THE government has ruled that millions of pounds of compensation will be paid to British troops wounded in Iraq after May 2003, when the war was declared over by President Bush.
The grounds for the ruling are that the troops were victims of crime and not warfare.
That this novel ruling was never applied to the years of undeclared war in the north of Ireland is blindingly obvious. Also obvious is that it represents a capitulation by the Labour government to the military and political ambitions of the army’s officer corps, in the wake of General Jackson’s recent Dimbleby lecture.
In fact, it is the Iraq war that is criminal. It has cost the lives of 650,000 Iraqis, with even more injured, whose deaths and injuries have not even been recorded no mind compensated for.
This criminal nature of the war was alluded to by Jackson in the course of the Dimbleby lecture.
He said: ‘On a more general legal point, I am convinced from experience that the establishment and maintenance of the rule of law is the bedrock of both national and international stability – and that, rightly, includes in the national context the Armed Forces of this country. To put it in personal terms, having had some small part to play in putting Slobodan Milosovic into a cell in The Hague, I had no wish to become his next-door neighbour.’
Jackson also made clear that the government had allied itself too closely to the US.
He said: ‘I think perhaps the most fundamental question is the relationship, the strategic relationship, between the United States and Europe. . . The fate of this country, given its geography and its history, is to wrestle with the conundrum that whilst we sit unequally in geographical distance between the United States and the mainland continent of Europe, the political distance is a much more equal proposition. . .
‘I believe that we have to remain sitting on this fence; we should not come off it one way or the other.’
He also warned Blair and others: ‘But equally, we must accept that Western liberal democracy may not of itself export that easily.’
He thus proved, to his own satisfaction, the superior strategic grasp of Britain’s position that the army has over the spinning politicians. With these points settled Jackson went on to make his demands.
The army wants a bigger share of the pot. ‘It is incumbent upon whichever government is in power to align that division of the national pot with what it requires of its Armed Forces.’
He pointedly heaped abuse on the government’s business ‘best practice’ guise for financing the army.
‘The Department of State appears to assume that commercial so-called “best practice”, with its proliferation of performance indicators and targets, transfers seemingly without question to defence in general, and to the Armed Forces in particular; I find such an assumption to be without foundation.
Incidentally, who judges best practice?’
He demanded more power for the General Staff. ‘As CGS, I did not hold the budget for the Army, believe it or not. . . We have over-centralised in my view, and this has diminished the Chiefs of Staff’s ability to take personal charge of the running of their Services. Their ability to determine, for example, personnel matters. . . Logistics, procurement, these are not the direct responsibility of the Chiefs. . .
‘It is time that real authority was restored to the Chiefs of Staff in order to match the responsibility which indubitably and rightly they carry.’
Jackson then remarks that there is a somewhat ‘febrile, feverish political atmosphere at the moment’, and warns ‘But let us be clear: the allegiance of the Armed Forces lies with the Sovereign as Head of State. . .’ adding, ‘We need to be just a little careful; we must not have the Army as a political football, and we should remember that valid strategic objectives are not invalidated by ways and means which may be – for now at least – unpopular.’
He ends on a note of skepticism about the politicians. ‘It is indeed a great support to hear the Prime Minister say that “the Army can have everything it needs”; I await with interest the manifestation of that fine sentiment.’
This is an army that is rapidly coming into politics, a process that will be speeded up as the crisis of British capitalism intensifies. The only way to deal with such an army is through a socialist revolution that will smash the capitalist state and disband the officer corps to go forward to socialism.