articles on British forces for the war with Iraq.
compiled from web for academic purposes only, by Jeremy Lewis, 23 Feb. 2003.
DIY Brits hammer at gate of American HQBy Michael Smith at the al-Saliyah Command Centre
At the gate to the British compound in the al-Saliyah
base, the nerve centre from which a war on Iraq
would be fought, two soldiers in T-shirts and green
denims were putting up a makeshift guard hut.
The taller of the two held up the top of the building's
skeletal framework while his colleague attempted to
fix it to the second upright.
When the joint fell apart, the tall one offered his
friend some light-hearted advice, suggesting that if
his carpentry skills were better the problem might
not have occurred. "Well I'm not a bloody carpenter
am I? I'm a soldier," was the reply.
It would be easy to compare this to a Laurel and
Hardy film. But the soldiers built the guard hut in an
example of the "can-do" attitude that Britain's
cash-strapped armed forces have had no choice but
There could be no greater contrast to the millions of
dollars their US counterparts have poured into the
facilities at al-Saliyah in Qatar. More than £60 million
was spent on the base alone, even before US
Central Command flew in its new "deployable joint
task force headquarters".
The facility is where Gen Tommy Franks, the head of
Central Command, will run any war in Iraq. The
deployable forward HQ comprises 20 prefabricated
buildings, at the heart of which is the operations
centre, a surprisingly small room - a dozen yards
wide and three times as long - containing no more
than 30 people.
The Stars and Stripes dominates one of the walls,
which are otherwise lined with monitors providing
information and images from across the Central
Command area of operations, from North Africa to
One has a satellite picture of the Arabian peninsula
but they could show images from a Predator flying
over Afghanistan or a bomb damage assessment
from the latest allied attack on Iraqi air defences.
There are also direct video links back to the
Pentagon and Central Command's headquarters at
MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
Fluorescent lighting gives the room a stark feel but
the atmosphere is calm, as relaxed-looking military
officials talk quietly into telephones or scan the
It will be far more frenetic across the road in the
newly built press centre, which is likely to become
extremely familiar to television viewers around the
world. It is where the main briefings on the progress
of the war will be held.
The White House is sending a spin doctor to advise
Gen Franks and Downing Street has already
dispatched its own media troubleshooter to make
sure the military is on message.
The camp is surrounded by two-and-a-half miles of
high, metal fencing topped with razor wire and
dotted with watchtowers.
Inside the wire, the living conditions for the 1,200
US planners and their 400 British colleagues are a
tribute to the US defence budget. Most sleep in
shipping containers turned into air-conditioned,
two-man units, with home comforts.
If the US troops need a carpenter they have no
need to resort to DIY. An army of mostly Asian
civilian contractors, whose overalls announce that
they work for a company from White Plains, New
York, will do it for them.
'War is the easy part'By Dominic Lawson, Editor of The Sunday
In his first interview as Chief of the General Staff,
Gen Sir Mike Jackson talks to Dominic Lawson and
Sean Rayment as British troops prepare for battle
- and the challenges of peace-keeping - in Iraq
General Sir Mike Jackson - he insists on Mike rather
than Michael - is one of Britain's most charismatic
and popular post-war military commanders. In 1999,
he was acclaimed internationally for his handling of
the Kosovo crisis when he commanded the Nato
peace-keeping force (for which he was awarded the
Distinguished Service Order by the Queen). Three
weeks ago, he became the most senior soldier in
the British Army when he was appointed Chief of the
Gen Jackson, who is a fluent speaker of Russian and
served in the Intelligence Corps before transferring
to the Parachute Regiment, is reputed to have the
best mind in the British Army. He has been known
affectionately to many of those serving under his
command as the Prince of Darkness as well as the
Hero of Kosovo, although it is said that he dislikes
Last week, speaking from his oak-panelled seat of
power inside the Old War Office, the 59-year-old
Gen Jackson, resplendent in his service dress
emblazoned with three rows of medal ribbons, gave
his first interview as Chief of the General Staff to The
The Telegraph: What are your overriding feelings
on taking on the job as Chief of the General Staff?
Sir Mike Jackson: Well, first of all, 40 years ago, little
did officer cadet Jackson think he'd finish up here, so
its a huge honour to be asked to be the professional
head of the Army. I'm conscious of the Army as a
living thing, which it very much is, and what I want
to do is to ensure over my time that the Army's
capabilities, its people, the way it approaches
things, its ethos is retained and built upon. It's very
precious in my view, what we have, but I'm
determined to improve it.
Q: How do you think it can be improved?
MJ: There are a lot of aspects to this but I must start
with people. Generals and armies are nothing
without their soldiers, that's where it all starts from.
It's getting those soldiers the best deal I can in
every way, whether that be in their equipment, their
pay, their living conditions. The sense that they have
an individual and vital part in what this Army gets up
to, that they have joined something which is very
special, that their contribution to the whole is just as
important as anybody else's.
