Stop the Army witch-hunt – hounding of Ulster soldiers is shameful

By Richard Kemp and Henry Robinson

A version of this article appeared in The Daily Express on 1 October 2018

A British soldier and an Official IRA member, we were on opposite sides during the Northern Ireland conflict. Later, both of us were involved in the process that led to peace and greater prosperity across the province. Today we are gravely concerned about the turn of events that threatens to see many elderly British veterans hauled into court, charged with murder for actions they were involved with while serving decades ago. The aim is to criminalise them individually and collectively.

This is being driven by Sinn Fein, who want to re-write history, with the IRA cast as heroic and honourable soldiers in a just war and the UK armed forces and police as the criminal oppressors. To adapt Clausewitz’s dictum, it is a continuation of war by other means.

This should have come as no surprise: it has been the Republicans’ agenda all along. Neither of us holds a brief for Sinn Fein. But we don’t blame them for this situation — they are merely exploiting an opportunity that has been handed to them on a plate. Culpability lies entirely with the British government for the spectacle of former soldiers in their declining years being arrested in their homes, taken in for police questioning, subjected to months of investigation and dragged into the dock.

Every one of these soldiers was exonerated by proper legal process at the time of the events concerned. Retired soldiers are easy pickings, but the real prize for Sinn Féin is the Royal Ulster Constabulary and particularly the Special Branch which above all was responsible for the intelligence penetration that defeated the IRA and forced Sinn Fein to the table.

Meanwhile the peace process secured early release for Republican prisoners and letters of comfort for terrorists ‘on-the-run’. This amounts to amnesty and has effectively de-criminalised them.

During the peace negotiations, the possibility of an equivalent amnesty for British soldiers and police accused of wrongdoing during the Troubles was discussed but roundly rejected by their leaders who refused to allow their own to be equated to the terrorists they spent decades combating. Yet ministers took no alternative action to safeguard the men who fought under government orders, despite the fact that these vexatious prosecutions were foreseen by many, including both of us. Continue reading

In the name of peace, it is time to accept Israel’s possession of the Golan Heights

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 2 October 2018.  © Richard Kemp

The Golan Heights were a launch-pad for aggression against Israel from the rebirth of the state in 1948 until captured by Israel in a defensive war in 1967. Even today, territory adjacent to the Golan is used to threaten Israel. It is time for the international community to recognise Israel’s possession of the Golan Heights as legitimate and necessary. Such a bold move would do much more than just support Israel’s security — it would also advance peace and regional stability.

The Golan Heights, bordering Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, dominate the Jordan Rift Valley which contains the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. The Heights were allocated by the British and French governments to the French Mandate of Syria in the 1920s and were transferred as part of the newly independent state of Syria in 1946. When the administrative line between the British and French Mandates was drawn in 1923 no consideration was given to defence against aggression from either territory.

The picture has of course changed immeasurably since then. Vulnerability of Israel to occupation of the Heights by hostile forces is proven by recent history and re-affirmed by events from the start of the civil war in Syria until today. This vulnerability remains even with the advent of modern warfighting technology.

As part of the Arab League, Syrian forces launched an invasion of northern Israel across the Golan Heights in June 1948. After the 1949 armistice, there were years of sporadic attacks against Israel from the Golan Heights, including cross-border raids by Fatah and shelling of civilian communities by the Syrian Army. Syria intensified its artillery fire against Israel on the outbreak of the Six Day War in 1967. Israel then seized a major area of the Golan Heights to protect its citizens and its territory. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War by Arab states against Israel, the Syrians re-took part of the Golan — vital ground for offensive operations against Israel — but were subsequently thrust back. Continue reading

Putin: getting away with murder

Article published in The Daily Express, 6 September 2018.  © Richard Kemp

Impressive police and intelligence work paint the clearest picture: Two Russian GRU military intelligence officers travelled from Moscow, launched a nerve agent attack on British soil and made their getaway.

The GRU have a track record of assassinations overseas and this hit would have been authorised personally by General Sergey Shoygu, the Russian Defence Minister, with the approval of President Putin.

