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Thread: Bliar in the Dock?

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    Bliar in the Dock?

    Friday, January 12, 2007

    Source: Defence News

    The discussion was hosted by West Country Live for ITV. The panel included Former Chief of the General Staff General Sir Michael Rose, former soldier Justin Smith and serving Royal Marine Brigadier Andy Salmon.

    The full transcript is as follows:

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Ö and we have been conducting an operation in Basra which has been relatively successful over these past few months that is allowing the Iraqis to take progressively Ö

    INTERVIEWER:
    So will we be deploying more or freezing the withdrawals, because there is talk of about 3,000 coming home by the spring?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well we have always been saying that once the Iraqis are capable of handling their own security in Basra then it is right that we go to a support role. Now at the moment we are doing this operation there in different conditions from Baghdad, because around about 80% of the violence in Iraq is in Baghdad and surrounding areas, and provided we continue to do that operation successfully we will be able to complete that, going back to a support role. But that will still of course give us a significant force in Basra.

    INTERVIEWER:
    But just one final point and then we will move on. Isnít this quite a significant change in our policy? We have after all been absolutely hand in hand with the Americans right from day one in this, we are now diverging from that?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    No, it is really important we donít either give that impression or have that misunderstanding. The truth is the conditions in Baghdad are different from those in Basra. The reason why the Americans are having to surge forces in Baghdad is because the security condition there is completely different. In Basra we donít have the same threat from al Queda, we donít have the same sectarian violence, not to anything like the same degree, we donít have the Sunni insurgency there. And we have been conducting an operation now for several months and this is entirely in line with the strategy we have outlined so that as the Iraqis are capable of operating their own security in Basra we can draw down, and we already have in two out of the four provinces that Britain was looking after, we have already put the Iraqis in full control of those. And in the end that is the purpose, both in Baghdad and in Basra, to put the Iraqis in control, but the situation is sufficiently serious in Baghdad that the Americans need to temporarily at least increase their troop levels.

    INTERVIEWER:
    Right, well I think it was important that we asked those questions since that was the big overnight news. But letís move on and think about our debate. First though, what about a couple of facts and figures, and indeed issues from our Defence Correspondent John Andrews on the integral role the military life plays in west country life.

    JOHN ANDREWS
    If we are talking about defence then we are talking very much about this region. The west country is home not only to large parts of the Navy, but also to the Army as well. There are 10,000 defence jobs around me here in Devonport alone, but there is a lot of uncertainty and unhappiness in the air at the moment. Let me paint you a picture of some of the numbers. There are 2,500 Navy and civilian jobs here in the Navy base, there are 4,000 crew serve on the ships and submarines based here, another 4,000 work for the dockyard company Ė DML Ė and there are 7,000 Navy people work in the two Naval air stations at Culdrose and Yeovilton. More than 4,000 Royal Marine Commandos are based around Plymouth, Barnstable, Taunton and here at the training centre at Lymstone, and there are hundreds more civilian jobs at each of those bases. There were 750 RAF personnel and 450 civilian jobs here at RAF St Morgan until the run-down prior to the baseís closure, a closure that is going to have serious repercussions for Cornwallís only main airport.

    So what are the issues that have been causing friction? Our forces obviously exist to fight, but there is a limit to what they can do and many say they are being pushed beyond that. The Commandos were the first into Afghanistan and Iraq and are back now in Afghanistan in force. Many of our local Light Infantry are now on their third tour of duty in Iraq. The Navy is patrolling the Indian Ocean, the Gulf and the Mediterranean in the war against terror, and it has been seizing tons of drugs in the Caribbean and rescuing refugees from the Tsunami and bombings in Beirut. But nearly half the fleet is currently laid up because so much of the MODís budget has been poured into Iraq and Afghanistan. Sadly the south-west has paid a heavy price for its service to the country. There have been 96 British soldiers killed in action in Iraq, 25 of them were based or brought up here.

    Families arenít just worried about the length and frequency of these dangerous deployments, there are also issues over pay and conditions and over the health and welfare back-up for their men when they return home. The discontents have led to a haemorrhaging of senior experienced people and a slowdown in recruitment. The picture that is emerging is of a military in crisis.

    PRESENTER
    So a military in crisis. General Sir Michael Rose, you commanded troops in Bosnia, you have retired now, but certainly not retiring in your views on the state of the military. But is it a crisis? That is surely pushing things too far?

    GENERAL SIR MICHAEL ROSE
    Prime Minister, when President Bush declared war on global terror in 2001 he added massively to his defence budget. Since that time the American Armyís budget has gone from $67 billion to $111 billion per year. He put his money where his mouth was, in a nutshell. You have done exactly the reverse, you have under-resourced defence, you have cut defence over that period of time, you have been trying to fight a war on two fronts, the consequences of that on training, on equipment and on the personnel aspects of the Armed Forces has been catastrophic. Whether we are in crisis or not Ö

    PRESENTER
    This is overstretch, under-funding and over-stretch?

    GENERAL SIR MICHAEL ROSE
    Absolutely, we have been under-funding our defence disgracefully and you have been trying to have your money, you are trying to have a war without paying the money that you need to pay to prosecute these wars, and the consequences of this Ö

    PRESENTER
    Letís hear from the Prime Minister.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    First of all it is not correct that we have been cutting the defence budget, we have actually been Ö

    GENERAL SIR MICHAEL ROSE
    It has gone from 2.2% of GDP down to Ö.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    If you actually add in the money that we have then put in in respect of Iraq and Afghanistan, which runs into billions of pounds, it is true it is not as much as the Americans, but we donít have the same commitments as the Americans. But actually the percentage that we spend on defence as a proportion of GDP is actually the same as ten years ago, whereas in the ten years before that it was around about halved. And incidentally in respect of defence spending we are spending about £1 billion a year extra, in the five years before we came to office it was about half a billion pounds less. Now that is not to say that there arenít real issues to do with the amount of money we need to put in for our defence for the future, there are real issues, but it is simply not correct that we have refused to fund Iraq and Afghanistan, we actually fund them specially out of the reserve and there is no request that has been made to us for resources in respect of either Iraq or Afghanistan that we have not met.

    GENERAL SIR MICHAEL ROSE
    But the infrastructure funding which went from 2.5 in the year 2001, 2.5% of our GDP was spent on defence, it is now 2.2 Ö

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Ö it is not correct if you add in the additional amount of money that we have spent on Iraq and Afghanistan, that the 2.2% that you are referring to does not include the additional sums of money that were requested specifically for those two operations. And I can simply assure you, there is no request that has been made to us for additional resources for Iraq and Afghanistan that has not been met, and indeed there will be further money, several hundreds of millions of pounds, that will be paid in this financial year as well. And I donít doubt incidentally there are real issues, and I am going to talk about some of them tomorrow, because I think there is a real point of decision for our Armed Forces and for the interaction between politics and Armed Forces going forward. But I really do not think it is right to say that we have refused to fund the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan properly.

    PRESENTER
    Well letís hear from Brigadier Andy Salmon. You have run the base here, the Marines base, obviously your men are central to the battles that we are fighting at the moment, do you have problems maintaining morale, do you find your people being stretched to the point beyond which they are trained for?

