JUST a week after Prime Minister Gordon Brown assured President George W Bush, that he had fallen into line with the requirements of the United States, and that British troops would remain in Iraq until success was achieved, and agreed that there was no timetable for withdrawal, the chief of the British Defence Staff has mutinied, and stated the opposite, which also happens to be the original British viewpoint.
Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, speaking to the media at a Westminster press conference, said that Britain cannot fight two wars at the same time, meaning that the army must be withdrawn from Iraq and transferred to the conflict that the British army says is winnable, in Afghanistan.
This statement comes after 10 British troops have been killed in a few weeks in Afghanistan bringing the total number of dead to 107, along with several thousand seriously wounded.
Stirrup said that the two wars have left the forces ‘stretched beyond the capabilities we have.’
Currently there are 4,000 British troops in Iraq and their number in Afghanistan will soon be over 8,000.
Stirrup said: ‘We are not structured or resourced to do two of these things on this scale on an enduring basis but we have been doing it on an enduring basis for years.’
This is enforced plain speaking. Taking part in a war in Iraq and in Afghanistan at the same time is more than the British army can endure – in other words this war on two fronts is demoralising and destabilising it.
He added: ‘Until we get to the stage when one of them comes down to small scale, we will be stretched beyond the capabilities we have.’
He again warned that the army was being stretched to breaking point, saying the two wars ‘is not what we are structured for nor is it what we plan for. We are very stretched at the moment. Until we get down to one operation at this scale, we are always going to be stretched.’
Stirrup is not alone, nor is he the most outspoken of the senior military officers.
Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff is on record as saying that the ongoing military operations could ‘break’ the Army.
Patrick Mercer, a Tory MP and former Army commander, said: ‘The message from the CDS is clear: our forces are overstretched and are finding it close to impossible . . .’
Stirrup, now posing as a realist added that Afghanistan is a ‘mammoth problem’, and that it was ‘essentially medieval’ and development there ‘has to be an enterprise of decades’.
With officers, soldiers and their dependants becoming demoralised by being given a deadly problem to deal with that is beyond their resources, Stirrup urged that to help maintain morale they will have to be given privileges at home.
He said that ‘My objective is to see first of all as an absolute starting point that there is a level playing field for our people. But then actually from my perspective there should be a little bit more.
‘Actually they should be treated a little bit better because of the service they give to their country and the sacrifices they make.’
He did not elaborate on how this will be done, saying more details will emerge in a Ministry of Defence command paper later this year. This is expected to comment that soldiers and their dependants should have better access to health care, education, housing and even jobs than ordinary citizens.
This however will not be enough to deal with the demoralisation and the material cracks that are growing all the time in the armed forces.
In fact, privileges for army dependants, at a time of growing hardship, will make the army just as hated at home as it is in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The real situation is that the US is in charge of the destiny of capitalist Britain.
British capitalism is now so weak that it has to obey the will of the US, however much damage this does to its institutions, among them the armed forces and the government.
The only way forward for Britain is to take the road to socialism.
This means that the working class must be mobilised under a new and revolutionary leadership, for a socialist revolution, to expropriate the bosses and the bankers, and to smash capitalism and imperialism, bringing in a workers government to begin the construction of the socialist order of society.
This government will withdraw all British troops from the countries that they are occupying and establish fraternal relations with the states of Africa and Asia.
It will also support all national liberation movements and assist in organising the victory of the world socialist revolution.
This is the only way out of the historical crisis of British capitalism. The only future is a socialist one.