what was it kissinger said about soldiers?

“Military men are just dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.” – Henry Kissinger, quoted in “Kiss the Boys Goodbye: How the United States Betrayed Its Own POW’s in Vietnam” by Monika Jensen-Stevenson

Human Rights Act will hamper soldiers in action, warns MoD
Andrew Johnson, Independent, May 17 2009

The Ministry of Defence is bracing itself for defeat with a landmark court ruling tomorrow on whether Britain’s soldiers, sailors and airmen should be protected under the Human Rights Act while they serve abroad. If the judgment from one of the UK’s most senior judges goes against the MoD, as some defence chiefs fear, it could force it to take greater care of troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The MoD has repeatedly been criticised for the loss of life caused by poor equipment in both conflicts, including the use of poorly armoured Snatch Land Rovers, and the loss of 14 men in a Nimrod aircraft, later described as unairworthy. Yesterday, the sixth British soldier to be killed in eight days in Afghanistan was named as Royal Marine Jason Mackie, 21, from Bampton, Oxford. He died after the Viking vehicle he was travelling in was destroyed by a roadside bomb. The MoD has ordered the removal of this vehicle from Afghanistan as it is too vulnerable to attack.

MoD officials are said to be deeply concerned that a ruling in favour of the Human Rights Act applying to soldiers serving abroad will damage their fighting effectiveness. They argue commanders making split-second decisions in the heat of battle may be paralysed by fear that their decisions will become the subject of legal actions. Tomorrow, the Master of the Rolls, Sir Anthony Clarke will decide on an appeal by the MoD in the case of Private Jason Smith, 32, who died of heatstroke while billeted in a football stadium in Basra in 2003. An inquest heard that, with temperatures soaring to 60C in the Al Amarah stadium, there was neither air conditioning nor medical treatment, and the wrong medical advice was handed out. Last year a court found that the Human Rights Act, which includes the right to life, should apply to soldiers serving abroad in a case brought by Pte Smith’s mother, Catherine.

Tomorrow’s decision could also have major implications for how inquiries are carried out. The MoD has been consistently criticised for failing to carry out proper investigations and blocking the release of information at inquests. Under the Human Rights Act, the Government would have to hold a full and open inquiry into the death abroad of any service personnel. In March, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, headed by Sir Trevor Phillips, intervened on Mrs Smith’s behalf. During the hearing, John Wadham, the commission’s group legal director, said: “This is not about an unreasonable expectation that the MoD will protect their life at all costs in a combat situation. It is about providing a good duty of care to them to ensure they remain as safe as possible.”

Jocelyn Cockburn, Mrs Smith’s solicitor, said the case was about the MoD taking “measures to prevent threats to life of which they could reasonably be aware.” Last year Mrs Smith said there had been no “disclosure at all” after her son’s death. “Every day at the inquest we had to ask for things. They denied they had a report into his death, then when we finally got it, it was hopeless, because half the pages were missing and many of those left were blanked out. They went out there to help people. We expected that the army would look after them.”

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former army commander, said the MoD had a point. “A commander in the field’s job is to defeat the enemy with as few casualties as possible,” he said. “But that commander has to make decisions about what equipment is effective. Sometimes kit maybe too heavy or too cumbersome to use effectively, and that’s a judgement call which can’t be hedged by fear of future legal action. I do understand that for the family that is a very difficult pill to swallow.” An MoD spokesman said: “This has never been about seeking to deny rights to our service personnel. The MoD has argued consistently that in the heat of battle on foreign territory, the UK could not secure the rights and freedoms which human rights legislation seeks to guarantee.”

10 Comments

  1. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Most military hardware is ill-conceived, over-priced junk designed to dazzle non-technical, non-combatant civilians. It doesn’t matter how cleverly one designs a land-based vehicle, if the bomb-makers can launch it more than 4 metres off the ground then the people inside will be “unfit for duty” when it lands.

  2. niqnaq
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    4 metres? Blimey, I should say they would.

  3. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    The military’s addiction to routine eventually turns its grunts into sitting ducks for an ambush. It remains true that counter-invasion will always have the edge over risk-averse, militaristic ‘counter-insurgency’ of the US variety.

  4. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    There’s plenty of vision of very large Russian vehicles and their human contents soaring heavenward during the Afghan campaign. There’s a doco called Afghan Trap – just watching that could give a person of delicate disposition a nosebleed. The Iraqis were very clever with explosives too. It only takes 20kg to destroy an armoured vehicle and there was at least one store of 400 tons of military-grade HE in Iraq when the Yanks arrived in 2003 – and all of it found its way into the hands of the Iraqi Resistance.

  5. niqnaq
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    It sounds like the sort of thing you could get sent to prison for even watching, in the US or here in the UK.

    There’s an idiotic piece in the (US) Military World about prepping the soldiery for Afghanistan — sort of pop anthropology for dummies, you know: the Afghans are (a) hospitable but (b) obsessed with honor, etc.:
    http://www.military-world.net/Afghanistan/1395.html

  6. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Wiki has an excellent piece on Explosively formed penetrators (EFP). The Americans provided the Iraqi Army with lots of technical data on EFPs and other devices during the Iran-Iraq war – so they couldn’t have been as surprised as they pretended to be when the Iraqis found an anti-American use for them. And peretending that Iraqi EFPs originated in Iran was the Joke of the Century…

  7. niqnaq
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I think there were US Black Ops. deliberately making sure that some of Saddam’s ammo dumps weren’t secured — the US wanted a violent reaction to its presence. Which brings us back to Kissinger’s indiscreet remark. Apparently he made it in the presence of Gen. Alexander Haig, which is why we know about it.

  8. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Tossed in the slammer? Gosh, RB, you’re beginning to sound like a worry-wort (trouble is ALWAYS a two-way street).
    Can’t recall for sure but the AfTrap was probably produced by BBC or Frontline – the sources for all good non-Oz) docos.

  9. niqnaq
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Oh, well, that would be OK, then. I was thinking of those things that Jihad Unspun used to put out, with names like “Afghan Hell”.

  10. Posted May 18, 2009 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    Most military hardware is ill-conceived, over-priced junk designed to dazzle non-technical, non-combatant civilians. It doesn’t matter how cleverly one designs a land-based vehicle, if the bomb-makers can launch it more than 4 metres off the ground then the people inside will be “unfit for duty” when it lands.

    We have direct experience with one horrible example of this. It’s a registration system that’s supposed to use line-of-sight and other similar technologies to help evacuate an embattled US embassy. It was showcased in an air-conditioned warehouse and doesn’t work well in heat — but almost all these things take place in the tropics. It presupposes that elements can be lined up and kept lined up, and that one of these orderly elements are the people being evacuated. Our unit spent its time training on this by mocking the mock-up and making sure people knew alternative, more realistic procedures.

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