    BRIGADIER ANDY SALMON
    Well no, we are very fortunate in the Royal Marines that most people that want to join the Royal Marines want to go to places like Afghanistan. You know we have got guys who have done 32 weeks of training, and officers who do 15 months here, 16 of those young officers are currently commanding troops in Afghanistan now. And the messages and the despatches that we are getting back from theatre are all very buoyant, I mean that is what they joined up for, that is what they want to do.

    PRESENTER
    But come on, your men are stretched, what about morale?

    BRIGADIER SALMON
    I think morale is very high. I mean the dispatches that we are getting back from people like Brigadier Jerry Thomas who is commanding Three Commando Brigade out there, quote, unquote in the paper, ďyou know we have got everything that we need, we donít need any extra helicopters, all the food is there, the logistics are working well, we are making an impression on the Taleban.Ē So it seems to be slightly opposite to some of the messages that we are getting in the media.

    PRESENTER
    I wonder if I could ask Justin Smith. You are a soldier, you served, you did two terms in Iraq and you have been discharged and you suffered post traumatic stress disorder. Just tell us a bit about your story and what happened to you after you left.

    JUSTIN SMITH
    That is right. Tony Blair, you sent me to Iraq in 2003, with respect without the right kit. I had to purchase my own boots, I went out there with one pair of desert combats, I then went there in 2004/2005, obviously the kit was there, and it was there, but on return I have been diagnosed with severe post traumatic stress disorder. I have been medically discharged in August last year. I have lost my house, my security, any self-belief of getting on and getting better. I have had to fight tooth and nail with local authorities to get relocated to the west country where my wife is from and my biggest support network is. I am now living in temporary accommodation that is forcing me to go to work, rather than concentrating on meself getting better, and I want to know what the government is going to do so this gets stopped from other people suffering the same as me.

    PRESENTER
    Prime Minister, this is shameful, this should not happen, people who serve their country?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    First of all, I obviously donít know enough about the individual circumstances. I am very happy to look into them for you and to see what provision there is, because I know there is supposed to be, and I am sure there is, a lot of provision for people who are medically discharged.

    JUSTIN SMITH
    There isnít. I have had to go to the NHS, my community psychiatric nurse has gone to the NHS to try and get funding for me to go and see a private therapist, called the red poppy. The NHS have said they will pay £200 and I have to fund another £50 myself, which I canít afford and I am having to go to people like the British Legion as a proud man and get the extra funding to support me.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    As I say, look the difficulty is, because obviously I donít know enough about the circumstances, I am very happy to look into it for you and to find out both what help is available, and if you have received no help I am very sorry about that. But I know that Ö

    PRESENTER
    But Prime Minister Justinís case isnít alone. Perhaps you can tell us John Pentreath from the British Legion, about the sort of Ö

    JOHN PENTREATH
    It is not just Justin, I could give you hundreds of examples of people like Justin who are not being properly looked after by the MODís duty of care post-service. Justin is a perfect example of somebody who had to leave the Army with a mental health problem, PTSD, fell into Cornwall where he wanted to live because of his wifeís roots in Cornwall, great difficulty getting accommodation Ö NHS, and the NHS, with great respect to them, donít have a fantastic idea about what is going on in the mind of a recently discharged soldier with a serious mental health problem. That is the problem.

    PRESENTER
    Just a minute, letís hear the Prime Minister on this, because you know people serve their country and we have a duty to provide what is needed in the aftermath.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well first we do have a duty of care, and to people like Justin, but I am surprised if there has been no attempt to help people like him or people in that position at all.

    JOHN PENTREATH
    If you go back and ask your civil servants afterwards what you are doing about it, they will say combat stress, which in itself is a charity, albeit supported to an extent by the Ministry of Defence, and I think by the British Legion as well and probably other sources, but that is the answer to PTSD in this country, which is pitiful.

    PRESENTER
    Is this something you are going to look into?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Yes I will certainly look into it for you, and I will look into Justinís case specifically. It is difficult, as I say, for me to talk about individual cases but you are saying this is a general problem and I am very happy to look into it.

    PRESENTER
    We have also been out on the streets talking to people, and we have had e-mails in from people, and we went out and spoke to a couple of them. A couple of students had points on this very issue of under-resourcing, so letís just hear what they had to say to our cameras,.

    STUDENT
    Why arenít our soldiers in all countries living in better conditions than people in prison?

    STUDENT
    Mr Blair, why is the Ministry of Defence treating itself to a £2.3 billion refit when there are not enough funds to send the necessary equipment and extra men to our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq which are needed to fulfil our mission there?

    PRESENTER
    It is a bit unfortunate the timing, isnít it, £2.3 billion, I know that is if you add it all up over God knows how many years.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Yes well it is as a matter of fact. Look, there is a slight difference between the stories that continually come about issues like this and some of the facts, and I am not saying there arenít issues, because there are issues, but actually that £2.3 billion is over a 30 year period for all of the centralised MOD Ö

    PRESENTER
    But it is £250 million on the table on day one, and that Ö

    PRIME MINISTER:
    But that is in contrast to the over £40 billion that the MOD are spending on the accommodation and living standards elsewhere. I have just, or the Ministry of Defence have just announced today for example some £330 million for single living accommodation. I am not suggesting for an instant there arenít major issues to do with how we fund all these things, but I really think it isnít correct to say the MOD is putting it all into lush office suites for its civil servants rather than trying to help you know provide for our forces.

    PRESENTER
    OK, because we need to go on and talk about the future of Devonport, but just before we leave this particular subject. Linda King, your son is, wha, about to go out for his third Ö

    LINDA KING
    Yes, he has just finished a seven month tour of Iraq and he is at home at the moment, he flies out to Germany again on Saturday.

    PRESENTER
    And you speak for Military Families Against the War.

    LINDA KING
    Yes.

    PRESENTER
    And you have got a particular point.

    LINDA KING
    Yes. What I want to know Prime Minister is they should have two years between each tour of duty to give them time apparently to the briefing I went to, to get it out of their system, but he has now been told he has got six months and he is back for a third tour.

    PRESENTER
    Right, this is similar, this is people being pushed to the limit, pushed to the point to which they are trained, but maybe beyond.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well again obviously because we have been in Iraq and Afghanistan, there has been real pressure on the Armed Forces. I think the Chief of Defence Staff said the other day that they were stretched, but not stretched beyond what they could do. I hope, especially if we are able to make the force reduction in Iraq, that some of that will be eased. But there is no doubt, you know I am not hiding the fact that it is a tremendous challenge for our Armed Forces at the moment, it is also however extremely important and the work that they are doing in Basra, the work that they are doing in Afghanistan and Helmand Province is of vital importance to our security.

    PRESENTER
    And of course the TA, I mean you speak as a former TA officer, I mean those are people who find themselves on the streets of Iraq but never thought that they would as members of the TA?

    DERMOT OíDONOVAN
    Well certainly when I joined the Territorial Army, which is a long time ago, there was no question of going to Iraq or Afghanistan. We were very happy to drop everything, our families, our employment, to go and defend this country. Iraq is very different. The TA is in crisis, just as much as the regular army, not as much talked about perhaps, but maybe 10% of all the personnel serving abroad now are from the Territorial Army. Current figures say there are about 1,300 mobilisers in service, but it is very one-sided Prime Minister. They get mobilised, they get trained, they get sent to Basra, or Afghanistan, they come back, hand their rifles in and it is goodbye. They get very little back-up support, and we have already talked about PTSD. There is no pension Ö.

