this constant meddling by the media and politicians.

  • Comment number 10.

    The Generals cannot get their house in order because the poloticians will not give them the resources to do so. this has been the case for centuries they would not even give nelson and wellington the extra ships and equipment to fight the French and the spanish and that cost many unnessesary lives just as today

  • Comment number 11.

    Let's not forget that more than 220 people die EACH year from industrial injury/accidents and an estimated 4000 from industrial diseases. These people did NOT expect to put their lives on the line for their country or their employer. Yet we live in an 'Elfansafety' gone mad society, apparently.
    I suppose making sure our boys out there are equipped with the latest non-newtonian fluid-filled flak jackets is far "sexier" than making sure people tie off their ladders properly or have traffic management on construction sites.

  • Comment number 12.

    Can't really get my head round all of this, Dannatt, Stirrup et al should look to managing their budget better, don't the have a hand in deciding on MOD spend? if not what use are they? Seems to me that every top brass who gets near to retirement tries to airbrush himself out of the problem they have been a part of, Jackson did it now Dannatt and Stirrup are following suit. Dear dear old boy can't be blaming the top brass don't you know when we have oily oiks of politicos about, whatever next, suppose its good for the memoirs to get the dirt in early.

  • Comment number 13.

    The story, Mr Burnett, concerns the kind of fighting that the Coalition troops are required to engage in, and not the equipment, however archaic, contemporary or exotic it is, or how generals or anyone else uses the media as a soapbox or not. The US forces are suffering very heavy casualties as well, with or without their own brand of exotic kit, highly engaged politics or whatever.

    The truth about Afghanistan is that historically British and foreign forces have been heavily punished in attempts to "rule" the Afghans. Sixteen and a half thousand troops of the British Army were massacred on retreat from Kabul in 1842. The Soviet's poured a lot of money into the Afghan economy alongside their attempts to stifle the Taliban in the 1980s. In between times the Anglo-Russian Treaty of 1907 kept a peace as long as there was "no regime change". This Treaty was largely engineered to prevent the German's from opening up the region in the run up to the First World War.

    The problem for the Coalition forces is an opposition (you cannot call them an enemy because war has never been declared) that knows the ground intimately and also knows how to fight in this terrain because of the support they receive from local inhabitants.

    The best chance the Coalition forces have is not new equipment or more troops; it is simply to have the Taliban on their side. It may leave a lot of egg on a lot of faces but egg can be washed away - death cannot be.

  • Comment number 14.

    Has anyone asked the americans why they have the helicopter to soldier ratio that they have. If we knew this then we may be in a better position to judge that of the uk.

  • Comment number 15.

    How gullible would you like people to be? We have been in Afghanistan eight years and "there are signs that the battle is turning". How very, very convenient at a time when all the nations involved are feeling the economic vice closing tightly on their expenditure.

    What was so very wrong with the strategy of containment over the past eight years that it required a major strategic change post-Iraq? Could it be that if the coming elections were conducted in a atmosphere of fear then any result may be challenged? What could be better than a little optimism?

    So along come the generals, stoked up with countless frustrations that have nothing to do with Afghanistan, Iraq or anywhere else, to pour a little scorn on the glossy pictures politicians tend to paint come election time. Is anyone really interested in the truth amongst our journalist friends or have we really become a Nation where image is everything, even a carefully doctored snap shot?

  • Comment number 16.

    Comment 6: I addressed some of the issues raised on this blog last year at the time of the conflict between Georgia and Russia and how The World Tonight and the BBC covered the story, it may help to take a look at those here and here.

  • Comment number 17.


    Thank you for the references.

    My point at #6 concerned main stream contemporaneous news output from the BBC which was very slanted toward a "Soviet style military action" when anyone who had spent time looking at the South Ossetia (in particular) and Abkhazia (slightly less so) would acknowledge the careful input Russia had for years made to the traditional mistrust between these provinces and the Georgian Government.

    I acknowledge your own input in refraining from use of the word "invasion" and at least pointing out the long term nature of the conflict.