Q: Is the Army suffering from "overstretch" as a
number of retired generals and opposition
politicians have indicated?
MJ: Without doubt the Army is very busy. Not least
because of our requirement, stood down for the
moment but still extant, along with the RAF and the
Royal Navy, to provide fire cover while the present
dispute with the Fire Brigades' Union works itself
out. That's 13,000 odd soldiers, which makes it very
difficult to use them for anything else. We have, of
course, the build up for the Gulf, we have the
continuing commitment in Northern Ireland, the
Balkans and so on.
But my experience is that bored soldiers are not
what we want. Soldiers join the Army to go on
operations, they don't join the Army to sit around in
barracks. Therefore there is a balance to be struck
and it's a different balance for the young soldier or
the young officer, who has the spirit of adventure
and wants to get out and do things, than it is for his
counterpart, a sergeant major or major, in his
mid-30s, who has almost certainly got a family and
has other things to be concerned about. These two
sets of individuals are never going to see either
overstretch or understretch in the same way.
For myself I think, over a period of time a figure of
around 20 per cent deployed, which equates to a
two-year tour, is about right taken over the long
term. But we are here at the end of the day as
servants of the Government and if they require us to
do more than that - and that's certainly where we
are today - then that's what we should do.
Q: You're saying the Army is stretched to the
MJ: It's at the top end. It is not sustainable over any
Q: Is the Army happy with its kit?
MJ: In an ideal world the Army would be paid several
times more than it is, it would have the very best
equipment money could buy, but that is not the kind
of world we live in. The defence budget is not
limitless. It is for the Government to decide its
priorities over public spending, en passant, it is
worth reminding ourselves that there was a
significant increase in the defence budget in the last
public spending round.
Q: I was reading about your fracas with General
Wesley Clark. [During the Kosovo crisis in 1999,
when General Jackson was the Commander of the
Kosovo Force, he was ordered by the Supreme
Commander of Nato Forces in Europe , US General
Wesley Clark, to capture Pristina airport to stop
the Russian reinforcements from landing. In a
heated argument, Gen Jackson told Gen Clark:
"I'm not starting World War III for you.]
MJ: You mean a difference of opinion [smiles
Q: Do you envisage the possibility of something
like that happening again because the American
army is out there in great numbers and we are
going out in great numbers and frictions can
MJ: The circumstances surrounding KFOR's entry into
Kosovo and, in particular, the circumstances which
surrounded Pristina airport, which lasted for about
48 hours, were very peculiar to the extraordinarily
complex political situation at that point.
But I'm not trying to duck the issue. When the
stakes are high and you have commanders quite
rightly determined to succeed in the mission they
have been given, opinions can vary and there can
be friction. This is human nature in a way, and
military history is full of incidents whereby, under
pressure of events, there have been disagreements
but which then are overcome.
Q: How damaging is it to the morale of soldiers if
they have to fight a war in the Gulf without the
overwhelming support of the people back home?
MJ: The British soldier is a fairly robust being and I
don't think we need to feel concerned, at the
moment, that he feels unloved.
As far as I am concerned, within the Army, there is
absolutely no sense that we are on our own, there
is no sense that soldiers don't want to go to the
Gulf. On the contrary, soldiers not going get cross
with those who are, that is the way of the British
Army and it is a very healthy way.
Q: Troops who served in the Vietnam conflict felt
the contempt of the American public for their
actions. Are you concerned that the British public
may develop a similar attitude?
MJ: Well, I and no doubt everybody else is perfectly
aware of the lesson which came out of the Vietnam
war. It was a very long and drawn-out war, it was a
war for which the United States, as a body politic,
veered and hauled quite a lot. I don't see that sort
of situation at all here. Yes, there is a huge
international debate going on, and a domestic one
as well, but we are not at the point of decision yet
and nor do I see it [a war on Iraq] as a long
drawn-out conflict in that way, nor do I see it as a
conflict which is going to incur the horrific casualties
Q: Kosovo was a conflict undertaken without UN
backing and was successful, so presumably you
don't have any concerns about having another
campaign which doesn't have the backing of the
MJ: I wouldn't like to speculate on what the precise
political and legal conditions are going to be if and
when the decision [to go to war] is taken. That said,
I satisfied myself over Kosovo that my own
Government was clear that what was being done
was within the ambit of international law.
Q: Do you agree that if it comes to war, many
Iraqi troops may not want to fight?
MJ: Yes. I think that's fair comment. The degree to
which the Iraqi armed forces will feel, if it comes to
it, that they wish to risk all for Saddam Hussein is a
very potent question.
Q: What is the military objective of an invasion of
MJ: Military forces are used to achieve political ends.
