PERSPECTIVE: MPs Prefer Sound Bites to Saving Lives; A Coroner Yesterday Condemned as Unforgivable and Inexcusable the Failure to Supply Body Armour to a British Tank Commander Killed by His Own Side. Mark Wallace, Campaign Manager for the Freedom Association, Says It's All Quiet on the Whitehall Front as Our Armed Forces Are Let Down by the State

The Birmingham Post (England), December 19, 2006 | Go to article overview

PERSPECTIVE: MPs Prefer Sound Bites to Saving Lives; A Coroner Yesterday Condemned as Unforgivable and Inexcusable the Failure to Supply Body Armour to a British Tank Commander Killed by His Own Side. Mark Wallace, Campaign Manager for the Freedom Association, Says It's All Quiet on the Whitehall Front as Our Armed Forces Are Let Down by the State


Byline: Mark Wallace

I am not, normally, a fan of State spending. For the State to spend money, of course, it has to be forcibly taken from the person who honestly earned it in the first place.

There are, though, a few cases where I make an exception. One issue, in particular, is far more pressing than most, its knock-on effects filling headlines with morbid regularity: defence spending.

Strong national defence is one of the fundamental principles of The Freedom Association for very good reasons. Without strong armed forces, a concrete commitment to security and effective techniques of combating enemies, it would not matter one jot how perfectly phrased and smoothly implemented one's policies were at home.

Without defensive capabilities, the fine freedoms we wish to enjoy within our own borders could easily be snuffed out by aggressors.

At the moment, of course, we have Armed Forces to be proud of' the tens of thousands of men and women who serve this nation selflessly carry out an unimaginable range of tasks better than anyone else on the planet. The sad fact is, though, that they do so without the full support of the State whose orders they obey.

The levels of professionalism and efficiency they achieve are all the more impressive when one considers that they do so in the face of under-funding, penny-pinching and politicking by their masters. Being the fastest sprinter in the world is laudable, but managing it with holes in your shoes is something else.

The fact that they do get the job done in such circumstances is amazing, but we should not make them keep on doing so without sufficient funding. For one thing, it is a sign of ingratitude to expect our troops to go into battle under-equipped. More seriously, it is costing lives.

There have been numerous cases widely reported in recent years where the men and women at the sharp end have been let down by their civilian masters. In a line of work where to be let down can cost a soldier his life, it is unsurprising that when asked "What do the men think of Mr Hoon?" by a journalist, one officer in Basra simply replied: "They don't think of him."

It must be extremely difficult to maintain the morale of a fighting force when it is increasingly clear that those at the top who are meant to defend their interests are not doing so.

This cannot be allowed to continue.

When they fight for us, our soldiers should have the right to know their rifles will fire in extreme conditions, their radios will work to call for backup, they have been supplied with adequate body armour and they have been given sufficiently armoured vehicles to protect them from the tactics of their enemies.

The adequate equipping of our existing troops should be only the start, though. At a time of widespread unrest, several global threats and numerous foreign commitments, our Armed Forces should be larger. …

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PERSPECTIVE: MPs Prefer Sound Bites to Saving Lives; A Coroner Yesterday Condemned as Unforgivable and Inexcusable the Failure to Supply Body Armour to a British Tank Commander Killed by His Own Side. Mark Wallace, Campaign Manager for the Freedom Association, Says It's All Quiet on the Whitehall Front as Our Armed Forces Are Let Down by the State
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