    In Afghanistan such long term traditions also exist with many travellers from Iran, Iraq and many other middle eastern sources determining a right to settle in the area over hundreds of years. These people now form the core of Afghan culture and concentration of news should not just focus on Kabul, a mistake that the BBC also insists on making with Tehran and Iran.

    I would like the BBC to be much more careful with its use of language in mainstream news stories - for a very recent example on these blogs look at "Panorama Producer Jailed in Iran" wouldn't the word contributor (used later in the posting) be more appropriate?

    I am sure that you have influence over some of your colleagues. Sometimes to comment on words is pedantic but when involving "old foes" it can matter a lot.

  • Comment number 18.

    As an ex serviceman speaking from experience. In the late 1970's and 80's in South Armagh troops moved by air and not on the road. The reason was the IRA bombing and ambushing the patrols. So if the guys in Afghanistan are moving by road and being killed there must be a lack of air transport. Why will the politicians not admit that, that is bovious to anyone who has served in the army.

    In the Falklands TABing or Yomping was called for because the jelicopters were lost in Atlantic Conveyor. Will they please stop being economic with the truth.

  • Comment number 19.

    The Taliban are fighting the British using mines because the British are moving around on foot. If the British switch to moving around by helicopter, the Taliban will switch tactics and target helicopters, as they did a week ago (6 dead) and last weekend (15 dead) in other parts of the country. These incidents didn't get much coverage because there weren't any British casualties - I presume they were Afghans.

    I'm sure the Taliban rally their fighters against an invading army, in the same way others have, and use all methods at their disposal:

    "We shall go on to the end.....we shall defend our land.... whatever the cost may be........we shall fight on the landing grounds....... we shall fight in the fields.... and in the streets..... we shall fight in the hills...... we shall never surrender."

  • Comment number 20.

  • Comment number 21.

    It's not just the lack of helicopters that's causing deaths. Our lads are being trained to fight in tanks and then being sent out to fight as infantry. They have almost no infantry tactical training.

  • Comment number 22.

    What the media should be doing is giving us the whole picture about defence procurement and not just jumping on the latest bandwagon. No one is going to argue against more equipment for troops on the front line, but maybe the focus should be on how the MOD spend the £35 billion they get every year instead. It's not just the big ticket items like the Eurofighter and the new aircraft carriers, but also the money wasted on vehicles that aren't good enough like the new 'Husky' which costs £600,000 EACH and still isn't mine resistant enough to deploy on the front line. The MOD are THE most inefficient department in Whitehall and should be held accountable for their gross errors. They waste billions of pounds on 'land management', 'entertainment' and 'capital costs' as well as buying useless kit. It's not just the civil servants either, the military themselves have advised the govt to buy equipment which has been horribly exposed in afghanistan. The exact figures of defence expenditure are published online so maybe someone at the BBC should report on it and let people know how to get to it. I end up having to go to specific websites which most people have never heard of, to find out these things, but surely they should be reported by the BBC. I really am fed up with the actual 'information content' of many articles and reports, they don't inform me about much and don't add to the sum total of my knowledge on the issue. We need more stories about more issues with more information in them please.

  • Comment number 23.

    Very interesting to note these events.
    Are you,all worrying really for very poor,uneducated,low wage labourers,jobless youths,widowed,widower,physically and mentally handicapped persons in all over the world.
    By the by,many senior citizens are suffering due to lonliness,no affection from dearest and nearest,accident victims,natural,sudden disasters victims,homeless persons and like that.
    Here.Generals,politicians and the media should be indpendent bodies with Governments supports and with 100 per cent correct audit mechanism.
    Then only,major short comings such as poor co-ordination,substandard war equipments,very poor living conditions in battle fields,emoional and psychological outbursts,mis-understanding with subordinates,one sided media coverages will be minmised.
    Please do not waste your precise times with these everlasting problematic countries.
    What happened-many soliders were killed or seriously wounded,ambus now and then,public anger on both sides,heavy government resources went without any positive results,inflation,unwanted mental agony had enlarged instead of restoring peace and transfer of power to proper hands.

