This country prides itself on the prowess and bravery of its Armed Forces. Paradoxically these same brave men and women who make up the Armed Services in this country are often forgotten and, nearly always, taken for granted by society. They are most certainly used and abused by the very people who employ them and pay their wages.
What other country would prosecute soldiers for carrying out their orders? What other country would put their service personnel in a position where they can be shot at but cannot return fire themselves because diplomacy dictates that to do so would breach International Law? It is a totally crazy situation and one which has been going on for years. I remember that I was in such a position nearly fifty years ago, as a young serviceman, not long out of training, and put in a combat role. I carried a rifle and a full magazine of ammunition plus a whistle and a cue-card. The breech was taped up so that I could not insert the magazine and if memory serves, so was the magazine.
I was on guard duty in a foreign land and protocol dictated that I challenge anyone whom I believed to pose a threat to me and the premises I was guarding. It went something like this: “Halt, who goes there?” Repeated three times. As a last resort, if my verbal challenge failed to work, I was to give three long blast on my whistle and if this didn’t frighten away the perceived threat or break their eardrums, my immediate superior would telephone Command, make them aware of the situation and await instruction. Meanwhile I was left wondering wether to give a fourth blast on my whistle or throw the damn thing at my antagonist(s)! To some this might raise a giggle but, I can assure you, as a young man just getting to grips with the lethal effect of a razor in inexperienced hands, this situation was truly terrifying.
Whitehall would probably justify this scenario by saying that when they relaxed the stringent Rules of Engagement, Service personnel went too far, hence the “Bloody Sunday” incident and other, so called, mis-use of force. I would argue that in that and similar situations, the Armed Forces are asked to deploy when Law and Order has broken down and not only are they tasked with operating as service personnel in a theatre of war but also as emergency services. When deployed in areas of civil unrest they are there as a last resort. When fired upon they have the right to fire back, whether that be over the heads of the people firing at them or, ‘return fire’ which would be an informed decision taken on the ground. These decisions would be made having taken the safety of civilians and service personnel into consideration.
Thanks to Mr Blair, with support from various leaders of the Tory Party, when in Opposition, our Armed services have been deployed in Iraq, and Afghanistan where they have had to fight using sub-standard equipment against an enemy that has no morals and who are indoctrinated to fight to die. Not only that but they have also had to fight a sometimes hostile domestic press and a High Command to whom politics comes before the job of a professional soldier.
It took the actions of the population of a Wiltshire Village to change attitudes in this country concerning the plight of our soldiers. The residents of Wooten Bassett regularly lined the High Street to pay their respects to the dead service personnel as they were transported from the military airfield and through the village en route to their final resting place.
Compare that to the lot of the American Service Personnel. After the debacle of Vietnam, service men and women of the US Armed Forces are all treated as heroes. Even the reports of prisoner abuse at Parwan Detention Facility on the Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan has not cooled the feeling of pride in their Armed Forces. Unlike us Brits, the Americans are not casting one twitchy eye over their shoulders to see if anyone is scrutinising what they are doing. They care not a jot about criticism of the away they carry out their job, as far as they are concerned, they are doing a good job and have a “whatever it takes” approach to completing the task in hand. Something we British used to have, something which helped to create the biggest Empire the World had ever seen. Something we should be proud of and not something we should be apologising for.
It is my opinion that because we have a government of apologists, (on both sides of the House) that we treat our Service men and women in such an appalling way. We have sent them to foreign lands to risk their lives for dubious reasons. The “War on Terror” being one of the more difficult to swallow because the countries which contain the terror bases are left alone. They come home and the government sack them! Men and women who thought to make a career out of the Services find themselves on the scrapheap, jobless and with grossly reduced service pension entitlement.
Camoron and Osborne are forever spouting on about being “in it together”, they have not got a clue. Watch and listen to this link, this is being “in it together” Mr Cameron.
I am guilty of being critical of the American military, call it inter military rivalry, call it what you will but, I admire their stoicism in the face of adversity. This useless POTUS and the peanut farmer aside they have always managed to come through. Our Prime Minister can puff out his pigeon chest and huff and puff all he wants but the World knows it is only bluster. He has cut our defence capability to the bone, I doubt we could defend ourselves against Corsica let alone Crimea!
It is time to be proud to be British. Forget Salmond and his yearning for Scottish independence. We are stronger together, our Armed Forces are stronger together. We have a proud history, let’s not give it away on the grounds of austerity. Our Armed Forces have supported us and we need to support them, we need to show this government that we want a strong Armed Service. Don’t be fooled by the MOD and its “fit for purpose” slogan. An army of reservists will never be as fit for purpose as a professional, fully trained and fully equipped regular army. (I include the RAF and The RN). I refer you to the old adage, ‘you can talk a good fight, until someone whacks you in the nose!’ That is the true test of being ‘fit for purpose’.