    PRESENTER
    Are you still in the TA?

    DERMOT OíDONOVAN
    I have retired.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    I spoke to many of those in the Territorials when I was out in Iraq recently. I have to say to you again, although I am quite sure there are a lot of issues, indeed they mentioned it to me, some of those that were serving there. Again I have to say, there is a conflict between the morale you find when you actually talk to people who are out in Iraq or Afghanistan and the report you get. And actually the employers for example I think also recognise the tremendous contribution they make, and we are looking at what additional support we give to the Territorials, but the people that I talked to out there enjoy it tremendously, find it incredibly motivating and are doing a fantastic job incidentally.

    PRESENTER
    We are going to have to move on to talk about Devonport. We have given you plenty here to go and think about when you leave. But one of the issues here is the beauty context that is taking place between Fas Lane, Portsmouth and Plymouth, the Naval bases. You have said you want to go from three to two. Now we saw in the report thousands of jobs depend upon it in this part of the country. What basis is there for that decision?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well I canít imagine doing without our Naval bases like Portsmouth or Plymouth, it is to me inconceivable. I mean what is going on at the moment is the Naval Review, which they do, and obviously whenever you are conducting a review people ask you for the conclusions of the review before you do it, and you get into this issue. But as I said in the House of Commons the other day, the Portsmouth Naval base does a fantastic job and Plymouth speaks for itself, and you spoke of the thousands of jobs that are here Ö

    PRESENTER
    Are you saying that we are going to end up with three at the end of this?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well all I am saying is I canít conceive of a situation in which you are going to do without one of your major Naval bases, but you know it is going to report in the spring of this year and I think probably the sooner we kind of put peopleís minds at rest the better. But that is not to say you wonít look for how you use them more effectively and so on, but Portsmouth and Plymouth, and indeed Fas Lane, but Portsmouth and Plymouth, which is what we are talking about down here, have played an enormous part in defending this country for years.

    PRESENTER
    Right, OK. Neil Mitchell, you talk about, you are an expert in the local economic situation, I mean how concerned are you about the state of the local economy if it were, and OK if it doesnít go, but at least it is shrunk severely, and what that does to the local economy?

    NEIL MITCHELL
    Well I think Prime Minister in many ways you have given quite a lot of reassurance there. Many of us thought it was inconceivable that we could ever survive without Devonport, but it is very good to hear it from the head of government. Plymouth traditionally, as you know, has been very supportive of the Armed Forces, but it is also developing a very dynamic new economy, it is calling itself a city with ambition, and I think one of the worries that we have is an issue of joined-up government, that the Ministry of Defence has a decision-making process that is rather sylophied (phon) if you like, and in the case of RAF St Morgan, the decision knocked the local economic strategy for six. And I think what we would like to see is that the current Naval Review integrates itself with the regional economic development strategy.

    PRESENTER
    Joined-up thinking.

    NEIL MITCHELL
    Joined-up government and indeed Ö of the Department of Transport as well.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well I think that is very sensible. But you should, have you not had any input into this issue at all?

    NEIL MITCHELL
    Well not so far, I am sure some of our colleagues have. But I think the history of MOD decision-making has tended to be focused quite legitimately upon the strategic needs of the Armed Forces, whereas we are saying that the regional economic strategy is also a strategic need.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    One of the interesting things, I mean I was at the Agusto (phon) Westland plant earlier today as well and you immediately see, particularly with modern Armed Forces and the type of equipment that they have and the type of training they get, that there is an obvious synergy with the local economy. And I think that is a perfectly fair point and sensible, but as I say you know the importance of the base in Plymouth, or indeed that in Portsmouth, is absolutely enormous, not just for the local economy actually but for the country. But I will, if you would like me to, make sure that you get, I will check out what input you are having into the review Ö.

    NEIL MITCHELL
    As a precedent Prime Minister it would be rather unusual, and very exciting, if the Naval Base Review were to be a joint document signed by both the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alistair Darling, and Des Browne, ie having a strategy for whatever conclusions it may have.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    That is an ask of a different nature I think. I will have a think about it.

    PRESENTER
    Well he is an opportunist anyway. Look tomorrow you are giving this lecture, a keynote speech about your long term vision for the future of Britainís role as a peace-keeper and a bit of a policeman for the world, which I am sure is something that we are all interested in, even if it conflicts with some of the opinions you have heard from here. But before we talk about that, we went out on the streets of north Devon, perfectly random, to hear what people said when they were asked whether they thought Britain should still have a role as a world policeman.

    MEMBER OF PUBLIC
    We have been policemen for years. I can accept that, I donít mind paying taxes to help that, but not wars, not any more, not wars. It doesnít even concern us, does it, really?

    MEMBER OF PUBLIC
    We used to be an empire, we used to have control over a lot of the world, we donít any more and I think we should accept that fact.

    MEMBER OF PUBLIC
    It is a difficult one because we have got I suppose an ethical responsibility to protect other nations and people who are under threat, but I think possibly sometimes we do go a bit far.

    PRESENTER
    That might surprise you slightly, people say yes we do still have a role but they are worried about obviously the bloodshed that goes along with it. What message are you going to be conveying to us tomorrow?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well probably on that basis not one that will be fantastically popular.

    PRESENTER
    But people accept there is an ethical role.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Look the difficulty is this. It all depends what you believe about the world that we are living in at the moment. What I think is that there is a global terrorism that we face, that September 11 should have marked a turning point in our attitude to combating and defeating it. I think it is right for Britain, alongside our allies, to be in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is a big decision to decide to be in that game still, in that business of being out and putting our forces in situations of danger and risk in a way that frankly we havenít contemplated in this country for several years.

    PRESENTER
    But do we have the hardware for it? Mike Critchley, you know all about the Navy, the Navy is shrinking rapidly before our eyes, do you believe we still have the wherewithal?

    MIKE CRITCHLEY
    Well it is a question for the Prime Minister really. Are you happy, defence has to be your number one priority, all these other demands for money must come second, are you happy that the Royal Navy in particular has enough resources to handle the current capabilities, let alone the future ones that always crop up?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well part of what I will be talking about tomorrow is the need, if we are going to have this role we are going to have increase our commitment and our resource. Now look you are probably a far greater expert in this than me, but I am told that we have got a whole set of new vessels coming on in the next few years and a very large warship building programme, one of the largest for decades, and that the maritime obligations that we saw in the video clip there are obligations that we can still fulfil. But again I would say this both in respect of equipment, in respect of things like accommodation and how we finance our Armed Forces for the future, if we are to have this role we do have to finance it properly, I accept that, but I also think if we are to have this role we need to recognise it will be in dangerous situations in countries that will be a long way from here and where there will be a perfectly understandable reluctance on the part of many of our fellow citizens to say why are we in this, why are we doing this at all?

    PRESENTER
    Let me just read this e-mail we had from Ö

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Sorry, I think this an important issue, that if this is a vital part of protecting our security we do have to understand the consequences of that. Now we have to understand it in government and also those in our Armed Forces. But of course people will come to me and say well I need more money for the National Health Service, and for education, and for local government, and for pensions.

    MIKE CRITCHLEY
    But what is the point if you canít defend our shores. We are still an island nation, we are still importing 95% of our food, our raw material, our gas, our oil by sea.

