Review: Meeting the Enemy: the Human Face of the Great War by Richard van Emden
This tour de force of research casts new light on meetings
between the British and Germans in the First World War
As Guardsman Norman Cliff passed two decomposing bodies on the Western Front he was overcome by conflicting emotions. Two soldiers, one German, the other British, lay hand in hand “as though reconciled in mutual agony and in the peace of death”.
This grim yet deeply moving scene evokes Wilfred Owen’s great poem Strange Meeting, written shortly before he was killed in action in 1918. One line, “I am the enemy you killed, my friend”, sums up the often paradoxical relationship between deadly enemies on the Western Front which is the central theme of this book. Despite industrialised carnage, fighting men at the front could often feel greater comradeship with their enemies-in-arms than their own countrymen back at home. Continue reading
Plans to replace regular soldiers with part-timers are in desperate trouble
Senior officers have been busy flashing out immediate operational orders. Has a rampaging jihadist army landed on our shores to threaten the capital? No, what is causing brass to jangle is an entirely predictable recruiting crisis.
In the past three months, barely a quarter of the numbers needed have enlisted in the Army Reserve — the TA — and the outlook is no better. This bleak picture is also reflected in the Regular Army, but the impact is most serious in the Reserve because a swell in their numbers is the cornerstone of the Government’s fundamentally flawed plan to replace 20,000 professional regular soldiers with part-timers. Continue reading
Al-Qaida’s war will not end when Nato forces leave Afghanistan. If anything, terrorist attacks here in Britain could increase
Michael Adebolajo, the knife-wielding, blood-soaked brute who is suspected of killing Drummer Lee Rigby told passersby he was fed up with people killing Muslims in Afghanistan. If that was the reason for Wednesday’s attack on Drummer Lee Rigby, Adebolajo should have travelled to Helmand and started wielding his knife against Taliban fighters. It is they who kill most Muslims in Afghanistan.
According to the United Nations, 81% of civilian casualties were inflicted by the Taliban and their bedfellows in 2012, with only 8% caused by Afghan and coalition forces. This is roughly the pattern of previous years too. The overwhelming majority of the Taliban’s
victims were the result of deliberate targeting and indiscriminate use of improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks, some carried out by children. Continue reading
The bleatings of Forces Watch show it doesn’t understand the Army
Forces Watch and Child Soldiers International proudly proclaim that their new report, One Step Forward, “details how the Ministry of Defence wastes up to £94 million each year training under-18s for army roles”. Wow! Human rights groups anxious to see Britain’s defence budget spent on more cost-effective ways of dispatching the Queen’s enemies? Continue reading
The brutal actions of a small number of soldiers from The Parachute Regiment on Bloody Sunday betrayed generations of brave and honourable men who have fought for this country wearing the maroon beret before and since.
The ill-disciplined mayhem that saw 13 dead on the streets of Londonderry has left an immovable stain on the reputation of the British Army.
And these killings helped exacerbate the violence that was already on the increase in Northern Ireland, with 40 soldiers killed in the preceding 12 months.
Nevertheless it is wrong to now bring criminal prosecutions against these former paratroopers. Many victims of the Troubles have been denied justice as a result of the peace process including the families
of British soldiers murdered by the IRA. Continue reading
Another terrible landmark in the global war on terror. What have the deaths of 2,000 American troops in Afghanistan achieved? Throughout the years that I worked at the centre of the British intelligence machinery, a vast array of reliable secret reporting and communications intercept clearly showed that al-Qaeda was hell-bent on another attack of 9/11 proportions. They have failed even to come close.
To a very significant extent this failure is down to the work of international forces in Afghanistan. All too often, at the cost of their own lives, these international forces in Afghanistan have prevented al-Qaeda from re-establishing their base, which intelligence showed to be one of their critical objectives from 2002 onwards. Continue reading
Allied forces have no option but to stand by our Afghan allies, however suspect their loyalty
My first experience of “green on blue” — the euphemism for Afghan soldiers going rogue — was as an officer cadet in 1978. I awoke at two in the morning with an Afghan’s knife at my throat.
A fellow officer cadet, he and I had become friends during our six-month course, but I had made the mistake of relieving him of his rifle when he found it impossible to keep up during a forced march across Sandhurst’s infamous Barossa training area. This he took as a mortal insult against him, his family and all of his ancestors. Continue reading
Afghanistan is no longer shocked by Taleban brutality
Most Afghans will be sickened, but I doubt they will be shocked, at the latest atrocity to emerge from Helmand. On Sunday night 17 Afghan men and women were butchered, many of them beheaded, for “partying with music in an area under the control of the Taleban,” as a spokesman for Helmand’s provincial governor put it.
According to a tribal elder, such killings have been on the rise in this region of Helmand, with three beheadings in the month of Ramadan alone. Executions are not only justified on so-called religious grounds. Many, including old women and children as young as 7, have
been slain after accusations of spying for Nato or the Afghan Government. Continue reading
As a former soldier and taxpayer, I was deeply embarrassed when I visited barracks and found soldiers living in slum conditions
WHEN 1,200 soldiers, sailors and airmen march past the Earl of Wessex in Plymouth today they will represent all of the men and women who have served on land, at sea and in the skies around the world, protecting our country.
Off the shores of this historic naval port, at 2pm, one of our most powerful warships, HMS Argyll, will fire a 21-gun salute.
At fly-pasts, parades and ceremonies in towns and cities across the UK, we will commemorate the service so honourably given by our brave fighting troops. Continue reading
I don’t like snooping either, but if we want to stop terrorists we must be free to monitor the technology they use
This week MPs, civil liberties campaigners and human rights lawyers stampeded to the studios to oppose plans to record internet communications that the Home Secretary says are “vital” to combat serious crime and terrorism.
In the past, I have had responsibility for authorising and carrying out surveillance against terrorist suspects, criminals and insurgents. I always felt uncomfortable eavesdropping on private phone conversations or covertly watching people at home with hidden cameras or powerful optics, or reading their e-mails and text messages. Continue reading