How Bliar is destroying our Forces

#1
Christopher Booker's Notebook: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/06/18/nbook18.xml#1
How Blair is destroying our Forces

One reason British troops continue to be killed and injured in southern Iraq is that they are expected to patrol in lightly-armoured Land Rovers which give them no protection against roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. Meanwhile, their American counterparts walk away unscathed, even when their RG31 armoured patrol vehicles are hit by the same explosives. Yet the Ministry of Defence has not equipped the British Army with the RG31, even though it is built by a British-owned company.

This is a small but chilling example of the shambles the MoD is making of Britain's defences, thanks not least to the way Tony Blair is trying to pursue two contradictory policies at the same time. This has not been properly appreciated because media coverage of defence has become so scrappy.

On one hand, as we saw yet again with his recent visit to Washington, Mr Blair tries to keep in with the Americans by committing thousands of hard-pressed and ill-equipped British troops to fighting the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush and Blair still like to talk of keeping alive the Joint Strike Fighter project, the last major example of Anglo-US collaboration on military hardware.

On the other, as we saw again with his subsequent visit to President Chirac, Mr Blair has stealthily agreed to Britain playing a key role in the planned European Rapid Reaction Force. For this, he and the MoD have been prepared to restructure the British Army, scrapping the old regiments, and to commit colossal sums to buying every kind of European equipment, including two giant aircraft carriers, which we are to build with the French.

The MoD's top priority is to meet the "Helsinki goals", agreed by EU leaders in 1999, on the creation of an integrated European defence force. The project is co-ordinated by the European Defence Agency in Brussels, led by a former senior MoD official, Nick Witney.

To this end the MoD has been prepared to spend billions on EU-made missiles, ships, trucks, artillery and armoured vehicles, not to mention a French-led project to build unmanned aircraft, which Blair discussed with Chirac earlier this month, following Britain's withdrawal from a similar joint project with the US.

This has left the British Army starved of proper resources for its current tasks and so overstretched that it must rely on thousands of territorial soldiers, with its morale sapped by the dangerous lack of proper equipment and by the MoD's insistence on enforcing the European Convention on Human Rights in situations to which it was never intended to apply.

The real problem is that all this has been so hidden away behind layers of stealth and deception that no one ever asks any longer that fundamental question: what are our Armed Forces for?

Behind the scenes, the driving force of national policy is to fit us to play our part in building up a European expeditionary force, capable of operating anywhere in the world. But no one can explain the purpose of such a force, for essentially it has only one: to promote the cause of European integration.

This leaves us, in an increasingly darkling world, with forces ill-designed to protect any national British interests. Indeed, so dependent are we now becoming on equipment bought from our EU partners, including our most basic guns and ammunition, that it will soon be inconceivable that we could operate without their consent.

Meanwhile, our armed services are being asked to perform dangerous tasks, knowing that they no longer have much practical support from a Government bent on exploiting them politically, for purposes they find it increasingly hard to under-stand.

When the final charge sheet is drawn up against the way Mr Blair governed this country, one of the most damning charges will be the way in which he destroyed its Armed Forces. Yet the remarkable thing will be how almost nobody at the time noticed it was happening.
 
#3
Hmmm... while we'd all like Blair to treat the armed forces with some respect the author does make some poor comments, in my opinion

The RG31 thing has been discussed here and the general consensus is that the RG31 probably wouldn't stop most IEDs, indeed it's been mentioned by one arrser that they should go back to the wolf.

The carriers - we need them - if we didn't have them we'd complain. Fcuked if he does and fcuked if he doesn't. At the end of the day the RN still needs to be able to project air power (even if they don't have the planes for the new carriers yet)

The TA - I'm sorry but that's kinda what they're there for. The TA should be used, otherwise there's not a huge amount of point. And who the fcuk is he to comment on morale? I don't know what morale is like - perhaps arrsers would like to contribute - but is there also not a general consensus the current kit on Telic is pretty good?

What has he got against the French? OK, I don't like the French either. But if it benefits us to have our carriers built by the French then why the hell not? First of all he has a go at JSF, how we're trying to keep the yanks happy by being in ghanistan and Iraq, then has a go because we have joint projects with the EU - How many projects could we afford to run on our own? Obviously at times - like Typhoon - its gone seriously wrong, but I'm sure there are other cases (tornado?), and will be cases in the future of joint projects working well.

