Obvious truths finally stated

by John Q on October 18, 2006

With Blair on the way out, the British military leadership seems to be in open revolt. Following the admission last week by the army chief that the Iraq war had made terrorism worse, there’s this

The invasion of Iraq prevented British forces from helping to secure Afghanistan much sooner and has left a dangerous vacuum in the country for four years, the commander who has led the attack against the Taliban made clear yesterday.

Brigadier Ed Butler, commander of 3 Para battlegroup just returned from southern Afghanistan, said the delay in deploying Nato troops after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2002 meant British soldiers faced a much tougher task now.

Asked whether the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath had led to Britain and the US taking their eye off the ball, Brig Butler said the question was “probably best answered by politicians”.

Not original, but significant by virtue of the source.

The only reading I can make of this is that the British top brass are desperate for a quick withdrawal from Iraq, as soon as Blair goes, and are applying as much public pressure as possible (even at the cost of violating conventions about military comment on political issues) to ensure that Gordon Brown does not succumb to threats or blandishments from Washington.

Update Brigadier Butler claims he was misquoted



Brendan 10.18.06 at 7:22 am

One gets a strong sense of this (i.e. what you mentioned in the last sentence) from reading Tony’s, sorry, Harry’s Place, the inhouse blog of the Blair worshippers in the Labour Party. From holding (only about 6 months ago) that GB was the greatest chancellor we have ever had etc, there has been a definite cooling in their attitude as they begin to suspect that Gordy might not be as keen on Bush’s little wars as Blair was.

See here for example: ‘Exactly what is Gordon Brown and do we actually want it?…Brown is owed nothing, but acts like a man who is owed the very world. The ungracious, and ungrateful, brooding act is getting a little too much. Maybe a leadership battle and a defeat will see him get what he is actually entitled to: a nice retirement home in Scotland.’ (September 12, 2006).


As they have fallen out of love with Gordon, the HP Sauce congingent have fallen in love with John Reid.

What the British Army think about all this is an interesting question.


CKR 10.18.06 at 7:48 am

There’s the other possibility that they are raising questions about Afghanistan and Iraq in order to head off an attack on Iran.


otto 10.18.06 at 8:46 am

There’s no support in UK civil society whatsoever for an attack in Iran by the US, UK or Israel.


Steve LaBonne 10.18.06 at 8:49 am

There’s precious little support for it in the US, either. But don’t imagine for a moment that will stop BushCo from going ahead anyway.


aaron 10.18.06 at 9:06 am

I didn’t read the whole thing, but what I read didn’t give me that impression at all. And the Brig’s quote sounds to me like an emphatic NO.

When someone deffers to politicians, that’s their way of saying that the question itself is bullshit.


harry b 10.18.06 at 9:19 am

When a senior British soldier says a question is “probably best answered by politicians” he very clearly is not deferring to the politicians. Grice and all that.


Ben 10.18.06 at 9:35 am

Interesting to see Reid’s reaction – he’s had 2 stints – as Defence Minister and defence secretary and will be well aware of the feelings in the military regarding Iraq and Afghanistan.


soullite 10.18.06 at 9:37 am

that quote can be read a number of ways:

It could mean ” I’m not going to answer, and I’m standing behind my politician’s answer”

Or it could mean “I’ve said my part and now it’s the balls in the political court”

Or it could be an accusation, implying agreement with the question and using the question as an accusation against the politicians in charge.

Without the users vocal inflections and body language, it’s really not easy to tell.


dearieme 10.18.06 at 12:33 pm

“Following the admission last week”: I don’t think that “admission” is the right word. It’s probably more a case of the brass hats reminding the frock coats “We bloody told you so!”.


John Quiggin 10.18.06 at 3:52 pm

“Or it could be an accusation, implying agreement with the question and using the question as an accusation against the politicians in charge.”

Given the preceding statements, this is obviously the correct interpretation.


John Quiggin 10.18.06 at 6:05 pm

dearieme, quite so!


harry b 10.18.06 at 6:41 pm

Without the users vocal inflections and body language, it’s really not easy to tell.

Quite apart from the context provided, I don’t think so. A senior British officer has a ready phrase for not commenting — it is “no comment”. This answer is easily interpretable by anyone who knows the culture, and everyone in the government knows what he meant.


aaron 10.19.06 at 8:45 am

Reading the article, that doesn’t seem right. It is rather sloppily assembled to spin the Brigs. comments to fit the storyline.

Granted, it could be as you say in 10, but it is definitely not obvious and actually unlikely. It reads to me like it was a backhanded comment meant to insult the reporter and politicians in general.

He seems to be implying that Iraq had little to do with the lack of helicopter in Afghan. How many helicopters were actually sent to Iraq instead of Afghan? That should give you a clue as to whether Iraq siginicantly hindered ops in Afghan.


aaron 10.19.06 at 9:11 am

“He said later it would be inappropriate to associate Iraq with Afghanistan; they were different problems.”


aaron 10.19.06 at 9:43 am

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