Saturday, March 06, 2010

Brown at War

To have one former head of the armed forces contradict your evidence to a committee may seem like carelessness, to have two is beginning to look habit forming. Thus it might be said about Gordon Brown today, as he faces the criticisms of both Lord Guthrie and Lord Boyce. Both of them have accused him of being disingenuous, and dissembling, in his evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry yesterday. Oh look, let's be honest, they're calling him a liar! He says the armed forces got everything they asked for to conduct the war that he and Tony Blair sent them on. They say they didn't, and Guthrie specifies helicopters as being unforthcoming despite requests.

They may both be right. The armed forces will almost certainly have requested everything they could. Their requests can be granted if the equipment is available to provide. The problem with helicopters is that they don't exactly have off the shelf availability. Complex decisions are involved when determining whether to place what might inevitably be long-term orders. It could take up to ten years to manufacture a new tranche of necessary helicopters. The real lesson here is the basis on which we send our armed services to war in the first place. The rightness of the cause will remain disputed, but what actually seems less debatable is the inadequacy of appropriate planning for a war that did not come unexpectedly, but as a result of the deliberate machinations of British and American leaders.

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