He writes for the telegraph, anti-blair is fine, but he's bringing in anti-europe, very VERY limited ideas on what kit is capable of doing and making assumptions about morale. Cnut
 
#4
Pretty sure we would be better of tag teaming with America rather than Europe. Let's face it, time after time most of the countries in Europe have just collapsed rather than fight.

Edit to add on Crabbys last post.

Ref the TA, is there still not a great number of people out there (who have not neccesarily served in any capacity) who still believe the role of the TA is more akin to the Cold War and as such they are currently being "misused"?
 
#5
chocolate_frog said:
Pretty sure we would be better of tag teaming with America rather than Europe. Let's face it, time after time most of the countries in Europe have just collapsed rather than fight.
Even though Lockheed doesn't want us to have their source code so we can maintain OUR own aircraft (JSF) and Bush doesn't have the balls to stand up to them?

The US have fcuked us about just as much as any european country. Also remember how many european countries are, or were, in Iraq. And however much we hate the french they did commit to Kosovo, Bosnia and are peacekeeping in Ivory Coast. Surely the idea of the European force is to help sort out problems like the 3 conflicts just listed a bit quicker and without the US getting a look in
 
#6
True, I just don't know how that will work though, by being tied up with the European RRF we lose a fair degree of independance of operation. If the Yanks don't get a look in and if Germany and France don't want to go or Spain wants to quit in the future do we just go it alone?

Edit to add.

I think we have withheld the information on some of our kit that we have shared with the Americans. It is in part good business sense.
 
#7
At the risk of serious incoming my way I would suggest that France and Germany are prepared to become involved in serious Humanitarian problems - especially those close to home; ie. the Balkan states.

Therefore anything "localish" and anything that is a threat to French and German interests they will have no option but to be involved. Spain doesn't count, a country that allows something like the Madrid bombings to change their election result so they pull out of Iraq when previously commited shows a distinct lack of balls from the population and they don't deserve to be counted as a nation. At least Germany and France had the balls to stand up to America for what they thought, knowing what the backlash would be like. They might still be spineless but less so than Spain
 
#8
That is pretty much why the Americans may be a better bet.

What is localised though nowadays? The Gulf may not be seen as local, but the fuel that comes to Europe from there would certainly make problems in that area "local". Likewise the drugs that come from Afganistan would surely make that area local.

It all depends on how you deal with the problem, in transit or at source.
 
#9
Fcuk europe. We're the BRITISH Army. Cant be arrsed to elaborate, I get upset. (not mega chuffed about the US either but their certainly the colleagues of choice).
 
#10
crabby said:
Spain doesn't count, a country that allows something like the Madrid bombings to change their election result so they pull out of Iraq when previously commited shows a distinct lack of balls from the population and they don't deserve to be counted as a nation. At least Germany and France had the balls to stand up to America for what they thought, knowing what the backlash would be like. They might still be spineless but less so than Spain
When I heard of the Spanish pull-out, I had visions of the Spanish PM brandishing a piece of paper & declaring 'Peace in Our Time' .
 
#11
crabby said:
Spain doesn't count, a country that allows something like the Madrid bombings to change their election result so they pull out of Iraq when previously commited shows a distinct lack of balls from the population and they don't deserve to be counted as a nation. At least Germany and France had the balls to stand up to America for what they thought, knowing what the backlash would be like. They might still be spineless but less so than Spain
Crabby, may I nick this? An excellent summation of the European situation, although I think I would have had to add the fearless Italian warriors in here. There because they have to be, not because they want to be and only just. 20 Bde would have a couple of observations on the Italian contribution to Op TELIC 3 post Al Nasiriyah which is frightening in the extreme.
 
#12
Storeman Norman said:
crabby said:
Spain doesn't count, a country that allows something like the Madrid bombings to change their election result so they pull out of Iraq when previously commited shows a distinct lack of balls from the population and they don't deserve to be counted as a nation. At least Germany and France had the balls to stand up to America for what they thought, knowing what the backlash would be like. They might still be spineless but less so than Spain
Crabby, may I nick this? An excellent summation of the European situation, although I think I would have had to add the fearless Italian warriors in here. There because they have to be, not because they want to be and only just. 20 Bde would have a couple of observations on the Italian contribution to Op TELIC 3 post Al Nasiriyah which is frightening in the extreme.
Agreed. Much as people slag off the "coalition of the willing" perhaps we shouldn't forget the contribution of the Italians and Polish. Also what about the countries currently committed in Afghanistan - Canada for example (not european, but they've made a significant contribution).