    PRESENTER
    And can I just say this, we have had an e-mail from Admiral Sandy Woodward who of course led the Task Force to the Falklands 25 years ago, believe it or not, saying by what means would the PM set about recovering the Falkland Islands should the Argentines invade again? Now that may not happen, but you know if we do want to play a world role we do have to have that capability?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well again, because one of the things you often read and therefore you ask those who are in charge of our Navy, I mean is it true, because you read well we couldnít mount such a campaign again, and they say well actually we could with the vessels that are coming on stream now are going to be of far greater capability, even though there may be fewer of them.

    MIKE CRITCHLEY
    Yes, but you are paying off ships five years ahead of their replacements arriving in the fleet. Now that is a risk, big time, and you are replacing two ships with one and issuing press releases saying this is wonderful and it is just we are living in cloud cuckoo land.

    PRESENTER
    I am terribly sorry, you are going to have to give him the answer off air because we have just about run out of our time on air, but I am sure you will be willing to stay here for a couple of minutes because that is indeed where we have to leave the debate for a moment. I am sure we will be hearing more from your keynote speech tomorrow in Plymouth. Very many thanks to everybody who has come and taken part in this debate, thanks to the people who e-mailed, Admiral Woodward and what have you, and very many thanks to you for letting us take over your base, or at least part of it for this evening, and also very many thanks to you Mr Blair for giving us your time this evening, it has been much appreciated. Lots of opinions for you to take away.INTERVIEWER:
    So will we be deploying more or freezing the withdrawals, because there is talk of about 3,000 coming home by the spring?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well we have always been saying that once the Iraqis are capable of handling their own security in Basra then it is right that we go to a support role. Now at the moment we are doing this operation there in different conditions from Baghdad, because around about 80% of the violence in Iraq is in Baghdad and surrounding areas, and provided we continue to do that operation successfully we will be able to complete that, going back to a support role. But that will still of course give us a significant force in Basra.

    INTERVIEWER:
    But just one final point and then we will move on. Isnít this quite a significant change in our policy? We have after all been absolutely hand in hand with the Americans right from day one in this, we are now diverging from that?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    No, it is really important we donít either give that impression or have that misunderstanding. The truth is the conditions in Baghdad are different from those in Basra. The reason why the Americans are having to surge forces in Baghdad is because the security condition there is completely different. In Basra we donít have the same threat from al Queda, we donít have the same sectarian violence, not to anything like the same degree, we donít have the Sunni insurgency there. And we have been conducting an operation now for several months and this is entirely in line with the strategy we have outlined so that as the Iraqis are capable of operating their own security in Basra we can draw down, and we already have in two out of the four provinces that Britain was looking after, we have already put the Iraqis in full control of those. And in the end that is the purpose, both in Baghdad and in Basra, to put the Iraqis in control, but the situation is sufficiently serious in Baghdad that the Americans need to temporarily at least increase their troop levels.

    INTERVIEWER:
    Right, well I think it was important that we asked those questions since that was the big overnight news. But letís move on and think about our debate. First though, what about a couple of facts and figures, and indeed issues from our Defence Correspondent John Andrews on the integral role the military life plays in west country life.

    JOHN ANDREWS
    If we are talking about defence then we are talking very much about this region. The west country is home not only to large parts of the Navy, but also to the Army as well. There are 10,000 defence jobs around me here in Devonport alone, but there is a lot of uncertainty and unhappiness in the air at the moment. Let me paint you a picture of some of the numbers. There are 2,500 Navy and civilian jobs here in the Navy base, there are 4,000 crew serve on the ships and submarines based here, another 4,000 work for the dockyard company Ė DML Ė and there are 7,000 Navy people work in the two Naval air stations at Culdrose and Yeovilton. More than 4,000 Royal Marine Commandos are based around Plymouth, Barnstable, Taunton and here at the training centre at Lymstone, and there are hundreds more civilian jobs at each of those bases. There were 750 RAF personnel and 450 civilian jobs here at RAF St Morgan until the run-down prior to the baseís closure, a closure that is going to have serious repercussions for Cornwallís only main airport.

    So what are the issues that have been causing friction? Our forces obviously exist to fight, but there is a limit to what they can do and many say they are being pushed beyond that. The Commandos were the first into Afghanistan and Iraq and are back now in Afghanistan in force. Many of our local Light Infantry are now on their third tour of duty in Iraq. The Navy is patrolling the Indian Ocean, the Gulf and the Mediterranean in the war against terror, and it has been seizing tons of drugs in the Caribbean and rescuing refugees from the Tsunami and bombings in Beirut. But nearly half the fleet is currently laid up because so much of the MODís budget has been poured into Iraq and Afghanistan. Sadly the south-west has paid a heavy price for its service to the country. There have been 96 British soldiers killed in action in Iraq, 25 of them were based or brought up here.

    Families arenít just worried about the length and frequency of these dangerous deployments, there are also issues over pay and conditions and over the health and welfare back-up for their men when they return home. The discontents have led to a haemorrhaging of senior experienced people and a slowdown in recruitment. The picture that is emerging is of a military in crisis.

    PRESENTER
    So a military in crisis. General Sir Michael Rose, you commanded troops in Bosnia, you have retired now, but certainly not retiring in your views on the state of the military. But is it a crisis? That is surely pushing things too far?

    GENERAL SIR MICHAEL ROSE
    Prime Minister, when President Bush declared war on global terror in 2001 he added massively to his defence budget. Since that time the American Armyís budget has gone from $67 billion to $111 billion per year. He put his money where his mouth was, in a nutshell. You have done exactly the reverse, you have under-resourced defence, you have cut defence over that period of time, you have been trying to fight a war on two fronts, the consequences of that on training, on equipment and on the personnel aspects of the Armed Forces has been catastrophic. Whether we are in crisis or not Ö

    PRESENTER
    This is overstretch, under-funding and over-stretch?

    GENERAL SIR MICHAEL ROSE
    Absolutely, we have been under-funding our defence disgracefully and you have been trying to have your money, you are trying to have a war without paying the money that you need to pay to prosecute these wars, and the consequences of this Ö

    PRESENTER
    Letís hear from the Prime Minister.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    First of all it is not correct that we have been cutting the defence budget, we have actually been Ö

    GENERAL SIR MICHAEL ROSE
    It has gone from 2.2% of GDP down to Ö.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    If you actually add in the money that we have then put in in respect of Iraq and Afghanistan, which runs into billions of pounds, it is true it is not as much as the Americans, but we donít have the same commitments as the Americans. But actually the percentage that we spend on defence as a proportion of GDP is actually the same as ten years ago, whereas in the ten years before that it was around about halved. And incidentally in respect of defence spending we are spending about £1 billion a year extra, in the five years before we came to office it was about half a billion pounds less. Now that is not to say that there arenít real issues to do with the amount of money we need to put in for our defence for the future, there are real issues, but it is simply not correct that we have refused to fund Iraq and Afghanistan, we actually fund them specially out of the reserve and there is no request that has been made to us for resources in respect of either Iraq or Afghanistan that we have not met.

