Two Top British Military Officers Criticize US/UK Leadership in War

September 3rd, 2007 - by admin

Tariq Panja / & Elizabeth Grice / The Telegraph – 2007-09-03 22:17:10

2nd Retired British General Slams US
Tariq Panja / & Associated Press

LONDON (September 2, 2007) — A second retired British general slammed the United States over its Iraq policy, saying in a newspaper interview published Sunday that it had been “fatally flawed.”

Maj. Gen. Tim Cross, the most senior British officer involved in the postwar planning, said he had raised serious concerns about the possibility of Iraq falling into chaos but said former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the warnings.

“Right from the very beginning we were all very concerned about the lack of detail that had gone into the postwar plan and there is no doubt that Rumsfeld was at the heart of that process,” Cross said in the Sunday Mirror newspaper.
The comments come a day after the release of critical comments made by the general who led the British army during the Iraq invasion.

Retired Gen. Sir Mike Jackson also singled out Rumsfeld for criticism, saying his approach to the invasion was “intellectually bankrupt,” according to quotes excerpted from his autobiography and published by The Daily Telegraph Saturday.

Rumsfeld stepped down as defense secretary in November, one day after midterm elections in which opposition to the war in Iraq contributed to heavy Republican losses.

In December, President Bush praised Rumsfeld for his service and made no mention of the often-harsh criticism of Rumsfeld.

“Every decision Don Rumsfeld made over the past six years, he always put the troops first, and the troops knew it,” Bush said.

The comments from the two retired British generals come in the wake of criticism of British military performance in Basra made by US officials and Washington’s fears that Prime Minister Gordon Brown is poised to sanction a British troop withdrawal.

Former US Army Gen. Jack Keane, who was vice chief of staff at the time the Iraq war was launched in 2003, said in an interview last week that London had never deployed enough troops to properly stabilize the region around the southern city and allowed a bad security situation to deteriorate further.
But Cross said the current problems were predicted in 2003.

“Right from the very beginning we were all very concerned about the lack of detail that had gone into the postwar plan and there is no doubt that Rumsfeld was at the heart of that process,” he said.

Gen. Cross, 59, who was deputy head of the coalition’s Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in 2003, said he had raised concerns about the number of troops on the ground in Iraq but was ignored.

“There is no doubt that with hindsight the US postwar plan was fatally flawed and many of us sensed that at the time,” Cross said.

General Sir Mike Jackson Speaks Out
Elizabeth Grice / The Telegraph

LONDON (September 1, 2007) — Without the braid, the medals and the cap of authority, not many military men possess anything like the power to intimidate that they have in uniform. In civvies, they can be disappointing, diminished. Lions become pussycats. This is not true, by a long shot, of General Sir Mike Jackson, Rtd. From the moment his long, lean frame fills the door of his local pub in Wiltshire, the man who ran the British Army looks… exactly like the man who ran the British Army.

A group of middle-aged men have been discussing their ailments at the bar of the Three Tuns, Great Bedwyn, in that unguarded, slightly louche way that men have when women are not about. When Sir Mike appears, they break off and there is a matey cry of “Jacko!” as they close in.

“Macho Jacko” is wearing the check shirt, soft tobacco-coloured jacket and suede shoes of the recently retired Army man but he might just as well be in disguise because all I can see is the maroon Parachute Regiment beret, the pressed fatigues and the gaunt features of an Easter Island monolith that dominated his military campaigns.

That indelible image includes the portmanteau-sized eyebags, so seductive to his female following and such a gift to photographers, even though he’s since had them surgically removed — shame! — because he says they were impairing his sight. A matter of “vision, not vanity”.

Without the heavy-hooded cobra’s eyes, he does look less deserving of his other nickname, Prince of Darkness, but his aura of power is intact. Here is a man still used to being at the centre of things, walking in and causing a stir. You wouldn’t expect him to have taken up bowls or started editing the Great Bedwyn Parish News.

Since he retired last year as Chief of the General Staff, Sir Mike, 63, has been writing his fighting man’s autobiography, Soldier. He is what they call a man’s man, a soldier’s soldier, and the title reflects his proudest description of himself. It also gives a personal thrust to his broadside against the Ministry of Defence, which he accuses of failing to understand soldiers or the ethos of soldiering — the can-do spirit inspired by old-fashioned concepts of duty, honour, selflessness, discipline.

“These may not rest easily with some of today’s values,” he says, “but if they are not there you will not have an Army capable of doing what it has to do.”

The lack of understanding is endemic, he says witheringly. “It is a cultural divide between the armed services and the civil service.” Being out of uniform has liberated him from the need to stay on the right side of his paymasters. In an impassioned endpiece to his personal story, he accuses an over-bureaucratic MoD of failing to value soldiers and their families, undermining the position and authority of the chiefs of staff, and confusing activity with achievement. Without the soldier, he insists, ministers, civil servants, generals, admirals and air marshals are nothing.

“Everything starts and finishes with the soldier,” he says. “I would love to have been able to persuade the MoD to understand that. Not much over £1,000 a month for the private soldier on operations is hardly an impressive figure. And some of the accommodation we provide is still, frankly, shaming.”

The soldier’s part of the contract with the nation, he argues, is to take risks — if need be, to risk their lives. But it cuts two ways: the nation has to honour its covenant with the soldier. “Soldiering is a very important profession, is it not? At the end of the day, you have to get people to risk their lives and you have to give them the best odds you can to succeed. I hope what I say will make people think hard.” What a voice this man has, deep and throaty as a faulty exhaust.

“We’re going to miss this old bugger,” a senior British general remarked when Jackson retired. “They just don’t make them like this any more.” The MoD may think this is no bad thing. In the field, a flask of whisky in his map pocket, and cigars generally to hand, Jackson lived hard, worked all hours, and in the brief hours when he catnapped on a camp bed in his office, slept the sleep of the just.

His finest hour was undoubtedly Kosovo. The account of his eight months commanding NATO ground forces is the high point of his narrative, as well as of his career, culminating in a theatrical confrontation with the American commander of NATO forces, General Wesley Clark. The clash enhanced Jackson’s reputation as the most colourful character of modern soldiery and exposed his contempt for Clark’s aggressive stance.

For the rest of the article, go to the Telegraph website.

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