You have to admire any political party and its leader that has the backbone to go ahead with something that WILL make them unpopular with a section of the population. Perhaps someone should remind the Spannish that Al Queda were targetting western targets long before Aghanistan, let alone Iraq - and pulling out doesn't make them any less of a target.

The worst thing about this kind of article is it may provoke a knee-jerk reaction that this government is famed for. The worst thing possible would be the cancelling of the carriers or a sudden pull out from one of the countries mentioned. What's needed is a "measured response" and sensationalist cr*p like this author has written will not help. I'd like to know who his source on Americans walking away unscathed from RG31s is, also who his source on morale is?

Re. Chocolate frog on the TA: I know a lot of people still see the TA like that, but that situation passed with the fall of the Berlin Wall. To have a resource like the TA and not use it - especially for specialists and those who volunteer for ops - would be madness.
 
#13
I know that that situation passed with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Just some madmen don't.
 
#14
Source for a lot of this was Richard North well known Euro sceptic

His blog has an article claiming the research for the article was his:

"In today's Sunday Telegraph, based on research carried out by this Blog, Christopher Booker explains why they are allowed to happen."

EU Referendum

A case of a sceptic using 'facts' to meet his own agenda? There ARE some good points here....
 
#15
crabby said:
. Also remember how many european countries are, or were, in Iraq. And however much we hate the french they did commit to Kosovo, Bosnia and are peacekeeping in Ivory Coast. Surely the idea of the European force is to help sort out problems like the 3 conflicts just listed a bit quicker and without the US getting a look in
Sorry Crabby, but you have completely missed the reasons why France got involved in the Balkans. It had fcuk all to do with willing to put their soldiers lives at risk in the defence of the innocent and the UN Security Council resolutions, and everything to do with trying to thwart the US and the British (Ed to add: and keep chummy with their old Serb pals).

If you examine the French conduct in Bosnia and Kosovo you will soon see that they have done more harm than good. They are irreversibly pro-Serb (to the active detriment of everything else), and if they can come up with a way of confounding the US or Brit led agenda in the region they will do so. I saw numerous incidents (especially in Kosovo), where the presence of the French caused incidents (the Serbs knew that they could hide behind the French soldiers) and led to the breakdown of the fragile relations between the Albanian and Serb communities.

In the Ivory Coast, same as in most of West Africa, Chad, Ethiopia and Zaire their involvement has been about retaining French influence and trying to maintain the myth of a French Africa. Mostly these interventions have been to prop-up friendly dictators (who strangely then when an purchased French weapons) and gave oil contracts to Elf, etc. Forgotten about Mitterand?

As for buying European weapons, hopefully the 2 carriers will be a success (if they ever get built). I do object to the Treasury and the PM making the UK forces buy untried EU weapons for X billion euros when there is a more capable, combat proven US or RSA design available off the shelf for under half the cost. Smart procurement anyone?

One of the reasons why the US is unwilling to let the UK have the source code is that the lovely scum from BAe (British waste-of-space as was) would steal the code. Code that cost the US rather a lot of money. You can see an identical situation with Microsoft and the EU. Why should MS give away its source code (so much of it that the little that is kept 'secret' could be reverse-engineered within a year)? This code has cost MS billions of USD to develop and refine over the years, and you think it is fair that they just give it to their competitors?

Cynical? Moi? Rein!
 
#16
Cabarfeidh said:
Source for a lot of this was Richard North well known Euro sceptic

His blog has an article claiming the research for the article was his:

"In today's Sunday Telegraph, based on research carried out by this Blog, Christopher Booker explains why they are allowed to happen."

EU Referendum

A case of a sceptic using 'facts' to meet his own agenda? There ARE some good points here....
Hi - just to clarify some points, I am Christopher Booker's paid researcher, and use the Blog as a sounding board, from which he then takes material. In this case, we worked together on the story so I posted my piece to harmonise with his.

Please do not be distracted by the fact that I am a Eurosceptic. My story is well researched and my motives are entirely genuine - that I believe that the Army in Iraq (and Afghanistan) is not getting the best of the equipment it needs and that it would benefit from the provision of the RG-31. Personally, I will not tolerate a situation where we (society) put soldiers in harm's way without also giving them the best possible chance of survival.

