This week virtue-signalling MPs, journalists and commentators fell over themselves to condemn a squad of 3 PARA soldiers in a video apparently showing them shooting at an image of Jeremy Corbyn. Armchair judges on TV and social media stridently pronounced their behaviour ‘far below the standards expected of the British Army’.
But was it? The video doesn’t actually show any soldier shooting at Corbyn’s image. These men’s mission in Afghanistan includes VIP protection. They train by firing at a target array of enemy fighters, with VIPs and uninvolved civilians among them – not to shoot at but to avoid hitting. Yes, there seem to have been shots on Corbyn’s picture. That happens in training and helps reduce the likelihood of it happening for real. I don’t know whether that is what we have seen but neither do those so desperate to lash out at our fighting men.
The worst anti-military snowflakes and political opportunists have branded these soldiers ‘fascist thugs’ inciting attacks on MPs and even practising a sinister plot to take out the Leader of the Opposition. What utter garbage. If I’m wrong and these men were deliberately shooting at his image, it will be nothing more sinister than troops fooling around.
No, they shouldn’t be doing that on a range. But they are living and working in extremely hazardous conditions with their lives under constant threat. Sometimes young soldiers do stupid things to let off steam. When they are caught they’re often disciplined. They may have thought it was funny at the time – they won’t now. But as men whose job is to see and do terrible things that most keyboard commissars couldn’t imagine, a black sense of humour will often carry them through. In this case perhaps ill-judged, but for those of us who have served, not beyond comprehension.
The video certainly gives a bad impression of the Army. Soldiers must rise above politics and stay impartial – and be seen to. In my experience that is almost always the case, with a tiny number of miscreants quickly dealt with. But the Army should get a grip of its social media policies, including stamping out freelance filming and posting of military activities that can give a false picture. Continue reading →
A time when the Army is not at war and hitting the headlines makes recruiting tough. As does full employment, but poor manning levels are due mainly to a privatised recruiting machine forced on the Army by cost-cutting politicians. A potential recruit rarely meets a real soldier – vital in encouraging young people and allaying their fears – until well into the application process.
The recruiting bureaucracy is virtually impenetrable. As a former soldier, I am often asked to help navigate the system, but even my understanding of the Army has rarely enabled me to do much in the face of ‘computer says no’.
How can an eager applicant be expected to wait 12 months from initial inquiry to sign-up? Poor manning levels are also caused by excessive outflow. An army savaged by cuts is a declining industry. Conditions of service have been eroded and soldiers publicly dragged through the courts falsely accused of war crimes. All this takes its toll and creates a vicious circle where unpleasant duties come round more often in undermanned units and soldiers leave.
I have been heartened to see generals actively trying to unlock the recruiting logjam as well as an imaginative advertising campaign, the Army’s surge into social media and TV shows, like Raw Recruits.
But I fear the problem won’t be solved unless the Army takes up recruiting methods used by battalion commanders that achieved full manning two decades ago.
I inherited an undermanned unit but was able to turn it round by sending my troops to scout for talent outside McDonald’s and other gathering places for likely lads.The key was getting smart young soldiers in uniform on to the streets – more effective than the shiniest computer or Twitter feed.
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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.
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.
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 →