Friday, 9 April 2010

Strangers in the Night

"A top US special forces commander visited a family in rural Afghanistan yesterday to plead for forgiveness after finally admitting that his troops killed five innocent people in a botched raid, which, Afghan officials said, the soldiers then tried to cover up." Along with the Boss were "almost 30 Afghan officers led by Major-General Abdul Khaliq, the 203 Corps commander" The end result was a foregone conclusion for those familar with the Afghan ethos "When people come to your gate and ask forgiveness, according to Afghan law, it's difficult to reject them," Haji Sharabuddin said later. "I am happy they came" But the family insists that it still wants justice.
Full marks to the Times for being one of the groups pressing for a truthful answer to what happened that night. We now know what happened. To my mind, equally important is knowing who did these things. The Americans very markedly did not identify the identity of the Special Forces and have always skirted around this point. Turns out that there was an Afghan contingent at the forgiveness meeting with a very senior officer there as well. His presence could hardly have been as a religious adviser or some such; to be involved at all would go against the male macho of his upbringing.

Unless - unless- it was his men who did the killing and - if the story about bullets being dug out of the dead are true - perpetrated the maltreatment of the dead. If this question of positive identification is not resolved, all of the Forces engaged in the conflict stand accused of murder and defilement.

There is a very interesting video - in Dutch - that shows a operation by Special Forces in Iraq. It is quite clear that amongst the raiding party were local forces and they played an important part in the search and handling procedures in the compound but were working under the direction of Europeans. We cannot rule out UK involvement - ""Britain's special forces — the SAS and Special Boat Service (SBS) — already come under General McChrystal's overall control as Commander of Isaf. The SAS and SBS operate in Isaf's Regional Command South, which is commanded by a Briton, Major General Nick Carter." - but I would assume that the crow-eating Admiral would have insisted Brit officers be there to share his shame and discomfort. That leaves Afghans as the prime forces in what happened. There is at least one other such incident that shows what happens when US and Afghan forces act in concert on such raids. It seems that any movement towards a compound will attract a firm response. Night time is when the Taliban enforce their intimidation activity and the occupants will use firearms without much 'think first and shoot later' considerations. One would like to think that any Afghans involved in the raid would be aware of this and clearlt identify themselves in advance. If they were not fired upon, their Rules of Engagement as insisted upon by General McCrystal, would bar their going in with guns blazing. So, the incident veers towards totally irresponsible behaviour rather than a mere mistake in the heat of a (non-existent) battle.

The effect of such conduct must never be under-estimated. I am just reading the latest update on Bloody Sunday; Afghans are just as capable of creating Instant Historically True Facts as those of the Green Latrine.

Well done the Times and their colleagues but this is not yet over. There must be full disclosure of who did exactly what. Who planned the operation, who on the ground supervised it and who did the shooting and, if it occurred, carried out the removal of used rounds from bodies of the deceased. Until such time as we and the locals know this, all of our Forces will be seen as legitimate targets for retribution. And that is neither just, fair or acceptable.

Poor old Johnny

"At his appearance before the Home Affairs Committee in March, (MP) Mr Jones ordered an inquiry into the veterans' payments, specifically naming the solicitors Howe & Co – part of Lumley's campaign team – as a firm which should face questions.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has set up a free advice centre in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, and "unscrupulous middlemen" were charging fees which were needless, the minister said.

Mr Jones was later forced to issue an "unreserved apology" to Lumley and the inquiry carried out at the behest of the minister by the Legal Services Commission (LSC) has now cleared Howe & Co. In a letter to the firm, the LSC said it had "found no evidence" of malpractice and "we trust that this satisfactory [sic] concludes the matter."

Gordon Brown was also involved in the controversy, offering his own personal apology to Lumley in a telephone call. The Independent has learnt that this was directly linked to a meeting the Prime Minister had held with three members of the Gurkha campaign – Joanna Lumley, Peter Carroll and Martin Howe, from the solicitors' firm – at Downing Street in May 2009.

During the meeting, the Prime Minister requested and obtained a promise from them not to be vocal on the issue, while in return he would ensure that changes they had demanded to the Bill allowing Gurkhas to settle in the UK would pass into law.

The Independent has also seen documents which show that a senior MoD official, Margaret Gilmour, was aware of allegations that the Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemens Organisation (Gaeso) had charged for advice on settlement three years ago.

In an email dated 4 September 2007, she wrote to Howe & Co to say that the matter had been raised with Gaeso whose "response was that they had every right to charge for their services and they saw nothing wrong in taking on such cases if people came to them."