I am not so stupid or naive as to think that the vehicle is the answer to all problems or that it would necessarily provide total protection in all circumstances. I am, for instance, well aware that it would provide limited protection against shaped charges. Nor, of course, would it see off an RPG29, but then neither would a Challenger 2. But the fact is that the majority of IEDs in Iraq are not shaped charges, with many being either 155mm shells or mortar bombs. Against these the RG-31 would provide protection and therefore I believe it would save lives. It would be illogical, I feel, to dismiss a piece of kit just because it did not provide total protection against everything.

Such a provision would not, of course, preclude the use of the "Snatch" when it was more appropriate - the RG-31 would simply be another weapon in the armoury, amongst other things giving local commanders more tactical options, filling in the gap between the Snatch and the Warrior. Of course, there is the option also of the smaller brother ot the RG-31, the RG32M, which is smaller and ligher, but is still mine protected. It would be interesting to see a comparison betwen that vehicle and the Snatch.

On a political level, I am convinced that one of the reason why new kit is not being provided to the forces in Iraq is quite simply because the bulk of procurement funds are being dedicated to meeting the Hensinki "2010 Headline Goals", under the European ECAP programme. You can always dismiss this as Eurosceptic fantasy if you like but the fact is that the relevant documents are in the public domain and easily accessible. If you compare recent procurement decisions with the ECAP checklist, you will see that the MoD is ticking all the right boxes.

Step sideways and look at the investment the US is pouring into force protection, not least the RG-31s, the Cougar variants, the Buffalo and others - and see that, since this kit started to be deployed, IED deaths are down (this may or may not be a coincidence). You then look at the new kit being provided to the British forces (not) and have to concede, at the very least, that there is a case to answer.

My own personal bias may be giving me the wrong answers - and heaven knows it is difficult enough interpreting the delphic ways of the MoD - but at least I feel I am raising questions which deserve thorough exploration.
 

OldSnowy

LE
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#17
First, a hearty welcome to Mr North - welcome to ARRSE.

Now, as for the French and the Germans getting mixed up in the Balkans - it seemed to me, many years ago, that the only Nations out there not actively siding with one group or another were the British and the Dutch; sadly, the Dutch proved to be of limited effectiveness.... And we weren't a lot better.

Certainly, everything that the FR did in the FRY was utterly tainted by their support for the Serbs (anyone remember how hard it was to find any wanted crims in any area where there was any FR involvement?). As for their 'principled' stand regarding Iraq - utter nonsense as well. They were purely driven by spite (against the US and, a an added bonus, the UK) and greed (Saddam as a good source of income). French foreign policy is entirely selfish, whereas ours is not (often to our own detriment, but at least we have got some principles).
 
#18
OldSnowy said:
First, a hearty welcome to Mr North - welcome to ARRSE.

Now, as for the French...
Thank you!

Interesting your comments. I did enjoy "Crabby" on: "And however much we hate the french they did commit to Kosovo, Bosnia and are peacekeeping in Ivory Coast."

Yes, love the "peacekeeping" bit on the Ivory Coast.

Not only did the French army fire without warning on unarmed Gbagboist demonstrators in November 2003, seriously wounding three of them, France then, on direct orders from Chirac, destroyed the country's entire air force, sparking riots in Abidjan. There, some 70 Ivorians were killed and over 1,000 were injured by French troops firing on unarmed crowds. You can imagine the outcry if the US had done this in Iraq but the French chief of the general staff simply dismissed claims of a "massacre", only admitting that his troops might have "wounded or killed a few people", while "showing very great calm and complete control of the violence."

Currently, the then officer commanding the French "peacekeepers", General Henri Poncet, is awaiting trial in France for attempting to cover up the murder by his troops of an Ivorian man, named as Mahe, who died after being shot by French troops. In addition to Poncet, Colonel Eric Burgaud and a platoon commander have also been suspended, the latter under investigation for murder.

If you're interested, we covered it widely on our Blog (below). Compared with the easy outrage about anything British or the US troops do in Iraq, the media has been almost totally silent on this. Must be nice to be French - you can get away with murder and the Crabby's of this world think you are wonderful.

http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2005/10/frances-little-iraq.html
http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2004/11/quagmire-in-cte-divoire.html
http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2006/01/certain-disparity-in-treatment.html
http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2006/01/another-unholy-mess.html
 
#19
Richard_North said:
OldSnowy said:
First, a hearty welcome to Mr North - welcome to ARRSE.

