MoD Bans Defence Chief From 'Blair Wars' Book?

#1
MoD bans defence chief from 'Blair Wars' book

The Ministry of Defence banned the new head of the Armed Forces from contributing to a book containing damning criticism of British military performance in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Officials ordered the suppression of six chapters written by serving generals to appear in British Generals in Blair’s Wars, including one written by the new Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), General Sir Nick Houghton.

The book includes a series of "lessons learnt" essays by 26 senior military and civilian figures — some of them blunt in their criticism of senior command and the political leadership of the campaigns.

Its editors are furious at the MoD's censorship of the UK's most senior officer. General Houghton, who took over from General Sir David Richards yesterday, had been expected to contribute an analysis of how to conduct strategy.

Professor Sir Hew Strachan, who edited the book with Jonathan Bailey, a retired major-general, and Richard Iron, a retired colonel, said: "It was vital for the book and almost impossible to replace. It would have been a great marker for the incoming CDS. We feel particularly incensed.

"What I would say of the book is these are issues about which there should be proper public debate. If we are going to go into lessons learned there has to be serious discussion — not one that is simply silenced because of some sort of orthodoxy about how civil-military relations should be conducted, which is the situation we have got ourselves into."

In response last night, the MoD said that the proposed material remained "the focus of political and legal debate".

"There is a long-standing convention that senior serving officers offer military context and advice to government ministers. It is for elected politicians to debate the political dimension," the MoD said.

Another general prevented from writing was General Sir Richard Shirreff, who had been due to contribute a chapter on the controversial "Sinbad" operations around Basra in 2006-07. A replacement chapter by one of General Shirreff's battalion commanders, the retired Brigadier Justin Maciejewski, is highly critical of the Army’s most senior leadership at Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) in the UK, which was then led by General Houghton.

"There was a strong sense at the time, among those preparing for Iraq in summer 2006, that our commitment to Afghanistan was being driven by those generals who thought that Afghanistan was merely a way out of Basra; it was a political antidote to the deeply unpopular mission in Iraq," Brigadier Maciejewski writes.

"We regarded them as epitomising the defeatist tendency that pervaded PJHQ and London, and [we believed] that investing in a seemingly popular war in Afghanistan, in order to escape an unpopular one in Iraq, was not a winning strategy."

The chapter notes the "thinly veiled contempt" then felt by British soldiers towards the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, who withdrew their diplomats from Basra a month before the operations began over "health and safety" concerns.

At the launch of the book this week, General Sir Nick Parker, who retired this year as deputy commander of the Nato forces in Afghanistan, bluntly stated that US forces in Baghdad had superior ability to adapt to challenges and were more resilient than the British Basra operation.

"I learnt very quickly in Baghdad by being bunged in at the theatre level that it [the US military] is an extraordinary organisation," he said. "They had the ability to learn, in my view, more quickly than we did . . . My experience was there was a rather precious [British] operation going on in Basra, which didn’t really like getting knocked terribly."

He added that since the 2010 surge in Afghanistan, British and US forces had fought extremely well together.
Must admit this is the first I've heard of the book, although the area isn't something I follow much. Anyone happen to know anything about it and the apparent backstage arguments going on? The fact that the MoD doesn't seem to be liking parts of it does rather suggest on the face of it that it might not just be our normal whitewash of things. Would of been quite interested to read what General Shirreff had to say, from what I've heard, granted second or third hand, his proposed Op Sinbad had him calling for large increases in forces to go after the militias properly but got refused so had to make do with what he had and a battalion or two extra for a bit IIRC.
 
#2
The book includes a series of "lessons learnt" essays by 26 senior military and civilian figures — some of them blunt in their criticism of senior command and the political leadership of the campaigns.
It sounds like interesting reading, if the MOD has security concerns regarding the publishing then that`s fair, publish it to a closed shop as a training book for the military only.
If on the other hand as I suspect, the criticisms would embarass certain military and political establishments then this country is in the shitty state that it thought it was in.
As an afterthought, the US military learns quickly and adapts, because of their past experiences in South East Asia. They went through a very big shake up during the late 70s and early 80s, and a lot of junior and mid level officers would be in fairly senior positions in recent years and wouldn`t want to see the same mistakes made.
 
#3
Sounds a promising read.

It makes me ashamed to be British that Blair has escaped almost without a word of criticism from what he did. I hear the Chilcott report has been edited to death.
 
D

Davetheclown

Guest
#4
Blair will get his come uppance, anyone remember the chap who tried to citizen arrest him at the airport. Wonder what happened to him?
 
