21 Dec 04. The current perceived disdainful attitude by this government to its Armed Forces may be explained by two factors, one none of the present cabinet has served in the Forces and many of them were active in campaigning against defence expenditure. History is littered with stories of mutinies and troops abandoning positions due to cruel and bullying superiors.
As we said in our AUSA special issue (BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.6 ISSUE 41, 30 October 2004, AUSA 2004 – BACK TO THE FUTURE) and it is worth repetition there is a huge difference in the way that the US treats its armed forces and the UK. The Veterans budget in the US is second only to the defence budget whereas in the UK 40% of homeless people are ex-services and supported in the main by such wonderful charities as BLESMA, the British Legion and SSAFA.
At AUSA 2004 the U.S. soldier, his safety and family came first. The Marshall Award for 2004 was dedicated to the U.S. Soldier, Donald Rumsfeld in his speech to AUSA Members praised the performance of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and their supreme sacrifice. “I never seem to be amazed at these young men and women,” he said.
In contrast in the UK BATTLESPACE has learnt that during the recce deployment to Camp Dogwood by the Marines (strenuously denied by the Government) one mortar attack on a vehicle led to the occupant’s clothes and equipment being completely destroyed. One soldier in particular had no clothes apart from those he stood up in for three weeks and they did not eat for three days! It is also reported that the recce platoon recommended that camp Dogwood was not suitable as a base as it gave no visibility to oncoming vehicles and the Marines based their troops in the desert areas where all vehicle movements could be monitored.
BLESMA has told BATTLESPACE that the two multiple amputees wounded in the mission were in fact from the Royal Signals and both men lost their legs, they are recovering in hospital. A total of nine amputees have been reported to BLESMA and many hundreds of US troops are believed to have amputations of various limbs.
Mr Hoon’s attitude to the troops and the Black watch was met with outrage by the SNP and Annabelle Ewing, the party’s MP for Perth, was ordered to leave the House of Commons chamber after describing Mr Hoon as a “backstabbing coward”. She was asked to withdraw the remark but refused and was told to leave the chamber by Sir Alan Haslehurst, the Deputy Speaker. Ms Ewing was followed out of the Commons by the rest of her SNP colleagues, including Alex Salmond, the party leader.
Mr Hoon’s announcement provoked anger from supporters of The Black Watch. Rob Scott, of the Save the Scottish Regiments Campaign, said: “It’s like a Judas kiss, and you know that Judas hung himself. I think that the Labour Party has hung itself.”
Yesterday the Times reported that the Scottish Parliament delivered a rebuke to Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, last night when MSPs voted narrowly to condemn his decision to combine Scotland’s six infantry regiments into a single unit.
MSPs agreed by 61 votes to 59, with seven abstentions, to a Conservative motion, slightly amended by the Liberal Democrats, calling for the regiments to be maintained as the best way to guarantee the operational effectiveness of the Scottish infantry.
Although the vote was on a purely party basis, because defence is reserved to Westminster, the vote was still an embarrassment to Mr Hoon and the UK Government.
The Lib Dems, Labour’s coalition partners at Holyrood, voted with Tory and SNP MSPs to defeat a Labour amendment which called only for the identities of the regiments to be retained within the new army structure. A jubilant David McLetchie, the Scottish Tory leader, said after the vote: “The Scottish Parliament has said that Scotland should have six real regiments and we will take this mandate into the general election.”
The vote came hours after Jack McConnell, the First Minister, had voic