Some claim the shoddy tradecraft that allowed our police and intelligence services to build up such a detailed picture proves this was not the work of the highly capable GRU.

That is to misunderstand the way they operate.

Skripal was one of their own, a GRU officer who betrayed them.

Their mission was not just to eliminate a traitor but to send a chilling message to others.

It was as well an opportunity for Putin to send a message of power and defiance to the world and to his own people, a message he reinforces often by violations of airspace, cyber war and aggression in Eastern Europe and Syria.

Putin has turned Russia into an enemy of the West at a time when we should be working with it to confront threats including Islamic terrorism, nuclear proliferation and mass uncontrolled migration.

This international gangster will not be checked by appeasement but by forceful counteraction.

It is in nobody’s interests to go to war with Russia, but we should wage a dirty war against the GRU. Continue reading

After Brexit, we can give Isil terrorists the justice they deserve

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 24 July 2018.  © Richard Kemp

The Home Secretary is right to agree to pass evidence against Islamic State terror suspects Alexanda Kotey and Shafee El-Sheikh to the US Attorney General without guarantees that they will not be executed if convicted. His decision cannot have been easy.

The Government is opposed to the death penalty and has a long-standing policy of securing assurances that it will not be used by foreign governments if current (or former, in the case of Kotey and El-Sheikh) British citizens are extradited. Indeed, there has been outrage against this move by human rights activists and we can expect legal challenges.

But Sajid Javid is prioritising the rights and safety of innocents above the human rights of suspected terrorists. Far better for them to go to the electric chair in the US if convicted than to let them come back to Britain and murder our citizens.

For the same reason, if they can’t be successfully prosecuted in the US, they should be sent to Guantánamo Bay. Many people balk at that, but what is the alternative?

Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 with a pledge to close Guantánamo, but when he stepped down after eight years it was still open. It is the equivalent of a prisoner of war camp during conventional hostilities and, even after 17 years of the War on Terror, no one has come up with a viable alternative.

Some claim that it is a recruiting sergeant for terrorism against the West, and that incarceration there, or a death sentence, would make martyrs of Kotey and El-Sheikh. Maybe. But there is a greater risk if they are not dealt with effectively. Continue reading

Do not be fooled by what Hamas is doing

Article published in The Jewish Chronicle, 17 May 2018.  © Richard Kemp

It’s hard for people in Britain and Europe to understand what has been happening on the Gaza border. Most can recognise rockets fired at civilian communities and attack tunnels dug into kibbutzim for mass murder as acts of war by Hamas terrorists — even those whose default setting is to blame the Jewish state.

But Hamas has succeeded in portraying their latest aggression against Israel as peaceful demonstrations in support of a so-called ‘right of return’ and the world has been horrified by what they’ve been told is an Israeli massacre of innocents.

Don’t be fooled. Like the rockets and the tunnels, these mobs — including armed terrorists — have been mobilised by Hamas for one purpose: to force the IDF to respond with lethal force, killing as many Palestinians as possible.

The reason? To bring down upon the State of Israel international outrage, condemnation and isolation — exactly the same as in the last three Gaza conflicts.

Those who claim the IDF should have acted differently are ignorant or malign — or both.

This week I was on the border with IDF commanders, snipers and observers. As the British Army would in such circumstances, they used graduated force, including non-lethal weapons, and only as a last resort opened fire.

I was a soldier for 30 years, commanding troops in combat zones around the world. Watching the IDF in action I dug deep into my military knowledge and experience to find another answer to the horrific challenge they faced.

There isn’t one that would work. Continue reading

Gaza: distortion of the truth

Speech made by Colonel Richard Kemp at the emergency session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the deteriorating situation in Gaza on 18 May 2018

I commanded British troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans and Northern Ireland and served with NATO and the UN. I’ve come straight from the Gaza front line to share my assessment.

