Friday, October 13, 2006

One general's public relations revolt

Britain's top army general stands by his remarks in the Daily Mail, yet also asserts that there is no difference between his position and the Prime Minister's.

The London Times:
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "It was never my intention to have this hoo-ha…in trying to suggest there is a chasm between myself as head of the Army and the Prime Minister or between myself as head of the Army and the Secretary of State for Defence.

"My intention is particularly to speak up for what is right for the Army. That is my job. That is my constituency. If some people have chosen to pick up one or two of the comments I have made and tried to make frankly quite a large mountain or chasm out of that then so be it."

Sir Richard’s controversial comments came in an interview with the Daily Mail, in which he appeared to directly contradicted Tony Blair, who has repeatedly claimed that the invasion of Iraq played no role in galvanising Muslim extremism in Britain and bringing about the 7/7 bombings.
The general has released a statement today, available at the Guardian, but the controversy he has kicked up will no doubt continue. The Guardian:
It was seen as an unprecedented attack on government policy and forced the general, who took up the job just six weeks ago, into denying there was any rift with Tony Blair's foreign policy.

In a statement , he said: "I'm a soldier - we don't do surrender, we don't pull down white flags. We will remain in southern Iraq until the job is done - we're going to see this through."

Downing Street has said Sir Richard retains the "full support" of Tony Blair despite the furore over his article in the Daily Mail.
Downing Street has no choice but to voice public support for this general, to do otherwise would fuel the conflict between the PM's office and the army. General Richard Dannatt said that he did not anticipate a major media reaction to his interview. That is absurd.

BBC News interviews residents of Basra:
On a personal level, there is nothing wrong with the British soldiers, but I am against having them here.
Early indications are that the officers in the British army support their superior, the London Times:
The comments from General Sir Richard Dannatt that he wants his forces to leave Iraq sometime soon have met with overwhelming support on the Army Rumour Service website, where officers can air their views anonymously via forums which promote lively debate.

Many express shock about the frankness of his words and there are several references to Sir Richard’s "moral" courage in speaking his mind, as well as calls for the Prime Minister to take heed of his remarks. "I hope Blair is listening," says user "Nigegilb".

"Sir Richard has made the call and said it how it is. Good on him. Stand by for incoming. Getting out of Iraq is essential if [Afghanistan] is going to work in the long run. God knows what will happen to Iraq, not sure it will be any worse though. He made the point that we were never invited in we kicked the door in.

Nigegilb adds: "Can someone close to Sir Richard tell him that if he gets sacked he should run for office against whoever is the PM at the time. He will win by a landslide."
With the army's apparent support, let us address whether the general does in fact disagree with the prime minister. BBC News states that he does:
Army chief General Sir Richard Dannatt claims there is not a cigarette paper's gap between him and Tony Blair over Iraq.

The easy test of that assertion is to imagine Sir Richard's remarks had come from the prime minister himself. They would have been explosive.

Imagine the prime minister had suggested - no matter how obliquely - that British troops were exacerbating security problems in Iraq and elsewhere.

That their withdrawal should start sometime soon, that ambitions for the country's future should be lowered and that the invasion's political aims may have been naïve.

It would have represented one of the greatest reversals in recent political history.


It is worth posting the entire statement:
"We have been in southern Iraq for three-and-a-half years and we have made significant progress, with two of the four provinces now handed over to Iraqi control and our responsibilities are much reduced in one other province.

The point that I'm trying to make is the mere fact that we are still in some places exacerbates violence from those who want to destabilise Iraqi democracy.

Currently Operation Sinbad is trying to make Basra better and a lot of British soldiers are doing a really good job. In that regard, their presence is helping but there are other parts where our mere presence does exacerbate, and violence results.

But that is not a reason for us to leave. I am on record publicly saying we're standing shoulder to shoulder with the Americans.

I am on the record from a speech three weeks ago saying that I'm planning force packages in Iraq through 2007 into 2008. I'm a soldier - we don't do surrender, we don't pull down white flags. We will remain in southern Iraq until the job is done - we're going to see this through."


Blogger Chuck said...

This dolt got his tongue wrapped around his eye teeth and couldn't see what he was saying. He is backpedaling fast and furiously now and would be willing to bet it is because the troops diapprove of what he said.

The Army Rumour Service network probably does have posts supporting the General but what about all those who didn't post?

I still say the General wants to run and that will exacerbate the Muslim situation in England more than their staying in Iraq.

Learning to keep one's mouth shut is a virtue so many fail to develop.

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chuck said "He is backpedaling fast and furiously now and would be willing to bet it is because the troops diapprove of what he said."
Sorry Chuck but that would be a bet you would lose hands down, he is enjoyng tremendous support from both serving and former members of all of Her Majesty's Armed Services, and from all ranks too.
Also if you read what he actually said, then 'running' as you put it could not be further from his mind and he directly addresses the 'Muslim situation' in Britain in a way that has been sorely lacking in recent years and which I sincerely hope will start a long overdue discussion on Tony Blair's idea of so called multiculturalism.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, you don't become Chief of the General Staff by beng a dolt, those who have served with him speak very highly of his intelligence, integrity and belief in plain speaking (as is evident from these headlines!)

9:45 AM  

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