BLAIR ‘BREAKING’ ARMY – chief of staff urges withdrawal from Iraq

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The Blair government was yesterday paralysed in the face of a mutiny by Britain’s Chief of the General Staff who demanded the withdrawal of UK troops from Iraq ‘soon’.

After Sir Richard Dannatt demolished all Blair’s favourite lines of spin about the Iraq war, 10 Downing Street lamely replied that Dannatt was ‘saying what government policy is.’

Blair commented about the Dannatt statement: ‘I agree with every word of it.’

Dannatt, yesterday said he stood by his comments that ‘we should get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems’ in Iraq and Britain.

In a Daily Mail interview he had added: ‘I don’t say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them.’

In comments after the interview he said: ‘I want to make sure I’ve got an Army that’s not so exhausted that it’s still there and can do the job in five years time and ten years time. Don’t let’s break it on this one. Let’s keep an eye on time.’

Dannatt said that planning for what happened after the initial military offensive was ‘poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning’.

He said: ‘The original intention was that we put in place a liberal democracy that was an exemplar for the region, was pro-West and might have a beneficial effect on the balance within the Middle East. That was the hope.

‘Whether that was a sensible or naïve hope history will judge. I don’t think we are going to do that. I think we should aim for a lower ambition.’

Dannatt warned that the consequences will be felt at home, where the ‘anchor had been pulled up’ on Christian values, allowing a predatory Islamist vision to take hold.

He said: ‘When I see the Islamist threat in this country I hope it doesn’t make undue progress because there is a moral and spiritual vacuum in this country.

‘Our society has always been embedded in Christian values; once you have pulled the anchor up there is a danger that our society moves with the prevailing wind.’

Anti-war campaigners welcomed Dannatt’s statement.

Rose Gentle, whose soldier son was killed in Iraq, said: ‘I’m just really delighted that Sir Richard Dannatt has stood up and spoken out. He is protecting our boys.’

Andrew Burgin, spokesman for the Stop the War Coalition welcomed Dannatt’s comments, saying: ‘He has made a very powerful case for the troops to be withdrawn from Iraq and he is exactly right.’

Hayes and Harlington Labour MP John McDonnell said yesterday that the views expressed by Dannatt ‘were clear calls for an exit strategy to be brought forward by the government.

‘Nobody however, neither Blair nor Brown, is coming forward with anything new.’

McDonnell called for ‘the placing before Parliament next week of a planned exit strategy including a deadline for withdrawal, a direct approach to the United Nations for assistance and a convening of a European summit to bring our European partners back on side to assist Britain in extracting itself from this disastrous mess that is Iraq.’

Kamran Karadahi spokesman for Iraq’s puppet president Jalal Talabani, said if ‘multi-national’ troops left now it ‘would be a disaster’, adding: ‘They are still needed very much to help Iraq. The British troops in the south have done a very good job and are still doing so.’

• Second news story

ISRAELIS USING NEW WEAPON IN GAZA

AN experimental weapon similar to the one tested by the US military and called Dime (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) has been used against the Palestinians in recent months.

The weapon is believed to have caused more than 300 serious injuries leading to 62 amputations and 200 deaths between the months of June and July, Palestinian doctors said. It causes a powerful blast within a small radius.

The probe follows reports by Gaza-based doctors of inexplicably serious injuries. They found small entry wounds on the bodies of the wounded and the dead.

A powder was found on the victims’ bodies and in their internal organs. ‘The powder was like microscopic shrapnel, and these are what likely caused the injuries,’ Juma Saqa, of Shifa hospital, said.

Habas al-Wahid, head of the emergency room at the Shuhada al-Aqsa hospital, added that the legs of the injured were sliced from their bodies ‘as if a saw was used to cut through the bone’.

The US ‘Dime’ weapon is said to be made of a carbon-fibre casing and filled with tungsten powder and explosives. It is likely to be carcinogenic.