Time to ask about wars

Today the Prime Minister should be asked two sets of questions about Iraq. Why did he cut or limit tightly the defence budget, uniquely amongst all the budgets he supervised, at a time of war? What were the consequences for our troops of his decisions on the purchase of helicopters, body armour, and protected vehicles? What was his attitude to the war? Did he ever question its wisdom or its legality? Why didn’t he make a strong case for it when out and about as a senior cabinet Minister in a government committed to it? Did he have any reservations then or now about what the UK did?

My own interest is today stronger in the war in Afghanistan. All too many of our young soldiers are dying there. We are expending large amounts of blood and treasure on this conflict. This is the Obama/Brown war, the war they have just intensified, the war they clearly do support. Whilst I understand you do not announce an exit date in a way which could increase the difficulties for our troops, I would like to feel that the government is impatient to leave Afghanistan to the Afghans to govern. These wars in the Middle East do not make me feel safer. We cannot conquer and garrison great swathes of the Middle East and should not be wanting to. There has been too little emphasis on political solutions, to what are problems of government more than military questions.

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

16 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Let us hope Chilcot asks the right questions today.

    Although I doubt that we will hear anything new.

    The MPs being questioned have been given too long a timescale to fix their own individual stories, and thus cover tracks.

    Too many of these very expensive Inquires seem to end up with a very bland conclusion, which almost renders them pointless.

  2. Mick Anderson
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Asking questions of Mr Brown is a little like peeing off a cliff.

    No matter how good it feels, you don't even end up with a bucket full of pee at the end of the event, and every so often the wind whips round and chucks a face-full back at you….

    If Mr Brown says that it was "the right thing to do", talks about Moral Compasses or mentions financial prudence then I'm going to feel rather ill.

  3. asmodeus
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Right on the button as usual, Mr Redwood. Like you, I long for your party to carry the fight to Labour. I grow increasingly perplexed by the strange inability of Mr Cameron and his lieutenants to hit hard and accurately, and cause real pain.

    The wars are a case in point. On the news last night we saw harrowing pictures of Iraqi babies born horribly malformed, almost certainly as a result of depleted uranium shells fired by the allies at Fallujah. The Conservatives should be nailing the blame on Labour: "These babies are the result of Labour's war, that they (misled-ed) us into." It doesn't matter whether the charge is literally true, so long as it resonates with the general opinion. It does matter very much indeed that Labour is forced on the defensive, because a defender always seems shifty.

    The same tactic must be applied in other areas. Labour make much of Lord Ashcroft. I suspect they are gaining traction. The Tories are defensive on the subject, and look shifty. Here's how they should handle it: "Ld Mandelson accuses us of XXX. (Proposes counter attacks on Mandelson's personality and conduct)In a nutshell: make a charge, make it simple, make it alliterate, and repeat it so it sticks.

    "We're in a real hole, of Labour's making. We all know that. What can the Conservatives offer? Not much but toil, tears and sweat – and hope. But that's better than Labour's toil, tears and DEBT – and dopes!"

    It's not rocket science. It's basic nuts-and-bolts, word-by-word manipulation of public opinion. Any down-table tabloid sub can do it (though editors such as Mr Coulson usually aren't much good at this sort of thing). The Tories must use it or lose the election. They will not be forgiven for putting back in office, through sheer mismanagement, the most disastrous government since Henry VI.

  4. Lola
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I am not all sure that we are in Afghan for the Afghans. I think we might be in it to help the Pakistani's keep the Talibans hands off Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

    • Citizen Responsible
      Posted March 5, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      The worry is that the Taliban are destabilising both Afghanistan and Pakistan. As Pakistan is a nuclear power with nukes scattered throughout the country, the risk is that nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of the extremists. In March 2009 President Obama launched an Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy which the Americans refer to as AfPak. None of this bodes well for an early exit from the region.

  5. Stewart Knight
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I think you make a fundamental mistake by claiming either Obama or Brown supports this war.

    Afghanistan has become a political crusade and a tool for oppression in our own country. This is why Cameron, unfortunately, has not used this as a battering ram against Labour, and it is deserved.

  6. Stronghold Barricade
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I believe you forget the Macavity "get out of jail free" card

    It is quite reasonable for Brown to say that hye was not Defence Sec and therefore was not in control of the allocation of budgets. It can also be said that any lobbying from the MoD and the Defence Sec failed to influence the Treasury bean counting because Brown "did not get the MoD" or understand the procurement

    Thus, the only questions he really should be asked is:

    1/ Why did Brown play politics in this situation by seemingly being open to all views within your party and reciprocating those views (Short et al/Bliar). Backing both horses?

    2/ Why did Brown not understand the workings of the MoD, and thus have an awareness that forcing budget cuts would ensure that "consumables" would be lost (Body armour, training etc) instead of the long term procurement programmes.

  7. Kevin Peat
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    The question of funding muddies the water on the central issue of why we are meant to be there. Are we to believe that, if our troops withdraw from Afghanistan, terrorism will fan out across the streets of Britain ?

    The average person is asking this question in one form or another. It doesn't need answering because we no-longer live in a democracy. But honestly ! Who do the politicians think they are fooling appart from themselves ?

  8. Geoff not Hoon.
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    If Brown were out tomorrow (hooray) would it change anything at bodies such as the MOD where money is spent without regard to the nations economic plight???

