Sunday, 5 September 2010

Afghanistan, Dannatt and Honesty

A British soldier from the Royal Scots Borders, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, has been killed in an explosion if Afghanistan. He was serving as part of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force when killed by a last on Nad-e Ali District of Helmand.

This soldier was killed by a Rocket Propelled Grenade.

Another soldier, from the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, has died in the UK from injuries sustained in Afghanistan.

Now we have 333 of our military personnel killed in this war and 88 of those died this year. That doesn't mean the deaths of those in previous years are any less important but it does show the so-called strategy is non-existent as I've said before. Politicians are winging this war in the hope that all their lies, repeated on a daily basis, will be believed by their electorate. If oil wasn't connected with this country, and others in the middle east, we would never have been present.

As for the revelations in Sir Richard Dannatt's book, I'm angry - nay furious. If he felt that Blair and Brown weren't treating our armed services well then - after doing his upmost to improve the situation - he should have resigned. That would have been the biggest statement anyone in a position of power, be it military or political, could have made. Yet he continued in the post. Of course we know why, because he would have lost his extremely handsome pension if he hadn't hung on until his retiral. If he truly believed his men and women were being compromised then he should have spoken out. Told the truth. But he didn't.

That's part of the problem with the heirarchy of the military. Most of our armed forces work for far less than they would receive in a Civvie Street job, yet they're aware they are entitled to a reasonable pension, if they enlist long-term, upon retirement. If they resign then the pension is radically reduced.

That doesn't happen in the 'public' sector does it? Seems within councils if you're hopeless at a job then they'll pay you a fortune to get rid of you.

That apart, would Dannatt's resignation on a point of principle saved lives? Who knows - only those at the front line know the truth and I doubt many of them will be writing books which will be promoted in the MSM. Sometimes it's better to stick to the modern saying: Either put up or shut up. That can save lives.


Joe Public said...

The problem for the Military, is they always have to carry out the wishes of their political masters.

Unforunately, Dannatt had a successive pair of arseholes as his masters.

subrosa said...

Yes he did Joe, but he could have stood down if he was so affected by their behaviour. His pension wouldn't have been too badly affected.

Joe Public said...

A better respone (for all) would have been for Dannat to publicly recommend 1st Blair, then Brown, spend two weeks in Afghanistan visiting all the 'front-line' outposts. Travelling by Snatch Landrover.

Pity the unfortunate drivers though.

subrosa said...

Dannatt ought to have resigned if he felt so strongly Joe or stayed impartial rather than putting himself with the Tories. They've proved to be just another Labour bunch.

Anonymous said...

I’m the first one, as you know, to lay into Blair and Brown for the unspeakable crimes they have committed a propos the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I’ve always made it clear that I am a pacifist. I can’t for the life of me understand what men are doing trying to kill each other as if this was 1020 instead of 2010.

That said, if the ridiculous UK government feels that it has to punch above its weight in these supra-national wars; if it must send it’s young men to engage in mediaeval warfare in order that its government’s top people can strut around in the shadow of the US president, and take a chair at the top table of the UN Security Council, regardless of their lack of any qualification to be there, then the very least that these bumped up buffoons should be doing is ensuring that the troops have the best possible equipment to carry out the job and the very best possible leadership, who will ensure that this equipment is provided.

As usual in this tin pot country with its pretend Empire mindset, we do that kind of thing on the cheap. Oh they spare no cash when the state opening of parliament is held or Trooping the Colour. No amount of cash is too much for a royal wedding or funeral. And Gordon Brown couldn’t get a passenger jet to Tokyo; Oh no no. He had to have a private jet, just like Mr Obama’s (but smaller) all the way from Texas too!.

But when it comes to the nasty dirty stuff on the ground, this pile of cowardly scumbags are happy to accept second best for the men. They are mainly working class lads so why would the government give a damn. All the time these ministers hide behind the khaki; our boys this and our boys that, and if it’s not one of them off to Afghanistan for a photo-op with these brave lads it’s another. Brown even gave us a lecture about how we should treat the lads.... Astonishing. The man has more front than Rothsay.

