We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Daily Telegraph – misreporting as an excuse for disgraceful editorial?

Normally I am wary of claims that “trying to please actual or potential readers” is a reason for why newspapers go in for pro ‘liberal’ elite content (I suspect that the desire to seem ‘modern’ and ‘with it’ is far more powerful than the desire for more readers – indeed may even lead people who control publications to drive away actual or potential readers).

However, the Iraq war is so unpopular that I am inclined to think that the choice of the Daily Telegraph to rat on its support for the war may indeed have been to try and please actual or potential readers.

So the editorial yesterday about how the “American involvement in Iraq limps to its inevitable and ignominious conclusion” was not much of shock to me – although I do find the language disgraceful. I, unlike the Daily Telegraph, did not support the judgement to go to go into Iraq in 2003 – but I would not use sub-Marxist death-to-America language like “inevitable” and “ignominious”.

However, there was an excuse for the editorial. The Daily Telegraph reported that a retired American General had suggested that the British army send more troops to Iraq – being either too stupid or too dishonest to understand that the British had no more troops to send. General Keane‘s comments were, according the Daily Telegraph, just an effort to use the British as an excuse for the failure of the Americans.

“The trouble with this was….” I heard the retired American General’s comments (on BBC Radio 4’s “Today Programme”) and far from being too stupid or too dishonest to understand the small size of the British army he actually said that the British army should be “grown” – i.e. made bigger, as he also said the American army and Marine Corps should be and he hoped would be. Of course one can argue about whether the British army really does need to be bigger (for example why are there over twenty thousands British troops in mainland Europe?), but the basic point here is clear.

The Daily Telegraph misreported the retired American General’s comments – in order to have an excuse for a standard ‘liberal’ elite death-to-America editorial.

28 comments to Daily Telegraph – misreporting as an excuse for disgraceful editorial?

  • The comment I left was:

    What complete tosh from start to finish. Overstretch? And who exactly are the 23,000 British troops (and a similar number of support personnel) defending central Germany from? A sudden attack by the Czech Republic? 23,000 doing sweet FA in Germany and 5,000 fighting with pathetic material and political support from the UK government who sent them to Iraq, yet we are ‘overstretched’? Hmmm.

    UKGov under-resourced, under-committed to the operation and then endlessly claimed the ‘softly-softly’ approach was better than what those silly Yanks are doing (whereas in reality it was a tactic forced on the British military because they were too under strength to do anything else)… and when it all goes utterly and completely wrong, who does this absurd editorial blame? The Americans. Bad Old BushMcHitler. What utterly dishonest tripe. 100% of the blame for this mess in Basra is in Downing Street.

  • Frederick Davies

    Have you seen the editorial today by someone called “Peregrine Worsthorne”? A worse case of anti-capitalistic pro-statist propaganda cannot be imagined. Is it because all the main editorialists are on holidays or should I start considering finding another paper to read?

  • This isn’t the first time the Telegraph misreported someone’s comments in order to score cheap points.

  • MDC

    “being either too stupid or too dishonest to understand that the British had no more troops to send.”

    Most of the British army is currently in Germany, defending the local service sector economy.

  • Spence

    I’ve read this blog for some time but never commented before so this is a bit of a first for me here. I just wanted to comment on the comment as it were.

    The units in Germany are not defending anything from anything, they are based there for historical reasons, just like various US units are. And similarly again to the Germany-based US units, many British Army units barracked in Germany are now serving, or have in the past served, in the middle east conflicts. There are not 23K combat troops sitting around in Germany with nothing to do, somehow isolated from the rest of the British Army, I’m not sure how you could come to this conclusion. My own old unit is based in N.Germany and they have had several tours in the mid-east. The fact is that the actual combat strength of the British Army, the teeth arms as opposed to support units, is probably now a maximum of 50K men – on paper. What with most units being under strength, the probable actual combat strength may well be less than 40K men – all of whom could be commited in emergency, but not in the long term. For long term combat assignment you should divide the available combat strength by 3, only one third can be in theatre at any time else the force will simply disintegrate by attrition. The remaining two thirds are in transit, training, or resting. The current units on the ground are, I believe, drawn from all British Army garrisons – and many of the units are pulling in volunteers from other combat and non-combat units to make up their strength prior to deployments – so those units not in theatre at a given time are also under strength because some of their manpower is diverted to making up the numbers of units that are being deployed.

