Friday, October 13, 2006

Army Chief ''our presence in Iraq exacerbates attacks''

UPDATE: What do soldiers think? Read their forums...

Dad's ex-Churchwarden, Sir Richard Dannett, the Chief of Staff, Head of the Army, can be heard on Radio 4's Today programme this morning, ( click to listen) and read in today's Daily Mail saying our presence in Iraq is making the situation ''worse'', our presence ''exacerbates'' the situation and the welcome of 2003 ''has largely turned into opposition and hostility. ''In some parts of the country, the fact that we are there causes people to attack us,'' he said on the radio, though he specified that this was ''not right across the country.''

Meanwhile the Mail interview reports him saying ''The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in. Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance."

"That is a fact. I don’t say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them."

''I think history will show that the planning for what happened after the initial successful war fighting phase was poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning," he said.
"The original intention was that we put in place a liberal democracy that was an exemplar for the region, was pro West and might have a beneficial effect on the balance within the Middle East."

"That was the hope, whether that was a sensible or naïve hope history will judge. I don’t think we are going to do that. I think we should aim for a lower ambition."

Dad is very proud of Sir Richard and his principles, ''I know his Christian faith his still central to his life'', says Dad, ''What precipitated his outspoken comments? His belief in justice and truth, his pastoral concern for his soldiers, his horror at the waste of life and the waste of resources on a mission that was ill conceived and lost any direction it had? Limited objectives and lower ambitions are all that can be salvaged from this debacle, is what he is telling us. The underlying issue is what in truth and conscience can we as nation and he as an army general commit to when the consequences of such a foreign policy which is undermining our self esteem as a nation committed to decency, truth and justice. Richard, as a conventional Christian knows that we are in danger of losing our self respect and his Christian faith addresses that when part of that self respect is tested against what he might believe God is calling him to do in his witness to truth and justice''


The fairly astonishing interview with Sir Richard comes hot on the heels of the study in the Lancet, (widely reported yesterday) which estimates that 650,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion in 2003 - 2.5% of the population.
"We estimate that almost 655,000 people -- 2.5 per cent of the population -- have died in Iraq," the authors of the study conclude. "Although such death rates might be common in times of war, the combination of long duration and tens of millions of people affected has made this the deadliest international conflict of the 21st century."

U.S. President George W. Bush dismissed the report. "The methodology is pretty well discredited," he said yesterday. Similarly, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters: "These numbers are exaggerated and not precise.

Meanwhile Iraq Body Count puts the number of civilian deaths at between 43,937 and 48,783.


A few comments particularly jumped out at me from the radio interview.
One, how he saw his opinion as '' not being newsworthy'', ( meaning, not uncommon amongst serving soldiers), how ''our destiny is not entirely our own'', with regard to ''our American allies'' and his comment about how he wanted there still to be an army in five, ten years time - ''let's not break it, here'', he said.

Also, a comment about Iraq's natural resources.'' For goodness sake, they're sitting on the second-largest remaining supply of oil in the world, if they [the Iraqi people] can't make a go of that country, I mean, Afghanistan's a different issue, but if Iraq can't make a go of it, with our help, over three...four...five years - we really have got a job on our hands.'' The oil, he mentions, is of course, at the heart of all of this. And the US administration's pathetic wriggles on the subject of oil, their words belied by their actions, is one of the reasons for the anger and antagonism towards the mission of Sir Richard's men.

It's a a sad, I think, devastating interview, an honest man's account of failure of a war, and his personal anxieties about what he calls the ''Islamist'' threat. Sir Richard's faith is clearly a key aspect of his character. "Our society has always been embedded in Christian values; once you have pulled the anchor up there is a danger that our society moves with the prevailing wind."
"There is an element of the moral compass spinning. I think it is up to society to realise that is the situation we are in."
"We can’t wish the Islamist challenge to our society away and I believe that the army both in Iraq and Afghanistan and probably wherever we go next, is fighting the foreign dimension of the challenge to our accepted way of life."
"We need to face up to the Islamist threat, to those who act in the name of Islam and in a perverted way try to impose Islam by force on societies that do not wish it."
"It is said that we live in a post Christian society. I think that is a great shame. The broader Judaic-Christian tradition has underpinned British society. It underpins the British army."

General Dannatt says he has "more optimism" that "we can get it right in Afghanistan," in the Mail. He also talked about Darfur possibly being the next battleground on Today.


