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 Post subject: The bigger picture / "Over my dead body"
PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 3:15 am 
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The bigger picture

Developing almost into a ritual, we get a "media scoop" revealing one or other failures in equipment provision – in this case the shortage of helicopters - which is then followed by ministerial statements and the top brass, weighing in to defend the status quo. The affair is batted about for a few days, there may or may not be Questions in the House and the occasional portentous leader and then the issue dies … until the next time.

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"Over my dead body"

The Daily Mail is running a piece today which reveals that Lt-Col Thorneloe wrote a secret memo, a month before he was killed by an IED while riding in a Viking, complaining of the shortage of helicopters. On June 5, reports the Mail, he had chillingly predicted the circumstances of his own death in his weekly report to the Ministry of Defence. Headed "'Battle Group Weekly Update", it reads: "I have tried to avoid griping about helicopters - we all know we don't have enough. We cannot not move people, so this month we have conducted a great deal of administrative movement by road. This increases the IED threat and our exposure to it."

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 Post subject: "Over my dead body"
PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 4:40 am 

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Sounds like a bit of naming & shaming is required. If it can't initially be in a British sources, how about in foreign ones? For irony's sake, how about on Al-Jazeera's website, or on a US, Russian, or Chinese one?

Watchet


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 Post subject: Re: "Over my dead body"
PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 9:50 am 
The problem the Tories have is that the cannot let the government be seen as getting a grip on the war. That means that perfectly sensible solutions will have to be back-burnered until after the election. On the other hand the Tories will support stupid suggestions as it makes the government look even more incompetent and they can claim, in public anyway, that they've given the government everything they could have asked for.

On the other hand we may already be doing it, in a traditionally British incompetent manner. As you reported we lost a Russian made MI26 (registration ER MCV) in July this year carrying supplies and kit for the British. As I recall it was Ukrainian piloted and hired from a Moldovan charter company, Pecotox Air, who have a long and colourful history as a conduit for illegal arms sales. Currently its banned from operating anywhere in the EU due to its poor safety record. Perfect choice for providing transport for British soldiers, a company that cannot legally even fly a dog into a perfectly normal airfield is expected to fly British soldiers into dirt airfields.


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 Post subject: Re: "Over my dead body"
PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 1:04 pm 
The torpor that afflicts some 90% of The UK populace, induced by mindless commercialism and Government design, takes an awful lot to break. Some major catastrophe such as a nuclear bomb in the heart of London might but only might, wake the dozy lot up.
The constant failure of Government would have seen a plethora of resignations in the past. These days a thicko ex-trade unionist is trotted forth to mumble inarticulate, highly coached platitudes. How many years since Iraq/Afghanistan kicked off? Most of this moronic Governments tenure, dear God. Treason seems too gentle a word for their manslaughter of soldiers and our sovereignty.


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 Post subject: Re: "Over my dead body"
PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 1:20 pm 
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oldrightie wrote:
The torpor that afflicts some 90% of The UK populace, induced by mindless commercialism and Government design, takes an awful lot to break. Some major catastrophe such as a nuclear bomb in the heart of London might but only might, wake the dozy lot up.
The constant failure of Government would have seen a plethora of resignations in the past. These days a thicko ex-trade unionist is trotted forth to mumble inarticulate, highly coached platitudes. How many years since Iraq/Afghanistan kicked off? Most of this moronic Governments tenure, dear God. Treason seems too gentle a word for their manslaughter of soldiers and our sovereignty.


You are completely misreading this ... the Secretary of State and his political advisors desperately wanted to resolve the helicopter problem and backed the contract solution to the hilt. However, it met with the sustained, absolute opposition from the Defence Chiefs and the RAF establishment ... which had the support of the Conservative Party.

What I have been trying to get through to people is that the Secretary of State is not an all-powerful despot, and can only work within the contraints of the system. No Minister - not even the prime minister - can over-rule the Defence Chiefs on operational matters, if they are unanimously opposed to a proposal (... even more so when the Opposition had signalled that it was prepared to make trouble on this issue). Not even Churchill could or would do it. Faced with unanimous opposition, the SoS asked for alternatives, and the RAF came up with the Danish Merlin scam, new helicopters which they proceeded NOT to send to Afghanistan.

Read what the Mail piece says ... Holloway puts the ball in the Defence Chiefs' court .... THEY are the blockage here, always have been.

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 Post subject: Re: "Over my dead body"
PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 2:05 pm 
RAENORTH wrote:
What I have been trying to get through to people is that the Secretary of State is not an all-powerful despot, and can only work within the contraints of the system. No Minister - not even the prime minister - can over-rule the Defence Chiefs on operational matters, if they are unanimously opposed to a proposal (... even more so when the Opposition had signalled that it was prepared to make trouble on this issue). Not even Churchill could or would do it. Faced with unanimous opposition, the SoS asked for alternatives, and the RAF came up with the Danish Merlin scam, new helicopters which they proceeded NOT to send to Afghanistan.