    This is not a comment on the vaildity of the current mid-east conflicts, or who is responsible for the paucity of resources. I just wanted to correct the impression that there is some portion of the British Army sitting pretty in Germany with nothing to do.

  • If you define the American mission as it seems to be defined (getting Shiites and Sunnis to stop hating each other or at least accept a common government), then I would say inevitable failure is a fair assessment.

    Of course if you define the American mission in Iraq as “stop a terrorist leader in Afghanistan or Pakistan from sending Saudi Arabian terrorists to New York”, I’d have to describe it as bizarre, delusional, and geographically vague.

  • Sunfish

    ..and if the mission is defined as “Deny the center of the historical Caliphate as a rallying ground for the people who wish to restore and then expand said Caliphate” then the geography at least makes sense.

    As it does when the mission becomes “surround our next enemy on two of its borders, so that we can act effectively if they pose a threat to much of the worlds’ energy supply and one of our historical allies.”

  • Paul Marks

    Rich Paul there were plenty of AQ people in Iraq in 2003 and Saddam was quite happy to support terrorists – whether they were based in Iraq or not (and in spite of them denoucing him as not a proper Muslim).

    Of course this does not mean the judgement to go in was correct – I opposed it and was called nasty names for doing so. But it was not as silly as you are implying it was.

    The basic problem with the campaign was that it assumed that there was this bad man called Saddam and his few henchman and that most people in Iraq were “like people everywhere else”. Well perhaps “most” of the people in Iraq are O.K., but it is not a matter of (as the Bush Administration thought it was) of 95% plus being O.K. – it is more like 60 or 70 per cent.

    A wildly different situation – but anyone who tried to explain that got called nasty names.

    Still it is too late to cry over things now. It is now a matter of “what should be done, and what should not be done”. Perhaps less of an effort should be made to keep S.C.R.I. (I may not have those letters the right way round – the original name was “the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq” – but I believe there has been a name change) from power.

    They are attacked as “pro Iranian” yet the other two Shia parties are just as “pro Iranian”, and the S.C.R.I. candidate for Prime Minister at the last contest (who the present Prime Minister of Iraq beat in Parliament by one or two votes) was at least a decentish economist who had contempt for the economic policy of the President of Iran.

    I agree that “war is about killing” but one should not snear at “bread and butter issues” – the economy is important.

    And if the only way to keep S.C.R.I. out of the Prime Minister’s office is to let Sadr have a free pass, it is not worth it.

    After all it is Sadr who has been ordering the murder of Sunni and Shia civilians right from 2003 (very large numbers – and not just “small folk” for example he had two Governors in the south murdered just last week) and his men are trained by the Iranians and by their “Party of God” proxies in Lebanon – so if being “pro Iranian” is the problem why on Earth should a government that depends on the votes of Sadr’s Members of Parliament be supported?

    A new coalition government is going to come sooner or later (it is up the Iraqi members of Parliament to decide when) – but there should not be an unwritten rule that “a S.C.R.I. man must not be Prime Minister” – after all everyone else has had a chance. Although this will depend on whether S.C.R.I. can get moderate Sunni parties to work with them.

  • Paul Marks

    Peregrine Worsthorne – yes he is a real person (in spite of the name) Mr Davies. I have met Mr Worsthone.

    He is not all bad, for example he made the valid point that a nation that can even consider having its laws made by an external power (the E.U.) has so lost self respect that things may well be hopeless.

    However, he does have that blindness one sometimes sees in upper class people. For example, I once heard him (on the radio – not in person as with the point above) say how he had responded to seeing someone eating a “filthy thing”, a hamburger, on a subway train by “farting in his face”.

    Perigrine Worsthorne seemed unable to understand that it was he (Perigrine) who had been rude – not the person he had seen eating a hamburger.

    Only last week Perigrine Worsthorne was snearing at John Redwood (“worst of the monetarist guros, who should have been left to vanish……..”) for producing very modest suggestions for the reduction of taxation and regulation (which is nothing to do with monetary policy, but there we go).

    Perigrine Worsthorne did not understand that snearing at the suggestions, without even reading them or knowing anything about the matters they concerned, was ignorant – any more than he understood that by passing wind in someone’s face HE was the person being rude.

    I do not know the technical name for this sort of mind set.

  • Worsthorne produces his bile in another paper, First Post, as well recently making excuses for Islamist terror. The piece could have been written by OBL.