    GENERAL SIR MICHAEL ROSE
    But the infrastructure funding which went from 2.5 in the year 2001, 2.5% of our GDP was spent on defence, it is now 2.2 Ö

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Ö it is not correct if you add in the additional amount of money that we have spent on Iraq and Afghanistan, that the 2.2% that you are referring to does not include the additional sums of money that were requested specifically for those two operations. And I can simply assure you, there is no request that has been made to us for additional resources for Iraq and Afghanistan that has not been met, and indeed there will be further money, several hundreds of millions of pounds, that will be paid in this financial year as well. And I donít doubt incidentally there are real issues, and I am going to talk about some of them tomorrow, because I think there is a real point of decision for our Armed Forces and for the interaction between politics and Armed Forces going forward. But I really do not think it is right to say that we have refused to fund the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan properly.

    PRESENTER
    Well letís hear from Brigadier Andy Salmon. You have run the base here, the Marines base, obviously your men are central to the battles that we are fighting at the moment, do you have problems maintaining morale, do you find your people being stretched to the point beyond which they are trained for?

    BRIGADIER ANDY SALMON
    Well no, we are very fortunate in the Royal Marines that most people that want to join the Royal Marines want to go to places like Afghanistan. You know we have got guys who have done 32 weeks of training, and officers who do 15 months here, 16 of those young officers are currently commanding troops in Afghanistan now. And the messages and the despatches that we are getting back from theatre are all very buoyant, I mean that is what they joined up for, that is what they want to do.

    PRESENTER
    But come on, your men are stretched, what about morale?

    BRIGADIER SALMON
    I think morale is very high. I mean the dispatches that we are getting back from people like Brigadier Jerry Thomas who is commanding Three Commando Brigade out there, quote, unquote in the paper, ďyou know we have got everything that we need, we donít need any extra helicopters, all the food is there, the logistics are working well, we are making an impression on the Taleban.Ē So it seems to be slightly opposite to some of the messages that we are getting in the media.

    PRESENTER
    I wonder if I could ask Justin Smith. You are a soldier, you served, you did two terms in Iraq and you have been discharged and you suffered post traumatic stress disorder. Just tell us a bit about your story and what happened to you after you left.

    JUSTIN SMITH
    That is right. Tony Blair, you sent me to Iraq in 2003, with respect without the right kit. I had to purchase my own boots, I went out there with one pair of desert combats, I then went there in 2004/2005, obviously the kit was there, and it was there, but on return I have been diagnosed with severe post traumatic stress disorder. I have been medically discharged in August last year. I have lost my house, my security, any self-belief of getting on and getting better. I have had to fight tooth and nail with local authorities to get relocated to the west country where my wife is from and my biggest support network is. I am now living in temporary accommodation that is forcing me to go to work, rather than concentrating on meself getting better, and I want to know what the government is going to do so this gets stopped from other people suffering the same as me.

    PRESENTER
    Prime Minister, this is shameful, this should not happen, people who serve their country?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    First of all, I obviously donít know enough about the individual circumstances. I am very happy to look into them for you and to see what provision there is, because I know there is supposed to be, and I am sure there is, a lot of provision for people who are medically discharged.

    JUSTIN SMITH
    There isnít. I have had to go to the NHS, my community psychiatric nurse has gone to the NHS to try and get funding for me to go and see a private therapist, called the red poppy. The NHS have said they will pay £200 and I have to fund another £50 myself, which I canít afford and I am having to go to people like the British Legion as a proud man and get the extra funding to support me.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    As I say, look the difficulty is, because obviously I donít know enough about the circumstances, I am very happy to look into it for you and to find out both what help is available, and if you have received no help I am very sorry about that. But I know that Ö

    PRESENTER
    But Prime Minister Justinís case isnít alone. Perhaps you can tell us John Pentreath from the British Legion, about the sort of Ö

    JOHN PENTREATH
    It is not just Justin, I could give you hundreds of examples of people like Justin who are not being properly looked after by the MODís duty of care post-service. Justin is a perfect example of somebody who had to leave the Army with a mental health problem, PTSD, fell into Cornwall where he wanted to live because of his wifeís roots in Cornwall, great difficulty getting accommodation Ö NHS, and the NHS, with great respect to them, donít have a fantastic idea about what is going on in the mind of a recently discharged soldier with a serious mental health problem. That is the problem.

    PRESENTER
    Just a minute, letís hear the Prime Minister on this, because you know people serve their country and we have a duty to provide what is needed in the aftermath.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well first we do have a duty of care, and to people like Justin, but I am surprised if there has been no attempt to help people like him or people in that position at all.

    JOHN PENTREATH
    If you go back and ask your civil servants afterwards what you are doing about it, they will say combat stress, which in itself is a charity, albeit supported to an extent by the Ministry of Defence, and I think by the British Legion as well and probably other sources, but that is the answer to PTSD in this country, which is pitiful.

    PRESENTER
    Is this something you are going to look into?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Yes I will certainly look into it for you, and I will look into Justinís case specifically. It is difficult, as I say, for me to talk about individual cases but you are saying this is a general problem and I am very happy to look into it.

    PRESENTER
    We have also been out on the streets talking to people, and we have had e-mails in from people, and we went out and spoke to a couple of them. A couple of students had points on this very issue of under-resourcing, so letís just hear what they had to say to our cameras,.

    STUDENT
    Why arenít our soldiers in all countries living in better conditions than people in prison?

    STUDENT
    Mr Blair, why is the Ministry of Defence treating itself to a £2.3 billion refit when there are not enough funds to send the necessary equipment and extra men to our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq which are needed to fulfil our mission there?

    PRESENTER
    It is a bit unfortunate the timing, isnít it, £2.3 billion, I know that is if you add it all up over God knows how many years.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Yes well it is as a matter of fact. Look, there is a slight difference between the stories that continually come about issues like this and some of the facts, and I am not saying there arenít issues, because there are issues, but actually that £2.3 billion is over a 30 year period for all of the centralised MOD Ö

    PRESENTER
    But it is £250 million on the table on day one, and that Ö

    PRIME MINISTER:
    But that is in contrast to the over £40 billion that the MOD are spending on the accommodation and living standards elsewhere. I have just, or the Ministry of Defence have just announced today for example some £330 million for single living accommodation. I am not suggesting for an instant there arenít major issues to do with how we fund all these things, but I really think it isnít correct to say the MOD is putting it all into lush office suites for its civil servants rather than trying to help you know provide for our forces.

    PRESENTER
    OK, because we need to go on and talk about the future of Devonport, but just before we leave this particular subject. Linda King, your son is, wha, about to go out for his third Ö

    LINDA KING
    Yes, he has just finished a seven month tour of Iraq and he is at home at the moment, he flies out to Germany again on Saturday.

    PRESENTER
    And you speak for Military Families Against the War.

    LINDA KING
    Yes.

    PRESENTER
    And you have got a particular point.

    LINDA KING
    Yes. What I want to know Prime Minister is they should have two years between each tour of duty to give them time apparently to the briefing I went to, to get it out of their system, but he has now been told he has got six months and he is back for a third tour.

    PRESENTER
    Right, this is similar, this is people being pushed to the limit, pushed to the point to which they are trained, but maybe beyond.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well again obviously because we have been in Iraq and Afghanistan, there has been real pressure on the Armed Forces. I think the Chief of Defence Staff said the other day that they were stretched, but not stretched beyond what they could do. I hope, especially if we are able to make the force reduction in Iraq, that some of that will be eased. But there is no doubt, you know I am not hiding the fact that it is a tremendous challenge for our Armed Forces at the moment, it is also however extremely important and the work that they are doing in Basra, the work that they are doing in Afghanistan and Helmand Province is of vital importance to our security.

