Arrse in the press again

Copyright 2006 Telegraph Group Limited
All Rights Reserved
The Daily Telegraph (LONDON)

July 29, 2006 Saturday

SECTION: FEATURES; Comment; Pg. 26
HEADLINE: Real-time snuff movies from Iraq
BYLINE: Vicki Woods

I was half-roused from a boiling hot and fitful night by the urgent voice of Corrie Corfield reading the Radio 4 news yesterday morning. She said we were "threatened'' by a Europe-wide shortage of fresh vegetables "including broad beans, potatoes and carrots'', and her husky tones, through my fog of sleep, made it sound like Operation Market Garden. I think we're all on Third World War alert at the moment, aren't we? But safe enough if all we have to worry about in this watercress weather is threats to carrots.

She also said that Cornet Blair has skipped the country in order to have "a very brief meeting'' with his Commander-in-Chief about that Third World War thingy. (I think it was the White House that said the meeting would be "brief'', not Downing Street.) So that's Blair away for three weeks, hurrah, and the nation in the very capable hands of the Rt Hon John Prescott, who's always good for a tabloid laugh in the sweltering silly season.

It was as hot in July 2003 as it is now: I'm wearing the same faded sarong as I sit typing under my tinder-dry thatch. Who would have thought that the mess in Mesopotamia would be a thousand times bloodier three years later? And that the "war against terror'' would have widened to include beachside holiday resorts in pretty little countries?

That hot July was the last point at which I was able to think: maybe making war on Iraq was the right thing to do. Maybe the country would stabilise and turn itself into a lovely democracy (a sister-democracy to the only other one in the Middle East, Israel). Maybe I should have taken Blair's "I only know what I believe'' determination at his own value. Maybe all manner of things would be well. Then the UN building in Baghdad was bombed, and the steady slide into civil war began.

Iraq was the very first internet war. I was an internet virgin, but since I never found enough news on television, I suddenly realised that you could get war news - in real time - by using that new computer thingy I had upstairs. Having tuned into the fact that you could type "Iraq'' into the subject line and millions of things would pop up, I was hooked.

I discovered the "milbloggers'': the American "keyboard warriors'' who ran websites that blogged about the war. The milblogs made terrific use of the medium, posting real-time news from soldiers about killing insurgents or repainting schools. A milblog called Sgt Stryker became my absolute favourite: I liked its bias, which was open, easy to off-set and absolutely on-side with the American troops. Or even (sometimes) British troops, when they did anything "gutsy''.

Sgt Stryker linked to a piece that might interest those Telegraph readers who are currently concerned about who precisely was "the last piper to lead British troops into battle''. The Scotsman had a journalist embedded with the Black Watch, who covered an incident during the battle for Basra in early April 2003. A pocket of Iraqi fighters was being flushed out near the Shatt al-Arab. "Lt William Colquhoun had unpacked his bagpipes and sat on the turret of his Warrior, waiting for the order to advance. As the sun attempted to poke through smoke rolling lazily across desolate marshland, the sound of Scotland the Brave drifted across the bridge towards the city, competing with the clatter of rotor blades as four Cobra helicopters raced in to join the attack.'' Very lyrical and cockle-stirring.

Sgt Stryker's readers went wild about the piper's tale. "Gotta love those crazy, gutsy Scots!'' wrote one commentator to the blog. Another joked: "Bagpipes? Wouldn't that count as a war crime?'' One commentator lamented that the pity of it was that no one had caught this moving moment on camera. Another said, well, they'd just have to wait for the movie.

These days, they don't have to wait. This newspaper on Wednesday reported on The War Tapes, a 90-minute documentary about the war in Iraq. The raw footage, hundreds of hours of tape, was shot by National Guardsmen during their year-long tour of duty and edited by a film director, Deborah Scranton. The film has been highly praised, but aspects of it are troubling the Pentagon somewhat. And soldiers are now being instructed by senior officers to remove "inappropriate'' footage from their home movies.

Well, it won't work. Everyone has a cameraphone, everyone has access to the internet, everyone wants to keep a video diary. I haven't seen The War Tapes (though I intend to). But I watched A Company of Soldiers, about US troops stationed at Camp Falcon, south of Baghdad, in 2004. I didn't see it on television, though it was on the BBC this week. I saw it on, because the British Army Rumour Service website (ARRSSE) had a posting about it, and they linked it to YouTube for people who'd missed it.

