Talk about Newsnight


Broken Army?

  • Newsnight
  • 3 Sep 07, 04:14 PM

armyhelmet203100.jpgOn Thursday Newsnight will be devoting the whole programme to an analysis of the state of the Army. We'll have the first broadcast interview with General Sir Mike Jackson in advance of the release of his controversial autobiography, Soldier. Mark Urban will explore whether the funding and operation commitments of the Army have led to a crisis, and whether radical changes to its functions and set-up are needed. And we'll be releasing some fascinating polling about the public's attitude to the army, and its work in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And we'll be joined by a Defence Minister, who will be answering questions from a panel which will include former serving soldiers. But we'd also like to hear from you. What is the burning issue you want the MoD to address, or the one big question you want answered?

Leave your comments and thoughts below or send your message as a video - you can upload it to a video sharing website, and send us the link. (Please read these guidelines before submitting.) We'll aim to show some of them on Thursday's programme.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 04:48 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

Given the alleged chance of a British soldier in Afghanistan is 1 in 36, does General Sir Mike Jackson feel the British Armay should still be there ?

Is it necessary to move the troops which have been transferred to an 'oversight' role in Basra to Afghanistan instead ?

Or should the priority be to get the Terms of Reference of NATO allies changed so that they are shouldering a greater amount of responsibility there ?

  • 2.
  • At 04:49 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • David wrote:

More money needs to be put in to bring the Forces up to how they were at least 10 years ago.
Reduce other public services to pay for this (especially the civil service, welfare, tax credits etc)

  • 3.
  • At 04:49 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • David wrote:

More money needs to be put in to bring the Forces up to how they were at least 10 years ago.
Reduce other public services to pay for this (especially the civil service, welfare, tax credits etc)

  • 4.
  • At 04:50 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

Apologies, my earlier post should have referred to the chance of a British soldier being killed in Afghanistan alleged to be 1 in 36.

  • 5.
  • At 04:51 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • michael paterson wrote:

Why do we hear now that Army chiefs think the USA policy to be bankrupt. As Napoloeon might have said we need lucky generals at the time of decision making not years later.
Did the army chiefs advise the goverment of their views at the time and how and who on behalf of the government argued the converse.

  • 6.
  • At 04:52 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Harvey Barker wrote:

Why is it as far back as the 19th Century the British soldier in the field has never had the personal equipment he has needed? Even way back in the original Afghan war our troops were ill-equiped, not to mention the Crimean campaign.

It *is* true to say that the British Army is at the forefront of technology and in the equipment it can field, but this seldom trickles down to the individual man in the field.

Is it the British "stiff upper lip" and in thinking our men are all made of sterner stuff? For too long the British soldier in the field has gone unsupplied or has had inferior personal equipment. The distance between those at the top who designate the troop numbers and the men at the bottom is simply too great.

  • 7.
  • At 04:53 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • David Smith wrote:

There are huge amounts of public funds spent on 'Defense' - but how much of this actually filters down to the soldiers 'on the ground', doing the job, and how much is eaten up by fat profits going to 'desk jockeys'?

This question arises from the fact that at least one soldier was killed as a result of equipment shortages.

Using the same logic as for telecommunications, electricity supply, gas supply, water supply, railways etc... perhaps it is time to 'privatise' the MoD?

  • 8.
  • At 05:00 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Gordon Carmichael wrote:

As a Vietnam Veteran, I'm very concerned about promises being made now to our returning military that will be forgotten all to soon. I'd like to see our Congress FORCED to make valid, legal, un-breakable commitments to our soldiers NOW. Our Congress and especially THIS administration can in NO WAY be trusted to "Do The Right Thing" -- they have to be backed into corners with unassailable requirements to care for all those sent into Harm's Way by this uncaring, unfeeling, lying, and shockingly, reprehensibly, repugnantly dishonest government.

  • 9.
  • At 05:01 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Gabe Miller wrote:

I think the single biggest question many of us have is, How does the military fight an enemy that is not aligned with one specific government? Even those of us who weren't born during the second World War often speak wistfully of a time when the great powers were united against a common enemy: Hitler and Germany; Mussolin and Italy; Japan and the Emporer; even, on a nonmiliary scale, Apartheid and South Africa. This is different, even if the "enemy's" aims are almost equally abhorrent. Thoughts?

  • 10.
  • At 05:01 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Peter Clarke wrote:

Our service people need to have their Hospitals back.
Our Navy needs to be restored to it's number 3 World Spot.
Whose bright idea was it that our light tanks should be equipped with a tube to be pushed down the trousers of the crew so as to reduce temperature?
Why does Big Brother get more Media coverage than the two wars currently being fought? Why does the Government not show us why and where?
Let's have a UK forces day where we can show our service people respect.

And finally why do we not follow the French lead...lot's of Bands and marching and do nothing.

regards Peter.

  • 11.
  • At 05:09 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Jed Falby wrote:

We have very little morale authority left in the world.
Our military presence in Iraq is minimal compared to the American Forces.
Yet withdrawing our Forces now would have great morale authority in reaching the parts of the White House that Morals and Logic cannot reach.
Yes, The Americans will accuse us of cutting and running, but we are in a lose - lose situation and we do have the chance to apply cold realist options to this quaqmire. Pull our troops out NOW.
If we can't stop the terror we can at least withdraw ourselves from the position of being the prefered targets.
God Help the poor Iraqui muslims of all sorts doomed to kill each other in the name of Allah

  • 12.
  • At 05:10 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Leo A. wrote:

Soldiers are trained to follow orders . It's those who give them their orders that are the point of controversy ! How can society insure that the military is never misused and misapplied as it recently has been in Iraq and Afghanistan ?

  • 13.
  • At 05:11 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • jimmye hillman wrote:

Iraq! Iraq! Iraq!! And the stupidity of the British following the madness of w bush?!

JSH from Arizona

  • 14.
  • At 05:21 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Rajinder Singh wrote:

Britain now is one of the 25 countries that comprise the EU.
It is not possible for her to contribute to fighting across the world in disproportion to military contributions by the others, e.g. Poland or Spain.
This imbalance is too obvious and would be irritant across the EU.

Secondly, Britain now is not particularly a very rich country to afford military operations that cost billions of pounds per year. Many aspects of nation's life AT HOME are neglected or ill funded.

On sheer merit, principle and ideology, Britain's role and action in Iraq and Afghanistan are most commendable.

Her real challenge lies in her ability and statesmanship to get the other members of EU, too, running alonside.

Shamefully, most European countries are sleeping, or just sitting, while Britian is running on her own, trying to support the United States.

Sadly, and irresponsibly, NONE seems to recall this date in 1939 or the state they were all in in May 1945.

Surely the Chief of the Defence Staff should be in charge of the budget for the armed forces - not civil servants.

  • 16.
  • At 05:21 PM on 03 Sep 2007,

Can I receive NEWSNIGHT on BBC Canada
or BBC World in Canada and at what hours?

  • 17.
  • At 05:22 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Barry Reed wrote:

We have sent our servicemen into battle to the four corners of the world. However the MOD have tried to spend as little cas possible on their welfare, or should I say keeping them alive. They were advised that the ageing Nimrods should have a fire detection and suppression system fitted, they didn't so they have twelve deaths on their hands in just that one case. Our Navy, I think we are reduced to 25% of the capabilities we had during the Faulklands War, I know the government are building two new aircraft carriers but that took two years to make up their minds and we have lost the Fleet Air Arm. Now for the Army, the Americans have air conditioned armoured vehicles, we have bits of hoses (2 per person) to shove up their trouserleg or down their shirt, They have a lack of helicopter support, either heavy lifting i.e. Chinook or gunships, they have a lack of body armour and bably need a replacement for the landrovers. In Afghanistan one deployment even ran out of food having to live on corn on the cob 'till they were able to be re supplied. However the MOD are able to spend a fortune on plush new offices hear in the UK. They also spent a fortune on a number of Chinooks but because of the incompetence of those who put the order in are unable to fly and I would be surprised if they are not being used for spare parts, a very, very expensive bit of incompetence. I could go on, but I think I have made my point!

Equip our lads in Iraq and Afghanistan with bomb-proofed vehicles such as the RG-31, send the extra helicopters which will allow our forces to be hauled out swiftly when they are injured, and that's but two of the dozens of things which should be done for the soldiers who lay their lives on the line for their Country!

  • 19.
  • At 05:23 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Jim wrote:

I work for a charity which provides legal advice for the very poorest in society. Benefits are being squeezed ever tighter and the rules are being applied in a draconian manner to exclude those least able to navigate the arcane bureaucracy.

I can see the results on the streets where I live in increases in crime and antisocial behaviour due to the clear drop in income which has resulted in a deprived region, Tyneside.

How much are these illegal invasions costing and how much is being cut from welfare budgets to fund this blinding stupidity?

  • 20.
  • At 05:28 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Anon wrote:

The Government's spending on the forces has not changed in real terms for the last ten years (, yet the cost of manpower, equipment procurement and equipment maintenance continues to rise above inflation every year. The only sensible conclusion from this is that manpower will continue to be reduced to stay within budget.
I have two questions:
1. How are the politicians spinning this fact in the context of future committments?
2. Is the MOD currently wasting money procuring expensive equipment that they will ultimately be unable to man?

  • 21.
  • At 05:44 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Alex Mitchell wrote:

Why are our wounded soldiers turned over to the not-so-merciful attention of the NHS? They should be treated in proper military hospitals that are specially equipped to deal with their injuries, physical and mental.

  • 22.
  • At 05:51 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Pancho Parra wrote:

The world is full of people who advocate pulling out of the Afghan and out of Iraq. But then the world is full of people who would like to kill all British and American citizens, especially the armies. To cut and run would be to void the actions of those who have been wounded or killed in these awful places. To cut and run would give some very bad people a victory that they will cause to ring loudly and remain a major historical blot on their escutions forever. My meetings with British, Canadian, and Anzac representatives in WWII remain outstanding memories, and a personal encounter with Air Chief Marshall Lord Dowding in the front end of a DC-6 over the Atlantic will always remain a treasure. Dedicated lot, these. They deserve the dedication of their people.

  • 23.
  • At 05:53 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Robin Flowers wrote:

Our superb Army is not broken. It has more recently been put in situations where both political and military strategies have been fuzzy and unclear. Modern politicians fail to understand the role of the armed forces in relation to politics and because of this attempt to use force without providing a clear strategy as to what the armed forces are supposed to achieve.

If the Army is hurt, and it is, then the blame lies with the MoD, its own leadership to some extent, and its sister services, the RAF and RN.

The army is, and always seems to be, the Cinderella of the UK's armed service. It is the one that suffers the largest caualties yet has to work with equipment which not only in short supply and of questionable quality, but not actually designed for the job in hand. For this the MoD and the army's own leadership must bear some blame.

In this day and age where combined operations are the norm, the Chief of the General Staff (CGS) should always be a soldier and the position not rotated through the other services which now more and more work beside the Army in support roles. For this the MoD and the General Staff must take the blame.

In the last 25 years the Royal Navy has had the job of getting the Army to the Falklands, Balkans, Iraq (twice) and Sierra Leone, with the RAF's role being to provide air support wherever possible.

Yet when we look at the navy it continues to demand ships, particularly costly destroyers and frigates that are ideally suited to the battle of the Atlantic (circa 1942) when it should be building ships for a logistic and assualt roles including helicopter carriers. It also continues to canvass for replacement Trident submarines, even though the UK cannot - and never could - fire their missiles without the US president's say-so. This is the fault of the MoD and a coterie of self-serving navy brasshats.

The RAF has recently put into service the Typhoon, a fighter that is ideal for intecepting Russian bombers (circa 1950-70) but little else. Its predecessor - the Tornado - was designed for low level bombing and was then cobbled to fulfill the role of a high performance interceptor, a job it could never properly aspire to. For today it should aspire for more helicopters and A10s, but it prefers the glamourous brillcream option. This is the fault of the MoD and a coterie of self-serving RAF brasshats.

Delineation of the services - jealously maintained by the senior RN and RAF officers, and the tacit agreement of the MoD to continue in this way is the main reason for the army's problems. Its men are of the best, superb and well trained for both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts but hardly supported by the other services who continue to plan for Hitler's or Stalin's war.

The army has shown the way whilst the RN found itself arrested - it's time to purge the MoD and to amalgamate the armed services properly.

  • 24.
  • At 05:54 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Anthony Flint wrote:

In an age when government is increasingly influenced by "big business", is the British army heading toward being seen as simply "another sub-contractor"?