    PRESENTER
    And of course the TA, I mean you speak as a former TA officer, I mean those are people who find themselves on the streets of Iraq but never thought that they would as members of the TA?

    DERMOT OíDONOVAN
    Well certainly when I joined the Territorial Army, which is a long time ago, there was no question of going to Iraq or Afghanistan. We were very happy to drop everything, our families, our employment, to go and defend this country. Iraq is very different. The TA is in crisis, just as much as the regular army, not as much talked about perhaps, but maybe 10% of all the personnel serving abroad now are from the Territorial Army. Current figures say there are about 1,300 mobilisers in service, but it is very one-sided Prime Minister. They get mobilised, they get trained, they get sent to Basra, or Afghanistan, they come back, hand their rifles in and it is goodbye. They get very little back-up support, and we have already talked about PTSD. There is no pension Ö.

    PRESENTER
    Are you still in the TA?

    DERMOT OíDONOVAN
    I have retired.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    I spoke to many of those in the Territorials when I was out in Iraq recently. I have to say to you again, although I am quite sure there are a lot of issues, indeed they mentioned it to me, some of those that were serving there. Again I have to say, there is a conflict between the morale you find when you actually talk to people who are out in Iraq or Afghanistan and the report you get. And actually the employers for example I think also recognise the tremendous contribution they make, and we are looking at what additional support we give to the Territorials, but the people that I talked to out there enjoy it tremendously, find it incredibly motivating and are doing a fantastic job incidentally.

    PRESENTER
    We are going to have to move on to talk about Devonport. We have given you plenty here to go and think about when you leave. But one of the issues here is the beauty context that is taking place between Fas Lane, Portsmouth and Plymouth, the Naval bases. You have said you want to go from three to two. Now we saw in the report thousands of jobs depend upon it in this part of the country. What basis is there for that decision?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well I canít imagine doing without our Naval bases like Portsmouth or Plymouth, it is to me inconceivable. I mean what is going on at the moment is the Naval Review, which they do, and obviously whenever you are conducting a review people ask you for the conclusions of the review before you do it, and you get into this issue. But as I said in the House of Commons the other day, the Portsmouth Naval base does a fantastic job and Plymouth speaks for itself, and you spoke of the thousands of jobs that are here Ö

    PRESENTER
    Are you saying that we are going to end up with three at the end of this?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well all I am saying is I canít conceive of a situation in which you are going to do without one of your major Naval bases, but you know it is going to report in the spring of this year and I think probably the sooner we kind of put peopleís minds at rest the better. But that is not to say you wonít look for how you use them more effectively and so on, but Portsmouth and Plymouth, and indeed Fas Lane, but Portsmouth and Plymouth, which is what we are talking about down here, have played an enormous part in defending this country for years.

    PRESENTER
    Right, OK. Neil Mitchell, you talk about, you are an expert in the local economic situation, I mean how concerned are you about the state of the local economy if it were, and OK if it doesnít go, but at least it is shrunk severely, and what that does to the local economy?

    NEIL MITCHELL
    Well I think Prime Minister in many ways you have given quite a lot of reassurance there. Many of us thought it was inconceivable that we could ever survive without Devonport, but it is very good to hear it from the head of government. Plymouth traditionally, as you know, has been very supportive of the Armed Forces, but it is also developing a very dynamic new economy, it is calling itself a city with ambition, and I think one of the worries that we have is an issue of joined-up government, that the Ministry of Defence has a decision-making process that is rather sylophied (phon) if you like, and in the case of RAF St Morgan, the decision knocked the local economic strategy for six. And I think what we would like to see is that the current Naval Review integrates itself with the regional economic development strategy.

    PRESENTER
    Joined-up thinking.

    NEIL MITCHELL
    Joined-up government and indeed Ö of the Department of Transport as well.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well I think that is very sensible. But you should, have you not had any input into this issue at all?

    NEIL MITCHELL
    Well not so far, I am sure some of our colleagues have. But I think the history of MOD decision-making has tended to be focused quite legitimately upon the strategic needs of the Armed Forces, whereas we are saying that the regional economic strategy is also a strategic need.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    One of the interesting things, I mean I was at the Agusto (phon) Westland plant earlier today as well and you immediately see, particularly with modern Armed Forces and the type of equipment that they have and the type of training they get, that there is an obvious synergy with the local economy. And I think that is a perfectly fair point and sensible, but as I say you know the importance of the base in Plymouth, or indeed that in Portsmouth, is absolutely enormous, not just for the local economy actually but for the country. But I will, if you would like me to, make sure that you get, I will check out what input you are having into the review Ö.

    NEIL MITCHELL
    As a precedent Prime Minister it would be rather unusual, and very exciting, if the Naval Base Review were to be a joint document signed by both the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alistair Darling, and Des Browne, ie having a strategy for whatever conclusions it may have.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    That is an ask of a different nature I think. I will have a think about it.

    PRESENTER
    Well he is an opportunist anyway. Look tomorrow you are giving this lecture, a keynote speech about your long term vision for the future of Britainís role as a peace-keeper and a bit of a policeman for the world, which I am sure is something that we are all interested in, even if it conflicts with some of the opinions you have heard from here. But before we talk about that, we went out on the streets of north Devon, perfectly random, to hear what people said when they were asked whether they thought Britain should still have a role as a world policeman.

    MEMBER OF PUBLIC
    We have been policemen for years. I can accept that, I donít mind paying taxes to help that, but not wars, not any more, not wars. It doesnít even concern us, does it, really?

    MEMBER OF PUBLIC
    We used to be an empire, we used to have control over a lot of the world, we donít any more and I think we should accept that fact.

    MEMBER OF PUBLIC
    It is a difficult one because we have got I suppose an ethical responsibility to protect other nations and people who are under threat, but I think possibly sometimes we do go a bit far.

    PRESENTER
    That might surprise you slightly, people say yes we do still have a role but they are worried about obviously the bloodshed that goes along with it. What message are you going to be conveying to us tomorrow?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well probably on that basis not one that will be fantastically popular.

    PRESENTER
    But people accept there is an ethical role.

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Look the difficulty is this. It all depends what you believe about the world that we are living in at the moment. What I think is that there is a global terrorism that we face, that September 11 should have marked a turning point in our attitude to combating and defeating it. I think it is right for Britain, alongside our allies, to be in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is a big decision to decide to be in that game still, in that business of being out and putting our forces in situations of danger and risk in a way that frankly we havenít contemplated in this country for several years.

    PRESENTER
    But do we have the hardware for it? Mike Critchley, you know all about the Navy, the Navy is shrinking rapidly before our eyes, do you believe we still have the wherewithal?