There wasn't too much "inappropriateness'' about A Company of Soldiers ("inappropriate'' is code for dismemberment and very bloody death), except for one scene that really got the ARRSSErs spitting. In an Iraqi village, a soldier called "the doctor'' (I think he actually was a doctor) suddenly shot a dog that came bouncing up to him. It howled horribly, and died in obvious agony, and a young Iraqi man with blazing eyes walked very bravely towards it (bravely because the trigger-happy doctor was within feet of him) and knelt beside it while it died. has millions - literally millions - of war tapes, showing a lot more unspeakable horrors than shot dogs. I'm turning into a pacifist in my old age.
Copyright 2006 Times Newspapers Limited
All Rights Reserved
Sunday Times (London)

August 20, 2006, Sunday
HEADLINE: Besieged British troops are isolated in Afghan 'hellhole'
BYLINE: Michael Smith and Tim Albone

TROOPS defending a besieged British outpost in the Afghan province of Helmand have been reduced to boiling water from a stream running through their mud-walled compound to stay alive.

Because of the heat and altitude, helicopters are frequently unable to resupply the garrison at Sangin with food, water and ammunition. The troops have insufficient body armour and their radios do not work properly.

The small contingent of paratroopers has been under sustained mortar and rocket attack from Taliban fighters for more than two months. There are several attacks on the compound each day, with 21 in the past two weeks.

Six of the 10 British soldiers killed in action in Helmand province have died at Sangin.

The army dismisses comparisons between Sangin and Rorke's Drift, the South African scene of the 1879 battle portrayed in the film Zulu. But one military commentator said last week: "The only difference is there are no Zulus at Sangin."

Charles Heyman, editor of Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, said Sangin should be dramatically reinforced or troops should be pulled out. "We know what the situation is and in this day and age it is bordering on criminal negligence to put so few troops in that position," he said.

"If they don't reinforce them or withdraw them and someone else gets killed, the ministers responsible for putting them there should be answerable to a court."

Sangin is in the Taliban heartland and the population is deeply hostile to foreign troops. It was to this area that Mullah Omar, the one-eyed Taliban leader, fled after the 2001 allied attacks on Afghanistan.

It is also a key area for opium production, and suggestions that the British are there to stop the locals growing their main cash crop have caused antagonism. With the poppy crop now mainly gathered and the Taliban offering pay of up to $400 (£ 213) a month, three times the normal income, many locals have taken up arms against the British.

Lieutenant General David Richards, who has just taken command of the Nato forces in the south, wants to withdraw from Sangin, but an army spokesman said last week this was still some way off.

Accounts of life for the British troops in messages to parents, and from Canadian troops who forced their way into Sangin to resupply them, speak of a lack of water, rations and proper equipment.

Soldiers at Camp Bastion, the main British base, were said to be astonished at the state of a team of engineers who returned recently after two weeks building fortifications in Sangin. They had been pinned down by Taliban gun and rocket fire, surviving on emergency rations, unable to shave and at times seriously short of water.

"My son was very slim anyway and now he's a bag of unshaven bones," said the mother of one soldier.

A Canadian officer said this weekend that his men had been ordered to get supplies to the British troops who were "isolated and surrounded by Taliban, running out of food and down to boiling river water".

In a report posted on a Canadian website, he said: "We headed off to what can only be described as the wild west. When we arrived in Sangin the locals began throwing rocks and anything they could at us."

A few days later the Canadians were ordered back to Sangin to help the paras fight off another sustained attack. "For four days I did not get to take off my frag vest (body armour), helmet or change my socks," the officer wrote.

While the British have killed hundreds of Taliban, for every one killed there are brothers and cousins eager for revenge.

The mother of a soldier who returned from Sangin recently said: "The lack of body armour really concerned my son.

"How can the army cost-cut on things like body armour in such a volatile place? It beggars belief."

Soldiers based in Helmand are also complaining about their Bowman radios. One posting on the Army Rumour Service internet forum said that trying to communicate using the Bowman in Afghanistan was "about as good as using Argos Action Man walkie-talkies underwater".

o Four American soldiers were killed yesterday in two clashes with insurgents in Afghanistan. Three died in the eastern province of Kunar, and one, together with an Afghan colleague, in Uruzgan province in the south.
You have to admire anyone who can come up with a quote like... "about as good as using Argos Action Man walkie-talkies underwater".
rabid_hamster said:
You have to admire anyone who can come up with a quote like... "about as good as using Argos Action Man walkie-talkies underwater".
Sounds like something Jeremy Clarkson would say or may be even Blackadder.
That would be Bad_Crow, even if his actual words were 'Comms in afghan i agree are about as good as using argos action man walkie talkies underwater.'
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