Based on what I observed, I can say that everything we just heard here is a complete distortion of the truth. The truth is that Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of Israel and murder of Jews everywhere, deliberately caused over 60 of its own people to get killed.

They sent thousands of civilians to the front line — as human shields for terrorists trying to break through the border. Hamas’s goal, in their own words, was, quote, ‘blood… in the path of Jihad’. I ask every country in this Council: you have all been telling us that Israel should have reacted differently. But how would you respond if a Jihadist terror group sent thousands to flood your borders, and gunmen to massacre your communities?

Your failure to admit that Hamas is responsible for every drop of blood spilt on the Gaza border encourages their violence and use of human shields. It makes you complicit in further bloodshed. If Israel had allowed these mobs to break through the fence, the IDF would then have been forced to defend their own civilians from slaughter and many more Palestinians would have been killed.

Israel’s actions therefore saved lives of Gazans; and if this Council really cared about human rights, it should commend the Israel Defence Force for that, not condemn them on the basis of lies.

Hamas are using their own people as expendable tools. Don’t fall for their games

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 16 May 2018.  © Richard Kemp

On Monday the Iran-backed terrorist organisation Hamas achieved its baleful objective when more than 50 people were killed. This is what it had hoped for when it dispatched thousands of Gazans, including women and children, to the border with Israel under orders to break through the fence. This carefully planned operation – which continued on Tuesday – had nothing to do with protest or the so-called right of return of Palestinians to Israel. It was only about grabbing headlines and creating a situation that the Israel Defence Force had to deal with by lethal force.

Knowing they cannot defeat the IDF by military means, this has been Hamas’s long-term strategy: to cause international outrage aimed at isolating Israel. Previously it has fired rockets and dug attack tunnels, both intended to murder Israeli civilians, leaving the IDF with no option other than to defend its people with force. Hamas’s use of human shields in each of these situations guaranteed civilian deaths.

Hamas has brought these tactics to a new and sickening low in recent weeks, making its human shields the actual weapons of war, with inevitably bloody consequences. This is the first government in history that has deliberately sought to compel its enemy to kill its own people.

You have only to look at yesterday’s world headlines to see that these tactics are more effective than before. While Western commentators, human rights groups and politicians can recognise rockets and attack tunnels as aggressive military actions, it is harder to understand the same thing of apparent demonstrations such as are frequently seen in most capital cities of Europe.

How has the IDF responded to this aggression, which in reality is very far removed from anything seen so far in Europe? Over recent days, I have visited IDF commanders and snipers at the border and Continue reading

Expected Upsurge in Gaza Violence

Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 13 May 2018.  © Richard Kemp 

I predict a riot — and much worse. The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas is orchestrating a ‘demonstration’ at the beginning of this week of up to 200,000 people on the Gaza border with Israel, and is intent on turning it into an orgy of death and bloodshed. If that happens, the UN and EU, human rights groups and many Western media organizations will have helped bring it about.

Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, is planning the bloody culmination of six weeks of violence along the border that has so far led to the deaths of around 50 of their own people and wounding of hundreds more. Now they intend to pile the bodies higher still, exploiting what they see as a perfect storm. It is the seventieth anniversary of the creation of the modern State of Israel — a date that Palestinians revile as ‘Nakba’ or ‘Catastrophe’ Day. It coincides with the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, a move abhorrent to those who consider the existence of the Jewish State illegitimate. And it is the beginning of the Islamic festival of Ramadan, a time when violence throughout the Muslim world often spirals.

Hamas claim that the purpose of their ‘demonstrations’ is to break through the Israeli border en masse, march through the country and reclaim the homes that they say their people were thrown out of when Israel was formed — exercising the strongly disputed ‘right of return’. But they know they cannot achieve that in the face of the formidable Israel Defence Force.

So the true and malevolent purpose of Hamas’s plan is to incite violence in such a way that the IDF has no choice but to respond with lethal force, killing Gaza civilians. This makes Hamas the first government in history to deliberately lure its enemies to kill its own civilian population. Why does it wish to sacrifice its people so barbarically? To bring down upon Israel the vilification of the Western world. To isolate and criminalise the country and cause condemnation by political leaders, the UN and the EU, human rights groups, academics and the media.