Now, as for the French...
Thank you!

Interesting your comments. I did enjoy "Crabby" on: "And however much we hate the french they did commit to Kosovo, Bosnia and are peacekeeping in Ivory Coast."

Yes, love the "peacekeeping" bit on the Ivory Coast.

Not only did the French army fire without warning on unarmed Gbagboist demonstrators in November 2003, seriously wounding three of them, France then, on direct orders from Chirac, destroyed the country's entire air force, sparking riots in Abidjan. There, some 70 Ivorians were killed and over 1,000 were injured by French troops firing on unarmed crowds. You can imagine the outcry if the US had done this in Iraq but the French chief of the general staff simply dismissed claims of a "massacre", only admitting that his troops might have "wounded or killed a few people", while "showing very great calm and complete control of the violence."

Currently, the then officer commanding the French "peacekeepers", General Henri Poncet, is awaiting trial in France for attempting to cover up the murder by his troops of an Ivorian man, named as Mahe, who died after being shot by French troops. In addition to Poncet, Colonel Eric Burgaud and a platoon commander have also been suspended, the latter under investigation for murder.

If you're interested, we covered it widely on our Blog (below). Compared with the easy outrage about anything British or the US troops do in Iraq, the media has been almost totally silent on this. Must be nice to be French - you can get away with murder and the Crabby's of this world think you are wonderful.

http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2005/10/frances-little-iraq.html
http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2004/11/quagmire-in-cte-divoire.html
http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2006/01/certain-disparity-in-treatment.html
http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2006/01/another-unholy-mess.html
Slightly harsh attack on me there!!!

I am actually mainly aware of what the French have been up to out there in Ivory Coast - however I was trying to present a slightly different viewpoint from most.

I agree totally that if the American forces were the copy the actions of the French military then they would be internationally condemmed.

I think we do need to be aware of the differences between the French armed forces and their government and French business. Our aircraft carriers are being built by a french company that is not state owned. This is much the same way that BAe's second (or is it now the biggest now?) market is the US. The MoD in theory made a decision based on economics of where to have our carriers built, this in no way "allies" us any closer with the French forces, it only distances us from the US in the contracts that go elsewhere. The treatment of BAe by lockheed and the US goverment over JSF does leave much to be desired. (On the MS point I fully agree they should not release the code, it's nothing to do with a national service/amenity like energy/defence etc)

I'm afraid I haven't had much time to read any other of the articles written by the author, are there any on the French in the Ivory Coast. Surely as media if the media are silent then that's partly down to you?

On another note Welcome to Arrse and it's nice to see someone actually coming on here to defend their material - it allows more reasoned debate.

A point on the RG31 - an arrser did mention a SSgt was KIA in an RG31 recently in Iraq. While I accept your point that there will never be a totally IED proof vehicle to fulfill the needs of mobility etc remember an RG31 is far heavier and requires more crew than something like a Snatch. To procure such equipment is also not just a case of the vehicle itself, but also all the spare parts, training the REME lot in repair and maintenance and if there are any specific issues with the vehicle finding instructors to familiarise people with the vehicle. All this takes a huge amount of time and money - for something that gives very little questionnable advantage over a snatch with regards to an IED at the roadside. I can also assure you a 155mm shell would go straight through the side of an RG31. Media reports have confirmed what I've been told about some of the IEDs used in Iraq, and that is the combination of an explosive and a 155mm shell, effectively creating a double warhead etc.

US force protection is also a difficult one, there has been a lot around recently about the way they've been changing their tactics etc. Remember also that the US has a far larger army, with a huge amount of funding (Bush keeping going back to the senate to ask for money) and therefore can absorb new vehicles far more easily into overall strategy. There have also been problems with some of their new kit - Stryker vehicles going out to theatre having to be immediately modified to counter the threat out there (admittedly the same done to warriors with the caging etc)
 
#20
crabby said:
Slightly harsh attack on me there!!!
Sorry. Just that "French peacekeeping" is something of an orxymoron in my book - a bit like "Belgian humanitarian assistance".

I did respond to your post in detail, but lost it when I posted it. I'll try to remember what I wrote, and repost.
 

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