  • 25.
  • At 05:56 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Mick Ibbotson wrote:

Bearing in mind the cost both in lives and in cash of these 'missions', is it not time to say enough is enough and bring all our troops home before more families lose their offspring for a lost cause. Any of the parties who could deliver this would be on a real vote winner as the normal ordinary people are fed up of watching its young make the news for the wrong reasons. If these returning troops need something to do, they could be better placed to help out our police get control of the streets. At the end of the day, the real war is here and not thousands of miles away in the desert.

  • 26.
  • At 05:57 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Tim M. wrote:

From land back to sea?

Given events in Iraq, is it not time that Britain reversed the defence trend of recent years, and shifted the focus away from land forces and back on to the Royal Navy?

Power projection from the sea is the defence key doctrine in the US, and increasingly so elsewhere (i.e. China). Moreover, a maritime-based defence posture would accord with British traditions, history and abilities.

A maritime-based strategy would prevent the UK from being embroiled in events like Basra. The next time we're asked to assist in an operation like the invasion of Iraq, our answer could be straightforward; "we'd like to help; we're a maritime power; how many ships would you like?"

  • 27.
  • At 05:59 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Annie wrote:

It really doesn't matter what my thoughts are. My thoughts and protests were against the war in the first place. Public opinion seems to matter not a jot to the politicians

  • 28.
  • At 06:06 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Andrew Green wrote:

Is it true that the funding that would ordinarily go to the armed forces for maintenance updates and renewal to the latest available equipment and protection is being undermined by E.C. control over the funding for grandiose projects, such as Eurofighter and the recent aircraft carrier which are planned for future wars under the mandate of the E.C. instead of concentrating on the hear and now?.

  • 29.
  • At 06:18 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Alberta Geography wrote:

I wish that the BBC would look at how the U.S. presidential campaigns are handling the issue of coming to grips with resolving the political situation in the Middle East.
Ever since Barak Obama's comments, it seems even more evident that there is great pressure not to let the U.S. President freely speak to and engage with Middle East leaders and/or countries.
Who is dictating these terms in the U.S. election and what does it mean for the Middle East, for the rest of the world and for the U.S.?

  • 30.
  • At 06:26 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Cecil Allen Brown wrote:

As an ex Royal Engineer who served my National Service (1946-1948) in Israel prior to it's Statehood formation, I consider that your discussion and questions to the Minister should include the unacceptable time that it presently takes for compensation to wounded and the provision of pensions to widows

  • 31.
  • At 06:26 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Robb wrote:

Jim (19) you alone have hit the button.
The effects of our defeat in Iraq have been the reduction of a well-ordered and civilised country to chaos and penury and the annexation of its main source wealth, oil, for the benefit of over-bloated America.
In Afghanistan, our Army succeeded in re-establishing the poppy farmers and ensured an all-time record crop, much of which is destined to reach our streets and blow the minds of our youth.
What use has our Army been in its rampage of slaughter of civilians and its support of puppet regimes? None whatever! Every penny spent on it has been counterproductive. But don’t blame the poor sods who follow orders – blame the Government and its Ministers who toady to Bush and the oil companies; while at home we treat our elderly and the vulnerable abominably, our children malnourished and ignorant, our science in the hands of ‘entrepreneurs’ (gamblers), our “health” service sinks for lack of resources, mayhem in the streets where police should be and, laughably, work in hand to build nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers to put fear into the hearts of men armed only with machine guns and RPGs!

  • 32.
  • At 06:28 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Mrs. Collette Dauphinais wrote:

In response to a post by Bedd Gelert. I hasten to remind people not to paint the entire NATO family with such a broad brush, only most of it. Canada broadcasts the repatriation ceremonies of all our soldier's on their return home {unless asked other-wise by the families}, & watching 4 coffins at a time, draped with the Canadian flag is an all too common occurrence. As I say goodbye to a very close member of my family on their way to Afghanistan, "doing enough" just doesn't seem quite fair. I would like to ask the General about the term "friendly fire" & why the U.S. are often at the guilty end of it, {which Canada & the U.K. know all too well}. Thank You, Collette, Canada.

  • 33.
  • At 06:37 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • David Woodley Allmark wrote:

Our Army, indeed our entire Defense Force, has steadily been "reorganized" - "adjusteded to meet today's modern defense requirements" etc, etc, etc. Basically whenever a government, of whatever persausion, needs to save money these phrases come pouring out in one form or another and they have always been at expense of our defense forces. It seems that they are not really needed - but history teaches us - particularly the British - that these requirements are always just around the corner.

Tony Blair threw our ill prepared Army into a war without end with no proper game plan or end plan. The result is that now that we are out of Bazra our hard fighting and incredibly brave Troops will be put to shame internationally by an incompetent Government.

We must learn our lesson - not throw money away - but look after our men and women by supplying the required equipment of the highest quality before it has to be used . Our forces must also be increased with recruits having a future in the forces.

  • 34.
  • At 06:41 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Paul Holden wrote:

Questions for the Minister:

1. Not a single member of the goverment (or the PLP for that matter) was even a couple of days of military service under their belt. Instead, they have decades of experience of CND activism. How can such a government have any credibility running the Armed Forces?

2. Why does Gordon Brown (and presumably the Labour Cabinet) think so little of the Armed Forces that he/they makes Secretary of State for Defence a part-time job in the middle of two wars?

  • 35.
  • At 06:45 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Mike Cooke wrote:

Why do we need to fight all over the world? We are only a speck on a large surface. Why can't we be more like Switzerland, i.e. neutral?

People only want to hurt us because we have hurt them.

  • 36.
  • At 06:46 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Les Cantlay wrote:

I am afraid that at the heart of the military system is personnel regime which undoubtedly is designed to get the very best out of the human resources. Unfortunately the same system restrains Officers and Senior NCOS from speaking out and from holding views contrary to the MOD throughout their career. This together with the threat of not being seen as "can do" leads ultimately to an Army which bends to the prevailing Government's wishes rather too easily.

Even though General Jackson no doubt operates with high integrity, history may well regard him as General who spoke out too late. Many of the matters he talks about should have been resigning issues at his level.

Politicians have redefined the post cold war role of the Military and its Reserves away from defence to force projection for pre-emptive offensive foreign interventions and for peace keeping and Nation Building Roles without proper thought to the equipment and financial resources needed, and without proper public debate. I believe the system we have evolved with effective operational direction being in the hands of a triumvirate of the PM, Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary and budgetary oversight performed by the Treasury and top level budget holders in the name of Parliament is never going to provide a solution that matches resources to missions.

Our Army is in danger of becoming a force such as we were after Dunkirk, our equipment we has been spent, our soldiers on the edge of demoralisation even though, as we can see, in the brave actions of those fighting in Afghanistan we have lost none of our fighting spirit.

The Army needs money, the civilian population and most of all our politicians firmly behind it if we are to revitalise it. On a practical level we need a far better system for matching politically ambitious missions to resources needed.

  • 37.
  • At 06:50 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Barry8 wrote:

Once again NEW LABOUR gives us the willies! They blame the Tories and to a point, they are right. But how
can they still carry on passing the can when it's all too clear that the competance of New Labour is so oddly
inadequate? Again, make M.P's take the type of tests they are wishing on the electorate and a more important course of training and a test for when selected for Ministerial duty. Shouting POLICY is no longer acceptable - they must explain how to IMPLEMENT the POLICY.
If they cannot do it how can they advise others how to do it? One good manager is better than 3 good ones all trying to do the same job.

  • 38.
  • At 07:06 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Jimb wrote:

What are the main threats facing us and thereby main uses for the army in the next ten to twenty years?
Who decides this?
How much agreement is there with other similarly-placed nations?

  • 39.
  • At 07:06 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Alan McKechnie wrote:

As an ex soldier who served my country in a Scottish regiment, I believe the so called cost cutting exercise to do away with Scottish battalions has done untold damage to the moral of Scottish soldiers and will curb recruitment.Another decision that indicates that the MOD has lost it!

Victory? In Iraq? What would victory in Iraq look like? To the invading forces; to the Iraqi people? Who is the Enemy to be vanquished?
Look to the honesty of plain common sense for the answer. Greed for Iraqi oil and lands; Lust for Power and control over others; and the Fear such greed and lust engender in ourselves and others: these, the true Enemy facing us in Iraq. Of all its enemies, mankind's most enduring!
Thus the only genuine Victory possible in Iraq is Victory over ourselves through a shift in agenda.
However, is a military victory still possible in Iraq?
WWII was fought against a clear and present danger with a clear and present Enemy. Victory over that Enemy defined itself. This was not so in Korea, nor in Vietnam. And now in Iraq, who is the Enemy? Who are the Enemy's forces? Why indeed is this war being fought against a people and a nation who never attacked US?
WWII was a defensive war. The Allies fought in clear self-defense. WHO attacked whom in Iraq and WHY?
Even if the twisted ethics, morals and political thinking of our day fail us and mislead us, simple common sense would still serve us, if applied -- a People attacked defend themselves, vanquish the attackers, oust the invaders before Justice is served and true Victory declared.
There never was or is an Iraqi Enemy or Iraqi army opposing our invading forces. There is only Iraqi people doing so. Iraqi people blowing themselves up to make a point and get us OUT. Iraqi people WE've conveniently called terrorists' -- oh, but the irony of it! Iraqi people we have taught to hate us!
Then there are Iraqi people fighting among themselves, groups fighting each other, on their own land fighting their on-going vendettas and rivalries fueled by ancient hatreds. It is not through war, armies and killings that such hatreds are healed! But then, is the nurturing of 'healing' on the British or American agenda?
And yet, therein would be a possible and genuine victory. If only we could shift tracks and shift agendas. Is giving up greed and lust and Fear possible? Is victory over ourselves possible? If so, then nothing is impossible to us.

On arrival in Basra it was recognised by all at the MND (SE) that the Americans advised by that great 'Carpetbagger' Rumsfold were mad when they sacked the spine of a country: The Police, Armed Forces and Civil Service; probably because the Americans are incapable of thinking anything other than 'black or white'. They were exactly the same in the Balkans - a world superpower with the culture and mindset of a small midwest town. That aside, the penny pinching of Gordon Brown, the arrogance of Hilary Benn, coupled with the creeping influence of a civilian government who between them have never heard a shot fired in anger; and a PM who was keen to commit troops, but NEVER had the balls to meet a soldier returning in a body bag, or stop the closure of Haslar Hospital. To listen to the man with two jobs (Scotland and Defence) lie about how wonderful Solihull is was an affront to every serving soldier, sailor and airman. I have YET to meet anyone in uniform who would agree with our 'leaders?' The British Army has not lost in Iraq - but even one of those 'Walter Mitty's' in Government realises that if you fail to give the troops the tools and numbers - they cannot succeed. I find it offensive that they have lined the pockets of the Quangos and other hanger ons, but cannot find a few pence to protect our troops. Tell you what Gordon you skinflint army hater - spend the money you have wasted on Health and Education (at least all soldiers can read and write) on Defence, and I promise they will deliver ten fold.
An angry ex serviceman

  • 42.
  • At 08:15 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Andrew Green wrote:

Is it true that the funding that would ordinarily go to the armed forces for maintenance updates and renewal to the latest available equipment and protection is being undermined by E.C. control over the funding for grandiose projects, such as Eurofighter and the recent aircraft carrier which are planned for future wars under the mandate of the E.C. instead of concentrating on the hear and now?.

  • 43.
  • At 08:16 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Willy Van Damme wrote:

A well-deserved defeat I would say, the second in Iraq. And no doubt Afghanistan is on its way. The UK still thinks they are a superpower, in the shadow of big bully The US. The UK is not and as a result is certain to receive counterattacks from their enemies. Previous it was the IRA and the like, now it's Arabs and Muslims. The UK should behave and stop dictating how other countries should behave. If not they are in for many more battles lost. Look at Suez, look at Iraq, look at Afghanistan, and look at Northern Ireland. In the meantime inner cities are left to rot because the money is spent of imperialist dreams certain to fail. Great politicians you have.

  • 44.
  • At 08:18 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Willy Van Damme wrote:

Another remark. Those British general should have stepped down instead of being part of this crime. Now they are guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Every sensible person studying the dossier in advance would now it would fail. Studies beforehand and declarations by among others Dick Cheney years before prove this. Send them all to jail in Iraq.

  • 45.
  • At 08:20 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

Mrs. Collette Dauphinais - Crikey, I had no idea that you Canadians had been roped in to this ill-conceived adventure in Afghanistan as well ! My vision was that only we Brits were silly enough to be shouldering the responsibility and taking the flak, while the Germans were on a 9-5 shift.

My ignorance is partly due to thinking Canadian politicians might have been of a superior intelligence, and their link to both the British and French empire building might have taught them a history lesson.

I'm old enough to remember that the Russians were there for years and had to leave without having changed the country substantially.