    MIKE CRITCHLEY
    Well it is a question for the Prime Minister really. Are you happy, defence has to be your number one priority, all these other demands for money must come second, are you happy that the Royal Navy in particular has enough resources to handle the current capabilities, let alone the future ones that always crop up?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well part of what I will be talking about tomorrow is the need, if we are going to have this role we are going to have increase our commitment and our resource. Now look you are probably a far greater expert in this than me, but I am told that we have got a whole set of new vessels coming on in the next few years and a very large warship building programme, one of the largest for decades, and that the maritime obligations that we saw in the video clip there are obligations that we can still fulfil. But again I would say this both in respect of equipment, in respect of things like accommodation and how we finance our Armed Forces for the future, if we are to have this role we do have to finance it properly, I accept that, but I also think if we are to have this role we need to recognise it will be in dangerous situations in countries that will be a long way from here and where there will be a perfectly understandable reluctance on the part of many of our fellow citizens to say why are we in this, why are we doing this at all?

    PRESENTER
    Let me just read this e-mail we had from Ö

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Sorry, I think this an important issue, that if this is a vital part of protecting our security we do have to understand the consequences of that. Now we have to understand it in government and also those in our Armed Forces. But of course people will come to me and say well I need more money for the National Health Service, and for education, and for local government, and for pensions.

    MIKE CRITCHLEY
    But what is the point if you canít defend our shores. We are still an island nation, we are still importing 95% of our food, our raw material, our gas, our oil by sea.

    PRESENTER
    And can I just say this, we have had an e-mail from Admiral Sandy Woodward who of course led the Task Force to the Falklands 25 years ago, believe it or not, saying by what means would the PM set about recovering the Falkland Islands should the Argentines invade again? Now that may not happen, but you know if we do want to play a world role we do have to have that capability?

    PRIME MINISTER:
    Well again, because one of the things you often read and therefore you ask those who are in charge of our Navy, I mean is it true, because you read well we couldnít mount such a campaign again, and they say well actually we could with the vessels that are coming on stream now are going to be of far greater capability, even though there may be fewer of them.

    MIKE CRITCHLEY
    Yes, but you are paying off ships five years ahead of their replacements arriving in the fleet. Now that is a risk, big time, and you are replacing two ships with one and issuing press releases saying this is wonderful and it is just we are living in cloud cuckoo land.

    PRESENTER
    I am terribly sorry, you are going to have to give him the answer off air because we have just about run out of our time on air, but I am sure you will be willing to stay here for a couple of minutes because that is indeed where we have to leave the debate for a moment. I am sure we will be hearing more from your keynote speech tomorrow in Plymouth. Very many thanks to everybody who has come and taken part in this debate, thanks to the people who e-mailed, Admiral Woodward and what have you, and very many thanks to you for letting us take over your base, or at least part of it for this evening, and also very many thanks to you Mr Blair for giving us your time this evening, it has been much appreciated. Lots of opinions for you to take away.

    http://www.modoracle.com/?page=http:...l.h2f?id=12410
    Bliar is ever so charming!


    "Some have learnt many Tricks of sly Evasion, Instead of Truth they use Equivocation, And eke it out with mental Reservation, Which is to good Men an Abomination."

    I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.

    HAKUNA MATATA

  2. #2
    Military Professional Ray's Avatar
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    What do the Britishers and British officers make out of this?

    There are rather important issues in what Bliar has taken on and one wonders if he has set the right course.


    "Some have learnt many Tricks of sly Evasion, Instead of Truth they use Equivocation, And eke it out with mental Reservation, Which is to good Men an Abomination."

    I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.

    HAKUNA MATATA

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    well, i am not british nor am i a military professional, but it does not take one to see that the presenter himself is baldly showing his own bias against the PM! he tries to elicit answers to fit his judgment, and that is hardly fair.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  4. #4
    Military Professional Ray's Avatar
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    Bliar isn't one of the most popular chaps even within his own political party!

    I am not British though a military professional and I feel Bliar has sunk the British prestige amongst the Commonwealth nations real low.

    He was a hugely popular person and was thought to be a man with a vision when he first came on the PM scene amongst the Commonwealth.

    Hope you have read the comments by the others.

    It does indicate how thing tick over in Blighty!
    Last edited by Ray; 12 Jan 07, at 21:02.


    "Some have learnt many Tricks of sly Evasion, Instead of Truth they use Equivocation, And eke it out with mental Reservation, Which is to good Men an Abomination."

    I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.

    HAKUNA MATATA

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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    well, i am not british nor am i a military professional, but it does not take one to see that the presenter himself is baldly showing his own bias against the PM! he tries to elicit answers to fit his judgment, and that is hardly fair.
    The Prime Minister is a lame duck leader who is not believed even by many in his own party, but he is adept at squirming around like a barrel load of eels. It is important to any interviewer to try to get the subject to answer questions, but Mr B. Liar will use his lawyers 'skills' to avoid doing so and at the same time try to appear helpful. If you can pull that trick off convincingly enough you can lead YOUR country too!
    Semper in excretum. Solum profunda variat.

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    Will read and properly respond when properly sober!! lol
    Nemo Me Impune Lacessit - Scottish Motto

    "They that approve a private opinion, call it opinion; but they that dislike it, heresy; and yet heresy signifies no more than private opinionĒ Thomas Hobbes - Leviathan


  7. #7
    Military Professional Ray's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glyn View Post
    The Prime Minister is a lame duck leader who is not believed even by many in his own party, but he is adept at squirming around like a barrel load of eels. It is important to any interviewer to try to get the subject to answer questions, but Mr B. Liar will use his lawyers 'skills' to avoid doing so and at the same time try to appear helpful. If you can pull that trick off convincingly enough you can lead YOUR country too!
    So well put!

    As convincing as any lawyer!


    "Some have learnt many Tricks of sly Evasion, Instead of Truth they use Equivocation, And eke it out with mental Reservation, Which is to good Men an Abomination."

    I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.

    HAKUNA MATATA

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    As Glyn says Blair's problem is that he is a lame-duck. Rallying to his flag is committing your political career to the past. Because of this his options are limited.

    Iraq has always been devisive - the one constant that is in people minds is Blair's position. WIthin Labour this can also have a massive influence on who will be the next PM and this will be all played out in the next few months. Brown is not the shoo in he once was. Perhaps this is Blair's intention.

    Hence on one of the big issues of the day, the Prime Minister is increasingly isolated not by policy but by who he is.

    In ultimate terms, Blair is still a world statesman, he is still a fine communicator. And yes he is extremely slippery. But plain speaking politicians nowadays just put their feet in their mouths at some point.

    The interesting thing is that his legacy with be the cheap "Bliar" references. It won't be the work he has done on third world debt for example. The "dodgy dossier" etc will overshadow the fact that the man probably most singly responsible for encouraging as many Muslim countries to at least not come out against the US post 9/11 was probably Blair and his world tour.

  9. #9
    Military Professional Ray's Avatar
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    The way Bliar is handling the military is shocking.

    I was surprised to learn, as one would see in this interview, that soldiers have to pay for their medical care! What is adding insult to injury is that they have to buy their own boots!

    In India, not only the soldiers, but their families and also the parents are treated by the military medical organisation and if specialist care (not available in the military hospitals) then civil specialist hospitals are made use of.

    My own CO had his knees changed at the military's expense in the US!

    And inspite of such uncaring treatment by the British government, it is to the credit of the British military that they soldier on and with great grit and stoic accept the rigours of active combat in areas like Afghanistan and Iraq!

    Hats off to the British military men!

    Bliar is hardly a world statesman. His sound bites are fine, but there is no follow up. Its all gas and no go. He remains exposed as a blithering puffer fish!