  • guy herbert

    Sunfish,

    “Deny the center of the historical Caliphate as a rallying ground for the people who wish to restore and then expand said Caliphate” then the geography at least makes sense.

    Unfortunately the grand strategy wouldn’t. Islamist history isn’t real history, and their magical Caliphate is a revolutionary Utopia centred on Mecca and Jerusalem. The Abbasid and Ummayid caliphates with their syncretic high culture are despised for decadence by the Salafists, part of whose project is re-Arabising Islam.

    The historical glory of Baghdad and Damascus is meaningless to people who want to abolish history. ‘Denying’ Iraq to them is not a strategic gain, because they value the fight not the ground. It were better to deny them the fight.

  • Millie Woods

    Paul, I am one of those people who believe the Americans and British should pull out of Iraq tomorrow. Iraq as well as the whole of the Islamic world is not worth the life of a single British or American individual. There are no arguments that can justify the sacrifice of blood or treasure. These people are either never going to change their murderous thuggery or if they do change it will have to be some kind of internal cleansing which hardly looks likely in the light of recent history.
    We don’t need them; they need us and their noses should be rubbed in that fact daily. Strategic oil – bah humbug! The world is full of it and the money being thrown into the sands of Iraq could be used more productively to develop alternative and known reserves of the stuff.
    World political elites are still behaving as though this is the 19th century. Proof that this is the case is for example a US politician hoping to become the 2008 democrat presidential candidate vowing that if elected he would meet post haste with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez! Oh yes and the cyclops eyed chappy in Teheran too!
    Can anyone or anything be more idiotic or hopeless – just like trying to hold up the idiotic anmd hopeless regimes in Islamic countries!

  • guy herbert

    Paul,

    The basic problem with the campaign was that it assumed that there was this bad man called Saddam and his few henchman and that most people in Iraq were “like people everywhere else”.

    I think that’s almost, but not quite right. People in Iraq, good and bad, probably are like people everywhere else. Like people in Germany, Russia, Cambodia, China, Rawanda… the UK and the US. But people in different places live with different cultural assumptions and different recent experiences.

    The hopeless assumption of the campaign was that there is a cooperative, trusting, universalist, liberal democratic culture inherent in the people and just removing oppression would bring it out with a functioning civil society and rule of law emerging fully formed from the shell of Ba’athism. While that neo-Con proposition ought plainly to be ludicrous, a lot of people – me included – held a weaker version: that Iraq, as the “most secular” Middle-Eastern state could be made into a liberal one. Even with the example of the fate of ‘secularised’ Soviet Afghanistan before us, we were supposing our internalised concept of social order was also that of the potential warlords, zealots and gangsters.

  • guy herbert

    … that somehow secularisation was the ‘natural’ state of society. It never really occured to many Westerners that secularisation was maintained by the brutal dictatorship.

  • This is not a comment on the vaildity of the current mid-east conflicts, or who is responsible for the paucity of resources. I just wanted to correct the impression that there is some portion of the British Army sitting pretty in Germany with nothing to do.

    I am aware that there are not 23,000 infantry in Germany, my point is that as there is a real war going on (and there are in fact two real wars going on), then there should be NO British troops in Germany acting as political tokens.

    They should be freed of this anachronistic deployment and used where they would really matter militarily. The fact many of those troops will indeed be rotated through Iraq and Afghanistan does not change the fact the deployed-at-one-time force needs to have been bigger.

    But actually General Keane has it right: the British Army is simply too small for all the things UKGov has asked of it (which is why deploying troops in German is a political luxury that cannot be afforded at the current force levels). It is preposterous that given the size of UK Government expenditures that so many billions go on things that the state should not be spending a penny on (the state spends money subsidising sports and ‘culture’ for Gods sake) and yet people in the military are dying for lack of body armour, proper vehicles and lack of force strength.

  • spence

    Thank you for your reply Perry. I can only say that I think your are confused on a few things in my view. Possibly the confusion lies in the word deployment. These Germany-based units are not deployed in the sense that a unit is deployed to Iraq. This is their home, it is where they are based, it is where their barracks/ranges/workshops/HQ/stores etc. are located. In reality, if they could be said to be deployed, then they are deployed to Germany in the sense that UK barracked troops are deployed to the UK – it is their unit’s base. It is no less cost-effective to hold the units in Germany than the UK, in some cases it is considerably more effective as large areas of land for exercises and training are available in Germany that are hard to come by in the UK.