Thanks for enlightening me, and I do trust that the member of your family going out there has a guardian angel looking after them.

  • 46.
  • At 08:21 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Pete Williams wrote:

Why are our armed forces treated with utter contempt by the very people who sent them to these hot spots to risk and lose their lives? Politicians the world over and ours in particular should be made to lead from the front. It would soon become obvious just how much committed they are to the cause.
Why do Admirals, Generals and Air Marshals wait until their careers are nearly over and bullet proof before voicing their disaproval? Do they not have the courage of their convictions.
Why is your average Matelot, Squaddie and Airman discouraged from putting pen to paper yet senior officers are practically begged to go public?

  • 47.
  • At 08:44 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • csharp wrote:

given the massive re armament plans by russia and return to their testing our airspace do we consider the soviet peace dividend over? Should there be a new defence review to asses this new threat? Are the military the best instrument for dealing with terrorism? Shouldn't this be a police/ criminal matter?

  • 48.
  • At 08:51 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • craigblackburn wrote:

there is no shame in puling out of iraq and admitting it was a big mistake.

  • 49.
  • At 09:23 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Hugh Spiegelhalter wrote:

Government is ever ready to commit troops including Special Forces yet is apparently not prepared to provide essential equipment. Before the second Gulf war equipment needs were assessed and not procured in a timely fashion 'because we were not yet in a conflict' now a range of special equipment Herkybirds, Helicopters and Electronic surveillance assets are woefully overextended- and replacements unforthcoming, is it appropriate to indicte ministers for these failings before their failure to put their(our) money where their mouths are costs more honourable soldiers lives.

  • 50.
  • At 09:31 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Hugh Spiegelhalter wrote:

Government is ever ready to commit troops including Special Forces yet is apparently not prepared to provide essential equipment. Before the second Gulf war equipment needs were assessed and not procured in a timely fashion 'because we were not yet in a conflict' now a range of special equipment Herkybirds, Helicopters and Electronic surveillance assets are woefully overextended- and replacements unforthcoming, is it appropriate to indicte ministers for these failings before their failure to put their(our) money where their mouths are costs more honourable soldiers lives.

I served around the world with the British Forces Broadcasting Service, I'm a veteran of the first Gulf Warhaving deployed from Hong Kong with the Gurkhas.

I completed 14 tours of the Balkans and was given the same medals as serving personnel,during one tour in March 1997, I had an accident in Banja Luka(HQBF) which led to me losing my lower left leg.I am not however entitled to a War Pension because I was a civilian, although itwas O.K. for me to travel in military vehicles and aircraft and eat and sleep under the same conditions as British Forces, I don't have an Incapacity Pension from my ex employer, how can the minister justify my treatment?

And who can arrange for me to hand my medals back to Gordon Brown?

  • 52.
  • At 10:14 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • paul wrote:

i was said that there will always be an army in your country, you're just lucky that army is yours. this said why has the army been left in such a state that within its manning there is a massive gulf between personnel caught in the pension trap and personnel with up to 5 years service and nothing in between.
when the pension trapped personnel finally leave we will loose effectiveness as well as expertise as there is no one to step up at the senior nco level. what if anything is being done to stop this retention problem? and will it be to little to late?


I think the armed forces have to decide whether they protect British interests out of patriotism or are the mercenary, military arm of whoever is wielding power at any given time; there to do political (or even deluded personal) bidding. With referenda a current hot topic, I cannot help feeling that going to war might be the defining issue to be decided by referendum!

  • 54.
  • At 11:30 PM on 03 Sep 2007,
  • Dave Oakley wrote:

Common sense questions for your erudite guests:
History clearly demonstrates that whenever the UK becomes involved in the Middle East we get our fingers burned be it Palestine, Suez, Aden, Iraq or Afghanistan. Can your guests explain why we persist?
Blair insisted that we must see Iraq through to a satisfactory conclusion.
Do your guests think he acted honourably by cutting and running when he had no need to do so having stated that he would serve a full term?
Do your guests not agree that is it completely shameful and inexcusable that our servicemen do not have a dedicated military hospital available to them?
If Israel to the west is a nuclear power and Pakistan to the east is a nuclear power do your guests believe that we really need to further inflame tensions in the middle East by singling out Iran as the next Satanic power?

How about some common sense answers without any further hypocrisy?

"Given the alleged chance of a British soldier in Afghanistan is 1 in 36" ... I think Bedd Gelert got it right the first time!

We're so over-stretched that back-to-back operational tours are now commonplace - even a significant portion of the TA have done more than one.

Given that the Strategic Defence Review was aiming for an operational tour interval of no less than two years, something is badly wrong.

The Army (and the other Services) have almost always been asked to do more and more with less and less, but when we're seeing so many military and civilian deaths that could have been avoided if the politicians had provided the same level of support to the Military that they take for granted themselves, it has a particularly bitter taste.

No one has ever won a war in Afghanistan. When Saadam Hussein ruled Iraq at least there was an organised wealthy country with hospitals and work for people. and probably if the Kurds had not been causing trouble trying to get home rule they would not have been treated ruthlesly, he was no doubt he was an evil man but so is the president of Burma and what about Mugabi ,but of course nobody bothers about these dictators because there is no oil there.I say that we should bring our troops out of these conflicts we are now one of the small nations of the world pretending to be a big one there are countries with four times the population of Britain who never get involved in other countries wars especially Muslim conflicts because they are killing each other for some odd religious beliefs. If our forces are there to bring order to the streets why not bring them home and start dealing with our street disorder.The police here are unable to control the gang warfare on our own streets so bring back the army to do it for them. ROY

  • 57.
  • At 05:03 AM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • Albert Bond wrote:

To serve in the military was at one time a good thing for the lads of my time, 1940's, I did 6 years in the RN and most of my uncles servd in the army in WW2 one RSM and two Sgts, Burma campain, they were short of supplies, but stuck it out.
how do the louts in whitehall expect our lads to survive when they (louts) are sat on their duffs in overstuft chairs spending money meant for the forces and don't really care about the lads in the field, is it time to put all the old farts out pasture, and get someone in there that has some kind of respect for the Armed forces of today, the only thing the upper crust is concerned with is how fancy they look in their Bloody uniforms on parade.
I am sure there are plenty of empty rubbish bins they would fit in.

  • 58.
  • At 09:26 AM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • William Pearce wrote:

As an ex member of the British Forces my question.
Where were these two Generals and their views when Saddam Hussain was first toppled from power when things looked as though all was well.
Why did they not voice, and condem the fall of Saddam and make their views known then.
We can all be very clever now.
Yes,we were part of the victory then I bet, and stick our chests out and no doubt soak up the glory for being part of the (then glory).

The Iraqi situation today is a "Tribal" one. Having been given the oppertunity to freedom after the disposal of Saddam & his two Sons +, whether or not they can put their "tribal problems" aside, "I doubt it" and therefor a set withdrawl date is neccessaited, and the Iraqi Govt should be read the riot act. Itis obvious, so long as they can rely on the "foreign military presence" to blame, they will be happy to do so.

As one of the supposedly richest nations on the planet can somebody please explain to me how it is that we treat those who are prepared to set down their lives for this country in such an irresponsible and disrespectful manner.
To send these brave men and women into action without adequate protection is nothing short of murder and begs the question as to how our politicians sleep at night.
Maybe the political system needs a complete overhaul to create far greater accountability than has been the case for many decades now.

  • 60.
  • At 11:54 AM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • Francesca Johnson wrote:

Our army was welcomed in Sierra Leone and performed a good job well.
We need a rethink of Military Strategy for the 21st century.
Adopting this principle would greatly assist in deciding what technologies, human numbers and general baggage should be invested in. {But adopting and declaring *any* principle would be helpful and an improvement over what we have now - when the poor ** army is sent off on lunatic undertakings led by little men afraid to think or speak}.

MOD statistics show that British casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan have been rising steadily in the last year. In Iraq, from the start of the invasion in 2003 the risk of death had remained under 10 per thousand per year until 2007, when fatality rates have climbed sharply. In January 2007 the fatality rate (averaged over 3 months) was 3.9 deaths/1000 troops/year, but by July this had more than tripled to 13.8. This has been combinded with a drop in recruitment into the armed forces and a rising shortfall in manpower.

If this trend continues, despite the pull back of British forces from the majority of Southern Iraq, how long can the British maintain their presence?

The logical conclusion is that, at some point in the future, conscription would be required to enable the government to continue to pursue its foreign policy.

  • 62.
  • At 03:18 PM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • Drew Weir wrote:

Winston Churchill (August 1940): "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few".

Tony Blair/Gordon Brown (August 2007): "Never in the field of human conflict has so much been done by so few with so little for no reason at all".

I wonder which is the leader? I was serving in the British Army at the time of Gulf War 2 and many soldiers voiced their discontent even before the War started because they could see no reason to die in a foreign land at the whim of a few misguided politicians - now when have you ever heard a soldier not willing to fight!!? We would have preferred to deploy to Zimbabwe where at least there was a good reason to help a populace in pain. However, no oil so no deployment and no resolution for the persecuted people of Zimbabwe. And there are many other countries which fall in this category, not just Zimbabwe.

The justification for the Gulf War was extremely weak and unsubstantiated whilst there was no 'post-war reconstruction plan' in place at all (unless you were called Halliburton/KBR and oh Dick Cheney with your $800 toilet seats)...and as for the US decision to disband the Iraqi Armed Forces, Police...well this was just a travesty of the highest proportions and Ambassador Bremer and General Sanchez should have been removed from post immediately just for that alone. The British MoD (yes the officers and soldiers who knew what they were talking about and not the Government!!) warned the US DoD/DoS not to disband the defeated army - a lesson learnt after WW11 and the German Army but our erudite cousins across the water choice to ignore us!! Will we ever learn?

The officers and soldiers of the UK's Armed Forces will always rank as the best in the world because of their loyalty to their fellow soldiers and their Regiments (if not disbanded and amalgamated like the Scottish and several English County Regiments), combined with professional leadership and underpinned by a solid training regime (if the tree-hugging civil servants would let the Army get on with proper training and not dilute it with humanitarian claptrap). Yes, I agree that Armed Forces is on the verge of being broken but at no point is this the fault of the serving members of the Armed Forces who continually salute, turn to the right and get on with the job with professionalism.

I just wish some senior officers would resign at the point where they know it's all going to go wrong - think of the potentially POSITIVE fallout if General Jackson had resigned and stated in 2003/04 what he's now just making public!!! Maybe Gulf War 2 wouldn't have taken place at all and the world would be a much better place!!! Now that's leadership.

  • 63.
  • At 03:55 PM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • j ettridge wrote:

We commented on yesterdays topic and would like to know why you failed to print this comment. You have printed all our past comment ALL OF WHICH HAVE ALWAYS REFLECTED THE TRUTH!!! YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE IMPARTIAL. IS THAT REALLY SUCH A HARD THING TO DO? Perhaps you think it's O.K. For your programme to continually let this completely incompetent government apologise,learn lessons,draw lines in the sand, renege on manifesto promises and take our country into an illegal war based on lies and deceit.Well let me tell you "IT IS NOT ALRIGHT" The truth is that they are cutting and running already.The airfield complex is the "Last Chance Saloon". Blair & Co already have a head start and now that old Bush statement will come to haunt them
Quote "He can run ,but he can't hide

  • 64.
  • At 04:01 PM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • Laura wrote:

My question also picks up on government funding but in relation to the falling number of new recruits. It is becoming more difficult to recruit into our armed forces for 2 key reasons - 1. You are more likely now to have to go to war than ever before, 2. Your salary will in no way be a reflection of the commitment you will make to your country.
As the wife of a reserve officer currently serving in Afghanistan I feel very strongly that both regular and reserve forces should receive a reasonable level of pay that would encourage people to stay in the armed forces. It is the loss of experienced people that is causing the most strain on the military.
So, what is the 5 year plan of our government to increase their investment in our armed forces?

  • 65.
  • At 04:29 PM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:


Gen Sir Michael Jackson reportedly told Claire Short, in relation to a specific request relating to Kosovo, that 'I'm too old for a heroic but futile gesture'.

Does he think our presence in either Iraq or Afghanistan risk becoming a 'heroic but futile gesture' ?


  • 66.
  • At 08:52 PM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • Steve Walpole wrote:

Why was the recent DIN effectively gagging serving troops introduced. Will the minister sign onto the Army Rumour Service to talk directly to serving and ex servidemen and women?

  • 67.
  • At 10:01 PM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • Paddy wrote:

There needs to be accountability not only from politicians over the current parlous state of the Army, but also from Mike Jackson and previous General Staff officers who allowed our manning, morale and capability to descend to such a low ebb.