    He can to nothing on his own. He requires Bush's say so or a 'Yo Bliar!' Always hanging on to Bush's coat tails!

    A total let down!
    Last edited by Ray; 13 Jan 07, at 05:45.


    "Some have learnt many Tricks of sly Evasion, Instead of Truth they use Equivocation, And eke it out with mental Reservation, Which is to good Men an Abomination."

    I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.

    HAKUNA MATATA

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray View Post
    The way Bliar is handling the military is shocking.

    I was surprised to learn, as one would see in this interview, that soldiers have to pay for their medical care! What is adding insult to injury is that they have to buy their own boots!

    In India, not only the soldiers, but their families and also the parents are treated by the military medical organisation and if specialist care (not available in the military hospitals) then civil specialist hospitals are made use of.

    My own CO had his knees changed at the military's expense in the US!

    And inspite of such uncaring treatment by the British government, it is to the credit of the British military that they soldier on and with great grit and stoic accept the rigours of active combat in areas like Afghanistan and Iraq!

    Hats off to the British military men!

    Bliar is hardly a world statesman. His sound bites are fine, but there is no follow up. Its all gas and no go. He remains exposed as a blithering puffer fish!

    He can to nothing on his own. He requires Bush's say so or a 'Yo Bliar!' Always hanging on to Bush's coat tails!

    A total let down!
    You could argue that every nation in the coalition is hanging on to Bush's coat tails. Mostly the nations are simply window dressing to prevent it being US vs Islam. The bulk of the forces are US and the other nation's forces are unlikely to operate unilaterally.

    The "buying boots" thing i first heard of three years ago. At the time it was because some squaddies were unhappy with their issued boots rather than having to buy them or go without. The fact he trotted it without revealing that and, despite admitting that on his next deployment his kit was there .....

    And whilst i completely support our troops. For three years now i am sick of hearing from families of squaddies who apparently joined up not realising that war is dangerous, hard and takes you away from your family. Unless they believe that the British Armed Forces should retreat periodically so everyone can have a nice rest, or they believe there should be conscription so the professional soldiers can have a nice rest then really i hate to say it but "Welcome to the army".

    How can you say there is no follow-up? Britain is currently fighting on two land fronts. Domestic issues? Walk past any school in Britain and they are all either new, or have new extensions.

  11. #11
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    [QUOTE=Trooth;327964]

    Domestic issues? Walk past any school in Britain and they are all either new, or have new extensions.

    In the Labour heartlands (mostly the big cities) this is undoubtedly so. However if you live in the rural areas then that is most certainly not the case.
    Semper in excretum. Solum profunda variat.

  12. #12
    Military Professional Ray's Avatar
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    I do not deny that all countries are doing what the US is directing or should I say, dictating, if you wish!

    However, Bliar makes it a point to make a song and dance about it and is like a fawning courtier every time he visits Bush. One can be a partner, but one should do it with dignity and decorum.

    Indeed , the military is a dangerous and is not a Butler's Holiday Camp. To state that those who joined it are not aware of the danger is doing disservice to the brave and loyal citizens, who are also soldiers. As far as families whining, that happens everywhere.

    Follow up? Could you amplify? I have not understood. If you are meaning follow up of medical ailments/ injury, then I wonder what follow up it is where the serviceman has to pay for his medical treatment!

    If you mean that Britain is fighting two land wars and yet he has followed up with spanking new schools etc, who asked Blair to show off and get into two wars when he he did not have money to fight even one and then sacrifice his troops for spanking new schools? Don't you think he should have bitten only that much he could chew? It is a lame excuse that because Britain is partnering two wars, the troops should suffer! No excuse, at all! Total sellout by Blair for personal glory! You can either have schools or wars if your money is running short!

    One cannot fight wars and also have a spankingly new country! Some aspects have to give way if one embarks on a war! Can't have your cake and eat it too!
    Last edited by Ray; 13 Jan 07, at 16:40.


    "Some have learnt many Tricks of sly Evasion, Instead of Truth they use Equivocation, And eke it out with mental Reservation, Which is to good Men an Abomination."

    I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray View Post
    Indeed , the military is a dangerous and is not a Butler's Holiday Camp. To state that those who joined it are not aware of the danger is doing disservice to the brave and loyal citizens, who are also soldiers. As far as families whining, that happens everywhere.
    Indeed, and my comment was badly worded. The families have been whining and the family member in the interview you posted is continuing to whine.

    Follow up? Could you amplify? I have not understood. If you are meaning follow up of medical ailments/ injury, then I wonder what follow up it is where the serviceman has to pay for his medical treatment!
    He said he was going to look into it as he felt there were programmes in place to cover it. We are too distant to know the outcome either way.

    If you mean that Britain is fighting two land wars and yet he has followed up with spanking new schools etc, who asked Blair to show off and get into two wars when he he did not have money to fight even one and then sacrifice his troops for spanking new schools? Don't you think he should have bitten only that much he could chew? It is a lame excuse that because Britain is partnering two wars, the troops should suffer! No excuse, at all! Total sellout by Blair for personal glory! You can either have schools or wars if your money is running short!
    Regarding follow up. You posted a very general comment about no follow up and i gave you two examples, one abroad, that Britain is following up the ant-terrorist rhetoric by fighting two land wars and one domestic, i.e. the rebuilding of a lot of schools following rhetoric about iimproving education. If you would care to repost your follow up comment into something specific i will try to be similarly focussed in my reply.

    One cannot fight wars and also have a spankingly new country! Some aspects have to give way if one embarks on a war! Can't have your cake and eat it too!
    Tony Blair has been PM for over ten years and has done more than just Iraq and Afghanistan, see my comment above.

  14. #14
    Military Professional Ray's Avatar
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    Tony Bliar may have done things for Britain earlier. but now he is a washout.

    The politicians, the world over, don't know when to leave the limelight of power!

    A man who started so brilliantly once is now a person who has brought himself to a sorry state where everyone wants him to go.


    "Some have learnt many Tricks of sly Evasion, Instead of Truth they use Equivocation, And eke it out with mental Reservation, Which is to good Men an Abomination."

    I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.

    HAKUNA MATATA

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray View Post
    Tony Bliar may have done things for Britain earlier. but now he is a washout.
    Perhaps, but that wasn't the tone i inferred from your post - that you were only referring to current events

    The politicians, the world over, don't know when to leave the limelight of power!
    Couldn't agree more. but then you know what they say, the type of person who seeks office is the exact kind of person that should be prevented from attaining it!

    A man who started so brilliantly once is now a person who has brought himself to a sorry state where everyone wants him to go.
    The only leaders who don't have a lame duck period are those who lose an election. Or i guess die in power, something fortunately very rare in British politics.

    I completely agree, as i have posted elsewhere, that Blair's time has gone. Interestingly, he created his own lame-duck period and has dragged it out far too long.

    The shame for him is that he has achieved quite a few things. And even if you don't agree with them all, they are still achievements to get your policy through. I didn't agree with a lot of things in Thatcher's era, but she still achieved a lot of what she set out.

    Blair's legacy will forever be tied up with Iraq. Not third world debt, nor education, or even that he not only modernised his party, but the project did such a job that now the Tories have try to claim Labour colours just to gain traction. Recently Cameron claimed that the Tories were the party of the worker, not big business interests!

    How times have changed.

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