When they come back blown to pieces we don’t even have a hospital for them. They have to take their chances with the second rate health care meted out by the NHS. And god knows that’s none too reliable.

They are often dependent on charity. Indeed Blair’s contribution to the British Legion is said to be destined for such a unit. It begs the question why the government which is happy to send them there and take the Kudos for punching above our weight, couldn’t provide special hospitals and recuperation centres over the island. Too dear...even in the good times.

I’ve asked before why it is that the generals who are in charge say very little until they have retired and secured their pension and the book advances. Jock Stirrup was at it only a few years ago, and now Richard Dannet. (He wrote that book pretty sharpish didn’t he?) And it’s always the same thing. I couldn’t get them to stump up the money; they were scary big guys who were important. I was frit.

They were heads of the armed forces for god’s sake. If a Nokia throwing mental job scared them they were sure going to be pissing themselves if they ever encountered bin Laden.

A resignation would have shaken the country. “I will not be party to sending troops under my command to war dangerously ill equipped. Goodbye”, would have sufficed.

How these people can sleep at night, I have no idea.

Anonymous said...

Sorry that was so long.... I got carried away!

subrosa said...

Tris, I really appreciate your comment and pleased you too think the military brass should resign if they feel lives were lost due to politicians.

Let's face it, people like Dannatt won't be short of a job - and a wee paid one at that.

Surreptitious Evil said...

I'm confused. and I'm about to go off on one, so please feel free to ignore this rant.

"Of course we know why, because he would have lost his extremely handsome pension if he hadn't hung on until his retiral."


"His pension wouldn't have been too badly affected."

Which of these do you believe? The latter - from your comment rather than your post - is, of course, the closest to the true state of affairs. Gen Dannatt had 35 years of service when he took over as CGS in 2006. Officers on APFS75 can claim a maximum of 34 years reckonable service. Therefore, the only change to his pension would be which year's pay levels (not "representative pay", 'cause he's above 1*) would be used for his pension calculations.

It is difficult to understand but the Heads of the Armed Services owe a duty not just to the troops under their command but explicitly to the elected government of this country. It says so in their commission.

We might not like Blair and Brown but the former was thrice elected and the latter legally Prime Minister under our constitutional settlement. This duty is why, despite some fairly forthright political views, I am not a member of any political party - I think it would be inappropriate while I remain actively serving. The closer you rise to the scum at the top, the more you need to advise and hold your peace. That is one of the penalties you pay for a government service position in our (theoretically apolitical) civil or uniformed service.

Dannatt, a cerebral officer and a committed Christian, was one of the most outspoken senior officers we have had for years (and, even going back to the Falklands, Lewin was advising Maggie that Nott knew nothing, not going public about it). Compare him with Gen Jackson - a "soldier's General" in command and pretty meek (as far as we saw) when CGS. Although he put the knife in in his autobiography too.

Let's face it - the military will never be equipped with "the best" - there will always be something newer, shinier or more expensive that we could have. Lives will be lost - some of these will be down to politician's decisions, some to military tactics, some even and unfortunately, down to friendly fire. Should a general resign every time a life is lost because of a mistake or a bad decision? And who and how many?

Oh - and we think the military were treated badly under New Labour - we can just watch out for it. The country is broken and the MoD will have to bear its share of the pain. Hopefully, this will come with the reductions in commitments necessary to make it balance but I'm not going to be holding my breath.

And, yes, the scandal of charities being required to provide basic recuperation and resettlement services for injured soldiers is disgusting. I've got in to a few rows about that with "the military brass" - I think t is appalling that "Help for Heroes" needs to exist, for example.

DaveF said...

As I recall, Dannatt made a great deal of noise about the criminal under-resourcing and penny-pinching during the Labour administration. It made the headlines and evidently drew down a great deal of bile from the neo-communists in power at the time. So what would his resignation have achieved? The consequence would be that his name and the issues he raised would have sunk into obscurity down the sink of public memory, and some MoD yes-man or communist apparatchik would have been appointed in his stead. Perhaps it says more about Dannat's character that he stayed on to wrestle with these issues - rather than to duck out..

