Article published in the Scottish Daily Mail on 7 February 2017. © Richard Kemp

Those who say the MoD’s decision to set up cadet units in Scotland’s state schools is intended to provide ‘cannon fodder’ are misrepresenting the facts and betraying the country’s less privileged children. They are putting instinctive, lazy sloganising above the desperate need to give a boost to young people who would benefit most from membership of this genuinely outstanding youth organisation.

Private schools in Scotland have had military cadet units for many years, an incomparable advantage until now denied to state schools. That is changing, and the news that the MoD is setting up cadet units in Scottish state schools should be strongly welcomed, not just by politicians who genuinely care, but also by children, parents, teachers, universities and businesses, because all will benefit.

The Armed Forces will also benefit. I had many Scottish soldiers under my command and – from Northern Ireland to the Balkans and from Afghanistan to Iraq – have frequently served alongside Scottish regiments. Scottish soldiers are among the finest in the world, with an unrivalled reputation for fighting spirit and professionalism.

For years the Army has struggled to maintain recruiting targets in Scotland, and school cadet units will help to redress this by inspiring an early interest in military service, enabling boys and girls to experience some of the extraordinary benefits and challenges of life in the Forces. In my experience, former cadets who join the regular Army often make the best soldiers, and frequently progress up the ranks further and faster.

This is good news for those of us who recognise the importance of a strong and capable Army in an increasingly dangerous world – and who care about fostering the talents of young people from the most challenging backgrounds.

But there is no obligation on cadets to sign up for the Forces, and instructors do not apply such pressure on their young charges.
In fact, many will be surprised to learn that in an average year, only 3 per cent of all cadets throughout the UK opt to join the Forces. What are the benefits for the other 97 per cent? Cadets wear military uniform and practise specifically military skills such as rifle shooting, glider-piloting and tying up a warship alongside, all of which teach discipline, self-control and team-work.

But the training syllabus is much more widely focused, designed to equip cadets with skills for life. They will learn to live by the Forces’ core values including selfless commitment, courage, self-discipline, loyalty and integrity – attributes valued by most employers and increasingly rare in the modern world. Cadets take part in adventurous training activities including whitewater rafting, climbing and hillwalking. The incalculable longterm benefits for a youngster’s character of pitting themselves, physically and mentally, against the ravages of nature can rarely be equalled in any other situation.

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Crooked lawyer Phil Shiner has been struck off – now the Government must pursue him further

Article published in The Mirror on 3 February 2017. © Richard Kemp

Striking him off should be only the beginning of legal action against crooked lawyer Phil Shiner.

This man broke the law by falsifying evidence against soldiers who had been risking their lives to defend our country.
Improperly procuring allegations against them he hounded these brave fighting men through inquiries and court cases often for years.

Falsely accusing them of murder and torture he placed them and their families under untold psychological torture and brought some of them to the brink of suicide.

For his own financial gain and his anti-British political agenda he forced our soldiers to relive again and again nightmares they had endured on the battlefield.

But maliciously spreading and publicising such ghastly lies has even darker consequences.

Shiner’s accusations helped incite our jihadist enemies at home and around the world, providing ideal propaganda for terrorist leaders to inspire recruits and attract funders.

It is certainly possible that people have died as a consequence of Shiner’s malpractice.

The government must now actively pursue criminal charges against Shiner and his henchmen.

Individual servicemen who have been targeted by him should sue and they should be supported in this by the MOD.

Neither should we forget the MOD’s role in enabling and facilitating Shiner’s assaults against their own men.

This is only part of a wider vendetta that is being conducted against our troops who have fought in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Several ministers, including the Prime Minister, have spoken out against it. That is not enough.

They must learn the lesson of the Shiner debacle and end the persecution of the brave men who have volunteered to put their lives on the line to defend us.

Mercy and Warfare

Letter to the editor of The Times, published 27 January 2017. © Richard Kemp

Killing a wounded enemy soldier who is no longer a threat is a war crime under the Geneva Convention. Of course it is wrong to kill an enemy fighter the way that Sergeant Alexander Blackman did, although this can be mitigated by the stress of combat, as his legal team hopes to demonstrate on appeal.

