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GENERAL MAKES AN ASS OF HIMSELF

25-09-2007

The British army's most senior general has called on the British public to show more support for British troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Stirrer webmaster Andy Goff is in no mood for a victory parade.

I have on my bookshelves two tomes called Deeds That Thrill The Empire which catalogue the heroic actions of those engaged in battles of the First War. They are pertinent to today.

Many months ago I was caught up in an argument with someone, a Labour voter, who questioned my stance on our war on terror. I was spouting the Liberal Democrat line of being against the war but supporting our troops once we were committed. I could not come up with an adequate description of how "supporting our troops" manifested itself.

Now I know.

The head of the Army General Sir Richard Dannatt is calling for us - the voters that re-elected Tony Blair - to be more supportive of our troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He's suggesting we should "mirror" some of the enthusiasm the American public show towards their "boys and girls". Apparently he is concerned at "the growing gulf between the Army and the nation".

He goes on: "When a young soldier has been fighting in Basra or Helmand, he wants to know that the people in their local pub know and understand what he has been doing and why.

"Soldiers are genuinely concerned when they come back from Iraq to hear the population that sent them being occasionally dismissive or indifferent about their achievements."

The withdrawal from Basra "should not be seen as defeat", he adds.

In other words we, the great unwashed, are not showing enough support for our squaddies "tasked" with doing their job - the bidding of the incumbent government.

I find his comments particularly meaningless.

I don't directly know anyone currently serving in the forces but I do know of people whose loved ones are serving in the hotspots - people who worry whether or not they've seen their husband, wife, sister, brother, uncle and so on for last time.

I'm certainly not "dismissive or indifferent about their achievements", nor is anyone I know.

The one great achievement of Tony Blair has been to blur the lines both in politics and moral judgements.

When a government sends troops to war on a false premise, based on poor judgement and "faith", and then the head of those troops turns round and tells us we should shower them with petals in a parade, that really is misunderstanding the mood of the nation.

I am against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I do not misunderstand, General. I heard the lies being spouted in justification by Blair and his crew and recognised them as such at the time. Cynical I may be, but really stupid I am not.

Even if I was completely committed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, what practically could I - or any of us - do to SUPPORT our troops? We're not Vera Lynn, dammit.

The time we demonstrably support our troops is when our Government sees moral (not to mention practical) sense and those troops return home permanently - certainly not before.

Then we can hail the brave "squaddies" who put their lives on the line and really mourn the loss of those that gave their lives to satisfy the ego's of a man who wanted to be a star and those who wanted to be a part of his constellation.

The phrase "lions led by donkeys", which is reflected in Deeds That Thrill The Empire, hovers in the mists rising over the Somme, Burma, Normandy, Malaysia and so many more places where our forces have faithfully, yet not blindly, done as they were told.

Whether or not we're supportive of "our boys" in these particular conflicts, are we perhaps catching on to the idea that people power is more potent than we are led to believe.

Could we - just maybe - stop these kinds of wars starting before they begin by simply refusing to take part?

Should we do more to mark the return of British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan? Would the British public turn out like the Americans do for homecoming parades? Leave a comment on the Message Board.
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