"MoD : Regrettable that soldiers are passing views to media"

#1
This appeared an hour or two ago on the Beeb website

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5376676.stm

'The Ministry of Defence has denied that a British soldier died in Afghanistan because the helicopter rescuing him accidentally set off landmines.

An MoD spokesman said: "It is regrettable when soldiers take their view of an incident - especially one involving a death - to the media rather than their own chain of command." '
____________________________________________

I'd be interested in your thoughts on this... (As anyone who has served will know the MoD loathes people going off message or declaring "UDI" - Tim Collins book gave some disturbing insight into this in the way he was treated).

I'm sure deaths in whitehall are a common place thing, and they are made of sterner stuff. That said - why are the boys on the ground giving fodder to the media? Is there a wider issue here?

Yours Quizzically...

(Edited for typo's!)
 
#2
I am a bit ambivalent about this issue. I believe in the chain of command but I also believe that when you no longer trust it some soldiers will use any means they can to get the views across. This is not new - what is different are the circumstances under which they now turn to the media. Operational issues tended to be off limits - obviously this is no longer the case.
 
#3
When a soldier feels he has nowhere else to turn to vent his spleen, there will always be a willing journo available to listen. The problem the MOD have is that they are trying to conduct the political will, with to few resourses. The gaps are showing and mistakes are now costing people their lives. Its time for the hierachy to get some brass ones and tell it like it is.
 
#4
The trouble with going directly to the media is that actually what is said may be total boll*cks and in fact creates needless alarm and despondency.
 
#5
Mr_Bridger said:
This appeared an hour or two ago on the Beeb website

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5376676.stm

'The Ministry of Defence has denied that a British soldier died in Afghanistan because the helicopter rescuing him accidentally set off landmines.

An MoD spokesman said: "It is regrettable when soldiers take their view of an incident - especially one involving a death - to the media rather than their own chain of command."
See highlighted.

Probably was taken to CoC first, and was told to shut-up!

Squaddies faith in the CoC to be 'on their side' - the CoC beyond the coy level that is - has been sorely eroded. If you want an example of why this is so, just look at CGSs comments regarding Major Loden's emails!!!
 
#6
I think it is a step to far.

It's up to the coroner's court/BOI to determine the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate deaths of the personnel concerned.
This serves no purpose other than to raise the possibility that an individual may be to blame and in some way culpable for the resultant deaths.


The Media's current obsession with using any and all means to beat the MOD and Government is starting to get a tad weary. There needs to be a free flow of relevant, pertinant information, but a balance should be struck.

I would suggest this is not one of those times that balance has been maintained.
 
#7
The MOD will not counter a story as a matter of course, because it leads to "he said/she said" arguments and counter-arguments. The trouble with that approach is that the general public will then tend to believe what the papers say because MOD will not counter-attack. The MOD, in the best traditions of the Civil Service, would rather keep their heads down and hope it all just goes away (which invariably it does, when Posh Spice gets her anorexic body out, or Charlotte Church voms on the pavement).

Having seen Major Loden's emails, plus some other stuff from in-country, I feel that the job that they guys are doing should be made as public as possible - some of the heroics are unbelievable. There are also lots of "lessons learned" coming out in what he says, and the press have ignored the commendations for some of the kit to concentrate on the downsides and problems.

I think that getting a story out is counter-productive, and will eventually lead to censoring of communications or removal of lines of communication - and we all know how important it is to keep in touch with home when you are away for any length of time, particularly in their conditions.

Apportioning blame based on an email is not the way ahead, and whilst the D-Notice committee has absolutely no legal ability to suppress stories, some of the newspapers should be advised of their ability to restrict access to official sources, and of how life can be made just a little more difficult for the gutter newspapers who persist in trying to drive a wedge between the three Services for that sake of a front page.
 
#8
How do we know that this complaint was not taken to the CoC?

In any event, what this means is that MoD would rather not have complaints voiced in anything other than its own (controlled) system. That's a recipe for all sorts of devious moves - much like the MoD official response to this incident.

I am tired of hearing MoD (and some others) addressing the issue of the way things are raised rather than actually dealing with the complaint itself. This is a first class example of the politicisation of MoD.

If these guys in Whitehall are so certain of their position they would not have any qualms about public scrutiny.

It's notable also that the apparatchiks have not issued a denial as to the actual circumstances of the incident. Yet another example of providing answers to questions entirely different to those which have been asked....
 