#5
I doubt it, there are far too many civil servants, military officers and officials that could possibly end up in the dock alongside him if he were to ever have his collar felt. A shared risk of ending up in the cacky is more than likely to see it chalked up as 'not in the public interest' if it ever got that far.
 
#6
The soon-to-be exculpated Political classes are going to have a Devil of a job promoting to the public the 'authority', 'integrity' and 'objectivity' of the Chilcott report when it is eventually published without Generals publishing anything that might be inconsistent with its findings and recommendations.
 
#7
I doubt it, there are far too many civil servants, military officers and officials that could possibly end up in the dock alongside him if he were to ever have his collar felt. A shared risk of ending up in the cacky is more than likely to see it chalked up as 'not in the public interest' if it ever got that far.
The International Criminal Court in the Hague is a creature of the Security Council who fund it and make referrals to it. Given that we are permanent member of the Security Council, the chances of anyone from this country ever appearing in the Dock are pretty remote.

The ICC exists to try nasty war criminals, not nice ones like ours!
 
#8
The International Criminal Court in the Hague is a creature of the Security Council who fund it and make referrals to it. Given that we are permanent member of the Security Council, the chances of anyone from this country ever appearing in the Dock are pretty remote.

The ICC exists to try nasty war criminals, not nice ones like ours!
Well, hes buggered if he wants to visit New Zealand any time soon, as this is on their Visa app:

"...You must tell us if you have ever committed a war crime or a crime against humanity as this may affect your ability to meet the good character requirement."
 
#9
I doubt it, there are far too many civil servants, military officers and officials that could possibly end up in the dock alongside him if he were to ever have his collar felt. A shared risk of ending up in the cacky is more than likely to see it chalked up as 'not in the public interest' if it ever got that far.

How will any of the military Officers end up in the dock? Military officers are obliged to follow any legal orders. Many at the time questioned whether the invasion of Iraq was legal and the "advice" of the country's senior legal advisor was supposedly that it was legal. Little were we to know that the legal advisor had been pressurised into giving the correct and convenient answer.

In this day and age any political misdemeanor seems to be excusable but as far as I am concerned sending an Army to war on the basis of a lie is bad enough without it being an illegal war to boot. It is this which distinguished Blair from the remainder of self-serving mendacious scum that call themselves politicians.
 
#11
It wasn't the MoD that imposed this machiavellian ban on CDS, it was an individual or two. If so, who and why? It smacks of individuals protecting senior politicians and military personnel and seeking to prevent their mistakes being exposed - in other words a cover up, to protect the reputation of some mediocre individuals at the expense of learning lessons for future conflict. The reputation and capability of the UK military is far more important than the reputation of yesterday's jumped-up politicos and generals.

This culture of a fear of identifying, articulating and examining failure is endemic in the MoD; it is pernicious, arrogant and a contributing factor to future failures. It forms the basis of military hubris, which was, in turn, one of the factors that contributed to such poor strategic and operational planning for conflict and post conflict in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of these lessons are clearly identified in Frank Ledwidge's excellent book "Losing Small Wars". It is a perspicacious analysis of why the military failed and ought to be mandatory reading for all young officers, in order that they may have the wisdom to admit errors and the strategic ability to rectify them. It is no longer good enough to witter on about Kenya, Malaya, Cyprus and NI, as if success in past campaigns is a guarantor for success in future campaigns. Let the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan be exposed and understood lest future Generals and politicos tread the same path to failure that this generation of politicos and Generals took in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
#12
It wasn't the MoD that imposed this machiavellian ban on CDS, it was an individual or two. If so, who and why? It smacks of individuals protecting senior politicians and military personnel and seeking to prevent their mistakes being exposed - in other words a cover up, to protect the reputation of some mediocre individuals at the expense of learning lessons for future conflict. The reputation and capability of the UK military is far more important than the reputation of yesterday's jumped-up politicos and generals.

This culture of a fear of identifying, articulating and examining failure is endemic in the MoD; it is pernicious, arrogant and a contributing factor to future failures. It forms the basis of military hubris, which was, in turn, one of the factors that contributed to such poor strategic and operational planning for conflict and post conflict in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of these lessons are clearly identified in Frank Ledwidge's excellent book "Losing Small Wars". It is a perspicacious analysis of why the military failed and ought to be mandatory reading for all young officers, in order that they may have the wisdom to admit errors and the strategic ability to rectify them. It is no longer good enough to witter on about Kenya, Malaya, Cyprus and NI, as if success in past campaigns is a guarantor for success in future campaigns. Let the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan be exposed and understood lest future Generals and politicos tread the same path to failure that this generation of politicos and Generals took in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rivetting.
 