  • Comment number 24.

    This self-imposed conflict in Afghanistan has nothing to do with establishing democracy, protecting the Afghan people or preventing the spread of terrorism. Like all wars it's about protecting resources, oil-pipelines and establishing military strongholds for the future and these are all dressed up to achieve some humanitarian aim!

    Our forces are sustaining many casualties today because all the mainstream parties agree with this deployment as they do on all other economic and social issues domestically. The plight of our forces is a direct ramification of a Labour government capitulating to Tory ideology and therefore USA foreign policy! Consequently this bipartisan parliamentary consensus encourages the BBC not to put on air genuine left-wing or socialist alternative viewpoints because they are deemed a minority view when in fact they are more relevent today than ever before! Consequently is there any wonder why the public who don't feel the physical effects of this conflict at home are now asking why we are out in Afghanistan now that the number of fatalities are mounting up?

    Moreover, to claim Forces chiefs like Gen Dannatt are ovestepping the political mark simply by complaining about equipment or lack of helicopters etc is absurd. They along with the politicians all backed this deployment from the outset so that in itself makes them political anyway! This matter about sub-standard equipment or lack of helicopters etc has only become an issue because the futility of the whole mission has become increasingly obvious. Hence because neither the General's, the politicians and pro-war journalists, due to not being politically challenged themselves, are obvously not going to admit their mistake.

    It's not the lack of helicopters in Afghanistan that's killing our troops, it's the fact our forces are in Afghanisstan in the first place!

  • Comment number 25.

    Angloinwales wrote: "the military themselves have advised the govt to buy equipment which has been horribly exposed in afghanistan."

    Quite! And a dozen soldiers couldn't be much more exposed than when hovering in a giant, slow, armourless box 100m in the air, trying to spot a single hidden combatant with an RPG launcher.

  • Comment number 26.

    #24 "It's not the lack of helicopters in Afghanistan that's killing our troops, it's the fact our forces are in Afghanistan in the first place!"

    Nicely put.

    As #22 & #25 conclude, too much money goes to waste buying expensive mistakes, both in the military and in all other departments of the Government. That suggests that ministers are not up to the job (surprise, surprise), the very same people in many cases who landed us up in Afghanistan rather stupidly eight years ago.

    It would be a breath of fresh air if we did manage to get transparent politics in the UK at some point in the not too distant future, although I do not see signs of the required revolution in my local area. Is there better news elsewhere?

  • Comment number 27.

    Again, I make the point of where the legal case to invade Afghanistan?

    Is it solely becuase of training camps?

    Since Britain trains the many of world's army officiers at Sandhurst, including many of the world's more despotic countries, as I understand, then doesn't seem to be a bit of a double standard? As I understand the Taliban were prepared to deport OBL if a case was actually offered by the US.

    Does not the law apply to superpowers? They can invade who they want, kidnap and torture who they please, use drone attacks on friendly nations and get away with it? Worse, Britain by participating in this, I would say, "illegal" war and occupation, condons the same: invade, kidnap, torture and murder... Tell me please, if I haven't applied the right level of doublethink on this.

  • Comment number 28.

    I heard last night that the Government had increased the amount of air time the helicopters flew in Afghanistan. Again, they are missing the point. More hours now mean the air frames will become 'stressed' and require more long term maintenance, causing the helicopters to be grounded. In trying to smooth over the media reaction with this 'spin', they are not doing themselves any favours. Give the boys on the ground what they want, or at least give the commanders the option of moving the men by air...

  • Comment number 29.

    @28, Hi Maxwell1977, as soon as the discussion gets into tactics of the war, you basically "buy in" to the politicians agenda: that the War is fair and legal. Point number 1, the war has yet to be proved legal.