However, in a statement yesterday the MoD said that Gaeso had denied charging fees at a public meeting where Ms Gilmour was present. "In 2007 MoD officials asked Gaeso to respond to a number of accusations. However, these accusations were strongly denied by the organisation during a public meeting and the MoD recognises that Gaeso is a legitimate ex-service organisation," the statement said.

A spokesman added that officials had visited Nepal over a number of years "to use trustworthy sources for information on immigration".
I have lived and worked with Gurkha troops and fully recognise all the attributes that have been written and said about them. They are incredibly loyal to their officers who are themselves - in general terms - amongst the best that our Army produces. That said, they do live and serve in what may be considered as directly related to the life style of their Nation. They take little from the customs of any country where they may be living or serving on a short-term basis.

The publicity as to the plight in which the older Guirkha may find themselves is widespread thanks to the actions of Saint Jo. And quite right too - she demonstrates the values inherited from her Gurkha-leading father.

Because of this, I can understand the point the link makes that it could be that the Government (they one we had just past and not any incoming change) is making it difficult for aged Gurkhas to come here and settle. They may already have younger relatives here; I know of a number who have done well both in assimilating our ways of life and in busines. But that is the point - they have changed and are not the full shilling of the people they were. We rightly abhor the policies of zoos that bring animals to this country and then exhibit them in truly inappropriate and miserable conditions. Bringing older Gurkhas here is - IMHO of course - exhibiting exactly the same lack of understanding and compassion.

If the problem is merely that their pension is inappropriate - then by all means solve that. They have earned more than our money. The British Army used to make considerable effort in the recruiting process in Nepal and could show more of that ability in better access to medical and social care. In Nepal. Not here where these old men would have to contest with all the other incomers and indigenous who demand special treatment and attention.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Dulce et Decorum is die

A "pervasive and resilient culture of pessimism" about the Afghan war back home in Britain is severely undermining troops on the front line, a senior army officer serving in Helmand has warned.

The negativity is hindering an “objective analysis of the campaign” and falsely painting an alarmist and defeatist picture, he says. The sight of crowds turning out to see the return of soldiers’ bodies at Wootton Bassett has become a feature of the Afghan conflict.

There is frustration in the military that there is a lack of appreciation back home about what UK forces are achieving about what UK forces are achieving at great personal risk and in extremely tough circumstances, Lieutenant Colonel Matt Bazeley told The Independent.

I would be happy to count myself in amongst those with an alarmist and defeatist attitude. It is not yet an offence to apply reason and consideration to a situation and that is what I seek to do in the face of the permanently sunny, bright and uplifting Good News dished out by the Services media specialists. It is Good News Week - By Order. I accepted over 22 years of it whilst serving and was often in a position during that time to know exactly what had happened and how that was presented by the spin-masters.

The Army marshals it's chosen supporters " Young soldiers serving in some of the most dangerous parts of Helmand talk often of the reactions to the war back home. No 1 Company the Coldstream Guards have had five soldiers killed – including the latest member of the British forces to die, Guardsman Michael Sweeney, last week – and 35 injured, while operating in Babaji.

Guardsman Ross Caddy, 18, said: “I think we are doing some good. The Afghans are taking over security more, it’s their country. I don’t think anyone likes to see a foreign army in their country. But I don’t think people back home really know what’s going on here.”

Drummer Lance Mawson, 20, from Leicester and also of No 1 Company, said: “It’s been a very tough tour and pretty hard to see guys you know and work with becoming casualties. We like to think we are doing the right thing and this is worth it. It would be pretty bad if we lose the support of people back home, all you can do is hope that doesn’t happen.”

Lt Col Bazeley said there was ample evidence of public support for the soldiers: “It is humbling to see the quite extraordinary level of support we receive from the British people, but there is clearly less enthusiasm to sustain a demanding and costly military campaign.

Soldiers do as they are told - or else. My interruptions are never aimed at the rank and file - how could they be? They do as they are told and are conditioned even to accept that they will be required to lay down their lives and fill out that blank cheque that went towards the now abandoned Covenant. But, it is conditioning that makes them do it.

Imagine oneself freshly reporting at a training depot still damp-eyed at separation from girl-friend/wife and kids and family for just a few weeks and the first thing one is told is "You have a very good chance of being killed or severely disabled in the next eight months" Do you think many would stay for a second night in barracks?