Mercy killing is also illegal on the battlefield. But a soldier in battle remains a human being with human strengths and weaknesses including compassion. An SAS patrol that allegedly killed three Iraqi insurgents who were bleeding to death and could not be saved during the 2003 Gulf War is still under investigation. Compassion perhaps kicks in even more strongly when a soldier is confronted by the sight of a close comrade beyond treatment and screaming in agony. Putting him out of his misery is as much a crime as finishing off a wounded enemy. But throughout history fighting men have shouldered this impossible burden. In 1917 at Passchendaele, soldiers of my great uncle’s regiment shot several of their own men sucked into the mud rather than see them slowly suffocate.

The legal protection for enemy and comrades alike must be preserved but we must also have the humanity to make allowances for the awful challenges faced by the men who volunteer to defend us in battle.

Colonel Richard Kemp

Commander of British forces in Afghanistan in 2003, London SW1

Trump’s support for Nato and a UK trade deal

Letter to the editor of The Times, published 17 January 2017. © Richard Kemp

I am not surprised to hear Donald Trump’s positive views on Nato. The generals in his inner circle are a better indication of his attitude to defence than the knee-jerk reactions of the many politicians and commentators who set themselves against him from the start.

Theresa May showed her readiness to get in step with Trump on foreign affairs at the weekend when she reversed long standing Foreign Office policy by refusing to take part in the futile Paris peace conference set up as Obama’s last swipe at Israel.

Now she must do the same on defence, rejecting the MoD’s evident desire to fall in with Angela Merkel’s EU army that will dangerously undermine Nato yet will lack its own teeth. In an increasingly perilous world, Britain’s best interests lie with a US that shows every sign of returning to Reagan’s ‘peace through strength’, not with a Europe led by backward-looking politicians who will even work against their own countries’ defence interests to try to thwart the hated Trump.

Colonel Richard Kemp

Commander of British forces in Afghanistan in 2003, London SW1

Images: Gage Skidmore; Policy Exchange

Call off the Paris conference

by Rafael L. Bardaji and Richard Kemp

Article published by Israel Hayom, 12 January 2017

It is easy for the world to blame Israel for all its problems. It is easy for many leaders to blame Israel for the failure of the peace process with the ‎Palestinians.

It may be easy, but it’s not correct. In fact, it’s a ‎serious mistake.‎

It’s also easy to think that the international community, multilateral organizations ‎such as the United Nations, or international conferences can impose a solution ‎on the parties and, voila, conflicts will be resolved. But if the parties aren’t ‎willing, if the conflicts aren’t ripe enough, there’s no possible solution. In fact, ‎lasting peace, true peace, can only be the result of direct negotiations between ‎the parties involved and the agreements they freely reach.‎

Peace between Israelis and Palestinians does not need more plans or ‎conferences such as the one to be held in Paris on January 15. What it does ‎require are two truly committed parties ready to negotiate.

Unfortunately, that’s ‎not the case. For a few years now, those responsible in the Palestinian ‎Authority have chosen not to sit down and negotiate with the Israeli government. Instead, they have launched a unilateral campaign so that it will fall to the ‎international community to impose recognition as a sovereign state without ‎their having to make the typical concessions that negotiations entail.‎

The planned Paris conference was born out of good will, but it comes at a very bad ‎moment. On the one hand, Resolution 2334, recently adopted by the UN ‎Security Council, has endorsed the Palestinian narrative that the core of the ‎problem comes down to a geographical issue: the settlements in the West Bank ‎and the 1967 borders. Yet this interpretation does not hold water. Every time Israel ‎has
swapped land for peace, it has only earned more terrorism. The most striking ‎and visible case is the Gaza Strip: since Israel carried out its unilateral ‎withdrawal in 2005, Hamas has ruled in that territory with total impunity and the ‎attacks on Israel have only continued. Thousands of rockets and missiles have ‎been launched from Gaza against civilian populations in Israel.‎

It is easy to believe that the conflict can be reduced to an issue of territories. But that’s ‎false. The reality is different.