    The BBC asks the Generals, "Why are we in Afghanistan?" and the generals have to repeat the usual politicans claim "Because those (saudi-financed), (saudi) (alleged) 9/11 hijackers (allegedly) trained there" - although the military people aren't even allowed to say the stuff in brackets; it is treated as fact that Afghanistan was responsible for 9/11. (By the same argument all conflicts that used British trained officers coming from Sandhurst are Britain's responsibility!) Hence the BBC by asking the question to the wrong people help promote the politican's agenda. So my point is: BBC do not put the military on the spot or politicise the war!

    If the BBC is actually free and fair, which we know after David Kelly's murder is not the case, then just report the facts!

  • Comment number 30.

    We are there because the CIA want to have fair elections were there chosen one get to rule with them and they get a firm hold in the country and never leave and milk that country of its resources after all how can the West stay powerful. When the Taliban were working for the CIA against Russia they were heroes invited to party at the the White house given arms by the USA and the UK we are one of the biggest arms dealers in the world how do you rule the world by divide and separate and sell arms to both sides if we brought opium from India to China to make addicts we still do it this is the real drug war like war diamonds.

    The Afghanistan's need to have the West to show them how to fight for their country what rubbish is this? As for Osama he is dead he was killed by the Indian leader that was shot last year she told people on the internet that it would be the same person. he could not be walking up and down Helman with his kidney machine. Why does he send graining pictures and recorded voices, is he not a Saudi have we attacked this country/ No and why is that because they royal family dine with the USA and and a couple of days ago was in London dining with royalty.

    When Bush was asked what did 9/11 have to do with Iraq he told the man Nothing it had nothing to do with Iraq he wanted to attack Afghanistan and Blair talked him into attacking Iraq, we were supposed to want to back them in going into the Middle East and they were supposed to bow down and kiss the West's feet Iraq had nothing because the west made sure of it from the first Gulf War but it has hate and we have done that what you Sow so shall you reap.

  • Comment number 31.


    Yes, we are there to "impose Westernised democracy" on a country that is a buffer zone. Haha, pull the other one... And we need to show those Afghans how to "fight for their rights". Haha, oops nothing left to pull...

    It would be poetic justice to find out that most of those involved in 911 were trained in the USA. Would the US then have martial law until the country could be trusted to have a corruption proof government, run proper elections and protect its citizens properly? Big job methinks.

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    Aldownie wrote, quote: "I don't think it's helpful for the media to report every single casualty as if it's completely intolerable that anyone should die in a war. It does nothing but whip up an anti-war sentiment ... "

    And what is so bad about whipping up anti-war sentiments? Seems a great idea to me - imagine if it was whipped up so much that everyone refused to engage in wars...

    Anyways, our military is not engaged in any war. Unjustfied invasion is what it is.

    And who is doing the invading? Not the instigators, who, sitting safely in plush offices, coerce others into doing the fighting for them, often using the false ideal of patriotism as justification for wholesale slaughter.

    I'm just sayin' ...

  • Comment number 34.

    I think it has become pretty obvious that both serving and retired General Officers have made their case to the PM and the MOD on numerous occasions and been brushed off. The only avenue open to them is to play the govt at their own game and use the media. As to the responsibilitiy of the Media, military spokesmen have shown themselves to be articulate and well informed and the govt employs numerous script writers and spin doctors. They are perfectly capable of expressing their views without the media claiming an "equal responsibility" to put their arguments under the "same rigorous scrutiny." Primary sources are preferable to the inevitable editorial interpretations which are always subject to bias. I suggest that the editors participate in a few foot patrols around Helmond before presuming to have sufficient knowledge to arbitrate.

  • Comment number 35.

    Remind me again why we are in Afghanistan?

    According to this article then Bush had signed off the plans to invade BEFORE 9/11.

  • Comment number 36.

    We can discuss, the United States, Britain and other countries are now so powerful military force, then other countries such as North Korea, is not it also be that the United States and British military forces to pose a threat to themselves and the need to strengthen their own military equipment including nuclear weapons? Is this not a vicious circle it?What time will be the third world war?
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]have fun.

  • Comment number 37.