Many of the disastrous decisions that are now being shouldered; for example cutting teeth arm troops & infantry battalions, introducing divisive 'social engineering' measures that has undermined military discipline, failing to invest properly in accommodation, welfare & medical support services and the Reserve Forces occurred on General Jackson's 'watch'.

In this country a key element of the selection process for senior officers is political pliability and awareness! It is ironic that having retired Mike Jackson is now plugging his book criticising key issues, that he should have influenced whilst still serving, by resigning if necessary.

Unfortunately civil servants have been allowed to run the Army by the Army; primarily on a cost cutting agenda for at least the past 15 years.

  • 68.
  • At 10:30 PM on 04 Sep 2007,
  • Calascione wrote:

The main "problem" we are facing right now is the US's insistence that an anti-missle shield be placed in Europe. This has created a threat that equals or outweighs Iran's nuclear programme.

Sergey Lavrov, (the Russian Defence Minister) has repeatedly warned that this is Russia's red line and failure to heed warnings will lead to a reconfiguring MIRV targeting systems to counter this threat.

So far, no response from the American's except "wait and see".


Second major act of lunacy which rivals the first in all but scale is their insistence on "Shock and Awe" which has created enemies everywhere, ended any chance of a peace dividend and put the world on a dangerous and unstable path of economic uncertainty.

Sir Michael Jacksons' serialised story in the Telegraph today describes how Saceur (NATO's supreme commander in Europe), traditionally an American held post and in this case General Wesley Clarke, mistook Serbian heavy armour for Russian and ordered a blockade of Pristina's runway. And all because the world was watching CNN!

Jackson's view is that Russia needs to be respected and he was prepared to resign rather than obey this utterly irresponsible decision. There are limits to loyalty. There needs to be balance.

The Pentagon's planned "3 day blitz" on Iran is less believeable because they have left the European flank exposed.

And to top it all, the political elite in the US are convinced the Republican ideal is far superior to any monarchy, which is viewed by definition as anachronistic.

The monarchy binds Europe to Russia and is to be preserved and protected at all costs.

You will hardly find a single American to support this view. It seems to be a threat to their very existence.

  • 69.
  • At 12:14 AM on 05 Sep 2007,
  • bernie moss wrote:

My 67 year old mother is recovering from a Replacement Hip Operation carried out at our last Military Hospital HASLAR last month.
After absolutely superb care and proffessionalism of all the staff she was discharged early and today walked around the block-approx. 1/2 a mile-crutch assisted.
If we can't give our injured troops such care in a proper enviroment what kind of a nation have we become?

  • 70.
  • At 01:21 AM on 05 Sep 2007,
  • Bob Goodall wrote:

Dear Newsnight

Q -Would Mike Jackson cancel the Super Carrier programme and scale back the replacement for Trident, with a smaller force, perhaps not submarine based that can do the same job and use the resources to provide the equipment desperately needed by the Army and RAF? and to pay for the treatment and care of wounded servicemen and women by perhaps immediately turning an existing civilian hospital solely for use by wounded servicemen?

Q-Does he think that the US has being unwise and very short sighted to have spent so much on defence now against less significant threats than we have faced in the past thereby weakening its economy, as opposed to investing in its economy so that it would have being in better shape in the future say 50 years from now when the strength of China will be awesome compared to that of other countries?

Q- Does he think having ‘won’ the Cold War with all the opportunities this afforded to the free World that the most catastrophic mistake of Western leaders has being to allow Russia to suffer as much as it has done and that we may now be starting to reap the consequences of this?

Q- Did anyone he know of speak out against such an appalling lack of judgment by our leaders not to say their lack of concern for the people of Russia after the fall of Communism?

Q- Is it hindsight to see that allowing a country to fall apart is not a good idea, and isn’t there a parallel here with what has happened in Iraq? This might be one of the most important questions I would like to ask?

Q-What does this say about the quality of decision making by our leaders and those advising them, and should we be concerned?

Q-Does he agree that multiple injuries compound the disability of a wounded serviceman so that the benefits should be likewise compounded rather than the current system where only the first injury receives 100% benefits?

Q-Does Mike Jackson consider that the downside of Trident is too much reliance might be placed on it particularly as it starves the rest of the armed forces of resources, does he also think that it is a weapon that some people might feel reluctant to use, perhaps undermining its actual deterrent value? How many glasses of whisky would you have to down before you destroyed the human race?

Q-What does he think we need a carrier force for and does he realistically think they would survive very long in a conflict?

Q-Does the existing situation in terms of support and care for people wounded in action cause additional concern in the field among soldiers that if they are wounded they will not be cared in the way they should be and I am not saying this is happening, far from it, does it send a message that taking more risks than necessary might be unwise? This is not a reflection on our service people rather the politicians and civil servants who do not appear to be fulfilling their side of the contract to do more for the wounded than is currently happening.

Q-How much do British troops fear friendly fire from the Americans and do they sometimes hesitate before calling their planes in?
What does the average soldier think about this? Would it be better if they were supported by RAF planes and have more troops anyway to avoid this situation?

Q-Is there any evidence that forces from different countries working together result in more friendly fire incidents than if the forces are from the same country?

Hope there is something here you can use, thank you again for asking Newsnight viewers for their questions and asking them on our behalf so that they stand a far better chance of being answered.

best wishes

  • 71.
  • At 05:39 AM on 05 Sep 2007,
  • Agincourt wrote:

There are 4 groups of people to blame for the Army's current problems. These are: (i) Ministers who have had no military experience, & have little interest in military affairs, (ii) Ministry of Defence (ie the MoD) officials who design Army equipment that may suit the British environment; but are completely in appropriate for that of, say, Iraq or Afghanistan; elderly topbrass who want wars & equipment that they understand (particularly based on their NATO experience of preparing for battle in northern Germany) rather than items that an enemy cannont outwit; & of course the ever tight-fisted Treasury.

The "Snatch" & "WIMIK" LandRovers are a good example of this very unsatisfactory situation. Britain has lost dozens of the hopelessly unprotected LandRovers to mines and roadside bombs in both Afghanistan and Iraq, at a time when almost every other front-line force operating there has equipped itself with properly mine-protected vehicles, such as the Bushmaster or Mamba/RG31, which have saved scores of lives. Even the lives of British troops have been saved - by the handful of mine-protected Mastiff patrol vehicles which the MoD has sent at last to both countries (although it won't tell us how many).

Last November it was reported that the Taliban were planning to make much more extensive use of mines, to "demoralise" NATO forces in Afghanistan. Every other nation except Britain has equipped its troops accordingly. Uniquely, the MoD is still happy to ask most of our young men to patrol in vehicles in which far too many of them have either died or suffered horrible wounds (again the MoD won't tell us how many have been injured).

This is not just a tragedy, it is an outrage, a national disgrace, for which senior figures in the MoD should be held personally responsible.

Newspapers have recently stated quite rightly that service personnel should be given the right equipment to do their jobs. Perhaps the most compelling example of this is the forces' continued use of the "Snatch" Land Rover in Iraq and Afghanistan. The families of some serving soldiers are so concerned about the continued use of this vehicle – which was designed for Northern Ireland and is not armour plated – that they are quite correctly considering bringing a class law suit against the MoD.

More than 20 service personnel have died in Snatch LandRovers, yet the MoD has no plans to take them out of service and replace them. Interestingly, some soldiers are considering action against the MoD over their continued deployment.

But, if the newspapaers are getting to grips with the deficiencies of the "Snatch" LandRover, the greater scandal continues, with the other variant in service, the WIMIK LandRover – and also its partial replacement, the Supacat WIMIK, known in theatre as the "mobility vehicle", or simply, the "MV".

Indeed, it is now becoming clear that the nature of the problem is far more serious than imagined, but of a different order from the "Snatch". In the case of WIMIK Land Rover, it has become a source of concern because of the high numbers of deaths arising from roadside bombs (IEDs) which were notified by the MoD.

Although there have been a number of deaths in WIMIKs, however, the unreported tragedy of the WIMIKs is the much larger number of troops suffering serious injuries while riding in them - incidents which are not notified by the MoD. Soldiers report that 2-3 seriously injured soldiers are being evacuated every week in the specially equipped RAF Tristar transport aircraft, as a result of injuries sustained while riding in WIMIK Land Rovers.

It also appears that there are two distinct hazards. The first is from mine strikes, but the other is the lack of an armoured body, which makes it a magnet for the Taliban in a firefight or during other "contacts", which makes the crews vulnerable to rifle fire.

Under normal circumstances, the crew of a WIMIK would survive a mine explosion under the front wheel, as these vehicles do have limited underside armouring – and the hit, in the engine compartment, is some distance from the driver.

But, as soldiers report, the Taliban are "not stupid". The mines they have used have variable settings, so that they can be adjusted to detonate on the second, third or fourth "impact" and so they can be set to explode not under the front but rear wheels. This is presumably why, in at least three WIMIK incidents, the (rear) gunners rather than the drivers have been killed or injured.

And, while deaths are fortunately relatively uncommon, injuries are not. Here, as Forces minister, Bob Ainsworth pointed out, the armour is allowing soldiers to survive when, previously, they would have been killed. But the price they pay is terrible injury, most often one or more leg amputations.

In terms of the rifle fire hazard, what is happening is that, where there are mixed vehicles in a convoy, some armoured and some not, the Taliban deliberately target the unarmoured vehicles, in the expectation of making an easy kill or of causing injury. And because the WIMIK is so often the most obviously unarmoured vehicle, the crews often find themselves the target of sustained & concentrated fire. Small wonder troops in theatre are seeking to add their own armour.

When it comes to exposure, however, not even the WIMIK compares with the newly supplied Supacat MV, where there is not only no protection from gunfire, there is no armour at all fitted to the vehicle by the
manufacturers. In theatre, improvised armour is made available, in the form of Kevlar matting, which may give limited protection from gunfire but is largely useless against mine blasts.

Bought specifically for special forces in Afghanistan – but now to be issued more widely – quite why these grotesquely vulnerable vehicles were acquired remains a mystery. Branded by many as insane when they were first unveiled by the MoD, it is not as if this was a British design or even intended as a fighting vehicle.

Although branded as a "Supacat" product, it is in fact built under license from Lockheed Martin which produces the vehicle for the USMC as a
lightweight, high mobility gun tractor, known officially as the
“lightweight prime mover”. And even for this relatively safe role, the US Marines have decided, unlike the British MoD, to provide these vehicles with armoured cabs.

Instead of buying direct, however, the MOD gave the contract to Supacat for 130 vehicles, rumoured to cost an eye-watering £250,000 each (six times the price of a fully equipped LandRover).

Be that as it may, as are the Taliban not stupid – neither are our own troops. They have reacted with amazement to the lack of protection. Some have come to the conclusion that the MoD and Army are still besotted with the idea of roaming the North African desert in armed jeeps in the manner of the SAS founder David Stirling. But Afghanistan isn't North Africa, and we're not fighting WWII Germans.

As far as the MV goes, the consensus is that it is a superb cross-country vehicle. If you want an off-road experience on the Bovington tank range, this is the one for you – but no amount of performance is going to save you from a mine, or a bullet.

Neither are the mechanics happy with the beast. Spares are difficult to get and even minor but vital modifications take an eternity. Engine access is poor and, to change the oil, you have to jack up all four wheels and unbolt two cover-plates to get to the sump. Even though there are very few vehicles in theatre, there are always three or four in the workshop awaiting repairs. It is the very anti-thesis of what is needed in the Afghan theatre of operations.

Out in the real world, troops do know what is good for them, & are heaping praise on the Mastiff. Soldiers have been proudly pointed out where their Mastiff vehicle was hit by a mine, pointing under the Mastiff, & saying "you can see the slight blackening under the engine".

The MoD is relatively quiet about the merits of the vehicle, otherwise all the soldiers (and their relatives) would be demanding them. But, faced with an obstinate Army high command, and its refusal to divert funds from existing equipment programmes, only sufficient "new" money could be extracted from the Treasury to buy a completely insufficient 108 of them, split between Iraq and Afghanistan. That's despite a need for an overall total of probably about 400 - maybe more to replace some other bad earlier MoD choices such as the useless Panther & Vector vehicles, which are both completely unsafe in mined areas.

As a result, there are not enough of the life-saving Mastiffs to go round, "the safest vehicle I've ever driven," as a British Corporal recently siad. So fierce is the competition to crew what few there are, there have been fist-fights between British soldiers as they vied for a seat in the only vehicle that they knew would get them back alive, with their legs intact - ie a Mastiff.

So it is that the losers ride in WIMIKs. The really unlucky ones get to ride in Supacat MVs. Yet, for the price of the 130 MVs, Britain could have had 65 more Mastiffs in theatre.