Anonymous said...

I don’t know how military pensions work SE, and I imagine that you do. You also seem to know the characters of the senior officers much better than I could hope to, and therefore I bow to your greater wisdom in these matters. However, a few observations, if I may.

In final salary pensions in civilian life, the longer you stay, the greater your pension.

I read somewhere recently in a blog discussion about Dr David Kelly that public servants can have their pensions removed or reduced at the order of a government minister. That may or may not be true.

I realise that the convention of many years is that generals do what the government (duly elected as you point out) [albeit by what in most countries would be considered a corrupt system] tells them, regardless of how stupid and misbegotten it might be. And for very good reason too...the alternative is military coup d’├ętat. But these generals went along with a government, or more probably just one man, determined to keep up with the most powerful man on Earth for the sake of his “legacy”, but unprepared to pay for it. He sent ill equipped young men to a war that history and common sense should tell them they would and will never win.

Of course, as you say, there will always be new shiny toys and, even if we cut all the tra la la at home and raised taxes to breaking point, we couldn’t afford them all...but it would have been nice if the lads had had boots, and communications that worked, or food that was half way rivalling the food that the American or French troops had. It would have been quite nice too for them to have armoured vehicles in a place where suicide bombing and roadside bombs were a daily event.

I know we are getting in to the realms of a rich country’s equipment here, but helicopters would have been a good thing to have.

I still think a resignation would have been appropriate. But even with the pension (and the K firmly under the best, there is still teh hope that a seat in the House of Lords will be available to them. (The sooner that that becomes an impossibility the better!)

I write all this with respect to your obvious superior knowledge of the situation. But as Joe on the street, that it the way it seems.

Mr Dannet’s book will remain on the shelf. I wonder if he is donating the profits quietly (unlike Mr Blair’s very public and much feted donation) to a military charity in order to make some amends for the fact that he let this happen.

strapworld said...


The real coward was Jackson, Dannet's predecessor. At least Dannet DID speak out whilst in the job, but then his links with the Conservative Party were published and the Labour government laid into him.

Jackson said nowt! Kept quiet when he knew the full extent of the lack of equipment, helicopters etc. Said nowt and did nowt until he retired then opened his mouth. He was the person who deserved the white feathers!

That said. Resignations do nothing. They are of the moment and are soon forgotten. If he had resigned he would have been painted as a malcontent a man who had lost it! a man who was giving a totally incorrect picture and they would have wheeled out the current Chief of the SArmed services Jock Stirrup or whatever and that man of straw would have given the governments line strength.

Sorry, Subrosa, but a resignation would not have helped our chaps at all.

It is ever the same. Lions led by donkeys!

Surreptitious Evil said...

Just re your observations ...

Yes, military pensions do also count the number of years you do - the difference being (although the one final salary civvy scheme I am in also has a maximum amount so this may not be as much of a difference as you might think) that there is a limit on the number of years you count. APFS75, it is a maximum 34 years from age 21 for officers and 37 from age 18 for NCOs.

Yes, the SoS can order your pension forfeited or reduced (I don't know the precise APFS75 rules but the rules for the new APFS05 are available) - treason; 10 years for official secrets act offences;

"convicted of an offence in connection with the service that qualifies the member to belong to the Scheme which the Secretary of State considers to have been gravely injurious to the defence, security or other interests of the State, "

or owing HMG money (in which case they are limited to recovery.) It isn't quite whim and, in all cases, a court or court martial conviction is required. Similar criteria apply to civil service and police pensions - remember the fuss about Ali Dizaei's pension? He can't lose all of it, because it is more overtly contributory.

I'm not claiming that UK Forces are brilliantly equipped. As I think I've said here before, I have not yet used a pair of combat boots (temperate or desert) that I haven't bought myself. The helicopters situation is well briefed elsewhere. CVR(T) replacement is overdue. Don't talk to me about Bowman ...