    So, those units in Germany are being rotated through the mid-east command in the same way that UK based troops are. The British Army is not divisible by geographic location in the way you seem to be suggesting, though I concede that perhaps I’ve missed your point. What I was trying to make clear, is that the majority of the Army, whatever the location, is supporting the effort in the mid-east. When units are not in theatre they must logically be somewhere else, for rest and training – I can’t see why it should matter if they are in Germany or the UK for this.

    Moreover the Army has other duties than the counter-insurgency roles in Iraq and Afghanistan, some parts of the Army must be held as a reserve. The Army cannot be so committed to the mid-east that it could not respond to an emerging threat to the UK at home or to vital British interests overseas, these other duties are mandated by the democratically elected Government and it is not up to the Army to pick and choose what it will and won’t do.

    For a long-term combat commitment, the Army is supplying just about all it can to the theatre, there are no “thousands” of troops sitting in Germany or anywhere else. There are troops who have just come back from the mid-east, and troops who are resting or training prior to going back – but there are no troops “doing nothing” in Germany or elsewhere.

    I can see that you’re angry about the resource issue, I’d only say though that basing Army units in Germany isn’t really a cause of the resource issue, or a symptom of it either.

  • Swede

    I’m just now finishing my second tour in Iraq. Both times I’ve had occasion to meet British Soldiers. You should be rightfully proud of them. Great guys. However, there are too damn few of them. Here or anywhere else. There’s only one remedy for that and I’m not sure your current government is up to the task. My concern is that when they do leave, that vacuum can only be filled by more US troops or Iraqi troops with a strong US presence. Either way, I may be looking at a third tour soon and I worry that my dog won’t recognize me when I get home, let alone my wife and kids.

  • spence

    If you have to go again Swede, keep your head down and I wish you good luck.

  • Nick M

    spence,
    I recall a lot of media attention recently on the appalling, dilapidated state of many UK barracks. If HMG is not prepared to look after our existing barracks I very much doubt they’re prepared to spend the cash to build bases back in the UK for an extra 23000. Does that sound about right?

    guy,
    You’re absolutely right about the Islamicists denial of history. Many of the glories of the height of Islamic civilization would be a distinct embarrassment to bin Laden and his ilk. Have you ever read the “1001 Nights”? The incredibly syncretic nature of this civilization would likewise be an embarrassment to folk who think all anybody really needs to know is in the Qu’ran and whatever hadiths they approve of.

    I think the key difference between Germany without Hitler (worked out OK) and Iraq without Saddam (a bloody shambles) is that in 1945 Germany was flattened, destroyed, had suffered enormously, lost millions of people and the Germans just felt defeated. This was not the case in Iraq 2003. Iraq had been attacked with genuine precision bombing, the army (such as it was) had been rolled-up relatively easily by a very small number of “boots on the ground” and somehow I don’t think the air of general demoralization was the same as in a thoroughly defeated Germany in 1945.

    I hope I’m wrong in that observation.

    Millie,
    As Bismarck once put it about a cause he didn’t much care for, “it wasn’t worth the bones of a single Pommeranian grenadier”.

    I’ve got a fair bit of time for the “let them stew in their own juice” way of thinking… The more atrocities occur in Iraq, the more I’m tempted to think “bugger the lot of them”. Having said that, though… We broke Iraq so we’ve bought it and we really ought to try and sort something out which is both tolerable for the poor sods who live there and for US/UK prestige* otherwise every raggy-assed Islamic renegade in the world will be emboldened.

    Which brings me onto one case where stewing in their own juices would be an unalloyed good (and probably the only way forward). The recent withdrawal of foreign aid to Gaza would I suspect, if it had been made permanent, forced Hamas/Fatah/whoever to adopt a vastly more pragmatic stance. The EU has recently said it’ll go back to paying Gaza’s electricity bill (why won’t they pay mine? I never blew-up a Pizza Hut even though I’ve had lousy service in them more than once…) but no… The EU will keep the ramshackle Gazan thugocracy going. And nothing changes. If only we’d had the wit to leave the buggers to implode in their own sweet time and then just possibly they might come to their senses.

    I’m really not sure about what I’ve just written. I could be very wrong. It’s just an idea.

    *Difficult. Even if our forces were to withdraw 100% victorious it would still be seen as a defeat for the “imperialists”.