And, because the MoD recently bought these Supacat vehicles, while still relying on WIMIK Land Rovers as well, Britain will continue to have avoidable and culpable military deaths in Iraq & Afghanistan - and more wholly unnecessary injuries.

This is the kind of situation that should never have happened, & most certainly should not be allowed to continue. What genuinely patriotic politiians should be demanding of this by now 10 year-old government, is a complete change in priorities & attitudes from the four groups I mentioned before: Ministers, MoD officials, the Army's topbrass, & the Treasury.

  • 72.
  • At 09:42 AM on 05 Sep 2007,
  • Paul Swanson wrote:

What is the future of the British Army if the Scottish Government insists on its own defence powers, including the power to veto use of Scottish ground units and facilities (ie RAF Kinloss) in future deployments?

  • 73.
  • At 09:50 AM on 05 Sep 2007,
  • Paul Swanson wrote:

What is the future of the British Army if the Scottish Government insists on its own defence powers, including the power to veto use of Scottish ground units and facilities (ie RAF Kinloss) in future deployments?

  • 74.
  • At 02:37 PM on 05 Sep 2007,
  • Richard Bartle wrote:

What does the Military Covenant mean to you and in what respects do you feel that you have honoured it?

  • 75.
  • At 04:35 PM on 05 Sep 2007,
  • Paline Hickey wrote:

Is it not a coincidence that Sir Mike is about to have a book out.?

The armed forces would have appreciated him speaking out sooner as to the carnage and devastation created by this government in Iraq. My son was killed in Iraq in 2005, in a war that was illegal and unjust.

Why are the British public so slow to demand something be done about the untenable situation, resulting in more and more deaths of our troops.

The true hero of the armed forces is Sir Richard Dannett, a serving officer who is prepared to speak up about the plight of his men.

Pauline Hickey
mother of Sgt Christian Hickey
97th British soldier to die in Blair's ego trip in Iraq.

  • 76.
  • At 08:29 PM on 05 Sep 2007,
  • Michael Witheridge wrote:

Two days ago the highly respected "Jane's Defence Weekly" reported that the MOD was to cancel the LIMAWS (Gun) programme in order to pay for current operations. Is this cancellation of a weapons system considered vital to the concept of the new medium force the start of yet another series of debilitating cuts to British Army equipment? The Army is pared to the bone already.

My understanding was that new equipment procured for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be considered as UORs (Urgent Operational Requirements) and would be paid for by the Treasury out of the contingency fund. MOD financial resources for equipment would not be affected, we were told. Yet here we have what seems like the first in a series of "claw-backs". Governmment spin at work again? If such a policy continues, the British Army will lack the ability to fight either a high-intensity, conventional war or a counter-inurgency campaign. Does the Minister have any comments?

  • 77.
  • At 11:11 PM on 05 Sep 2007,
  • vikingar wrote:

As an ex British Airborne Warrior (cold war variety) in receipt of both an Army Pension & a WDP, I am very mindful of the pro's & con's of the 'system' past & present.

The Armed Forces are full of personnel most likely to be injured in service, but with a mindset most likely to 'carry on' as walking wounded, best foot forward & therefore reluctant to claim, especially when ex service.

There are many changes in society, as the result of those who have touted the rights of employees & the provision & duty of care resting with the employer for the employee.

In a changing & ever expectant litigious world, in order to safeguard the historic world beating ethos, morale & motivations of the Armed Forces which make them the best, our service personnel deserve far better than the myopic posturing of Brown, in terms of funding & use of such forces.

The current British Prime Minister spell as Chancellor of The Exchequer for the last 11 years, has meant that British Armed Forces have been short on funding whilst long on the tasking of a service 'running hot', with inadequate support by they very decision makers that put them in harms way.

The reputation, capability & future viability of British Armed Forces, needs not be squandered on the altar of New Labours intransigence & relative incompetence, it is not Browns to destroy or undermine.


… or do neo socialists & liberal lefties win & the UK is relegated to the ludicrous empty political posturing of France, with the military infrastructure of Belgium & ineffectiveness on the ground as Italy.

Gordon Brown, you have a choice, don't squander limited funding on shoring up faltering & flawed social policies like Family Tax Credits & Sure Start …..instead ….. RENEW THE COVENANT … and ensure the security of the nation.

… or does Gordon Brown want to go down as the Chancellor (controlling purse strings) & PM (the key decision maker) that by deliberate & knowing under funding & overuse, destroyed our Armed Forces like no enemy ever could?


  • 78.
  • At 11:28 PM on 05 Sep 2007,
  • Major Philip Sturtivant wrote:

I resigned my Army commission 3 days before Robin Cook quit the government, disgusted at the decision to invade Iraq on a palpable lie.

At about that time - when the government was committing troops to combat on a 2nd front in Iraq - a government spokesman speaking at a press conference listed the governments top 10 priorities.

Defence was not among them - despite the supposed need to react militarily to an all-encompassing threat of terrorism.

Nearly 250 military deaths later(and a suspiciously undisclosed number of wounded and psychological damage cases)in Iraq and Afghanistan - not to mention civilian casualties - would the government care to explain why its financial commitment (measured in resources effectively deployed, not in pledges thereof) not only to the military effort but to the rebuilding of Iraq and - in particular - to Afghanistan remains at such a dismally low level?

The Army is being broken partly because it is expected to deliver "success" all on its own, on a peacetime budget, and without the effective engagement of competent government agencies in the economic and diplomatic arenas.

Without that (as we have seen already in Basra) they cannot succeed.

It is government's duty to generate effective action in those arenas as well - or pull out altogether.

Why will they not do so?

  • 79.
  • At 11:32 PM on 05 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

A serviceman on operations in Iraq or Afghanistan is working 24 hours a day.

Many of these servicemen earn less than £60 a day.

60 divided by 24 = £2.50 per hour.

Why are these servicemen paid less than half minimum wage to do such a dangerous job that is the wrong side of impossible?

  • 80.
  • At 12:41 AM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Skynet wrote:

Q.1. With a decade and more of force projection forecast by politicians and the military just how are sufficient quality service personnel to be recruited and RETAINED with severe shortcomings in pay, equipment, accommodation, and general quality of life for our forces personnel?

Q.2. Will the Armed Forces Pay Review Body be allowed to asses pay and recommend pay scales which reflect the risks taken and hours worked in comparison with civil pay?

Q.3. Forces personnel are fighting wars will civil supply services be allowed to supply equipment and services under war conditions in a swift and timely manner in order to save lives? (if new equipment had been brought into service at the speed in which it has been introduced in Iraq and Afghanistan in WW2 we would have undoubtedly lost it)

Q.4. With over 40% of service accommodation below acceptable standards how many years will pass before service personnel can expect to return from war fighting to good accommodation?

Q.5. With no acceptance by politicians that a larger army is required to undertake expeditionary operations deal with civil and climatic emergencies and the unexpected how will service personnel be able, like their civil counterparts, be able to get a work life balance and who would ever get married and try to raise a family under such conditions?

  • 81.
  • At 01:26 AM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • anon wrote:

We would like to know why are the troops and there familys treated like 2nd class citzens . our goverment state that we do not need a miltary hospital/garrison .
the true fact is if our government give our troops and there familys a garrision which would include a hospital and accomdation for there familys to stay they would not have to travel up and down the country to see there loved ones
what our government is failing to understand we the britsh public are fully behind our armed forces and there familys having the right duty of care .
this problem came to light last month when people of various websites ,ARRSE ,pprune) members campaigned and the british public to allow (SSAFA) have a house for familys to stay while they were visiting there injured loved ones . this is a toal disgrace and our goverment etc should have provided a duty of care for our soldiers and there familys which they are not providing .

  • 82.
  • At 08:30 AM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Susan Fairhurst wrote:

My nephew is currently serving in Helmand province and was recently cornered by the Taliban in a building. He and his colleagues tried to get out by blowing a hole in a wall but due to the poor condition of the building it collapsed. Luckily my nephew and fellow soldiers escaped but when it was found that the building was a mosque the Afghan army threw down their guns and the incident is being referred further up the chain of command. Why? Surely my nephews life is worth more than a building and that should be made clear to the Afghan Army. How demoralising must it be to a soldier to have the worry that they may face a disciplinary for taking action to save their lives. If it came to saving a life or blowing up Westminster Cathedral I wouldn't think twice.

  • 83.
  • At 09:17 AM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Rob Hoole wrote:

My main concerns involve the lack of Government Duty of Care (broken covenant issues) for our service personnel and their families:

1. Unacceptable wait for inquests into deaths of service personnel killed overseas.

2. Little tangible Government concern shown for repatriated dead and wounded service personnel.

4. Lack of Government acknowledgement of numbers of personnel wounded in action and severity of injuries.

5. Abysmal treatment of wounded personnel owing to closure of ALL military hospitals and run down of Defence Medical Services. There should be at least one military hospital with spare capacity used by the NHS, not vice-versa.

6. Comparatively poor compensation awards to disabled personnel.

7. Shoddy treatment of families of wounded. Why should a charity (SSAFA) have to provide accommodation for relatives visiting Selly Oak or Headley Court?

8. Personnel suffering overstretch, poor kit, inadequate training and loss of time with families.

9. Poor standards of service accommodation on and off camp.

10. Possible exposure of British service personnel to charges of war crimes in a foreign court owing to Government ineptitude.

11. Political interference in military judicial system causing personnel to be hung out to dry for months, sometimes years before being exonerated.

I also have more general concerns:

12. Defence Secretary no longer considered a full-time job.

13. Government’s blithe ignorance of military ethos and evident disinterest in Defence personnel and equipment issues. Defence-related debates always poorly attended by MPs.

14. Little Government appreciation of unplanned wear and tear sustained by personnel and equipment during five years of high tempo operations.

15. Out-sourcing of support functions and movement of training to remote areas causing loss of time with families between operational tours.

16. General overstretch and under funding of Armed Forces – Defence Budget suffered marked reduction in %age share of GDP (lowest since 1930) despite long term involvement in two medium scale conflicts.

17. Draconian gagging measures adopted to prevent service personnel from exposing Govt failures and broken promises.

18. Distasteful promotion of 'Defence Brand Enhancement' in order to mask failures and flaws in system.

19. Failure of Government to meet requirements of 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR), particularly for Royal Navy.

This should be more than enough to get on with.

Rob Hoole

  • 84.
  • At 10:14 AM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Gillian Fairhurst wrote:

Currently my nephew is serving in the Southern part of Helmand Province. There have been numerous assurances that all soldiers are being well cared for. However, I am having to send food and drinks in as often as I can because my nephew is not being fed enough and drinks are limited. After a 12 hour patrol when he gets back the canteen is often closed and can't get any food. My question is why can't these services be open to ensure that all soldiers get at least one decent meal a day rather than relying on poor quality ration packs?

  • 85.
  • At 10:27 AM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • M Fairhurst wrote:

I would like to say that shortages of equipment are costing lives. The reason given for this is cost if this is so and we cannot afford the war why continue. The cost of westminster or the palace is never too much.

  • 86.
  • At 10:59 AM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Dr S Marlow wrote:

Please allow me to express my agreement with former British Army commander Mike Jackson’s description of Donald Rumsfeld’s approach to Iraq as “intellectually bankrupt”.

However, Jackson conveniently ignores the level of moral bankruptcy in the British Army’s own wars in Iraq and Ireland. The most obvious link is the sending of two convicted murderers, Ptes Fisher & Wright, to Iraq. Fisher & Wright were convicted of the murder of Belfast teenager Peter McBride, but served less than two years before being taken back into the British Army . . . with promotion! General Jackson sat on the British Army board which decided that the murder of an Irish boy did not warrant a dismissal.

Jackson’s own career is also one of promotions and medals despite his involvement in the killing of many innocent Irish civilians. This started, not with Bloody Sunday as widely believed, but with a massacre in Ballymurphy six months earlier. Jackson was an officer in the Parachute Regiment which was involved in the shooting of 11 civilians, including a priest who was tending a wounded child and an elderly mother of eight, as internment was being imposed in August 1971.

Despite (or because of?) this and his central role in Bloody Sunday, including “gathering” statements which portrayed the victims as gunmen, nail bombers and wanted IRA men, Jackson was awarded the GCB, CBE and DSO and was promoted several times to become General Sir Michael Jackson, Chief of the General Staff, in Iraq.

No wonder a hasty retreat was beaten from Basra.

  • 87.
  • At 02:22 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Ben wrote:

Why can we afford to spend several billion pounds on updating our nuclear capabilities but we can't afford to provide our servicemen(and women) with even the most basic of health care when they come back from operations in Iraq and Afganistan ?
If the effects of serving in a situation like the one in Iraq has been proven to cause severe mental health problems for our servicemen why does the armed forces not provide any mental health care as standard for our servicemen who are sent on such operations ?

