Basra - have we lost the initiative?

OldSnowy

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#1
From today's 'Independent':

Serving British soldier exposes horror of war in 'crazy' Basra
By Terri Judd
Published: 27 April 2007
A British soldier has broken ranks within days of returning from Iraq to speak publicly of the horror of his tour of duty there, painting a picture of troops under siege, "sitting ducks" to an increasingly sophisticated insurgency.

"Basra is lost, they are in control now. It's a full-scale riot and the Government are just trying to save face," said Private Paul Barton.

The 27-year-old, who returned from his second tour of Iraq this week along with other members of 1st Battalion, the Staffordshire Regiment, insisted that he remains loyal to the Army despite such public dissent. He said he had already volunteered to go to Afghanistan later this year.

But, he said, he felt strongly that somebody had to speak out: "I want people to see it as it is; not the sugar-coated version."

His public protest is a sign of the groundswell of anger among the troops, and predictions that more will come forward to break the traditional covenant of silent service. Just last month, Pte Steve Baldwin, 22, a soldier in the same regiment, spoke to The Independent about the way he had been "pushed aside" since being injured by a roadside bomb which killed three others during the Staffords' first tour of Iraq in 2005.

And on Monday, Cpl Richard Bradley also chose to air his views on television: "Blokes are dying for no cause at all and blokes are getting injured for no cause at all."

Reacting to Pte Barton's comments, many soldiers on websites appeared stunned but in agreement. One said: "When I arrived back last year, I was utterly depressed by what I had seen out there and the lack of any progress ... any journo sticking a microphone in my grid would have been given enough soundbites to retire on. And I would probably be in the Tower of London.

"I can only imagine that the situation 12 months on is even worse, and it would not surprise me if this is repeated over the coming months by more guys coming back from their third and fourth tours to that midden."

Pte Barton felt so strongly that he telephoned his local paper, the Tamworth Herald, to speak of the "side you don't hear".

The regiment lost one soldier, Pte Johnathon Wysoczan, 21, during its tour, but 33 more were injured. "I was the first one to get to one of the tents after it was hit, where one of my mates was in bed. The top of his head and his hand was blown off. He is now brain damaged.

"We were losing people and didn't have enough to replace them. You hear about the fatalities but not the injuries. We have had four who got shot in the arm, a bloke got blown up twice by roadside bombs and shot in the neck and survived."

Most, he said, endured at least one "lucky escape" during their tour. "I had a grenade chucked at me by practically a five-year-old kid. I had a mortar land a couple of metres from me."

The regiment was based in the Shatt al-Arab hotel base, which was handed over to the Iraqi army on 8 April. Of the 40 tents in the base, just five remained unscathed by the end of the tour, he said. "We were just sitting ducks ... On the last tour we were not mortared very often. This tour, it was two to three times a day. Fifteen mortars and three rockets were fired at us in the first hour we were there."

He added: "Towards the end of January to March, it was like a siege mentality. We were getting mortared every hour of the day. We were constantly being fired at. We basically didn't sleep for six months. You couldn't rest. Psychologically, it wore you down.

"Every patrol we went on we were either shot at or blown up by roadside bombs. It was crazy."

He insisted that the insurgents appeared to be considerably better trained, funded and equipped than had been the case during their first tour of duty.

"Last tour, I never fired my rifle once. This time, I fired 127 rounds on five different occasions. And, in my role [providing medical support], I shouldn't have to fire." He added: "We have overstayed our welcome now. We should speed up the withdrawal. It's a lost battle. We should pull out and call it quits."


http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2488848.ece


OK, I know it's the Indy, but what he says rings true I'm afraid. I realise that we shouldn't do anything that could affect the morale of the Troops, but I really don't think that their morale is a problem - never has been with the Infantry, and never will be - they'll keep getting stuck in.
My worry is that when we withdraw to BAS, and abandon (sorry, hand over to Iraqi control) the Palace, we'll be even less likely to be able to achieve anything in Basra. This begs the question - are we now out there to provide Fig 11s for the locals? Are we actually providing any support to the Iraqi Army and Police? If I were a local IPS man, I'd know what way the wind was blowing - we are leaving, and the Iranians are not: no real choice which side to back, then!

