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August 29, 2009

British Army chief General Sir Richard Dannatt stands down

British Army chief General Sir Richard Dannatt stands down

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

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Dannatt in York, 2007

General Sir Richard Dannatt retired from his post as Chief of the General Staff of the British Army yesterday, announcing General Sir David Richards as his successor.

Dannatt was regarded by many soldiers as a person to be admired, having campaigned for better pay and conditions for soldiers. It has been reported, however, that prime minister Gordon Brown does not agree with this view—politicians are thought to have disliked him drawing attention to the Ministry of Defence‘s failings.

He is expected to continue his campaign for the improvement of soldiers’ pay and conditions in his new role as 159th Constable of the Tower of London.

Dannatt has opposed the invasion of Iraq since he started his job as Chief of the General Staff, and criticised the government’s post-war planning.

Richards, Dannatt’s successor, said, “I wish to thank General Sir Richard Dannatt for his leadership, dedication and courage as Chief of the General Staff and more broadly for his long and distinguished 40 year career.” Richards served in Afghanistan, where he was appointed overall commander of international forces, making him the first British soldier to command American troops since the Second World War.



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Richard Dannatt


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May 16, 2007

Prince Harry prohibited from going to Iraq

Prince Harry prohibited from going to Iraq

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Prince Harry during Inspection of New Colours.
Image: Charles J. Sharp.

Prince Harry, known as Prince Henry of Wales, who was recently set to leave for Iraq with his regiment, has been prohibited from going. The Chief of the General Staff (Head of the British Army) General Sir Richard Dannatt, has decided Prince Harry would not be deployed based on his review of specific risks.

“I have decided today that Prince Harry will not deploy as a Troop Leader with his Squadron,” said General Dannatt in a statement. “”There have been a number of specific threats – some reported and some not reported, which relate directly to Prince Harry as an individual. These threats place not only him but also those around him to a degree of risk that I now deem unacceptable.”

Despite Prince Harry’s previous threats to quit the army if he was not allowed to deploy to Iraq, a spokesman has said he will stay in the army. “Let me also make quite clear that as a professional soldier, Prince Harry himself will be extremely disappointed,” added General Dannatt.

A number of threats have been a factor in the Chief of the General Staff’s decision making, saying that “sending him in not only endangers those around him, the effect of being kidnapped would be a blow to the entire UK.”

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) indicated in a press release Wednesday that the decision was based on a military assessment and that Clarence House, Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street and the Defence Secretary had been informed of the decision.

The MoD acknowledged that some insurgents in Iraq might try to claim victory with the decision, but that it was important to deny them “such a high value target”.

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October 30, 2006

UK Foreign Secretary Beckett breaks ranks over Trident

UK Foreign Secretary Beckett breaks ranks over Trident

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Margaret Beckett, British Foreign Secretary

Despite commitments already made by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown to replace the Trident missile system and the Royal Navy’s Vanguard class submarines, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett is calling for a public debate on the decision.

The Prime Minister has committed to holding a debate in Parliament over the issue.

Beckett told the Sunday Times that it was the Cold War that prompted the Trident programme but that the security situation now is very different.

Though Trident is not due for replacement for 20 years, Tony Blair has promised that there will be decision on Trident this year, due to the long lead time for design and construction. The costs involved may be between 10 and 25 billion pounds.

Beckett said that the public should be informed and should think about the issue themselves.

Her opinion will be welcomed by back bench Labour MPs who are concerned that any opposition to replacing Trident will be suppressed.

Beckett has also taken an independent line before, on Iraq, by expressing ‘regrets’ over the war and saying she did not disagree with General Sir Richard Dannatt, who said that British troops in Iraq were provoking trouble.

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October 13, 2006

British top General says troops are unwelcome in Iraq

British top General says troops are unwelcome in Iraq

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Friday, October 13, 2006

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The Head of the British Armed forces, the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, has told the Daily Mail that troops are unwelcome in Iraq and that if they are not withdrawn soon, the situation could become catastrophic.

These remarks seem to be in sharp contrast with those of the Prime Minister earlier this year when he said “But don’t be in any doubt. No-one, but no-one I spoke to [in Baghdad, from whatever quarter, wanted us to leave precipitately. An arbitrary timetable ie without conditions being right, would be seen for what it would be: weakness.”

General Dannatt told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning that he had to “speak up for what is right for the Army” but that his remarks to the Daily Mail “were neither substantially new or substantially newsworthy”. He said that the presence of UK troops “exacerbates” the problems “not right across the country, but only in parts of it”.