#11
From the recent emails leaked to this new development, it's obvious that both resentment and frustration are growing. The current ease of communication will just make the jop of censorship more difficult. From laptops to mobiles, every squaddie has one or access to one and will use it. They've learnt they have got a voice and are quite happy to use it, regardless of the perceptions of fall out. However much the MOD tries to stop this, it'll continue. Some stories we may benefit from, others we won't. The MOD will suffer either way due to their political stance.
 
#12
apfsdsdu said:
I think it is a step to far.

It's up to the coroner's court/BOI to determine the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate deaths of the personnel concerned.
This serves no purpose other than to raise the possibility that an individual may be to blame and in some way culpable for the resultant deaths.


The Coroners Court and the Board of Inquiry are only as good as the information that they get. Relatives have to employ a Solicitor to act on their behalf at an inquest and they cannot attend the Board of Inquiry. A lot of questions are left unanswered, I know from experience what a job it is to get to the truth.
 
#13
Is this not just the media taking yet another line on the Afghan/Iraq conflict. Having pursued the politicians regarding the rationale of going to war, had a go at procurement (soft skinned LRs) they are now turning their gaze on the poor squaddie on the ground. Call me a bluff old traditionalist, but there was a time where we would never even consider talking to the press. General Sir Somebody-or-another summed it up nicely during the Balkans stating that the actions of the lowest ranking soldier could now have strategic effect. Driving a wedge (or should that be increasing the size of the wedge) between the Services is easy pickings. Find me a member of any service who will not take the opportunity to have a pop at one of the other two. I'm not saying that things are rosy and that they shouldn't, I'm just highlighting that an morsel of criticism will appear in 2 inch tall letters on the front of the Redtops. This begs the question as to what is the media agenda? Personally, I don't think for one second that they really care about the troops on the ground. Don't believe me - just wait for the frenzy over the current courts martial.
 
#14
I think we all know that when we sign up we park some of our rights to free speech, particularly those related to communicating with the media and political activism. However when you are intensely frustrated it must be hard to maintain that control over your free speech and consequently revert to the democratic right default position! Hence some of the stuff now coming out of Afghanistan.

Talking to the media can mean they present b@llocks you tell them as truth, it also means they may well present b@llocks of their own as your testimony. It is indeed true that truth is the first casualty, whether by confusion's virtue or due to pointed or agenda driven journalism.

I think if I were someone who has had to put up with poor support and equipment in say, Bosnia, Kosovo and then on Telics without number, then Helmand would indeed motivate me to violate my side of the service contract - taking my lead from the CofC who appear to have done similar...
 
#15
soldiersmum said:
apfsdsdu said:
I think it is a step to far.

It's up to the coroner's court/BOI to determine the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate deaths of the personnel concerned.
This serves no purpose other than to raise the possibility that an individual may be to blame and in some way culpable for the resultant deaths.


The Coroners Court and the Board of Inquiry are only as good as the information that they get. Relatives have to employ a Solicitor to act on their behalf at an inquest and they cannot attend the Board of Inquiry. A lot of questions are left unanswered, I know from experience what a job it is to get to the truth.
I don't know what experiences you have had, but your post would suggest that they have not been good, and please accept my sympathy if this is the case.

Clearly any investigation is only as good as the evidence it uncovers. My expereince of BOIs is that they are pretty thorough (the transcripts available on the MoD site seem to bear this out). I do not think it is appropriate for relatives to be present during all of the Board's numerous interviews and deliberations - I think this would actually hinder discovering the truth rather than help. Interviewees would not be so open, and Board members would feel unable to discuss theories in a free manner. Frankly, however, the 'truth' can be a pretty complicated matter. There is often not a single smoking gun, but a web of inter-related causative issues. Grieving families so often seem to want someone to blame, or heads to roll, but the fact is that a single act of culpability is rarely the case. If it is, then the RMP(SIB) investigation should uncover this.

Given the oftem complex circumstances of these instances, and the fact that first reports are normally not the full picture (remember Sir Ian Blair), I believe that it is generally unhelpful and potentially distressing to postulate personal opinions prior to an investigation being completed.

The 48 hour unit Learning Account (made available to the CVO) should provide a pretty good assessment with appropriate context.

If there is real concerns about a cover up, then I suppose 'whistle blowing' could be justified, however I have sufficient faith in the integrity of those individuals who are required to carry out the investigations that white washes are unlikely.
 
#16
There are two elements to this.

One the MoD should embrace the media in order to wi the information war. The old adage that there is no such thing as bad news does not always hold true but neither does the adage no news, is good news.

