Monday, 24 May 2010

Men of Honour

I have this impression that things are becoming undone in the aftermath of the reign of Aintworth and his mendacious cabal at MOD. Tonight, there is a BBC Panorama programme dealing with the death of a Staff Sergeant EOD specialist. His wife will be interviewed and is expected to tell her side of the story as to how her husband was treated. Christina Schmid said that Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid was “flaking” with exhaustion on the day he died because of demands being made on him and his elite team due to staff shortages. Her fears that he and other bomb disposal experts have been let down by the Army were backed by Colonel Bob Seddon, Britain’s senior bomb disposal officer, who agreed that his team was under intense pressure.

In a television documentary made by Mrs Schmid, Colonel Seddon said that he was now “very concerned” about the toll being taken on his staff.
Then, today, we have the resignation of the officer who led the Unit. Could it be that he has, in those ominous terms, 'reconsidered his position'? Was it the alternative to the locked room, tot of whisky and the Mess revolver scenario? Senior officers who slip up get to retire; senior NCOs who slip up are killed.
The Army is known for getting on with the job without too much public bitching - public because they do little but moan when by themselves. I suppose the Legionnaires on the wall in those desperate winters did the same but remained true on post. Now, it seems that the senior Army staff are quick to address their concerns to the faceless ones and the Ministers but hold back off resignation. Some had more direct ways of dealing with armchair generals but in the case of Oz, death was too quick. Mrs Schmid will say "He told her that he was drained, leading her to believe that extreme fatigue may have played a part in his death.

Reading from his letters and recalling his phone calls home, Mrs Schmid says: “He basically said it was absolutely relentless — that they weren’t getting a break at all and that the amount of IEDs that he was doing, that he was asked to do, was just overwhelming. He was flaking at that point, saying, ‘I do need a break from this. I need to step back because I need to recharge’ and I don’t feel that he necessarily had that time.” Relaxation arising from the fact that it was his last device before leave may well have caused him to miss something or his exhausted state may have undermined all his training and experience. The pitcher went to the well one last time too often.

One would not really treat animals this way without RSPCA or PETA intervening. But, our political bosses have no idea what they are doing to fellow human beings. We have just seen a high-power delegation visit Afghanistan on a fact-finding and meet the troops mission. Why they seem unable to understand their briefs in UK is beyond me and I am sure that Beck's genuine visit gave 99.99% of the troops a much better feeling. Visits such as those of Hague, Fox and another used to be described as Seagull trips. They fly in, sh*t all over everything and fly out. The new boys are in what I call the Pro Patria party.

They see that death for one's country is a glorious thing. I happen to think that one contributes more by living and doing good deeds over a longer period and wider community. The real waste of lives, money and effort in Afghanistan comes from the petulant response of Afghan personalities and media to a remark made by Fox. the Defence Secretary, diplomatically prefaced his trip to Helmand by remarking: “We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy in a broken 13th-century country “. At last, a Cabinet Minister willing to tell it like it is. However, Dr Fox’s characterisation of the country was raised at a meeting with President Karzai on Saturday. The President expressed his deep displeasure at the remarks. A senior Afghan government source said "His view appears to be that Afghanistan has not changed since the 13th century and it implies that Afghanistan is a tribal and medieval society. Despite the sacrifices of British soldiers and the massive support of the British Government we do not feel that there is a mutual respect. His remarks show a lack of trust"

Fox had to issue a smoothing explanation but avoided the opportunity to say "Damn right". He was speaking of education and we have all seen just what happens to young girls denied education and women held back. Would that someone would say "If you don't want us her - fine. We will march to the airport tomorrow to the beat of martial music with flags and standards unfurled "
But no. I suspect that Schmid was not the first to be pushed that bit too far and he was certainly not the last.

Given what the Colonel now has to say, I would have had far more respect for him had he gone out with a bomb suit on whilst personally doing something practical to remove the strain instead of most probably putting on his demob suit and forming up in front of some security company's door.

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