Listen to what the Officer tells us "Support is subtly different from sympathy and I sense on occasions the two are conflated in the Public Mind. We do not want sympathy; sympathy is for losers and we are not losing. We are soldiers, we know the risks, we know what we are doing and why we are here... We face the challenge with informed and considered determination but we want to be drawing on a National strength and resolve to underpin our efforts and not just our morale"

Well - if they were not conditioned at the depot, they are being fired up in Afghanistan. Look at all the appeals to the pride - the warrior class. Scorn for losers. Facing challenges. A fine combination of Churchillian oratory and the In Which We Serve school of 1939-45 war films. Henry V at Agincourt could not have done better. Reference is made to the threat from terrorism. "Failure in Afghanistan will leave a security black hole from which extremeism on a large scale will emerge" is forecast. So, what if we achieve a win in Afghanistan (whatever a win constitutes) who can say that the forward march of militant Islam will not spring out from some other Islamic homeland? Any mention that much of the progress gained by the blood of our troops may well be abandoned by a deceitful UK or US government seeking peace at any price or that the forces we leave in charge are not overthrown within a few months. There is the example of the claimed resolution in Iraq which is already being blown apart. The Northern Ireland solution was to be the end of wanton death there.

A postcript - "A British soldier on foot patrol in Southern Afghanistan was killed by an explosion yesterday, the Ministry of Defence said. The soldier, from 3 Bn The Rifles, was killed after the blast in the Kajaki area of Helmand" RIP and a parade will follow. What a wasted life.

No room at the Inn

There is a thing going around inviting people to tell Boy Dave what they think he should do about the question of what appears to be the personal opinion of one of his Shadow Ministers regarding homosexuals and boarding houses. I copy it here so all know what it invites - no link for reasons I hope will become clear.
Allowing certain business-owners to discriminate based on sexual orientations opens the door to discrimination based on religion, race, country of origin and anything else.
It seems it stems from a situation some while back when the owner of a B & B denied accommodation to a couple of homosexuals. He based his objections upon an abhorrence of their life style. The same set of circumstances were repeated
A gay couple were turned away from a Berkshire guest house by the owner who said it was "against her convictions" for two men to share a bed. Michael Black and John Morgan, from Brampton, Cambridgeshire, had booked a double room at the Swiss B&B, Terry's Lane, in Cookham, for Friday night. When they arrived Susanne Wilkinson refused to let them stay.

She admitted she did turn the couple away because it was against her policy to accommodate same sex couples. The couple have now reported the matter to Thames Valley Police.

Under the Equality Act 2006 it is illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds of sexual orientation."
So, here we have a woman who objects on the basis of her religious beliefs. For the purposes of these scribblings, let us assume that this is a totally genuine reason and not used as a cover for plain old outright homophobia. What is, therefore, being sought is support for the position that she must be denied her Christian values and beliefs. Is that in itself not just some other form of discrimination? Mrs Wilkinson herself has been reported as saying “We are Christians and we believe our rights don’t have to be subordinated. We have religious freedom and we are not judging that but we are not prepared to have that sort of activity under our roof,” he said. “These people are very organised and we have already been inundated with abusive calls and emails. It is really sad that people act like that.”

The local police say that similar matters are normally dealt with a civil matters. Could it be, I wonder, that she was targeted by those keen to advance their own homosexual beliefs?

I have no publishable opinions regarding homosexuals - that comes under my personal attitude of reverse apartheid where I keep myself away from things I cannot bar coming to me. However, I just wonder why we ever got into such a wide application of legislation banning discrimination.

The Human Rights Act of 1998
gave protection at Article 9 under "Freedom of thought, conscience and religion"
1 Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

2 Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."
That seems quite clear to me. I accept that me sticking to 'my rights' may conflict with you enjoying 'your rights' but such situations arise in everyday transactions and events. That is possibly why 'such matters' are normally the subject of civil court remedy where the judgement of a independent and learned third party will prevail. So, why did we give homosexuals absolution from being judged on what is otherwise the law of the land? I do not know. Certainly, there has been considerable publicity seeking acceptance of them and their beliefs. But why should that belief over-ride religious beliefs truly held? We have recently had the opinion of the Leader of the Church of England regarding paedophilia in another religion and it would be reasonable to assume that that same attitude would apply to what the accepted Book of Rules/Bible says regarding homosexual conduct.

Of course, now that the matter has been brought into the three ring circus of pre-election madness, all reasonable comment will be lost in a stream of point-scoring. It stems from an overheard remark so presumably the author was not intending it for a public statement as to how he might act if put into a position of power. And, what if he did? He cannot issue edicts. The requirement for Bills being made law requires action by Government as a whole. The Labour concerns at the freedom of action the guy might have maybe reflects the way they are accustomed to operate? Perhaps. What seems to be being advocated is that none should act in accordance with their beliefs and conscience but become slave to the exact compliance with the law.