    Why don't we get the greedy politicians out in the field and make them fight for a couple of days? Maybe they'll change their mind on furnishing more appropriate armor for the soldiers.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    The reason why the generals are going public with this is simpley because the government is blatently lying to the electorate.
    They know there are not enough helicopters over there but they constantly say that there are. The generals are asking for more equipment and men yet the government continually claim that the officers are satisfied with what they have.
    By coming out and publically stating they have not got what they need, they are proving that mr Brown is lying.

  • Comment number 41.

    We keep calling this a war as if we are being attacked and not the other way around I notice you do not talk about how many Afghanistan's have died and how much friendly fire we have now. If I kill someone in the street who I do not know is that a friendly kill then or do I have to be a US soldier. I have looked at the map of where the fighting is and water on one side and a canal on the other and what is grown in between that is so important the fighting is still going on in Iraq it was never about Saddam but about USA getting a foot hold for ever in the Middle East which is to do with Israel which wants to expand all ways and the USA now wants to do the same with Afghanistan it will never leave we the British part did it it was called the Empire it kept us rich but well hated and not forgotten. The generals are seeing what is happening and knows that not only will there be many of their men dead as I am sure that we do not know the real count but we will be bankrupt and this is also why the banks are being allowed to keep money that is not theirs and the Govenment is bailing them out and Joe Bloggs is being covertly blamed how much is it now 7bn per day, and recruitment is not there because at sometime in humans lives they do question why they are there and for what reason. Mr Brown is a Walter Mitty always has been which is why he never answers questions that he needs to before he gets even deeper but we really blame Blair with him and the others who were behind this, but what you sow so shall you reap.

  • Comment number 42.

    So what's happening at home? Where is the BBC coverage of Mendip District Council's making it impossible for the 'big Green' Festival to proceed after the organisers had met all the imposed obligations. Has anyone questioned why a Festival emphasising Climate Change/Environment had to cancel at the last moment? Temporary Road closure requested by the organisers was refused, but Somerset Police are closing them BECAUSE the Festival's cancelled, in order to turn people away! BBC's recent emphasis on the value of 'conventionally' grown food against organic was, I am sure, to reassure shoppers who can't afford the extra few pence for products which haven't been drenched in pesticides. But it wasn't honest - nutritionally there may be little difference between a chicken that's been routinely fed antibiotics; a potato full of nitrates and their organic equivalents - it's the unwanted residues that concern the Soil Association. And rightly so. I've always entrusted BBC to act as an 'honest broker' and pray that I don't have to revise my opinion.

  • Comment number 43.

    Where's my comment?

  • Comment number 44.

    When will the BBC discuss the plight of the many servicemen represented by the Armed Forces Pension Group who paid into a Government/Service pension but received no pension.

    They did not get either a pension or the chance to transfer their accrued benefits to any another scheme.

    Basically it is not fair.

    There is a website that explains all.

  • Comment number 45.

    Oh heavens above. The plain fact is that our army is ( CAPITAL IS)overstretched even with the numbers of troops engaged having increased in contrast to back up services. Clausewitcz always pointed out that the military is a political tool, to be used to political ends. The major problem for the Generals is that the politicians keep changing their aims and there will be no doubt that some real soul searching must have taken place for the Generals to come out so vociferously in terms of the funds and equipment allocated at the time of financial stress. We spend about 5% of GDP on our armed services and the Banks have taken almost half of our GDP to bail them out of their stupid experiment. I can also guarentee that the coalition might overun Afghanistan but they will not subdue it because you cannot destroy a belief system, by supporting an unwanted Government.

  • Comment number 46.

    There is abig gap in the information that is being given on the war at the moment.

    1) A Clear definition on why the war is raging against the Taliban? Why the Taliban are so hell bent on being at war with the US and Europe?

    2) What are the number of civilian and Taliban deaths and wounded?

    3) Exactly how many Taliban need to die before its over?

    4) What connection do these wars have to do with natural resources?

    If the BBC want to give a clear understanding of what is going on then start by answering the above honestly.


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