#14
I’m not going to get too outraged yet, after all they are still serving. People are always bashing on about the service test only applying to junior ranks (including me).

So we can hardly complain, when it is seen to be applied to senior officers. Just because their criticisms may confirm our own beliefs.

No doubt as soon as they are safely ennobled pensioners, they will treat us to another set of military memoirs. Probably along the lines of “I was great, but those interfering T***s above me were crap”. As is the case in 90% of all such memoirs (Again including mine).

I will still read the book though.
 
#15
The problem is that the Army, specifically, quite freely made political hay over a lot of decisions over Afg and Iraq (I'm looking at you Gen Dannatt). For what earthly reason would any sensible Politician open up a series of articles about how "they" bungled things. Hell, look at this thread - cock all discussion about Military Strategy, the self-licking lollipop that is PJHQ (even to this day), our inability to educate Senior Officers, the innate conservatism that sees a "return to contingency" as an excuse to get back into the Fulda Gap, and instead people are talking 'Blair' as if he dragged the British Armed Forces, kicking and screaming, into the career opportunity (from Pte to Gen) that most would've given their eye teeth for.
 
#16
The problem is that the Army, specifically, quite freely made political hay over a lot of decisions over Afg and Iraq (I'm looking at you Gen Dannatt). For what earthly reason would any sensible Politician open up a series of articles about how "they" bungled things. Hell, look at this thread - cock all discussion about Military Strategy, the self-licking lollipop that is PJHQ (even to this day), our inability to educate Senior Officers, the innate conservatism that sees a "return to contingency" as an excuse to get back into the Fulda Gap, and instead people are talking 'Blair' as if he dragged the British Armed Forces, kicking and screaming, into the career opportunity (from Pte to Gen) that most would've given their eye teeth for.
I think you're spot on. My take is that the current crop of politicians have lost faith in the Army, and frankly that's mostly the fault of the Army. And so far the Army hasn't moved on from the denial phase, let alone tried to understand what it needs to do to change that perception.

The retreat since WW2 and especially since the end of the Cold War into a sealed military bubble with as few non-regs as possible has resulted in a record low level of understanding of the Army by civilians, and therefore politicians. And, more importantly, vice versa. Makes for better career progression and a wonderful sense of esprit de corps of course, but also for intellectual stagnation and the inability to conceive that there is anything beyond groupthink.

So we get an organisation that visibly prioritises career ahead of winning. That states quite calmly that certain new and exotic skills are needed to win wars, that they are incompatible with regular career paths, does nothing to change that - and looks puzzled when others suggest things could be otherwise. That, when compared to peers and allies, visibly falls short in intellectual ability, directed change, care and feeding of the reserves ... yet states in the next breath that they are world class.

And I think the real nail in the coffin for the British Army as we knew it over the last decade will be the reaction to the lack of professional advice offered to Blair by the Generals. Instead of "occupy Basra with less than 10k troops, you're on crack you maniac" and "pacify the Afghans, you actually read "The Bear Went Over The Mountain" Prime Minster ?" they got "we can do it, crack on chaps, buzzword buzzword something battlespace". And two resounding failures.
 
#17
The problem is that the Army, specifically, quite freely made political hay over a lot of decisions over Afg and Iraq (I'm looking at you Gen Dannatt). For what earthly reason would any sensible Politician open up a series of articles about how "they" bungled things. Hell, look at this thread - cock all discussion about Military Strategy, the self-licking lollipop that is PJHQ (even to this day), our inability to educate Senior Officers, the innate conservatism that sees a "return to contingency" as an excuse to get back into the Fulda Gap, and instead people are talking 'Blair' as if he dragged the British Armed Forces, kicking and screaming, into the career opportunity (from Pte to Gen) that most would've given their eye teeth for.
Thankfully the book looks as though it's going to at least do some of this, could well be that the Blair's Wars title was dreamt up simply to try and shift a few extra copies since it's not exactly a mass market subject. With any luck those people that had the kibosh put on their offerings will of been able to have a quiet word with their alternatives, case in point Brigadier Maciejewski taking over from his commander General Shirreff. Can't think that their outlooks will have been all that much different and wouldn't be surprised if they've had a few purely private social chats over drinks, certainly trailing that he's going to be giving PJHQ a going over.