Hamas has followed this strategy many times in the past, firing rockets at Israeli civilian communities and constructing under the border sophisticated attack tunnels from which fighters would storm into the heart of Jewish communities and carry out mass murder and abduction. Thousands of Palestinians have died, including human shields that are so central to Hamas’s strategy, as the IDF has been compelled to forcefully defend its people. The world has often reacted with horror and outrage, blaming Israel for the bloodshed provoked by Hamas — just as intended.

If anything, Hamas’s current plans are even more effective. Rockets and attack tunnels look like what they are — engines of war. But political leaders, international organizations, human rights groups and the media — the primary targets for Hamas’s lethal propaganda — find it hard to understand how demonstrations, falsely portrayed as peaceful, like they might see in their own cities, can pose a sufficient threat to warrant the use of deadly force. Continue reading

Army chiefs RAGE as government hounds British soldiers over Northern Ireland Troubles

Article published in The Daily Express, 12 May 2018.  © Richard Kemp 

I’m sick of hearing soldiers who fought to protect the citizens of Northern Ireland being compared with terrorists who set out deliberately to murder, maim and intimidate those same citizens.

Our soldiers volunteered to serve their country and were sent to Northern Ireland, often living in filthy, cramped conditions, working round the clock to the point of exhaustion, patrolling day and night through cities, villages and open country, in rain, cold and mud, carrying heavy equipment and all the while facing death and maiming.

Patrolling through the rat-runs of the Divis Flats in Belfast, they had fridges dropped on to them from the walkways above, bins emptied over them, were spat at, cursed and had bags of urine or faeces hurled at them.

That was the easy part.

On patrol in Belfast my friend Private Steve Gill lost both legs, half an arm and an eye in a bomb attack and his mates were blown across the street covered in his blood and gore.

Steve was lucky: a few weeks earlier Nick Peacock, also from our battalion, the 2nd Royal Anglians, was killed by another bomb not far away.

Both little more than boys, they knew the risks they faced yet cheerfully stood between the most deadly terrorists on earth and the defenceless civilians they wanted to murder.

How can there be any comparison between these brave men and the mendacious killers who carefully put together, positioned and set off the Semtex bombs that killed and maimed them and countless others? Continue reading

YEARS OF CUTS BY IRRESPONSIBLE POLITICIANS CREATED TODAY’S MESS

Article published in The Daily Mirror, 25 April 2018.  © Richard Kemp 

The British Army is shockingly undermanned as a result of years of savage defence cuts by successive governments. They know they can get away with such irresponsibility with electoral impunity. But their attitude is short-sighted.

The armed forces serve two purposes. The first is to show strength and resolve to defend ourselves at home and overseas and stand by our allies when they are threatened. This is a deterrent against aggressors. Strong deterrence reduces the likelihood of war. If our forces and the resolve of our politicians to use them is weak it makes war far more likely. Short of war the Salisbury nerve agent attack — the first such strike anywhere in Europe — shows us the liberties Putin is ready to take with a country he sees as weak.

The second purpose is to do the actual fighting. History shows us that if the forces are under-manned and under-funded that leads to unnecessary casualties and failure. British governments too often hope they will get away with keeping their fingers crossed that we won’t be seriously threatened before their term is up. British soldiers are the ones who eventually pay the price for such neglect with their blood.

One example of under-funding is the government’s disastrous recruitment programme, outsourced to Capita. Everyone — including many serving officers — recognise that this has been a disaster but don’t have the funds to deal with it. I know first hand how appalling it has been, having spent many frustrating hours trying to help potential recruits to penetrate the bureaucracy of the civilianised recruiting system — and often failing, despite my own experience of the military system.

The consequence of all this is the undermanning we see today which represents a political betrayal of our army and our country by those we elect above all to ensure we are properly defended.

Security – Defence – Intelligence – Counter Terrorism