One needs, in any campaign, to be clear what those
political ends are. You can then calculate what the
military objectives required are to meet those
political ends and then you work out how to get
from A to B. But the ends are political - they must be.
Q: Is the British Army fully prepared to face an
enemy who may use chemical and biological
MJ: Fear in all aspects of life is about ignorance. Part
of removing that fear is good training and good
equipment. As far as Britain is concerned, we are
one of the leading nations when it comes to
defensive measures with equipment, techniques and
clothing where this black world of biological and
chemical weapons is concerned.
I have no doubt that soldiers, deployed and
deploying to the Middle East will be thinking about
this very hard, and will be making sure their own
personal training and equipment is up to scratch.
Q: How concerned are you over the issue of
friendly fire? [In the last Gulf war, nine British
soldiers were killed when a US jet mistook their
armoured personnel carrier for an enemy tank.]
MJ: It is a matter of historical fact that when armies
take the field we get the so-called blue-on-blue.
Why is this? Because human beings are not perfect.
Human beings make mistakes. How do you avoid it
or minimise it? There are a number of approaches.
As important as clever electronic kit is, so is having
your procedures right, having your tactics and
training right. Yes, you can add to that with clever
black boxes which send out signals saying who you
are, and much is in hand to make sure that, if and
when operations commence, we are are fully
equipped for this in every sense. When I say fully
equipped, I mean equipped by training and
understanding as much as by equipment. However,
you can not eradicate this risk.
Q: The Americans sometimes give the impression
that they could fight a Gulf war on their own and
view Britain's involvement as a political rather
than a military necessity.
MJ: If that is so, I would think it was somewhat of an
ungenerous view but they are perfectly entitled to
have it. The United States' military capability is far
ahead of everybody else's. But if you ask the
American government or the Pentagon if they want
a British contribution on the ground, at sea and in
the air, I know what the answer is going to be. They
will say: "yes". It's not just a matter of politics. It is
a sense of burden-sharing, which is quite important,
not having to do this on one's own. In general
terms, of course. there is a political dimension, and it
may well be the dominant dimension. I wouldn't
necessarily argue with that, but I don't think it's
quite as simple as that.
Q: Are you concerned about our troops fighting in
Iraqi cities such as Baghdad?
MJ: It comes as no great secret that fighting in
built-up areas is messy, casualty-heavy and, frankly,
best avoided. So I am sure if it comes to it much
lateral thinking will be employed.
"I'm up for it", that's the way the soldiers talk. But a
traditional-style battle in cities has, historically,
shown to have high casualties and I don't wish that
on my Army or indeed anyone else's. And I'm sure
British soldiers who think beyond "I'm up for it", will
think there must be another way of doing this.
Q: Will British troops be involved in a
post-Saddam Iraq and for how long?
MJ: If this conflict is fought, logic says there will be a
post-conflict situation, and in my view the
post-conflict situation will be more demanding and
challenging than the conflict itself, which could be
relatively swift and with low casualties. Then there is
the question of rebuilding, and I don't mean that in
the physical sense, I mean rebuilding the body
politic of Iraq. The outcome desired is very clear: an
Iraq in its present borders, at ease with itself, with
its neighbours, with a representative government.
And that will take assistance in the same way as
I have no doubt that if this set of circumstances
comes about the United Kingdom will be asked to
play a part in that process. Its not just a military
process. Frankly, it's far from being just a military
process. It is many-faceted: economic
reconstruction, political development, humanitarian
aid, the return of four million presently expatriate
Iraqis, and I imagine the bulk of them would wish to
go home. Dare I say it, the British Army is very
experienced in this.
Q: How long do you estimate that will last?
MJ: I can hazard a guess. There will be a wish,
rightly in my view, by the coalition to minimise that
period of time. The Afghanistan process is perhaps
something of a model but one needs to be careful. I
would think it would be prudent to work on a year or
two. It may be less.
Q: It's not just demonstrators protesting in Hyde
Park, eminent retired generals say we shouldn't
go to war with Iraq. Do you think their views
undermine our soldiers' morale.
MJ: I don't think their comments are read by many
soldiers and I expect many young officers don't pay
much attention either. Colonels, I expect, may read
them, say "um" and turn the page. They're perfectly
entitled to their opinion but, of course, they are
retired and therefore not fully informed.
Q: Do you share the view that "war is hell"?
MJ: I don't think it can be described as anything
else. It's an emotive term but I know what it means.
It is the most unpleasant experience that a human
being can imagine or experience. War is a small
word but encompasses so much. Look at Berlin in
1945 - horrific. Stalingrad or Caen - horrific battles of
human misery writ large. But I'm not sure that
modern war is like that. It doesn't necessarily
involve bitter hand-to-hand fighting over this pile of
rubble and that for weeks on end, so there may be
degrees of hell. War is the last resort and soldiers
know that better than anyone else. If that is what is
required, that in the last analysis is what we are
here to do.