  9. Michele
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Gordon Brown must be secretly rubbing his hands with glee every time he's called to one of these time and money wasting fiasco's because it's taking everyone's attention away from the real issues we are facing.

  10. Alan Wheatley
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    As to Afghanistan, we know that before we were there planes were highjacked and buildings fell. The fact that on that occasion the target was the USA does not mean that given the opportunity a future target would not be in the UK. So it seems reasonable and a sensible use of blood and treasure to pre-empt such a possibility.

    Afghanistan should have been got right first, and before sorting out Iraq. Unfortunately, and I expect you have heard this one before, the Americans can be relied to do the right thing, once they have explored all other possibilities.

    There seem to be no shortage of people who will tell you that the problem can not be resolved by military might alone, and what is needed is a political solution. What is also true, but often overlooked, is that a pre-requisit for effective politics is law and order.

  11. hatfield girl
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Brown promised to show us his 'vision' when he took power. He failed to ask for a democratic mandate because he thought it more important that we should be given the opportunity to see this 'vision'.

    Today he displayed an inappropriate set of ideas on 'global governance', and rejecting democratic control over our political leaders. He made it very clear that the assault on Iraq is just part of a mind-set on government that is at odds with every aspect of democratic self-governing nation states in trade and political peaceful relations with one another. He spoke of the post Cold War new order in his opening statement as he tried to take control of the Inquiry. All organised opposition to these notions he defined as rogue states, extra-state terrorism, and illegal opposition to international law as expressed through global institutions. Which institutions must be renewed and supplemented by further global regulating and controlling bodies yet to be established.
    He really is a one-off.

  12. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Next week, coming to a cinema near you:
    The war with Argentina that never happened:
    Malvinas return to their rightful owner: Argentina!
    Mr Miliband smiles on but without his banana…..
    Mrs Clinton and the President of Argentina have another girlie chat.
    Mr Brown, meanwhile, is on holiday in Scotland…..
    Ed Balls is appalled at Lord Ashcroft's unacceptable behaviour…..
    Lord Peter is nowhere to be seen.

  13. Monty
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    "Today the Prime Minister should be asked two sets of questions about Iraq. Why did he cut or limit tightly the defence budget, uniquely amongst all the budgets he supervised, at a time of war?"

    I suspect that in his tenure at the Treasury, he made a point of queering the pitch of every other cabinet minister who ever hove into view. His mission was to get into No 10, and he didn't care what he had to do, or who he had to undermine, to get there.

  14. Lola
    Posted March 6, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I think that there might be more to this than meets the eye. I have long thought that far from wanting to help the less well off and all the other touchy feely nonsense that lefties give as excuses for interfering in everyone's lives, they are bloody scared of them. They are scared of finally being found out. They are scared of those they pretend to represent finally discovering that they have been royally shafted by lefties in the pursuit of naked power, and then rising up and dealing with them, appropriately.

    The lefties are also dead scared of the military. This may have its routes in pacifism, not a charge that holds up against Blair / Brown. The military tend to engender philosophies antipathetic to lefties, esepcially New Labour. Things like discipline, independence and self reliance, ability to take and give orders, respect and self respect.

    The polity seems to be pretty pro the military, witness the Falkland Effect, and often align with it. Clearly the current crop of fascistic totalitarian lefties would not be happy if an uprising of the proles (in which I include myself) which the military was not happy to put down. Or even worse if it was to ally with it.

  15. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 7, 2010 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    The Prime Minister has now given evidence to the Chilcot inquiry. He stated that the military got all the increased expenditure that they asked for. More than one military source has said that he is being "disingenuous". If it is shown that he is a liar, this is something that we should shout from the rooftops. It will be a vote winner.

    We have wandered a long way from a simple revenge strike on Bin Ladin in response to the 9/11 attack. We don't have the competence to govern Afghanistan, which has long had regional war lords, poor internal communications and Islam.

    We can, however, do something about undemocratic processes nearer to home, and it will surprise none of you to realise that I am lining up the European Union and organised religion in my sights.

    Nigel Farage has been fined by the EU for referring to……. Monsieur van Rumpy Pumpy as "a damp rag". Whatever one may think of the wisdom of his remarks, he is an elected MEP and is entitled to his opinion and to express it. Who elected Rumpy Pumpy and Baroness What's-her-name? Who elected the people that fined him? And why has the Conservative Party not protested?

    Meanwhile, a philosophy tutor and atheist has just been convicted for the "crime" of "religious harassment". His offence was to leave anti-religious literature in the prayer room at Liverpol airport. (Details left out-ed)
    All three of these may have been in questionable taste but obviously no crime has been committed. No doubt the British judiciary (and authorities) wanted fatwas to be limited to Danish cartoonists rather than passengers using Liverpool airport. The conviction was thoroughly undemocratic – and again, there was no protest from the Conservative Party.

    Being a broad minded chap, I believe in reciprocity. The rights of Moslems in UK should be exactly the same as the rights of atheists in Saudi Arabia. (etc etc)

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

  • John’s Books

  • Email Alerts

    You can sign up to receive John's blog posts by e-mail by entering your e-mail address in the box below.

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    The e-mail service is powered by Google's FeedBurner service. Your information is not shared.

  • Map of Visitors

    Locations of visitors to this page