The real problem is that the Palestinians don’t want ‎to give an inch of what the Israelis want, namely, that they recognize Israel as ‎the Continue reading

Obama and the UN’s outrageous assault on Israel’s legitimacy

Article published in The Times of Israel on 27 December 2016

By Rafael L. Bardaji and Richard Kemp

UN Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli house building in the West Bank including East Jerusalem is itself illegal, unjust and immoral. It will undermine, not advance the cause of peace and lead to increased hatred, violence and death in Israel and even beyond.

East Jerusalem and the entire West Bank constitutes disputed territory rather than being occupied, as the UN falsely insists. The final status of these lands must be mutually agreed in bilateral negotiations between the parties, in accordance with the legally-binding Oslo Accords which the Security Council now treats with contempt.

In her speech following Friday’s resolution, US Ambassador Samantha Power reaffirmed her country’s policy of blocking ‘any resolution that we thought would undermine Israel’s security’.

But her failure to block Resolution 2334 does exactly that. The Palestinian leadership has already hailed the Security Council vote as a victory for them and a defeat for Israel. Historically every such ‘victory’ has emboldened them to increase violence against Israel. This resolution, and Israel’s entirely warranted refusal to implement it, will undoubtedly be used to justify escalating hatred, violence and killing.

It is exactly this type of attitude by international bodies such as the UN and EU, political leaders and human rights groups, that has led to round after round of Palestinian brutality in the West Bank and in Israel proper and to terrorist attacks launched from Gaza, Sinai, Syria and Lebanon.

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Article published in the Daily Telegraph, 22 December 2016.  © Richard Kemp

With a lack of logic that few of Sergeant Alexander Blackman’s army of supporters will understand, Lord Chief Justice Thomas said he recognized the “unprecedented nature” of the case yet insisted on adhering to his own idea of precedents in not releasing him on bail.

The judge is right to fast-track Sergeant Blackman’s appeal, which may be heard as early as January or February. But the Criminal Cases Review Commission, after an 11-month investigation, has decided there is a real possibility that Blackman’s murder conviction will be quashed on appeal.

This means they believe he has been the victim of a miscarriage of justice and will be freed. The judge should therefore have released him now pending his appeal, unless he was worried about Sgt Blackman reoffending or absconding.

Blackman is not an urban drug dealer jailed for premeditated murder of someone who owed him a few hundred pounds. He is a brave, upstanding Royal Marine who volunteered time after time to put his life on the line for his country and made a serious error of judgement under the stress of combat. It doesn’t take years of experience on the bench at the High Court to work out that he is not going to reoffend or flee his bail.

I have grave doubts about the real motives behind the way he has been treated, which fits into an unprecedented pattern of victimization by their own government of British troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.

Blackman is the first member of the British Armed Forces ever to be convicted of murder on the battlefield. His conviction resulted from a defence that – astonishingly – did not include any consideration of the extreme battle stress that he was undoubtedly suffering after several bloody combat tours in quick succession.

This is the principal reason why the Review Commission believe his conviction is likely unsafe. It is blatantly obvious to anybody, with or without experience in battle, that combat stress must have been a major factor in his horrific behavior in Helmand Province. But it apparently did not occur to his legal team, appointed, let us not forget, by the Ministry of Defence.

Why did the judge at his court martial allow Blackman’s defence to proceed on this basis in 2013? Why did the Court Martial Appeal Court not spot this incredible flaw when they rejected his conviction challenge in 2014? Continue reading

Royal Marines in Afghanistan

Our soldiers must never again be hung out to dry

Published in The Daily Mail, 7 December 2016. © Richard Kemp

Justice is finally being done. It’s outstanding news that after three years of unremitting nightmare for Sgt Alexander Blackman, the authorities appear to have seen sense.

Even at this stage, it cannot be a foregone conclusion that his conviction for murder on the battlefield will be dropped, but that is the only sane outcome. It is the one the public demands, through its momentous backing for the Daily Mail’s campaign.

He should be released from prison immediately. If there are any legal means for him to be given bail pending his release, it should happen today. The courts should move immediately. Get him out now.