  • 88.
  • At 03:30 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Louise D wrote:

Today, 6th September, my son, a naval reservist, is attending a memorial service for his comrades killed by an IED in Basra, an incident which has left him with serious multiple injuries, the most serious of which are permanent blindness, brain damage and shrapnel embedded in his heart.
I would like to hear General Jackson's views on the present compensation and pension awards made by the MOD to servicemen with serious multiple injuries. Why is it that awards to these servicemen are so low compared with for example, the vast amounts awarded in some libel cases -the case of the MOD lawyers in Belfast, McCartan Turkington Breen, the firm which defended Lee Clegg, comes to mind. I believe they were awarded £600,000 from each of 3 publications, before The Times took their case to the Law Lords and had the case flung out.
Why are lawyers valued more highly than service personnel?
The MOD should go and look at the military hospitals at Ramstein and Koblenz. Why do other countries care so much better for their injured military personnel than us?
My son was never visited in hospital or rehab by any politician, but several generals and members of the Royal Family found the time to do so.
The politicians have given us no support at all. They are a disgrace.

  • 89.
  • At 06:21 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Peter L. Walker wrote:

Isn't it time that we, the UK, had a serious debate about the role and requirements of a modern army.

Our military or MoD mindset seems stuck in a world war three timewarp when peace keeping, holding the line against factions and trying to establish stability while failed states struggle to get to a survival point seems to be the role for which we require our armed forces. Contrast those actual roles with the recruitment advertising and the gap is enormous. Let's get real or accept that we need to posture in order to support a manufacturing base that is just to cosy to diversify.

  • 90.
  • At 06:41 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Mr S Brown wrote:

This country is spending over £30 bn
on defence and all you hear from senior officers these days is how streched the Army is. If the army cannot maintain 5000 men in Iraq and similar numbers in Afghanistan then todays Army must be seriously mismanaged.
My second question is this, what in todays world is the Army for, because I get the impression that if the present head of the British Army had his way he will keep his troops in Britain to play soldiers as we use to during the cold war. As an ex Warrant Officer I think the government is quite rightly using the Army to do the job it is there to do and senior Officers should shut up and get on with it and if there is any complaining to be done they should do it behind closed doors because all they are achieving by going public is undermining morale.

  • 91.
  • At 06:45 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • j ettridge wrote:

. Thanks for publishing our last comment.Now the boys from the bar know that they cannot draw a line in the sand to cover up their lies and incompetence.The only answer is at fools will only learn the folly of war by continually playing "Hey Eddie".It costs nothing.IT'S FREE.FREE FOREVER
play it again Sam....

the Silent Kingdom

  • 92.
  • At 06:46 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Nicholas Boultbee wrote:

Fighting terrorists is always difficult for regular armed forces.
Britain has been successful in this in Malaya, Kenya(?), Palestine, Cyprus etc.

British troops have had some recent
experience of this in N ireland but
the geographical conditions in Afghanistan e.g. terrain, large open make it difficult for regular armies to fight successfully. The British Army should emulate what the Royal Marines did and train their troops to fight this different kind of war.
If R Marine commandoes could fight
successfully then the British Army
should also be able to

  • 93.
  • At 07:01 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Joe Parker wrote:

To ask whether the Army is broken is to raise more than one question, and few of the answers probably fit into a 40 minute TV show: hats off to the Newsnight team for trying.

Firstly, if the Army and armed forces generally are under strain, if they are overstretched, if shortcomings in equipment, doctrine and manning have become apparent, should we really be _that_ surprised? After all, an army that is never used is just an expensive way to keep uniform manufacturers employed...

Secondly, a critique of the progress and prosecution of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is implied; if we have already achieved the best foreign-policy outcome possible in these places, every round fired, every munition dropped, every pound spent is an excessive waste of money. On the other hand, if there really is more that we can accomplish through force in these places, leaving now would be a waste of the resources already expended and a loss of potential gains. If this is the case then the current deployments should be better supported. In short, if a job's worth doing...

Finally, we urgently need to have a wider national (well, international) debate on exactly what role national armed forces are required to fulfill in the new international order. For instance, a continental invasion of any Western country is more-or-less inconceivable, so the only violent force any state ought to need would be of a strategic (deterrent) nature or tactical border and crime enforcement.

However, we instead find more and more frequently that peacekeeping or policing actions requiring international legitimacy under UN auspices are needed. The force requirements for these operations bear comparison to conventional military deployments of the last century but also differ in many respects. Often the timescale for deployment is short, but while any action is short-lived a long post-conflict presence is also required. There may be demanding logistics and support issues, but Western ground troops may be ill-received for cultural reasons. Large numbers of ground casualties also tend to be politically dangerous domestically, which often dissuades democratic governments of the West from intervening at all, or only in a piecemeal way. To put it more bluntly: we have the cash ans the know-how, but no soldiers we can afford to lose.

As a result, a pattern seems to be emerging; Western militaries provide the support and 'tip-of-the-spear' assault capacity and funding for these key operations to maintain regional stability, whilst the bulk of ground troops are committed by other countries such as Brazil, India and Pakistan, or federations such as the African Union (and also Turkey, essentially a NATO country but with a very large conscript ground army in common with the others.) Privatized Military Forces (PMFs) have also been mooted as a possible way to raise armies for peacekeeping or training, though with some concerns over monitoring effectiveness.

Is this really the dominant trend in military force for the new century? If so we need re-evaluate our defence priorities, commitments and spending.

PS: hmm.. started as my tuppence' but spiraled off a bit.. :)

  • 94.
  • At 07:50 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • James Davies wrote:

I served in The Army from 1952 until 1996. in 1961 National Service ended. The Army began to feel the pinch of a loss of man power and I can not recall a time when the regimental establishment was anynthing other than stretched

1990:Berlin wall taken down, Warsaw Pact and the USSR no longer the likely enemy!!

Options for Chahge implemented by a TORY Government Little thought given to the future and the decimation of the Army begins.

!993 The Strategic Defence Review. Another massive decimation of the Army. The TAVR inserted into the establishment of Regular units. Utterly Crass since TA soldiers are VOLUNTEERS and the Bosnian campaign showed the folly since The TA could not go to Bosnia since we were not at war.

Meanwhile former countries of the Warsaw Pact began to join the EU and became part of the European dream NATO et al.

RUSSIA now has on its borders unfriendly states and naturally takes great umbrage at the deployment of US missiles on its borders.

Meanwhile, Parents are dinclibned to let their offspring join the ARMED FORCES in case they end up in Afghanistan.

In my view their greater concern should be the future, when should THE BEAR rise again he will strike the West with an Iron Fist and the manpower leave alone the weaponry, will probably be at Divisional strentgh and once again we will be caught NAPPING

  • 95.
  • At 08:16 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • William Shipton wrote:

Please get your facts right. Your trail for tonight's programme states "The man who took over from Sir Mike as Chief of Defence Staff last year, General Sir Richard Dannatt ......". Mike Jackson was not Chief of the DEFENCE Staff, he was Chief of the GENERAL Staff. This is the role that Dannatt now fulfils. CDS is head of all three services, CGS is only head of the Army. For you to have credibility in presenting this debate please demonstrate that you understand the difference!!

  • 96.
  • At 08:36 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Sally Burgess wrote:

I wonder if the fact there are few, if any, MP's or cabinet members, on all sides of the house, have had any experience of being in the forces explains their lapses in taking care of our troops? However, many of them have experience, and are currently involved with, corporations and businesses, some of them as morally dubious as the invasion of Iraq. Big business seems to be taken care of very nicely, thank you. Is this lack of integral understanding, and the unjustness of the war being engaged in, a reason for the ailing recruitment and sustainability of our armed forces?

I was particularly shocked by one post which said that money should be syphoned out of already under-resourced public services to pay for the army. Do you think that there is still a public demand for the military as it currently operates, or should it's roll be revised?

  • 98.
  • At 09:03 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • john russell wrote:

I'm constantly amazed at the media wasting their time talking to Jackson, "Tim" Collins or any of the rest of these military buffoons. Why? They're wrong about everything. Do you really need to help them sell their books after the event? The dogs in the street, and every supporter of the Stop The War movement could have, and did tell them, that the invasion of Iraq was dictated to Bush by the American NeoCons/Israeli lobby, for reasons of Israeli security and the securing of US oil supplies. In other words, pure power politics. Blair went along for reasons of personal advancement. Jackson and his ilke, if they are to be believed at all, bought into Blair's 5th form tosh about bringing democracy to the people of Iraq, and of course his outright lie about WMD's.
These "experts" used this to justify a straight forward military invasion with the attendent mass deaths and caualties, which they seem surprised about. Furthermore, they are so "expert" in matters of war that they failed to appreciate that the whole mess would come to resemble Vietnam.
You'd get more expert analysis, and more commonsense by talking to the man on the No 9 bus.

  • 99.
  • At 09:36 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Larry ADLARD wrote:

Why do we have an army? I am no pacifist but I thought we maintained a standing army for the defence of the realm. Our own country. If it's only purpose is to be "hired out" to the U.N and all comers I think we can do without one. To the best of my knowledge there is no "British interest" in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Not in the last 80 years anyway.

  • 100.
  • At 10:36 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • mark shepherd wrote:

My greatest concern is not the lies of this government; the total lack of solution to the Iraq problem; but the difference between this conflict and our failures of Vietnam/Korea where those victims just accepted their lot in their countries... I expect the Osama's etc of this conflict to bring this war to our shores. Perhaps for decades...

  • 101.
  • At 11:06 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • louise wrote:

the brish army should think more about there own befor thinking about the people of other contrys. the britsh army thinks so little of there men wife and children that when my husbond beat me all his bosses could do was say " we carnt tell him to stop, we carnt take hes keys so he carnt get in at you and your childern, we carnt tell him to leave you alone" witch ment me and my tow small children had to run and hide in a wimen refuge and 9 mouth laster i am still in hidding, but yet they can order them to kill??? all this happend after his second tour in Afgan in less than a year..
i used to have grate respect for the army now i just think they can not protect there own people let alone anyone eles.

  • 102.
  • At 11:06 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • neil barnes wrote:

There are many complaints about the level of resources available to the army. Perhaps, since the government is so keen on importing models from the private sector, the army should set prices to be met before commencing any new 'contracts'.

  • 103.
  • At 11:11 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

may i ask if any of the ministers have sons or daughters in any of the services?
also yet again the armed forces have been sent to do a job that the goverment can not sort out.
I have no dout in my mind that there is an underling agender by the current govermnt other than the fight against teror.
Why do we have to do what the USA does?

  • 104.
  • At 11:12 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • steve clancy wrote:

The hollow words of the minister infuriate me. he says they value the role of the soldiers, says they will look after the soldiers injured - but when you come up against the bureaucracy behind the War Pensions, they shaft you left right and centre. In my own case, I have been permanently disadvantaged by an ADMITTED case of maladministration by the War Pensions Agency - yet they will not right their errors and I am left severly disadvantaged becasue they sent me "the wrong forms" - they don't dispute having all of the information necessary to examine my claim again - but they won't "because it's on the wrong form."
Hollow words from vacillating, cowardly, spin-obsessed ministers. They are only now reviewing poor Ben's case because of the publicity, NOTHING else matters to them!

  • 105.
  • At 11:16 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

The covenant between the British people and the military was broken because the Government lied to the people and the Service chiefs combined to get involved in American wars which the British people don't support. Our defence expenditure is to defend these islands not to run around the world as imperialists pretending to be a world power.

  • 106.
  • At 11:17 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • alan davies wrote:

This is an extract from th Guardian:
Paul Drayson, the biotechnology entrepreneur who gave the Labour party £100,000 while successfully bidding for a lucrative government vaccine contract, also gave it another £500,000 within six weeks of being made a life peer, the Electoral Commission revealed yesterday.

Not the best basis for a Defence minister, but then that's Labour for you!

  • 107.
  • At 11:20 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Dr. Barry Salt wrote:

The dishonesty of Newsnight discussion on this topic beggars belief.
Why no representative of the truth that we are fighting for the satisfaction of the greed, selfishness and agression of the United States and its people?

Of course with Gavin Esler and Mark Urban, vicious establishment toadies par excellence, running free, what can one expect?

Barry Salt

  • 108.
  • At 11:23 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • jase wrote:

As a serving soldier and having had over 10 operational tours, people forget this, that we as soldiers accept due to succesive Govermental failings to recognise our needs and requirements understand that our kit will always be considerd worse tham our allies and less in quantity. What makes a British Soldier unique is that we make do with bad equipment and get on with the job and rarely moan about the situation. Officers and Ministers should listen to the guy on the gound irrespective of rank. Then and only then will the reality hit home of what our needs are.