The BBC reported that Downing Street had issued a short statement in response to the general’s comments. It said: “It’s important that people remember that we are in Iraq at the express wish of the democratically elected Iraqi government, to support them under the mandate of a UN resolution.”

The Scotsman in a Key Quote highlights the General saying – “I think history will show that the planning for what happened after the initial successful war fighting phase was poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning.”

The Times draws attention to Blair’s speech at the Labour Party Conference just two weeks ago saying why the troops will have to stay in Iraq – “If we retreat now, hand Iraq over to al-Qaeda and sectarian death squads and Afghanistan back to al-Qaeda and the Taleban, we won’t be safer; we will be committing a craven act of surrender that will put our future security in the deepest peril.”

Al Jazeera leads with the story, under a picture of a military ambulance being loaded, with the headline UK army chief pleads for Iraq pull out, and quotes extracts from the General’s interview with the Daily Mail including: “We are in a Muslim country and Muslims’ views of foreigners in their country are quite clear. As a foreigner, you can be welcomed by being invited in a country, but we weren’t invited certainly by those in Iraq at the time. …. The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in. Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance. That is a fact. 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.” The report concludes with a snapshot of the chaos in Baghdad by reporting an attack by gunmen on a TV station, when 11 staff were killed in the biggest attack yet on the media.

The Washington Post carries a report from Associated Press headed ‘British Army Chief Who Called for Iraq Withdrawal ‘Soon’ Denies Rift With Government’ in which the General is reported as saying that by ‘soon’ he meant a phased withdrawal over two or three years. He is reported as saying to Sky News, “We’ll probably reduce our soldiers over the course of the next year or two or three — let’s wait and see. That’s what I mean by sometime soon,”. He denied that he was attacking government policy saying to BBC radio “We don’t do surrender. We don’t pull down white flags. We’re going to see this through.”

Alongside a photograph of British soldiers rushing to the scene of a helicopter crash in Basra May 6 2006, Fox News, commenting on the story, says “Dannatt’s comments are certain to infuriate Blair, who is President Bush’s key ally in the Iraq war. It is highly unusual for a sitting British military commander to publicly criticize the government’s foreign policy. … Britain’s involvement in Iraq has proved highly controversial from the outset. Millions protested on the streets in the lead up to the war in 2003, while high profile cabinet ministers have quit the government as a result of Tony Blair’s support for the U.S.-led action.”

BBC News quotes Prime Minister Blair as saying that he agrees with “every word” the General said and that transcripts of later radio interviews showed Sir Richard was saying “the same as we all are”. Subsequently, BBC New 24 at 9pm, reported that when Blair said he agreed with “every word”, he was referring to what the General had been saying in radio and TV interviews this morning and not to the original interview reported in the Daily Mail. This cleared up a misunderstanding evidenced in discussions among commentators and in Any Questions this evening.

The British Army Rumour Service, ARRSE, which describes itself as ” THE unofficial British Army community website”. asks viewers to complete the sentence “Sir Richard Dannatt is…”. As at 18,50 13 October, of the 181 responses, 144 agreed that he was absolutely right and 26 that he was right only from military point of view. The same site has blogs from troops in theatre.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind M.P., interviewed by Channel4 News, said that he agreed with every word the general said, but deplored the fact that he had said it while still a serving officer. Like Civil Servants, members of the Armed Forces owed allegiance to the democratically elected government of the day and should not express their personal opinions while still in uniform.

The U.S. White House spokesman Tony Snow responded to Friday press briefing questions from reporters by saying that General Danatt’s comments were taken out of context, referring to back-pedalling clarifications that came later from Danatt. Snow said, [referring to later interviews conducted this morning], that “he says that’s not what he said. … he said that he was misquoted and that “that particular comment [in the original interview] was actually rather largely taken out of context.”

Two major U.S. media outlets, ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson and USA Today, remained wary and made no news mention of the controversy ignited by the general’s remarks until an official British political response emerged.

The story continues in the British press today, October 14, for example, in the Scotsman which reveals the it was Des Browne, the Defence Secretary who put pressure on the General to clarify his remarks in the series of media events that took place yesterday morning, the content of which the Prime Minister agreed wholeheartedly. However, many retired military personnel and some still on active service, have expressed their support for the General, in the media, including the now widely quoted British Army Rumour Service. Some correspondents are disturbed to think that the military are becoming too involved in politics and that the authority of Parliament might become undermined.

Sources

  • Channel4 News broadcast 19.15 13 October
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