Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Prince Harry and Deployment to Iraq

Hmm, has Sir Richard Dannatt just created the Army's "HMS Cornwall" moment? I am deeply disappointed that, for reasons I understand but do not agree with, Harry will not be going to Iraq. I think there are a number of issues here and I'll try to deal with them chronologically:

When Harry joined Sandhurst he would have been "sponsored" by a regiment and it was therefore plain that he was joining the Blues and Royals. The Army's forward planners would have know that the "Arms Plot" would have had his regiment deploying to Iraq in the timescale he was due to take up a post as troop commander. It appears there was no forward planning/thinking as to how this might be handled when it happened.

Once it became public knowledge that the Blues and Royals were deploying but that Harry might not, why did the Mod not "table top" all the possible scenarios and devise a more elegant exit strategy than the one we were presented with today?

I feel for Dannatt post the Cornwall incident. Having fucked up big time over the easter weekend, our not so able Defence Secretary felt extremely vulnerable and told Dannatt in no uncertain terms that the Harry decision was his and his alone. what a cowardly cunt! I'm told Blair also ran like fuck from being associated with the decision. Dannatt's words are carefully constructed but I detect a hint of his frustration with the politicians running away.

That said, I feel he's made the wrong decision and has fallen short on moral courage. Given that the two princes were joining the Army, a coup as the mighty Royal Navy usually attracts Royal signings, there was a natural expectation that they would both do what soldiers do, and that at the moment is fight hard in major trouble spots!! Whilst I appreciate that the William question is easy to handle, "no the future king will not deploy to a war zone", the Harry equation was always more subtle.

Dannatt has effectively told Britain what Tony Blair has been too venally shy to admit, Iraq is fucking dangerous and normal people shouldn't go there! Well us military types are not normal, we understand we might die and we are trained and prepared to take these risks head on. It's what we do. By joining the Armed Forces you enter into a compact with the 60 Million people in this country in that you say to each and every one of them "I will die to ensure your security". Dannatt today has effectively said that is a qualified compact depending on who you are. I am deeply uncomfortable with that as I think Harry probably is too.

The military ethos is unique and, to those not within it, occasionally baffling but it creates a British Armed Forces that are, I absolutely assure you, held in awe by friends and enemies alike. The phrase "they punch above their weight" is pertinent but doesn't even begin to describe our impact compared with our resources. We are universally acknowledged as the best and today's announcement has chipped away at that in a way that has some short term effects but some massive bearing on how we might conduct ourselves in the future.

I'm worried.

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