If there was any justice, Sgt Blackman should spend Christmas with his family. That would be a great morale boost not only for them, but for the many supporters he has in the Armed Forces — as well as millions like me who are sickened to see a brother in arms treated so treacherously.

He should not be in prison at all. This case should never have come to a court martial. The charges could have been dismissed by a senior military officer — and if none of his superiors had the courage to do that, the Defence Secretary should have ruled he was not to be tried.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission declared yesterday that Sgt Blackman may have been suffering from ‘diminished responsibility’ due to stress and battle fatigue.

I could have told them that. In fact, I said it loudly and often, and so did many others. Our voices were ignored — the sound of common sense and, on the ground, military experience, silenced by political correctness.

Having studied the case, I know he was not acting in character when he shot a Taliban insurgent — a man who could well have been dead already when Sgt Blackman fired.

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Trump and International Security

Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 14 November 2016. © Richard Kemp

Since Donald Trump’s election, media-fuelled panic has engulfed Europe, including over defence and security. We are told that World War III is imminent, that Trump will jump into bed with Putin and pull the US out of NATO. Such fantasies are put about by media cheerleaders for European political elites, terrified that Trump’s election will inspire support for populist candidates in the forthcoming elections in Germany, the Netherlands and France.

In fact, it is the EU, not Donald Trump, that threatens to undermine NATO and the security of the West. In recent days, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, his foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen have suggested that Trump’s election should give greater impetus to a European defence force.

This has been an EU aspiration for many years. Citing Trump is just a cynical pretext for speeding it up. It is already well advanced and has gained greater focus since the UK’s decision to leave the EU. The EU army is a vanity project, seen by many European leaders as a necessary instrument of the ever-closer union they desire. Speaking at a meeting of the European Defence Agency in Brussels the day after Trump’s election, Ms Mogherini suggested that the EU needs ‘the full potential of a super power, in the field of defence and security.’

To the economically atrophied EU, a defence union also has the potential for enormous financial savings. The intention will be to aggregate national military capabilities under what will no doubt be described as rationalization and efficiency. This will bring swingeing cuts to European defence capability. It will also severely reduce flexibility and the redundancy which is so vital to military forces that have any expectation of combat in which attrition and multiple simultaneous threats might occur.

The byzantine EU bureaucracy, combined with timidity in so many European nations, will ensure its army could never be deployed in anger. An EU defence union will also present a direct threat to NATO, competing for funds, building in duplication and confusion, and setting up rival military structures. In her speech, Ms Mogherini even spelt out the need for a single EU headquarters for military missions, which she likened to SHAPE, the NATO command centre. Continue reading

Enduring courage spans generations

Article published in the Colchester Gazette, 10 November 2016. © Richard Kemp

ONE of the most moving letters I have ever read was sent from a young Colchester man to his parents 100 years ago.

“I am writing this letter to you just before going into action tomorrow at dawn,” he began.

“‘I am about to take part in the biggest battle that has been fought in France.”

He went on to explain: “My idea of writing this letter is in case I am one of the costs and get killed. I do not expect to be but such things have happened and are always possible.

“It is impossible to fear death out here when one is no longer an individual but a member of a regiment and of an Army.

“What an insignificant thing the loss of, say, forty years of life is compared with them. It seems scarcely worth talking about.

“Well goodbye, my darlings, try not to worry about it and remember that we shall meet again quite soon.”

He wrote that letter at 8 pm on Friday June 30th, 1916. The next day was the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The British Army suffered by far the greatest casualty rate in its history – 20,000 killed and 40,000 missing or wounded on that one day alone. Among them was the author of that letter, killed as the battle began at dawn.

He had been a pupil at my own school, Colchester Royal Grammar. Two other former pupils and a teacher from there were killed that day. In all, 79 old boys and masters of the school died in the First World War. A remarkable number from a school with only 200 on the roll in 1914.

Many today would dismiss this young man’s sentiments as mere jingoism, claiming after 1914 the initial enthusiasm to defend their country had been extinguished and soldiers were unwilling cannon fodder driven to their deaths by heartless politicians and incompetent generals. Continue reading

Security – Defence – Intelligence – Counter Terrorism