Whether you are a Christian or not, and I'm not, I agree with him about common values and preserving them in the face of threats and attacks from a minority nihilistic extremist death-cult which attacks wearing the clothes of a venerable world religion. Values like the right to vote and have a democratic, accountable government, the right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, women being treated equally to men, access to good education, healthcare, justice, fair trials, no inprisonment without charge...you don't have to be Judaeo-Christian to value them.

But it is very hard to talk of ''values'' and ''decency'' when we as a country and as a military force are now so associated with winking at torture, with lies, with hundreds of thousands of deaths, with failure and with stinking hypocrisy. Sir Richard is not a hypocrite. But the man he reports into is, and that man's lies, his hypocrisies, his craven buddying up to a dangerous right-wing US administration has put lives at risk all over the world, here and abroad, and Sir Richard, and his soldiers are paying and have paid, a terrible price for it, as are hundreds of thousands of others.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Antipholus Papps said...

Losing our national 'self-respect'? That line almost made me laugh. I'm absolutely disgusted with this country. Complacent bovine corporate slaves, happy to relinquish every last one of our rights and freedoms to a man who lied to us in order to wage aggressive war. We are no better than the Germans who enabled Hitler.

October 13, 2006 1:46 pm  
Blogger Emily said...

Meanwhile my 19 year old sister int he Royal Military Police carries on mopping out body parts out of snatch landrovers in Basra. Her ex boyfriend was the youngest ever para (18) to enter the theatre of war and was engaged in the second Gulf War. He has just returned from 3 para in Helmland at the grand old age of 21. Our close family friend has just entered Helmland as a marine in place of 3 para.

They get on with it. It is their job. But the majority of the armed forces believes the situation is hopeless and their fellow soldiers are dying needlessly because of poor equipment, inadequate back up and lack of supplies.

Waiting for a family member to return is a nightmare. All I can say is that I am pleased that at last the tide of opinion has changed in the press. Suddenly they are behind the armed forces and supporting them. Campaigns such as no tax when out of the country and fighting are long overdue.

As for Blair's idea that we will leave when the mission is substantially done, well, that is never going to happen in the short term from what I hear from Basra.

October 13, 2006 5:50 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having heard his Dannetts whole Radio 4 Today interview Friday morning in the car, I was impressed by his openness, his sensible non-partisan answers, and his reasoned, considered 'honest soldier, views.
Since then, I've heard other commentators say the same of him - sadly some then went to use his words to bash him, or bash Tony Blair, or the Western world in general...
(find it hard to not laugh at ridiculous comments like the one above suggesting parallels between Hitler and Blair).
What was interesting, is that Dansett said that in some regions, just being there means that our troops are attacked.
Most of the killing in Iraq is now muslim against muslim. I've even read reports that in some areas, women are being attacked and even killed just for going to work - or for not covering up 100% - > the hard liners.
It is becoming impossible now to face the reality now that there is a violent face to islam, that is appearing all over the place (sudan...).
And personally having googled and wikipediaed and read a lot more in the last 6 months about Islam, it seems to me clear that this violence is because of the violence that Muhammed himself encourages in the Koran.
Where you can read that husbands are entitled to beat there wives; where Mohammed himself took part in the slaying of hundreds of surrendered Jews.
Mohammed, unlike Jesus or Budha, was a military, political leader - the expansion of Islam that he started off was a military one.
The Koran is explicit that the world should become Islamic, and that the choice to be offered to the non-muslim is: convert, or accept 2nd-class Dhimmi status, or be killed.

I was pleased that a debate about the nature of the Islam violence problem is coming about - and Dannetts comments were good - he rightly hints that the UN/world will need soldiers next to intervene in Darfur - where Muslims are killing muslims

observer from Kent UK

October 14, 2006 11:54 pm  
Anonymous Athena said...

You fail to point out that the Iraqi Body Counts keeps track of deaths reported in the media only. So it is misleading when their figures are used. Since the Lancet has done extensive research on the deaths in Iraq - this is the second study that I am aware of - I'm not quite sure why the Iraqi Body Count still even exists. It may have been somewhat helpful when no actual research inside Iraq had been done, but now it is just quoted by deceitful politicians and those with an agenda to play down the true horrific number of deaths. It is absolutely hyterical to still hear people ranting on about Islamists and Muslim extremists when WE are responsible for the biggest massacre in the Middle-East RIGHT NOW. WE are the goddamn extremists here, as we - along with the US - always have been.

October 16, 2006 10:40 am  

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