  • 109.
  • At 11:24 PM on 06 Sep 2007,

the government currently wastes £60 billion a year by giving it to europe .this money could easily be better spent on a decent pay rise and infastructure program for the BRITISH armed forces,as well as other more worthy projects within britain.having a minister who has actually served in the colours would also go a long way to having someone within the government who actually understands what the services are about,what is required by their job and what should be given in return.

thank you.

  • 110.
  • At 11:24 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Jason Swift wrote:

As a serving soldier and having had over 10 operational tours, people forget this, that we as soldiers accept due to succesive Govermental failings to recognise our needs and requirements understand that our kit will always be considerd worse than our allies and less in quantity. What makes a British Soldier unique is that we make do with bad equipment and get on with the job and rarely moan about the situation. Officers and Ministers should listen to the guy on the gound irrespective of rank. Then and only then will the reality hit home of what our needs are. We are the best Army in the World, quality does not always rely on quantity!

  • 111.
  • At 11:30 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Paul Brown wrote:

I was saddened that nowhere in the debate was the question raised of whether the public supports armed conflict. Does the army in fact represent my interests, or soldiers fight for my benefit? I think not. Yes, the army may be over stretched. But the question is whether the public wants an even bigger defence force to fight wars it doesn't choose, or to cut back military operations, and spend the money on public services and international development. Asking 'can we win?' avoids the question.

  • 112.
  • At 11:38 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Willy Van Damme wrote:

Its imperial overstretch and the Uk should give its attention to British problems like inner cities, transport, health care and fighting poverty. These are the real ennemies facing the British people. Stop bullying and dictating the outside world, live in peace with them. Or try at least.

  • 113.
  • At 11:38 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • T Roberts wrote:

I was in the Army in 1989 when i had a fall injury to my right hip and back ,
i left the Army in 1993 and the veterans Agency have only just put me on a 30% war pension, If i had my injurys in civi life id be on 10 times the amont

  • 114.
  • At 11:39 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • David Paul Barron-Robinson wrote:

it wasn't malicious but, having typed it all out once, I am buggered if I am going to type it all again!

  • 115.
  • At 11:43 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Willy Van Damme wrote:

Its imperial overstretch and the Uk should give its attention to British problems like inner cities, transport, health care and fighting poverty. These are the real ennemies facing the British people. Stop bullying and dictating the outside world, live in peace with them. Or try at least.

  • 116.
  • At 11:56 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • M Alderson wrote:

What a wonderful presentation tonight,one can imagine the five suits musing over the chess pieces as they are moved around in the great game.So what are we to glean-that the shortcomings and "broken covenant" is the fault of the electorate,for not demanding the support from the government !,that more funds are required to send even more dutiful subjects into the meat grinder/carnage and proping up the gangs of Kabul.Or just maybe some honest investigations and scrutiny all those years ago,before "kicking in the door"-obviously not ,far to many questions over that one !

  • 117.
  • At 11:58 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Tom O'Leary wrote:

This analysis was unworthy of the BBC. The entire armed forces of the U.K are so top-heavy and ill-equipped for modern warfare it beggars belief. Consistently poor procurement by the MOD, hopeless politicians and a faustian pact with BAE have produced a black hole for our taxes. It is soldiers on the ground that win wars; their pay is astonishingly low, and we don't have enough of them to fight a war on the Isle of Wight. Anyone who has read one page of a history book knows that a war in Afghanistan is unwinnable. Our soldiers are brave. Everyone else has let them down.

  • 118.
  • At 11:59 PM on 06 Sep 2007,
  • Sanjeev Patel wrote:

There is no doubt in my mind that the government has broken the nations covenant with its armed forces:

We all too often hear of service personnel killed in action. Not exactly something which can be concealed yet we do not hear about the number of casulaties we are taking. It logically follows that for each soldier killed that many more must be getting injured but where are they? The way our injured soldiers are being treated is shameful; discreetly flown home and farmed out to NHS wards were they are removed from their comrades and their psychological and emotional welfare is totally disregarded.

When it was recognised that 'Snatch' Landrovers were inadequately armoured, it took YEARS for anything to be done. Whilst this problem was being dithered other/ignored it was the direct result of countless casulties.

Despite being desperatley overstrethed for some years, the Government forged ahead with the reduction of the Infantry and the disbandment of regiments. This has been felt very hard and is a clear example of the contempt that those in Parliament and Whitehall have for those on the frontline.

General Jackson should have shown more leadership when he was in the Army. When he was in charge in Iraq soldiers were going without the proper equipment and he accused them of whingeing. When the fiasco over the ill treatment of Iraqi prisoners broke, Gen Jackson was extremely quick to slope his shoulders and point the finger at his own men. What kind of leader is that? Now he is safely in civvy street and promoting his book he is never out of the media. The man lacks integrity.

Whether we agree with the reasons for being involved in conflicts or not, we have a debt to our armed forces.

  • 119.
  • At 12:14 AM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • M Alderson wrote:

Wonderful presentation tonight,especially the MOD promo vid at the end.Next time could you show us that footage of the kids being given a good kicking by the squaddies or maybe a few still shots of Mr Mousa after being beaten to death in British custody.Mind the 5 suits had a pleasent chat,what with how its the electorates fault for not impressing enough on the government to uphold the covenant or that more funds are needed to send more dutiful subjects into the meatgrinder/carnage /propping up the gangs of Kabul.Never mind questioning as to why we "kicked the door in " in the first place.One can imagine them all musing over the chess pieces as they are moved around in the great game.

  • 120.
  • At 01:19 AM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • Jospeh Cassidy wrote:

The Britsh forces are doing an amazing job on a shoestring budget, not unlike many public services. But this situation cannot continue, we must bring troops home from Iraq and concentrate on the theatre where progress is being made, Afghanistan.
Furthermore we need a government in power which is not afraid to listen to its people and disagree with Washington. Miracles could happen.......

  • 121.
  • At 03:44 AM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • Steve .C wrote:

Restore the defense budget to 10% GDP as it was during the cold war.We are not on a peace time footing and nor will we be for quite some time.Our forces have to be able to deal with current engagements plus be prepared for major state vs state engagements(hopefully the later as just a deterrence but who knows ?).
I was reading some defense news recently and I sow procurements of light guns and light rocket systems have been canceled not because the requirement has gone away but because of budget restraints.
The armed forces and defense of the realm needs to be taken more seriously.

  • 122.
  • At 08:18 AM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • Dave Oakley wrote:

Lord Gray of Gray Defence Minister did not even break sweat.

BBC Blog Comment 7Sept07

Just watched the "broken army" broadcast/webcast.

First thing that hits me here in the Good Ol' US of A is that your retiring captain(?) thinks the US appreciates its troops more than the British public does its troops. And I think just the opposite.

The very fact that you've footage of the removal of a casket by kilted pall-bearers from plane to hearse affirms my opinion that this is so.

In the US, the dead return via Dover (MD) AFB. A press blackout has been imposed on that airbase by Bush the First--since 1991 or so--Iraq I. This administration is sneaking the war dead home.

Ditto the Maimed and Wounded, who return via Andrews AFB. Under cover of night. Transported by olive drab school buses with blacked-out windows to the famous Walter Reed Army Hospital with it's infamous out-patient facilities and nasty haggling over benefit payments. I think you call it St. Audrey's Laces--or tawdry. Thence to the back door. And all under a press blackout.

The US president has not attended a single funeral for a soldier killed in action. Over there, has Tony Blair? Gordon Brown? Anyone from Parliament?

The Administration has trumped up false stories about Private Jessica Lynch (that is, the Administration lied).

The Administration has trumped up false stories about Cpl Pat Tillman. First, heroic battle w/ enemy. Then fratricide. (That is, the Administration lied.)

Then it comes out that Tillman sustained a tight cluster of three shots to the forehead--a 2-inch cluster. That is VERY difficult to do from any distance, given the fact that the head and body would snap back following the trajectory of the first shot to the head. (Remember the Zapruder film in the assassination of JFK? When Kennedy took the coup de gras from the Grassy Knoll--that is, from the right front (JFK's right forehead)--his head was blown "back, and to the left, back, and to the left, back, and to the left," into Jackie's side and lap, as Kevin Costner, playing District Attorney Jim Garrison, described it, showing the Zapruder film.)

In fact, I would expect powder burns on at least two of Tillman's wounds: One shot, from a distance, leaving no powder burn; two at close range, "just to make sure." Any ballistics experts out there with a different suggestion(s)?

So the military term used to describe Tillman's death as "fratricide," is closer to the FIRST definition of the term (OED on the Mac): "the killing of one's brother or sister." That is, homicide, or murder (depending on the mens rea), rather than the 2nd definition, the "accidental killing of one's own forces in war."

Bush, by the way, attended the memorial service for the 32 murdered VA Tech students. Most folks in the US made the quick comparison of 32 dead to 4,000+ dead (US), 750,000 dead (Iraqi). Our US soldiers "don't get no respect" from this president. The DO get to form a non-dissenting backdrop for Bush's "photo-ops" time and time and time and time again. That is, he uses them frequently, if you missed my point.

I was interested to note, in your Broken Army program, that there was a complaint about un-armored Land Rovers. Ironic, isn't it? You've got your Rovers; we've got our Humvees. Both are essentially jeeps--general purpose off-road automobiles w/ "the military package and combat camou finish." (Do yours have an iPod interface?)

And, your military brass says you've just started this year to get some decent armored APCs in place--in "just six weeks," I think he said. Well, hell-- the South Africans have been manufacturing them for years, I read in the Army Times. The UK could probably just "buy them off their used car lot."

The US has just started building or buying them this year, too. But of course they haven't mobilized any idle automobile or truck assembly lines as happend in WW II. I KNOW that many many laid-off auto assembly line workers would DONATE their time to build the things to replaced every single Humvee in Iraq and Afghanistan. (I've been writing legislators and news folks about these vehicles for about a year). Sec.Def Gates ordered 3,000 (not quite enough for every dead US soldier, for whom they're too late, of course). Sen. Joe Biden sqawked, so Gates upped the order to 17,700, apparantly. The US Army calls 'em "MRAPs" or "mine-resisting ambush-preventing" vehicles, something like. They may have had to get additional armor (above the stock model) to block the shape-charges--that's what the "bazooka" anti-tank rocket warheads have used since WWII.

That is, this is armor-piercing shape-charge very old "technology" that can be put together with high explosive melted out of looted artillery shells, poured into a #10 (US) tin (those "restaurant-sized" ones you can get at Costco or Sam's Club or BJ's club, or whatever discount "club" stores I'm sure you have in the UK, too), with a blasting cap (detonator) in the bottom, and a concave copper disc that any tinker in a Middle Eastern bazaar could fashion on a pot-shaping lathe. This concave copper disc--looking from the open top of the can--is what gives the "shape" to the shape-charge that concentrates the blast to the center of the can, the tip of the copper cone, melts it ("forms" it) and propels it as it if came out of a gun-barrel.

Anyway, that's how "we" here in the US, honor our troops. And here's more. We:

Don't send enough of them.

Don't secure the ammo dumps.

Don't have a plan to govern Iraq after Saddam's ouster.

Don't have body-armor, neck armor, armpit armor for the troops.

Don't ship over APCs for the troops who're supposed to fit in, escort "honey wagons" in Sadr City, make the sewers flow, make the water run, the light bulbs burn, the refrigerators cool (see Martha Raddatz' "The Long Road Home").

Don't provide any troop overlap to share G2 (intelligence, information, lessons learned) with the incoming newbies--which will probably save lives.

Don't read the state department's multi-volume plan for running Iraq until a government can be set up. (But say we did, at least According To Bremer, supra)

Disband the ENTIRE Iraq Army ("I didnt' do it, I didn't do it," writes the one who did it, L. Paul "No, really, I didn't decide a thing on my own" Bremer on Thursday's NYTimes Op Ed page.

Send over 21-year-old GOP party hacks or scions of party hacks to re-establish civilization in Iraq (hospitals, schools, traffic, a stock market (I think these are recounted in "Fiasco"--hilarious if they weren't so deadly grim.

Hire Halliburton who subcontracts to KBR who subcontracts to... to hire cooks, diswashers, mechanics, laundry staff from all over the Middle East & Asia to displace army folks.

Hire 21-yr-old ditzes (no offense intended) to "assign soldiers to computers to send e-mail home..."

Stop-loss troops a few weeks before they're "up" (their tours of duty are over) or extend their tour by a few months. Like the troops aren't aware of the calendar? If it's like Vietnam, we became "shooooort" the DAY we passed the halfway mark, and always could announce, if questioned, "364 and a wake-up," or "10 and a wake-up." Unaware of the calendar, not "counting the days"? Not so much.