Read what the Mail piece says ... Holloway puts the ball in the Defence Chiefs' court .... THEY are the blockage here, always have been.


At some level the present 'system' presents a problem to democracy. At some point elected representative must able to exercise some control over operational matters to enact the will of the people (with the obvious caveats concerning this in the present state of British politics). The politicians cannot simply choose to go to war and after that let the general run amok at the 'operational level'. There must be some ability for the Minister of Defence to override the Defence Chiefs where they are playing politics with men's lives or we will never have a successful military force. It is is time to tear up the present command and procurement structures and start again - whatever the outcome it would struggle to do worse.


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 Post subject: Re: "Over my dead body"
PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 2:52 pm 
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Jan_Guest wrote:
RAENORTH wrote:
What I have been trying to get through to people is that the Secretary of State is not an all-powerful despot, and can only work within the contraints of the system. No Minister - not even the prime minister - can over-rule the Defence Chiefs on operational matters, if they are unanimously opposed to a proposal (... even more so when the Opposition had signalled that it was prepared to make trouble on this issue). Not even Churchill could or would do it. Faced with unanimous opposition, the SoS asked for alternatives, and the RAF came up with the Danish Merlin scam, new helicopters which they proceeded NOT to send to Afghanistan.

Read what the Mail piece says ... Holloway puts the ball in the Defence Chiefs' court .... THEY are the blockage here, always have been.


At some level the present 'system' presents a problem to democracy. At some point elected representative must able to exercise some control over operational matters to enact the will of the people (with the obvious caveats concerning this in the present state of British politics). The politicians cannot simply choose to go to war and after that let the general run amok at the 'operational level'. There must be some ability for the Minister of Defence to override the Defence Chiefs where they are playing politics with men's lives or we will never have a successful military force. It is is time to tear up the present command and procurement structures and start again - whatever the outcome it would struggle to do worse.


I rehearsed this issue here - nearly three years ago ... nothing much has changed.

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 Post subject: Re: "Over my dead body"
PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 3:27 pm 
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Heaven forbid that I would suggest yet another enquiry but....
Somewhere along the line & in the minutes which are mandatory at meetings must be the names of those who, for whatever reason, blocked the acquisition of the equipment necessary for the optimal protection of our troops.
Those responsible, it matters not a damn who they are, should be named (yes, on Al Jazeera if that's what it takes) & brought to book.
If ever there was a time in our recent history when we should be almost deafened by the sound of whistles being blown, it is now.
But heyho...we know it's not going to happen; as with our kleptocratic MPs, none of whom has had his/her collar felt, they will close ranks & vote themselves a good pension & ennoblement.
'Oldrightie' may have misinterpreted the drift of Richard's article but he's spot on with regard to the apathy of the public.
The bad guys escape; the stupid & indolent guys (Who they?) allow them to escape PDT_Armataz_01_33

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 Post subject: Re: "Over my dead body"
PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 4:04 pm 
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permanentexpat wrote:
Heaven forbid that I would suggest yet another enquiry but....
Somewhere along the line & in the minutes which are mandatory at meetings must be the names of those who, for whatever reason, blocked the acquisition of the equipment necessary for the optimal protection of our troops.
Those responsible, it matters not a damn who they are, should be named (yes, on Al Jazeera if that's what it takes) & brought to book.
If ever there was a time in our recent history when we should be almost deafened by the sound of whistles being blown, it is now.
But heyho...we know it's not going to happen; as with our kleptocratic MPs, none of whom has had his/her collar felt, they will close ranks & vote themselves a good pension & ennoblement.
'Oldrightie' may have misinterpreted the drift of Richard's article but he's spot on with regard to the apathy of the public.
The bad guys escape; the stupid & indolent guys (Who they?) allow them to escape PDT_Armataz_01_33


The truth will eventually out ... but it will be thirty years before the official papers are released. And much of what went on will not have been recorded ... meetings in corridors, etc. The story is, in fact, told in Ministry of Defeat, but it runs against the media narrative, which means it does not see the light of day. What will emerge, however, are a number of letters from Downing Street, specifically demanding action to be taken on helicopters, with responses from the MoD which amount to downright disobedience ... cloaked in impenetratable jargon. That will be for future historians ... and then it will be history. But it will look very different from the current media narrative.

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 Post subject: Re: "Over my dead body"
PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 7:26 pm 
This week, helicopter crashes in Afghanistan caused 14 US fatalities: see http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/1026/p02s04-usmi.html
Might there be a possibility that the UK government has not deployed more helicopters in Afghanistan because of the risk that a high death toll from a single incident is more likely to lead to stronger demands for withdrawal than 2-3 IED fatalities per week?


