Sunday, February 17, 2008


You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud
-Bob Dylan, "Masters of war" (1963)

Dylan's verse reminds us that those who command forces, though they wrap themselves in flags and declare their undying support for the troops, in fact constantly show their lack of concern for the safety of soldiers.

A report from the Associated Press reveals serious questions about the support which the British government gives its soldiers:
LONDON - A coroner has told an inquest into the death of a British soldier in Afghanistan that the failure of Britain's military to properly equip its soldiers in the war-torn country is unforgivable. ...

The coroner said the soldiers were defeated not by the terrorists "but by the lack of basic equipment." ... (link)
This report follows a long string of similar revelations and allegations regarding the British army.
On January 31, the Times reported that the British military plans to put soldiers in the field who have undergone only limited training:

Nearly 1,000 new army recruits face having their combat training cut by half so that they can be rushed to the battlefields of Afghanistan.

The “exceptional” measure is being proposed by senior officers to meet a serious shortage in manpower ...

At present every battalion due to deploy next year is at least 100 soldiers short of the required manpower level – that is, 550 instead of 650 men. ... (link)

In a follow-up story the next day, a Conservative MP was quoted:

... Patrick Mercer, Conservative MP for Newark and a former commanding officer of The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, said that the proposal for accelerated training underlined the “manpower crisis” facing the Army. “The MoD is in denial about it, but the truth is that the Army is not just 3,000 men short but, effectively, about 12,000 short because of the high number of soldiers who are physically unfit to be deployed,” Mr Mercer said. ... (link)

Recently, the Telegraph revealed that the British military includes some 7000 foreigners, a ten-fold increase over levels in the year 2000. (The largest contingent is of Fijian soldiers.)

Besides cutting back on training and recruiting foreigners, the British military has also tried an advertising campaign to increase the flow of recruits:
The Army is enticing young people to enlist with the aid of advertisements and leaflets that glamorise warfare and underplay the risks involved in a military career, it is claimed today.

The language in the recruiting literature and promotional DVD is so sanitised, a report says, that one brochure, Infantry Soldier, does not even mention the words “kill” or “risk”. ...

The study of the Army’s sales pitch, by an independent researcher funded by the Joseph Rowntree Trust, found that potential recruits get a misleading picture. David Gee, who wrote the report, said: “The Armed Forces have a poor retention record, partly because they promise recruits more than they can deliver, so thousands end up wanting to leave as soon as possible.”

According to official figures, for every two 16 to 22-year-olds joining the Army, one is leaving. ...

A common tactic, is to “emphasise the game-playing character of battle to attract children by blurring the boundaries between fantasy and reality”. ...

Potential recruits can also be confused or misled in other ways, it says: “A soldier is obliged to serve for at least four years and three months (or up to six years in the case of under18s) with no right to leave once three months have passed. [But] this is omitted from the brochure and video.” (link)
The British Defense Select Committee recently issued a report which confirms an increase in personnel losses in the military:
"We are concerned", says the report, "...that there are signs that voluntary departure in the armed forces, in particular the Army, is increasing and that in the RAF personnel are not extending for a further engagement to the extent that had happened in the past." ... (link)
In Canada too, there have been regular accusations that our military is under-equipped and thus endangered. The latest:
Soldier blasts shoddy gear for troops

February 14, 2008
Sean Gordon
Quebec Bureau Chief

MONTREAL–A Quebec soldier has reignited a lingering controversy with claims the equipment issued to him and his colleagues from the Royal 22nd Regiment is shoddy and ill-suited to the combat mission in Afghanistan. ... (Link to Toronto Star article.)

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