Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Coping or Conscripting?

The BBC has managed to get a hold of some unauthorised footage from the fighting in Afghanistan.

The reason the footage is unauthorised is that the MOD has banned reporters from the front line. Presumably because of reports like this. When a Parachute Regiment NCO offers a female reporter a gun to help fight off the enemy, you know things ain't going as well as hoped.

If Tony Blair is wondering why his ungrateful party is so keen to get rid of him, he might want to give these reports some consideration.

At the time of the troop deployment, then Defence Secretary John Reid said he hoped the troops wouldn't have to fire a single shot in anger. So far they've fired 300,000 rounds and are 'just' coping according to the Army Chief of Staff.

My cousin has already done two tours in Iraq - one in the invasion spearhead of Gulf War II, another security tour coming later. His regiment is earmarked for Afghanistan next year.

Manpower levels are down. Hardly surprising when the old 'join the army and see the world' slogan has been replaced by 'join the army and get sent out to patrol in under-armoured vehicles, with sporadic air support, no reinforcements, and no rest between tours, while politicians back home tell the folks everything is fine'.

Staying away from the rights and wrongs of Blair's foreign adventures, it's surely undeniable that the least the government can do is give the guys in the firing line the right backup. Undeniable that is, except to the government whose daily statements test the bounds of our credulity.

With unemployment creeping up, the usual youth crime worries, and no sign of abatement in the fighting, I wonder how long it will be before the 'C' word gets mentioned again.

Blair doesn't want to quit early since he is still hoping for a legacy of peace and stability in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's not going to happen.

He might be better advised to quit early, before it gets worse, and console himself with the fact that he will be leaving his enemy, and likely successor, Gordon Brown with the ultimate poison pill to deal with.

If I were Brown, I might be tempted to give the whole thing a bodyswerve, and really stick it to Blair by simultaneously announcing my retirement from politics to spend time with my young family.

Thus retiring with an untarnished image as 'The Iron Chancellor', a caring family guy spin, and a lucrative set of directorships and speaking tours lined up.

Yet I doubt his ego could bear it.

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