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 Post subject: Re: "Over my dead body"
PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 7:51 pm 
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SJB wrote:
This week, helicopter crashes in Afghanistan caused 14 US fatalities: see http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/1026/p02s04-usmi.html
Might there be a possibility that the UK government has not deployed more helicopters in Afghanistan because of the risk that a high death toll from a single incident is more likely to lead to stronger demands for withdrawal than 2-3 IED fatalities per week?


Yes, that was and is a distinct possiblity, either from accident or hostile action. And the effect of the loss of one Chinook with, say, 20-30 troops, would indeed be very severe. I think we are misusing Chinooks ... they were never meant to be battlefield helicopters, precisely because you are putting too many eggs in one basket. The squad helicopters, such as the UH-1 or Blackhawk is a much better idea, not least because your losses are reduced if a machine is brought down. Tactically, it is a better idea ... three aircraft in the sky at the same time have a better chance of survival than one carrying the same load.

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 Post subject: Re: "Over my dead body"
PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 8:07 pm 
This is the first time this has come to my attention. As you know my posts are usually about the army. I have worked with all the services in the past and I can only say the RAF were the most uncooperative.

I will do a post to draw attention to yours Richard as it deserves one.


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 Post subject: Re: "Over my dead body"
PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 8:40 pm 
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Subrosa wrote:
This is the first time this has come to my attention. As you know my posts are usually about the army. I have worked with all the services in the past and I can only say the RAF were the most uncooperative.

I will do a post to draw attention to yours Richard as it deserves one.


S - thanks

The situation is far worse than can be imagined. As far as the Defence Chiefs were concerned, Afghanistan was seen primarily as a way of leveraging new kit out of the government, opening up the Treasury purse-strings. Jackson and then Dannatt were in it up to their arm-pits, the latter keeping shtum because he wanted his Lynxes, and thus did not want to rock the boat, otherwise the RAF might have gone for the Blackhawk and taken his toys off him. Basically, the Faustian deal was that the RAF wanted a new Merlin squadron, which would be scuppered if the contractors did the job. If Dannatt supported the contractors, and blocked the Merlins, then the RAF would switch tack and go for the Blackhawks, which would be over the limit for AAC operation, but perform the function of the Lynxes, so the RAF would get the AAC (Hoovering up the Apaches), and Dannatt wouldn't get his new toys. That brought in the Navy, because without the Army getting Lynxes, their's were unaffordable, so they joined the gang to block the ministerial initiative to bring more capacity into theatre.

The RAF got its new squadron of Merlins and then turned round to the Minister and said they could not support them in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and therefore would send some "spare" Sea Kings to AFG, keeping the Merlins back at Benson where they could play with them. Then, despite having had the Merlins factory converted to RAF standard, as ops wound down in Iraq, increasingly impatient minsters started demanding that the Merlins were re-tasked to AFG, whereupon the RAF "discovered" that the Merlins were not theatre-ready and needed more conversions (and money) for them to operate in that theatre, even though they had been bought specifically to go into AFG. Then, because the Danish ships were fitted differently from the rest of the fleet, ALL Merlin aircrew had to be type certified on the Danish ships, in addition to the rest, which meant that the ships could not be sent to AFG, because they were needed for ... training. When they seemed to have run completely out of excuses, it was then that they decided there were not enough parking spaces in AFG.

So it is that nearly three years after ministers told the RAF to "sort" the helicopter problem, the Merlins are finally going into Afghanistan, at £31 million each, compared with the £4-5 million each cost of Mi-17s bought new (of which the RAF bought 6, second-hand but didn't tell anyone about ... to fill the gap until the Merlins got there), publicly saying that the Mi-17s were "unsuitable".

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 Post subject: Re: "Over my dead body"
PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 9:15 pm 

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It must be like banging your head against a brick wall. The Conservatives and the media say 'The MoD is under-resourced'. The Government replies 'The MoD is adequately resourced'. The Conservatives and the media would rather protest 'It is under resourced' than ask 'Are resources being spent wisely? Is the Afghan campaign well thought out? etc'.

From the article:
Quote:
Writing from personal experience, as I had been directly involved in trying to get the MoD to accept this solution, I observed that the wholly negative reaction to some well-founded proposals was due to "the reluctance of the military to see civilian contractors encroach on 'their' war." I added: "Some of this is fuelled by a fear of the competition, with the civilians able to operate more flexibly, sometimes in conditions where military aircraft like the Lynx simply cannot fly." I went on:

Are we not getting much done in Afghanistan in part because the MoD don't want much to get done in Afghanistan - Could this dislike for civilian contractors extend to the construction side of things?


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 Post subject: "Over my dead body"
PostPosted: Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:26 am 

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All this deception at the expense of our brave servicemen & women in Afganistan is all so distressing, it makes me wonder what's the point of all their loyalty & courage - & for some of them, their lives or health!

Watchet


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