Doing my own remembering

It is Remembrance Day.

Many poppies have been visible in many lapels for weeks. There has been television coverage aplenty in advance of The Day. News bulletins have been fronted by be-poppied anchors.

Today there has been news coverage showing many sober-suited, sombre-faced politicians standing near various war memorials.

It’s all shit.

I don’t need a special day to remember those who served and got away with it, or those who served and didn’t.

I don’t need a coloured piece of cardboard in my lapel to show that I care. This sycophantic ‘my expression of grief is better than yours’ is such complete and utter hypocrisy.

What we need, to add real value to those who serve – those who put their lives on the line for a salary that is derisory (did you know that members of the Armed Forces are on duty 24/7? So their salary isn’t for the cosy 40-hour week that most civilians turn in), for accommodation that is all too often substandard to the point that the laws of this country would not allow the government to house asylum seekers in it, but it’s good enough for the people who are expected to deal with the outcomes of political ineptitude…

What we need, as I was saying, to add real value to those who serve is for every single member of parliament to serve a minimum term of four years front line in either a Navy Blue, an Air Force Blue or an Army Green or Black. I use the words ‘front line’ because doing four year at Catterick counting forks doesn’t count, neither does doing four years at RAF Innsworth filling in HR forms.

Only when the politicians are forced to live with the sharp end of their decisions, will the ‘remembering’ become a thing of value – not a media event to be picked up once a year and rapidly discarded for eleven months, starting tomorrow.

I remember the lucky ones several times a week. Trevor and I, we were lucky.

Phil Courier and I, we were lucky (but no photo exists of the two of us in the same place at the same time – which led some on our Squadron to hypothesise that he and I were really the same person!).

And I was lucky. Sadly my colleague Graham Baker (seen below with me) wasn’t. When I zigged, he zagged. I received minor injuries and a load of concussion. He flew back in to Brize in a flag-drapped coffin with a blue beret on top.

I really don’t need a day to remember these three – or any of the other people I served with.

B.

Pssssst… wanna buy a pistol?

It’s a beaut.

* Beretta M9, 9mm (so it’ll take NATO, Russian and Chinese 9mm ammunition)

* Semi-automatic

* Single or double-action

* Handle up to 15 rounds

* 1,200 feet per second muzzle velocity

* List price = $263 each

It’s very similar to the 9mm Browning Hi-Power I carried around with me for four years, but with a loaded weight of 2.55 Lbs it’s significantly lighter.

And terribly (sic) accurate.

Erm.

We might be able to get you up to 80,000.

That’s the number that the US troops have misplaced in Iraq.

Eighty thousand?

A couple of hundred weapons AWOL from the armoury might be fair enough given the scope and duration of the conflict in Iraq.

But… eighty thousand?

Given the proximity of Turkey to Iraq, I wonder how easy it would be for an enterprising European to do a little shopping in the region?

Smuggling automatic pistols in to the UK would be ridiculously easy.

Hell, if I can smuggle a person in to the UK, getting in a bunch of Berettas would be child’s play.

And 9mm ammunition almost grows on trees – if you know where the picking’s good.

Hmm…

But that’s only the UK.

Suppose these 80,000 beautifully engineered weapons of individual destruction turned up somewhere else?

Like…

In the hands of the enemies of the US-led coalition?

Wow.

Do you think we should add to the arsenal of the enemies of democracy the 110,000 AK47s that have also been misplaced?

Which are, boringly enough, weapons of 7.62mm calibre (and after Bosnia there’s enough 7.62mm ammunition swashing around the planet to keep us all happily killing each other for decades to come).

We’re all doomed, Captain Mainwaring, doomed!

B.

History repeats (wiser heads than Bush and Blair)

General Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz (01/06/1780 – 16/11/1831) wrote between 1816 and 1830 his acclaimed and (even now in the 21st Century) influentially pivotal text ‘On War‘.

On War‘ is the strategic thesis that effectively dictates what will win and what will lose the modern military battle.

Von Clausewitz’s thought-provoking exploration in to the logical rule of war is required reading at most modern military colleges – the Army college at Sandhurst is no exception.

The learned General makes it plain that ‘a war should never be fought on two fronts’.

Book 6, Chapter 7 – The Offensive Battle – is particularly interesting in the following observation of the flanking/outflanking manoeuvre:
‘To be able in turn to operate with success against the flanks of an enemy, whose aim is to turn our line, it is necessary to have a well chosen and well prepared position.’

Indeed Von Clausewitz’s contemporary, the Prussian Field Marshall Alfred Graf von Schlieffen sought to ignore this rule when he put forward a plan to fight a campaign on two fronts.

Von Schlieffen’s plan was later executed by the advancing German forces in the early stages of the First World War and resulted in a massive, costly (in human terms) and unbelievably painful period of trench warfare in which the better-armed, better-fed and better-equipped Germans comprehensively lost the battle.

It seems that two modern-day Generals haven’t read von Clausewitz’s definitive philosphy on warfare.

Bush and Blair.

It was a huge error in military judgement for Bush and Blair to commit a massive amount of military materiel to the open-ended and undefined ‘War or Terror’ which has resulted in the wilful slaughter that now defines the US-led invasion of Iraq.

But this error was compounded and magnified a hundred times when taken in the context of the other two military fronts that the US and UK were already fighting.

Afghanistan.

Yes, the war in Afghanistan is being fought on two fronts – and that’s something worth reminding ourselves of:

Afghanistan is currently host to the NATO-led military force which includes a large number of US forces.

Outside of this deployment – and external to this military structure, chain of command and communications model – are the US-led forces (almost exclusively composed of US ‘Special Forces’) who are fighting the local ‘War on Terror’.

So we have two distinct military operations in Afghanistan:
* The ‘regular’ forces that comprise the NATO operation and,
* The ‘special’ forces that comprise the ‘War on Terror’.

And in Iraq we have a third military operation; tens of thousands of staff fighting under the US-led ‘War on Terror’ (Iraqi Chapter) banner.

So the ‘alliance’ is actually fighting a war on three fronts.

I wonder what von Clausewitz would have said about that?