In an empassioned debate in the House of Lords three former Chiefs of the Defence Staff have asked serious questions of the Government’s policy over Afghanistan.
Lord Boyce said the government “did not realise we are at war” while Lord Inge said the armed forces never really believed Mr Brown was “on their side”. Lord Guthrie, meanwhile, accused Mr Brown of “dithering” over his pledge to send 500 more troops to Afghanistan.
Admiral Lord Boyce was First Sea Lord and then Chief of Defence staff between 2001 and 2003, including the start of the Iraq War. He stated his belief that the UK is in the middle of a “defence train crash”. He also argued that defence spending, as percentage of national income, was falling, and that frequent changes at the Ministry of Defence were destabilising the forces.
General Lord Guthrie, a former head of the Army and Boyce’s predecessor as chief of defence staff, said “I do think that military services, the people in the front line, are questioning whether the government is really, really committed to making progress in Afghanistan”.
Field Marshal Lord Inge, Guthries predecessor as head of the Army and Defence chief and one of the countries few living Field Marshals, said of the armed forces, “they have felt he has never really been on their side and they have not had his support”.
Such stinging criticism from three of the countries most senior servicemen of recent years has been met with the usual party line from Whitehall. Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “Lord Guthrie has been making this same speech sadly for some time now”. Yes, of course he has Bob, because you lot won’t listen. For his part, Gordon Brown made the same speech he has been making for several years now, and said it was “simply wrong” to say troops were not getting the support they need, saying Labour had spent £1bn on new armoured vehicles for troops serving there since 2006.
Apart from effectively calling three former senior servicemen liars, Brown neglects to state that £1bn on armoured vehicles does not really go as far as you would like to think. The Government had to be dragged kicking and screaming into replacing the dangerous Snatch Land Rover. In addition, if they have supposedly spent £1bn on vehicles, what about some helicopters? But then again, this Government has an impressive track record for ignoring experts.
One cannot help but feel that the Government is digging itself into a hole with its continued propaganda that it is supporting the armed forces, when the evidence clearly suggests that it does not. To a public who support their servicemen and women more than at any time since 1982, it all smacks of lies and arrogance.