Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Apocalypse Now - Apocalypse Again

The recent deaths in Afghanistan of eight young soldiers has brought calls for increased helicopter capability in that sad country.

Country is, perhaps, too strong a word. Hostile territory and the graveyard of invaders for the last 2000 years would be a more accurate description.

An old joke. What's the difference between the Army and the Boy Scouts? Answer – the Boy Scouts have adult leaders.

Ask the Army chiefs for answers and all you get are calls for more mobility and a way of keeping their soldiers out of harm's way – more helicopters.

This is nonsense.

Do they not study the Vietnam conflict at Staff College?

Remember that great tableau in Apocalypse Now where Robert Duvall is leading the Air Cavalry into battle to the strains of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, and searching for a good place to surf?

Not only is this great cinema, it is also a lesson in how not to conduct operations in a hostile environment where it is impossible to distinguish the enemy from the civilian population.

Put your troops into helicopters and you cede the ground to the enemy. You lose the element of surprise. You alienate the civilian population who no longer see you as a person – just a malignant, hovering beast spitting shells at them. You have already lost the war.

Not only that but you immediately increase casualties. Helicopter today are much larger that the Huey. The Chinooks can take up to 40 troops at a time into harm's way. The Taliban can and will shoot them down. Casualties will increase, not decrease.

We are in the hole. Stop digging.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Revenge - and not very sweet!

Jack Straw's decision not to release a dying Ronnie Biggs on parole is a disgrace and shows how far the politicians can be out of step with reality.

When assessing Biggs' suitability for parole he has focussed on the lack of contrition and remorse for the crimes he committed. And, what were those crimes?

He robbed a train of a lot of money. Mostly, the state's money. He escaped from prison and lived the high-life whilst thumbing his nose at the authorities for many years.

For these things he deserves punishment. And punishment he has had. He has served a large part of his original sentence. Whilst voluntarily choosing to return to the UK he has placed himself in the hands of a vengeful and mean-spirited politician who is only worrying about what a small and small-minded section of the public may think.

He is also going against the advice of the parole board.

This is a disgrace.

People who plough into a group of Mum's with prams go to jail – but for a few years. They are more of a danger to society than Ronnie Biggs. He cannot live much longer.

Meanwhile a nation which prides itself on compassion and a sense of fair play is shamed and disgraced by what can only be described as a “Myra Hindley” moment from a Minister of the Crown who should know better and be thoroughly ashamed.