I think you're spot on. My take is that the current crop of politicians have lost faith in the Army, and frankly that's mostly the fault of the Army. And so far the Army hasn't moved on from the denial phase, let alone tried to understand what it needs to do to change that perception.
Seems like something of rather vicious self-feeding cycle. The politicians want to do things but don't want to stump up the funding or suffer the negative political fallout so impose, either indirectly due to lack of resources or directly, operational restrictions. The military tries to work around them whilst also covering their own arses/career prospects so things don't go well, the politicians seeing things start to go pear shaped get even colder feet and introduce more restrictions or won't loosen them, the military then have to get on with doing things without being able to be aggressive as needed and seeing that it's a losing situation just want to get out as well, repeat ad nauseam.

The retreat since WW2 and especially since the end of the Cold War into a sealed military bubble with as few non-regs as possible has resulted in a record low level of understanding of the Army by civilians, and therefore politicians. And, more importantly, vice versa. Makes for better career progression and a wonderful sense of esprit de corps of course, but also for intellectual stagnation and the inability to conceive that there is anything beyond groupthink.
Bit before my time but isn't that pretty much exactly what happened after the Falklands as well? I seem to recall someone talking about, might even have been on here, how they took the experience and lessons learned but when considering it one of the senior types pretty much saying 'But this is all a one-off so we can just forget it as it doesn't conform to training' or similar.

There have been some decent threads on the board about stuff like this, two that most spring to mind is the one about short-termism in Afghanistan and the other about the seemingly ever growing HQs and PowerPoint bollocks that was often out of date by the time it was issued flowing from them at the start of Telic. I'm sure there are more but those are the only two I can recall off the top of my head.

And I think the real nail in the coffin for the British Army as we knew it over the last decade will be the reaction to the lack of professional advice offered to Blair by the Generals. Instead of "occupy Basra with less than 10k troops, you're on crack you maniac" and "pacify the Afghans, you actually read "The Bear Went Over The Mountain" Prime Minster ?" they got "we can do it, crack on chaps, buzzword buzzword something battlespace". And two resounding failures.
If anything I think this could be something of suffering from their own success. The Army has been able to pretty much muddle through and succeed with a lack of resources for so bloody long that it became normal, with 'Well if we don't have X or not enough Y we'll just have make do and adapt' becoming standard. There's also the fine line between senior officers staying out of politics and laying things out in black and white like you mention.
 
#18
How long do we think our senior people would last if they started telling the likes of Tony Blair the truth? It seems to me that they were very adept at ensuring the right "yes" men got the top jobs
 
#19
Feckers are rotten to the core.

The whiff of suspicion over the Chilcot Inquiry grows stronger - Telegraph

Until now, these worries have not been publicly articulated. This has now changed. David Owen, the former foreign secretary, who has followed the Iraq invasion and its consequences carefully from the start, last weekend made a series of extraordinary, and indeed devastating, allegations.



Speaking at a public meeting, Lord Owen said that the inquiry “is being prevented from revealing extracts that they believe relevant from exchanges between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair”. The culprits, he said, are Tony Blair and David Cameron: “Publication of the Bush extracts would not be blocked if Tony Blair had not objected, nor if that objection had not been supported by the present prime minister, David Cameron.

Both men are hiding behind conventions that are totally inappropriate given the nature of the inquiry.”
Lord Owen then went further. He suggested that Cameron and Blair have entered into a private deal: Mr Cameron is helping to prevent publication of vital documents, essential to discovering the truth about the background to the Iraq War, in return for political support for the Tories. “No 10 reveals that they are in constant contact on many issues with Tony Blair and Blair’s own people confirm this,” he said. “Not for nothing does Cameron see himself still as the 'heir to Blair’. It is hard to escape the conclusion that No 10 hopes to… win the neutrality or possibly tacit support of Blair by the General Election.”
If Chilcot were to conclude that Tony Blair lied over Iraq (and many well-placed people are convinced he did) it would be a first-order catastrophe for the former prime minister. He would be disgraced, just as Anthony Eden was after it emerged that he had lied to Parliament over the invasion of Suez in 1956. His political life would be over and his reputation destroyed. It is not merely that he would be unable to return to British politics. He would also be forced to abandon all ambitions on the international stage, such as his professed desire to become European Union president.

The central allegation against Mr Blair is that he gave a private assurance in early 2002 to President Bush that Britain would join the United States in an invasion of Iraq. Thereafter, it is said, all was decided. Even though Mr Blair later highlighted Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, and misrepresented what he was being told by the intelligence services to the House of Commons, it was of little significance to him, because the die had been cast anyhow.
And so Dr David Kelly had to top himself......
 

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