Rant over, but it does seem as if we are taking casualties, and in increasing numbers, to little effect. We'd be better off putting more resources into Afghanistan, where we do at lesat have a chance to make a difference.
 
#2
Couldn't agree more.

Case of Basra was in our control, politicions got involved over body bags and screwed the situation up. Its gona take a big influx of troops to regain the initiative, lets just get out and concentrated on the poppy fields.
 
#3
Again and again out military folk prove they can be relied upon to win the tactical battle. Unfortunately, we lost the strategic war the moment we set foot on Iraqi soil.

Pushing water uphill springs to mind.
 
#4
jasevx said:
Couldn't agree more.

Case of Basra was in our control, politicions got involved over body bags and screwed the situation up. Its gona take a big influx of troops to regain the initiative, lets just get out and concentrated on the poppy fields.
Yeah and find ourselves embroiled in an other Iranian funded quagmire - real smart.
 
#5
Whilst I think we need to play the official game ref talking to the media with/without permission, Pte Barton is right to make known some of this information to the general public. It is only the deaths that are reported and nothing is really said about the wounded however serious. There is now an unprecedented amount of incoming for Iraq and, as Old Snowy stated, when we leave the Palace, the COB at Basrah Air Station will be the only target for IDF - will we then see more incoming and more casualties? Will this then become more of an issue for the Government/MOD and will the media be exposed to it & thus it will be more of a media focus.

Going back to my first sentence, has the feeling ref talking to the media changed since the Iranian hostage fiasco? If it was alright for them, with official sanction, what can be said when soldiers like the Staffords say their piece?
 
#6
Fair play to Cpl Bradley - Strange isn't it, that it takes a full-screw to display some moral courage and tell it, as it is. Of course, if his, isn't a true picture, I'm sure, we would all welcome posts stating otherwise.
 
#7
Reacting to Pte Barton's comments, many soldiers on websites appeared stunned but in agreement. One said: "When I arrived back last year, I was utterly depressed by what I had seen out there and the lack of any progress ... any journo sticking a microphone in my grid would have been given enough soundbites to retire on. And I would probably be in the Tower of London. "I can only imagine that the situation 12 months on is even worse, and it would not surprise me if this is repeated over the coming months by more guys coming back from their third and fourth tours to that midden."
No prizes for guessing which website that was lifted from. :roll:


The Staffords didn't have the easiest time on their first tour either.

What is commendable about both Pte. Barton and Cpl. Bradley , is ironically, the restraint they've shown in discussing the first and second tours.

We had a briefing with a very tough , capable and respected Staffords SNCO prior to an exercise last year, where he talked about some of the hard lessons learnt by Staffords , and some of the casualties they suffered, as well as his forthright views on the situation on the ground in Basra.

They had a tough enough time on the previous tour, I can't even begin to imagine how bad this one was, but can only guess that when serving soldiers feel strongly enough to voice their anger, then there is a proper drama.

I know for a fact that Central News is very sympathetic and supportive of what they see as 'their' Regiment, and have placed embeds with them previously. The pride in the Staffords is evident in the way the news coverage is presented by Central, as anyone who has seen the coverage here will know.

The next big piece could well come from outside the Staffords as regards their tour.

How long before an in-depth piece appears in the Sunday Heavies?
 
#8
I winced when I saw the interview with Cpl Bradley. Part of me yelled "where was Media Ops?" and part of me agreed that he should be allowed to express his opinion and tell the country what its Forces are facing.

It is an interesting conundrum for the MOD. After permitting the debacle that was the Iranian 15, can it now censor Cpl B for talking to the media (who, presumably, had been allowed onto the base by the MOD) at a very difficult and emotional time?

Personally, I wouldn't allow the media anywhere near a unit's homecoming, especially one that has taken casualties; it is too much of an emotional rollercoaster for those involved.