However, much of the blame has to be placed with the "Defence Industrial Strategy" and fawning over BAe and its predecessors. Oh, and compo isn't that bad ... See here.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your reply. The food looks...erm interesting. I understand that the Americans have kindly shared some of their much better rations with the lads they were working with, out of pity for them. I admit of course it was ever thus. The odium of Blair’s government is nothing new. It would seem we have always involved ourselves in conflicts that we couldn’t afford. Fur coat and no knickers is a term that could easily be applied to Britain.

Thanks for your explanation of the pensions too. I was wondering if we couldn’t have Hoon or Browne, or Brown or Blair on treason. God knows all this foreign adventuring so that they can play at being Winston Churchill to George Bush’s Roosevelt has put our country at risk.

Off with their heads I say.

Strapworld: Do you not think that a series of resignations would have been an embarrassment to whichever idiot was playing Prime Minister at the time... at least in front of the Americans? I mean none of them gives a toss what the British public thinks, but they would hate to be embarrassed in front of the President.

Surreptitious Evil said...

I think the rations thing goes in circles a bit - I certainly remember 'obtaining' Arctic rat-packs in the early 80s because they were so much more modern than the standard compo. And tastes in food change: as does the modern requirement for (pandering too?) halal, kosher, vegetarian, vegan and, I suspect, breatharian packs (although the latter could be a real problem on the Brecon Beacons).

Remember the "Meals Rejected by Ethiopians" slurs the US troops heaped on the MREs on issue during Granby / Desert Shield / Storm? They actually preferred UK Compo (!) and we were certainly happy for any variety.

There is quite a lot of economics research available into why you cannot make long-term storage food too good. "Shrinkage" is, I believe the polite term.

I know the two things that were said about the US rations being superior were the tabasco sauce (now adopted by us too) and not having to use hexi-fuel cookers (they have chemical heating packs). In my experience, the latter is often managed by Jetboil stoves or small diesel cookers. Private purchase, again, of course ...

subrosa said...

SE I wrote a lengthy reply to your first comment and it's disappeared. Will respond later if you don't mind.

Surreptitious Evil said...

Oh, no problem. I get mild chills every time I see the "comment too large to handle" error message - especially when you've had to research it a bit :)

subrosa said...

Back now SE. I won't reiterate my first reply because I can't remember half of it - which means half of it was irrelevant to the issue. :)

What I will say is that many military serve at salaries far below those they would receive in Civvie Street. They know they will receive a pension which will more or less equalise the discrepancies so they willingly serve their 'signed' time. You're correct, their pension is calculated on time served and the SoS can reduce it or ensure it's forfeited under special circumstances.

One wee thing Blair did was the straw which broke the camel's back for those families who had sons/daughters serving in Iraq. He did away with the limited free parcel service so every family who sent their loved ones a parcel once or twice a month had to pay standard rates. The cost of sending a pair of desert boots from the UK to Iraq was £9.21p and they could be required every couple of months. The catering people do their very best to provide good food in such circumstances but sometimes it's good to get some treats from home. The average treat box then cost £7. Small money yes, but for some families it was the difference between a good meal and a bad one.

Some day Dannatt protested long and hard when in office. His problem was he allowed his politician allegiances to be know while he was in office. For that reason I think he should have resigned because then he didn't hold the confidence of all the troops. Some also say he wasn't so effective in his role and I would agree with that. In my time I've watched a few in action and usually it's a certain type who are elevated to the positions of having a plush office and staff car.

subrosa said...

Strapworld, once he affiliated himself with the tories, while he was still in office, that nulified his comments. He should then have resigned.

Of course our military have political allegiances but most are very sensible to keep them to themselves. Any with any sense would not even join a political party until they were out of the services.

subrosa said...

Dave, I didn't mind in the least that Dannatt shouted about supplies etc., even though many disagreed with the hardware he wanted, but I did protest at him suddenly attaching himself to the tories. That's where the harm was done. That's when he ought to have stepped down.

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