Tell the troops (Rummy's famous line) that you "go with the army you've got, not with the one you'd like to have." I guess the state of readiness of the troops, their welfare, equipment, contracted service, tours of duty, fell into that area of knowledge Rummy described as "what you don't know you don't know." Howsoever, down he forgot as up he grew that he was Secretary of Defense.

Reminds me of the PBS interview by Judy Woodridge of Secy. Vets Affairs Jim Nicholson after the Walter Reed Scandal broke (Slate had it first, actually, but Wash Post didn't acknowledge), and he kept responding to Judy's questions, "Yes, it's awful. Ohh, it's really bad. Such a shame. Shouldn't happen. Really." But, uhh, Jim, unh, aren't you, unh, in CHARGE of the VA, like duuuh? (He leaves Oct 1 or 31--depending on when his pension vests, probably.) Former job: Republican National Committee (GOP fund-raiser-in-chief) chairman, if I recall.

Sooo, that's how we "Support Our Troops," "Honor Our War Dead," "Support Our Wounded Veterans" in the good ol' US of A.

Does the good ol' U of K do any better? My hunch is that you do, but I could be wrong.

I truly would like to see a couple of video pieces on how the UK treats its returning war dead, maimed and wounded. Or do you have a US-style press blackout, too, because it will "invade the privacy" of the dead in their coffins?

We, here in America, in a lot of things--not least in broadcast presenters, these days--look to Bonnie Old England for leadership in some areas.

You might be amused to know that, maybe 25 years ago when I was doing editorials for WNBC-TV in New York City, I saw a clip from our London Bureau--a story on the "education of a London Cabby--is that what you call them?--in which the cab crossed an intersection that was "X-d" out. Upon inquiry, I found you called them "Box Intersections" and imposed penalties on drivers for getting stuck in them when the lights turned red and blocked traffic.

I ordered up some footage and did an editorial, recommending NYC adopt the London practice. The next afternoon, I think it was, the city's transportation chief called me and said something cryptic like, "You might want to have a camera crew at 50th and 6th avenue at 4:30 tomorrow morning."

(That was the intersection between NBC (30 Rock), Radio City Music Hall (home of the Rockettes -- they used to sunbathe on the 3rd-floor roof in summer--Tar Beach, New Yorkers called their roofs. Topless. Useless info, of course, though sometimes one had to worry that the RCA building would tip over, as all the males within moved to the 50th St. side, early on sunny afternoons), the Time-Life Building and the Exxon Building (home of the first friction-free walking surface in Manhattan--they put down polished granite slabs for a sidewalk. Looked reeeeal nice. Come a foggy morning, though, and nearly everyone who tried to walk on it fell right on their keisters. The Rockefeller Center staff drilled holes to put in posts and guide ropes for those "moist" days. People just slipped and fell anyway, but while holding the purple velvet-covered guide ropes. The ropes made it easier to get up, at least. Finally, the staff brought out oxy-acetylene "rakes"--with a dozen or so high-temp jets serving as the tines of the "rake" head at the end of a long handle. The operator held this rake an inch or two above the paving squares and walked slowly forward, sending a spray of granite chips ahead of the flames. "Thermal stippling," he called his process. After that, people could walk on the sidewalk again. The WNBC editorial board (management) wouldn't let me do an editorial. "But it's GREAT video and audio," I argued. "I've already got footage of the "moist days." "It would be rude to our landlord and our neighbor," said they. .

Oh, where was I. Ahh, 4:30 ayem. And, as hinted by Traffic Commish Ted Kharageuzoff (sp?--this was 1972 or so--Google's not clicking in), he had a line-painting crew X-ing the intersection. Now, 37 years later, almost every major intersection in Manhattan has been X-d, and signs "Don't Block The Box" are mounted on traffic poles at each street-corner. Manhattan still has some "traffic congestion" issues, as you're no doubt aware.

The point of my walk down memory (or was it mammary? Little o' both, I guess--plus age recounting an ill-spent youth) lane is this:

We admire you Brits over here. Love your accents--nay, are addicted to 'em. Are often reminded of "The Bulldog" and the Blitz (those of us old enough to remember, and pictures inform the young and curious). We love Shakespeare (if only we knew who the heck he really was), Orwell, Blake, Watt, Cartwright (your child labor practices, not so much) Macadam, Caxton, Chaucer, King John's Library @ Oxenford.

Some of us have wandered lonely as a cloud, and our hearts leapt up as we beheld a rainbow in the sky, over bleating and incredibly itchitty Herdwicke sheep. We've importuned our amours, acknowledging that, if there but were world enough and time, we'd be more patient, have worried lately that we're not sure whether our world will end with a bang or a whimper, whether we're etherized on a table or not, or what might have happened to Flopsy and Mopsy's descendants--never mind Robin's and (it's theR) Pooh's, for heaven's ache. We'd walk over Abbey Road in our bare feet, too.

We've leaned, reflecting, against the boulders of Avebury Circle, wondering how it would look if we could annihilate all that's made
to a green thought in a green shade. (Of course, given my surname, I sense some primordial link to Stonehenge and Avebury, etc., but then I would, wouldn't I). We didn't actually go to Cambridge the hooly blissful martyr for to seeke, but rather to see the marble index of a mind forever voyaging strange seas of thought, alone. No, you gotta be kidding--it's Newton's index FINGER? Who knew?

We can almost see, through Canute's eyes, the changing whale-paths, and note there's water, water everywhere, nor can we stop it from the brink. Which reminds me: over here, about our neck is hung, the Administration, our Kubla Khan, who in Baghdad did an excessive pleasure-Embassy decree, where oil, the sacred river ran, through deposits measured all by man, down to a Kuwaiti sea.

Hoo-boy. Whatever got me going on that rant? I'll have to stop by 221-B and ask. Maybe it's a fear of Rache, now that Mitt Romney's in the running. I keep saying that he owes Massachusetts back rent for the governor's digs in Boston, 'cuz he was hardly ever here--it was just a governor's stepping stone to the white palace that another governor was court-appointed to sit in. However, I know George Bush well enough, and Mitt (and Rudy) are swell simulacra. Now, that Ron Paul, however, he's sumpthin' else. What if Paul, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich became our new Empire's Triumvirs? We've already got two Caligulas. Maybe a triumvirate could be our anodyne.

Bottom line, guys, is this. Our dark, satanic mills have all moved to China. We're all getting Stately, plump...diabetic and uninsured. We've got an Administration parsing folks for words that work--to confuse, mislead, obscure, to turn us all into frightened sheep, easy to lead, willing, like lemmings, to follow the lies, the propaganda, and leap over our black cliffs, bereft of the webs of our Constitution to slow our fall.

You've survived the Blitz, the UXBs, the American war profiteers bankrolling and providing arms and oil, patents and secrets to all players--while withholding them from their own country. (A Congressman, Harry S [no period] Truman, said it was treason, though not many others dared call it so.)

Now it's your turn to help US(a). We need your courage. Your outrage. Your sense of what is right, honorable and fair. We need YOUR nasty BBC interviewers to trek to the States and beard the lions in our jungle of government. Your soaring, inspiring care and respect for language, for words that move and enlighten, that serve mankind and truth, that could help lift humankind from misery. Hell, over here (yes, that's actually it. but to continue), our titular leader can hardly pronounce a single word, finish a single sentence, describe a single thought, complete a single syllogism, comprehend what a "nation of laws, not of me[sic, verry sic]" really is.

We need help. Gordon Brown? Back-Benchers, is it (the shadow government)? The BBC? Fleet Street? (Is there anything left after Rupe "Atexed" it? National Health Service, even? Can you take it on? Can you help us? Please?

Over 'n' out.


  • 124.
  • At 10:55 AM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • Sue Bonney wrote:

Thanks for airing the issues on last night's debate about the Army. But I am surprised no-one raised the point that making Des Browne a part-time Secretary of State for Defence was absolutely indicative of the priority given to that job by the Government, and by Mr Brown. Mr Browne's appointment as Secretary of State for Scotland whilst still serving as Defence Secretary created very real anger in the Army and, I am sure, the other Services. If a Prime Minister believes that Defence can be run by a man with another job, how much credence can we give to promises from other Defence ministers ? Where was Des Browne last night, for instance? In Scotland? The response that more money than ever was being put into the Defence budget begs the question, as with the NHS, as to where the hell it is going, if not into proper equipment and accommodation for soldiers and their families?
I have a sneaking suspicion that too much of it is going into plans for change where change is unnecessary, and into the coffers of consultants recommending that change. The lunatics in the suits are currently running the asylum to the cost of the servicemen and their families they are supposed to be supporting.

  • 125.
  • At 12:11 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • mark shepherd wrote:

All ministers who advocate war on defenceless countries should have mandatory frontine experience preferably on some barren hill in the centre of enemy territory; abandoned with little weaponry; but a phone hotwired to the Americans via a morse code key, and with the only option being to call in a strike with a 50% chance of a blue on blue result...
Only if they survived this ordeal would I listen to these mongrels who are abusing the purpose of our armed forces..

  • 126.
  • At 01:57 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • Paul D wrote:

The problem is not an operational one. The armed forces were at one time at the disposal of practitioners of the art of statecraft. Today, they are subject to the whims of mere politicians.

  • 127.
  • At 09:54 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • john russell wrote:

Heartfelt thanks to Poster 106/Alan Davies and Poster 107/Barry Salt for recognising that this
"war" is essentially to do with the corrupt nature of this Govt and Bush's administration, and nothing to do with 'helping the Iraqi people'.
Words fail me when we're subjected to people like Jackson with his ingrained pythonesque 'it's quite right that I should be in charge of large parts of Iraq' attitude.

  • 128.
  • At 04:23 PM on 08 Sep 2007,
  • Annie Barrett wrote:

Will you be rebroadcasting Pavarotti"s Funeral. I missed it .Someone just told me that it was on BBC World?
When will it be on BBC again?

  • 129.
  • At 10:31 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

I give the forces in general just a few more years. At it's current tempo, and the way in which many of our serving personnel are so shamfully treated. The goverment will only stand up and listen, once the last squaddie has bolted out the door to a job which gives more appreciation for the sacrifices they give. Instead of just the normal lip service from an uncaring goverment. Will the last serving person,turn out the light before they close the door.

  • 130.
  • At 11:27 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • AIdan Cairns wrote:

I am a serving territorial army soldier who has recently returned from 6 months service in Iraq on Op TELIC. Troops in theatre are well looked after by the chain of command, however the thing that is missing is the fact that the government has lost the plot and do not appreciate what the man on the ground has to cope with and the army of the day have been undermined by one defence cut after another and under appreciated by the government.

Manning is at an all time low and to keep the meat machine rolling they are having to rely heavily on reservists which really should not be the case.

I served in the regular army in the 80's and 90's and after i came back fromthe Gulf in 91 my very own unit was disbanded about a year later (3 RRF). What do you know! we had a crisis in te Balkans and we didnt have enough troops to man the lifeboats, well well the politicians thought 'looks like we've shot ourselves in the foot this time' and they had because since then with every conflagration so far the armed forces have been infairly treated and stretched.

  • 131.
  • At 03:36 PM on 10 Feb 2008,
  • pte kennedy wrote:

im medic in the army currently in afghan all this talk of poor equipment isnt true, maybe when we first started out, but we have vehicles that near invincible, we have drills that protect the weaker tanks from attack the field rations are more than good enough, ive nearly heard of anything being in short supply water ammo medical equipment ive been in a few minestrikes and ied attacks and only suffered a bit of a shake our tanks drive over mines damage a few tracks and are back up and running within the hour. we are under manned but our country is very luckly to have the forces we have as i sure you know there are other countries deployed in afghan after seeing how the react to some situations there are a complete mess comapaird to our our forces take care of problems only the usa seem to have down to a tee but there to gun hoe and the local populace aren't to fond of them after seeing what the taliban have done we are definatly ment to be here the afghan army just needs time to maintain itself after the recent battle for musa qala the taliban cant reside in large numbers anymore maybe 100 troop max we are definatly winning though and we are helping it will take along time but it will be worth it but even if squadies were paid double did half the hour they would still complain they were over worked and under paid but give them the chance to leave the army they wont beacause how good a laugh it is going out with the lads only weak people who dodge warzone and cant live without hot showers leave the army but mainly we are a happy force and are well equiped ive eaten so well even when out on the ground i had lobster once ( from the usa granted but still) its good that you have strong views but we have s**t hot equipment

  • 132.
  • At 03:41 PM on 10 Feb 2008,
  • pte kennedy wrote:

most of lads dont want nothing more than to have someone go up to them and shake there hand and say good job regardless of what you think of if you support the operation or dont british are still doing a cracking job

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