Litotes
 
#10
Tony needed TV pictures of cheering crowds - after the first year he needed deals with local tribal chiefs - after the third year he needed bribes and bullets - after four years he needed MBTs and more ammunition

The Unravelling Invasion - first some control - then out of control. Why didn't Blair read History instead of Law...so many people would be so much happier !
 
#11
Voyager said:
Tony needed TV pictures of cheering crowds - after the first year he needed deals with local tribal chiefs - after the third year he needed bribes and bullets - after four years he needed MBTs and more ammunition

The Unravelling Invasion - first some control - then out of control. Why didn't Blair read History instead of Law...so many people would be so much happier !
And alive.
 
#12
Litotes said:
Personally, I wouldn't allow the media anywhere near a unit's homecoming, especially one that has taken casualties; it is too much of an emotional rollercoaster for those involved.

Litotes
That'll be all of them on Telic 9 then.
 
#15
ABrighter2006 said:
So, on the initial thread title - have we, and if we have lost the initiative, did we ever really have it?
We never really had it, we listened to the Americans and let them tell us what to do...............so we lost the war before it even began :evil:
 
#16
Maybe soldiers should speak up right now, because politicians like Blair have decided that it is politically acceptable to continue with this attrition rate. Has anybody figured out where the British Army will be in 5 years time? This is fingers in the dyke stuff, a real crisis developing from an illegal war and an occupation planned by idiots. Well done for having the courage to speak out. The politicians should have the courage to respond with a full scale review and a plan of where we go from here.

One thing is for sure, there aren't enough soldiers to do two wars and I don't hear any of the New Labour "Top Brass" saying we need more. Replace them, soon, before it is too late.
 

OldSnowy

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#17
ABrighter2006 said:
So, on the initial thread title - have we, and if we have lost the initiative, did we ever really have it?
I think we had it, for a while, after the big fights of TELIC 4 - the Cheshires, and the PWRR in Amarah. Since then, we appear to be gradually losing ground to the Iranian-backed baddies; and I repeat my comment above - what would you do if you were a local copper? Would you stay loyal to the Brit-trained and supported IPS, or 'assist' those supported by the Iranians? If we think, from whatever prejudiced viewpoint, that Arabs can be fickle in their loyalties in situations like this, we must agree that from their viewpoint the British have not been exactly straight with them! We are planning on leaving, and we will. However long we stay in BAS, we are not going to be on the ground in Basra in large numbers ever again, and thus we will be hard put to influence local events directly.
I think that we have lost the initiative - and militarily that can be rather dangerous.

Edited as I confuse my County Regiments.
 
#18
OldSnowy said:
ABrighter2006 said:
So, on the initial thread title - have we, and if we have lost the initiative, did we ever really have it?
I think we had it, for a while, after the big fights of TELIC 4 - the Staffords again, coincidentally, and the PWRR in Amarah. Since then, we appear to be gradually losing ground to the Iranian-backed baddies; and I repeat my comment above - what would you do if you were a local copper? Would you stay loyal to the Brit-trained and supported IPS, or 'assist' those supported by the Iranians? If we think, from whatever prejudiced viewpoint, that Arabs can be fickle in their loyalties in situations like this, we must agree that from their viewpoint the British have not been exactly straight with them! We are planning on leaving, and we will. However long we stay in BAS, we are not going to be on the ground in Basra in large numbers ever again, and thus we will be hard put to influence local events directly.
I think that we have lost the initiative - and militarily that can be rather dangerous.
OS,

I think the IPS, or a sizeable proportion of, made that decision a long time ago. DIA, CIU, SCU etc etc.

Anything happening in your ivory tower in response to this article? Any defensive media lines brewing?
 
#20
dui-lai said:
We never really had it, we listened to the Americans and let them tell us what to do...............so we lost the war before it even began :evil:
Not true I'm afraid. We said Basra was as far as we were prepared to go mainly because we didn't have the logistic support to go further. Blair wanted us involved so we went. Don't tell me that anyone at unit level and below didn't want to be involved it's just not true. In 2003 blokes were queing up to get involved. You reap what you sow - the Coalition ignored history, showed a lamentable lack of understanding of the local culture, ethnicity and religious issues and we are where we are because of it.
 

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