The Guardian have picked up on the lack of access]Lack of access[/url] which to a degree must be fuelling this situation with the guys out there being in contact with the UK and finding comparatively little coverage at home.

The guys out there though need to be savvy to what they are sending back in emails and maybe we should even in the OPTAG package be making soldiers aware of the issue and warning them of the need to place statements such a "Not for circulation' on there emails to friends and family to prevent them being forwarded with the best of intentions but landing the authors in the brown smelly stuff.

The comments made last week by CGS and the statement released this morning by the MoD are both very dissappointing.

CGS should have made a clear statement about the provenance of the email and the fact that it was (i guess) not intended for public consumption/discussion. The views of the author are precisely that but may reflect only a small sector within AFG.

The statement this morning was in my eyes worse than that of CGS in that they should just say yes, this may have happened however we cannot confirm either way until the relevant BoI have been conducted and the results reported up the CoC. This is a tactical situation in an operational theatre and for PJHQ and the Op theatre to answer as they see fit.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#17
Bravo2nothing said:
Some stories we may benefit from, others we won't. The MOD will suffer either way due to their political stance.
Eh ?.....Apart from politically-appointed SpAds, every MoD official is bound by the CS Code of Conduct which, curiously enough , has just been re-promulgated in June 2006. Here's an extract:

Political Impartiality
13. You must:
serve the Government, whatever its political persuasion, to the best of your ability in a way which maintains political impartiality and is in line with the requirementsof this Code, no matter what your own political beliefs are;

act in a way which deserves and retains the confidence of Ministers, while at the same time ensuring that you will be able to establish the same relationship with those whom you may be required to serve in some future Government; and

comply with any restrictions that have been laid down on your political activities.


14. You must not:
act in a way that is determined by party political considerations, or use official resources for party political purposes; or
allow your personal political views to determine any advice you give or your actions.

www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/propriety_and_ethics


Even the guys in the Number 10 Press office ( who are all Civ Serpents whatever their journalistic background) operate to the same rules - and will refer back to the Special Adviser any activity which they believe to be overtly political rather than 'governmental '.


So, if you believe that MoD has a political stance which favours ANY party overtly - and have a specific instance in mind - then raise it formally as a complaint - that's what the systems are there for.


Most CS are in the 'politically free' class. That is, like any other citizen they can join a political party, canvass for support and even stand as propsective parliamentary candidates (but have to resign BEFORE the ballot).

IIRC, Douglas Hurd was a Civil Servant in the Foreign Office before he joined Parliament, as was Baroness Liz Symons ( Labour peeress) Can't think of any former MoD officials who've made the move.

However in the Senior Civ Serv, some grades are politically restricted and cannot engage in ANY of these.

The view from Satsuma level (less pips than a Mandarin) FWIW,

tinkety-tonk old top !

Don Cabra
 
#18
Cuddles said:
would indeed motivate me to violate my side of the service contract - taking my lead from the CofC who appear to have done similar...
The service contract - there's a thing - and another thread probably. However, is this not a demonstration of modern democracy working? The great and the good send round teams to sound us out (CGS' crew, the AF Pay chaps etc), then brief us about how we should respond. Teams report back to their masters then it's trebles all round as everything in the garden is rosy!

When the uncomfortable truth does find its way to the top table (how many times have we seen the slimey politicos try to mix it with the masses as they present themselves for carefully targeted / screened questions from the great unwashed?) the results are,well, not for public consumption. Well here folks, this is it. The nasty, unpalatable often unpleasant view from the ground. The people involved in some very dangerous and difficult actions on behalf of their country, where they might actually have to pay with their life, want a voice. They want those on whose behalf they act to know what is going on. If the only way is via the untrustworthy and devious press then so be it.

As you sow so you shall reap.
 
#19
Maybe some grieving relatives want someone to blame or heads to roll, but really I think that they just want facts and honesty right from the start, and when mistakes are made people to own up and apologise. The longer it goes on, the more barriers that are put up by the MOD any goodwill disappears. I also know that they hide behind any laws they can quote to not provide you with information, that includes even supplying a post mortem report. They will then point the finger at the Coroner and lay it all at his doorstep.
You should not have to fight for every shred of information and then wait months, turning into years to hear it. The system is shambolic and will not get any better with the increasing numbers of deaths and casualties.
 
#20
Facts and honesty are one thing. The opinion and conjecture, dressed up as fact by the media are another.

I don't advoke a blanket ban on information being released, or anything less than total honesty. Stories like this are not the way ahead.

(Edited to remove comment on an incident still under investigation)
 

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