If there be any who have got this far and wish to see more opinions firmly stated, I would recommend they have a read of these comments on a Holy Joe site.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

More fluff than a baby's bum

The ongoing war waged by the desk-bound MOD has taken on a new campaign. They invited a bunch of religious leaders from Afghanistan to UK for a guided tour. And a Press and photo-opportunity as well of course.
The Independent newspaper has reported that Muslim clerics in the British Army may be deployed to Afghanistan in a 'hearts & minds' mission to highlight the part played by Islam in UK society.
Just remember that bit - "the part played by Islam here in UK"

The Indy article goes on "The ulama's (someone in the Press office showing off their foreign tour?) views would strengthen the hand of General Richards and others in the military who want to project the role played by Muslims in the Army, expand the number of imams and deploy them on missions abroad"

Just what is this need to project the role of serving Muslims? Seems there are currently around 350 Muslims serving in the Armed Forces. How many of them are fit and trained to deploy we do not know but, be generous, and say 300 across all three services; not much of a role playing force is it?

We know the strength of family ties and the knowledge of law advantageous to their own ends their community possesses. Has any Whitehall Warrior contemplated how to deal with the Daily Hate headline "Sent to die abroad because of my religion"? I'm not totally up to date with discrimination but I bet there are some in the Islamistan areas of UK who could see things their way.

There is more. 'The Director of Helmand hajj said,"The Taliban are spreading lies that NATO is trying to destroy our religion in Afghanistan. We can take back the message that in Britain the Muslim people are free to practice their religion"' Free to practice their religion? Well - of course they are but the Talib are not daft. There is ample evidence that the true course of Islam in UK is not totally free of justified criticism - even leaving aside the rants of the BNP which should read well back home in downtown Kabul. If we extend the ground to the NATO countries we have the wearing of the burqa and the fun and games in Holland. 'That' cartoon will be dredged up again. The March of Muslims through Wootton Basset. The welcome home where the local other-religionists spoke of murder by our forces.

Amongst the delegation was one Shah Wali described as a former 'senior prosecutor and authority on Sharia law' Ah - there is always one isn't there? That brings me to the quid pro that these estimable holy men will want. In Afghanistan nothing comes for free. Except for some where death comes in a glaze of light. By introducing new members of the Chaplain's department (turban branch) and deploying them to a theatre of war we will give them a fair degree of status - what CO would want to have his attached beardie making notes for the commander's annual assessment? In addition, someone here amongst the proponents of Sharia but feeling depresed can quickly get onto one of Wali's friends and say their religion is being threatened and Sharia dishonoured. It will be like having a branch of the union Unite right in the front line.

There is a place for propaganda - which I regard as just another branch of hearts and minds anyway. Hitler's acolytes showed just how opinion may be distorted by the skilful use of words and doubtless, a fair number of our Media and PR branch had Oxbridge educations. My complaint is that this type of proselytizing guff is regurgitated into the public domain and might even be swallowed by some as a good thing. We have an election coming and voters will be examining the conduct of the trough-searching candidates. To use this sort of initiative as a basis for being optimistic is degrading their information and is dishonest. The fact that a senior officer of General Richards' is being used as a front man only increases the deception.

It is, surely, very simple. We have tried using force of arms and skill. It achieved little at the time and nothing likely to be permanent. We suggested bribery of the other side's forces. That idea seems to have died the death; rest assured we would have had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner news had one single jundi come across (and stayed after getting his bribe). We speak of democracy and empowering the people. In that direction, check out Karzey's idea of free and fair elections. That idea has done down the waste pipe. We are left with the Blair Solution as demonstrated Northern Ireland. Find out what the other side want and give it to them in return for us being allowed to rush for the Exit door in peace. It got the Yanks out of Iraq and it has to be what we do in Afghanistan - unless we can find the courage of our convictions like the Canadians have done.

We can act unilaterally - America moves us about like a load of chess-pieces. Sort out things in our own area by whatever means and then set off for the docks. If Obama complains - that is if he even notices what an erstwhile ally is up to - tell him the area he drafted us into is OK and he can deal with the rest. If he fails to get the point then, tell him we must re-deploy to get ready for Falklands v.2.0.1 where the actions of his bitch have encouraged a load of gaucho to ride again.

I am not really a BNP sort of person but the way the current Government, and the totally useless Opposition, have allowed the status of UK to be destroyed internally and externally is a disgrace. I am for my Queen and Country in prime spot and the BNP's stated policies are very attractive to this ancient old man who has seen better times and locations.