Daily Telegraph Opinion Our Armed Forces serve the Queen, not Labour 11/04/2007 The fiasco following the release of the service personnel captured by Iran confirms at least one suspicion: that this Government profoundly misunderstands the nature and ethos of the Armed Forces as institutions. While it has been happy, in pursuit of an at times reckless foreign policy since 1997, to send servicemen and women into conflict, it has never properly understood what this means for them, the forces and the country. The present Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne, seems to have even less of a grasp of these fundamentals than his predecessors. That he could have allowed the 15 captured sailors and Marines to sell their stories to the media caused astonishment when announced a few days ago. On reflection, the decision - taken in full disregard of its consequences, especially for morale - is outrageous and profoundly damaging. By it, Mr Browne has done what no Minister of the Crown has ever managed to do: he has brought our Armed Forces to a point where some right-thinking people might start to hold them in contempt. This dereliction by Mr Browne is all the more disgraceful given what was, it seems, the reason for permission being granted in the first place. There were no "exceptional circumstances" to be accounted for, whatever was said at the time: those in the Forces risk their lives for their country day in, day out. There was, though, a desire on the part of the Government to look good in the aftermath of its humiliation following the capture of the 15. The sailors and Marines were therefore enlisted as part of a despicable spin operation. Most of them, fortunately, have had the presence of mind to refuse to play this game. Those who have not should be aware that they have done themselves and the Royal Navy no favours. As a result of the policy of the last decade, our Armed Forces are grotesquely overstretched and therefore exceedingly vulnerable. This Government has made ever more exacting demands on the Services while starving them of resources, equipping them inadequately, and presiding over a recruitment and retention crisis. The Prime Minister in particular has revelled vicariously in the heroism, professionalism and sacrifice of our servicemen and women while doing precious little to ensure that their jobs can be carried out more safely and accountably. Parliament is in recess. When it returns next Monday, Mr Browne had better go to the Commons and give a full and honest account of what led him to sanction the selling of the captives' stories to the media. When he next faces the Commons a week today, Mr Blair should be asked what Downing Street knew about this bizarre and unprecedented interpretation of Queen's Regulations, and when. Mr Blair may not much care: he is in his last weeks in his job. Since Mr Browne manifestly understands so little about the ethos of the Services for which he is politically responsible, it might be as well if he were too. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/04/11/dl1101.xml Reckon this is bloody well said..