  • spence

    Hello Nick M, I’m guessing that there would likely be local opposition to relocating the heavy units of the Army back to the UK and the probable necessity of compulsorily purchasing additional large tracts of land for training and exercise. I think it is fair to say that such a transfer would be expensive in every way, yes.

    Army accommodation, especially for single soldiers, is in many cases poor. I have spent time living in cockroach infested flea-pit barracks in Germany – but on the other hand, I’ve also bedded down in much worse places – you have to be pragmatic, soldiering isn’t an easy life. Maintaining a standing Army is very expensive, procurement and operational costs are often dwarfed by the costs associated with simply maintaining the force infrastructure, it would be wrong to say that there haven’t been improvements though. Resources being what they are, it is impossible to do everything that needs doing at once, you have to make the best of what you have.

    I can speculate, hypothetically, that perhaps the problems start to get serious when the resources aren’t sufficient to maintain the infrastructure in a static state, because things will deteriorate after that point and get progressively more expensive to put right (and therefore get more difficult for decision-makes to sign-off the spending) – at that point cuts begin because the cost of doing without makes sense compared to putting things right. I’m certainly no expert on all this but I think that in my speculative model, cutting capability would be the more attractive option for those who hold the purse strings. I think it becomes a circle as capability elimination in one place reduces the effectiveness of other previously linked capability in another – making this other capability seem not worth maintaining, leading to it being cut etc. etc.

  • Paul Marks

    First of all Swede, and everyone else serving., I hope that bombs and bullets do not find you.

    Perry correctly repeats the basic point that General Keane was making – i.e. that this retired American General thinks (rightly or wrongly) the British army should be bigger (i.e. that the Daily Telegraph misreported his position, by implying that he was either too ignorant or too dishonest to understand that the British Army was too small to do the things that it was called upon to do).

    Mille Woods.

    There was a suggestion (the names escape me as I sit here) that 9/11 should not have been responded to at all.

    After all we are even less likely to make Afghanistan a friendly nation than Iraq – if Iraq is “hopeless” (as many people claim) then Afghanistan is even more hopeless (and, of course, defeat in Iraq would make the war in Afghanistan a sick joke – as enemy spirit would be so boosted).

    Actually it is possible to make Iraq a democracy (at least it was) – because it was done (well close to). Hard fighting by British forces in the early 20th century produced a constitutional government in Iraq which was basically a democracy (sort of) – however it was destroyed in 1958.

    One of the factors that made me wary of the Iraq operation in 2003 was that even “experts” on Iraq kept saying “it has been a dictatorship for thirty five years” (or other numbers close to this) – 1958 to 2003 = 35?

    They did not have a clue what they were talking about (they thought that Saddam and the Baath were the only dictatorship Iraq had been under) – and this made me doubt everything else.

    The trouble with this view is that a President who followed it in 2001 would have been committing political suicide.

    Some people say we should have just gone after the leaders of A.Q. and the Taliban (they working hand-in-glove, and many people are part of both, so to draw a distinction between them is false) – however (and this I did NOT expect) we have failed even in this.

    Perhaps O.B.L. is dead but there is no proof of this, and his deputy is very much alive. And the leader of the Taliban (Mullah Omar) is alive.

    “But we have got X, Y, Z,” – yes we have got people we started to say were important when we could not get the people we went after. I repeat that I did NOT expect this.

    Actually (in strict military terms) the performance in Iraq has been BETTER than the performance in Afghanistan. In Iraq when the order comes down “get so-and-so” he is got (sooner or later), and if a so-and-so is not got (such as Sadr) it is because there has been NO ORDER TO GET HIM.

    I have no doubt that if the order was given to the United States Army in Iraq to kill or capture Sadr he would be killed or captured. But operations in Afghanistan – well things (in military terms) do not seem to go so well there (perhaps because the command structure is not under U.S. Army control).

    Guy:

    Your reasoning is strong (as always), however I am not sure I go along with all your conclusions.

  • Paul Marks

    As you may well know Guy much of the “historic glory” of Damascus still exists (Baghdad was not really worth seeing even before 2003) – but if you have not already seen it hurry up (unlike me you do not have a Jewish family name so it would be safe for you to go in some cool season). Of course population growth has meant that there are lots of ugly developments – but there is still much worth seeing.

    The government there has all sorts of plans for tower blocks and motorways – which will ruin the city (the “old city” would be left as tourist trap, but much of the area round some of the old gates into the city will be messed up, indeed some of the gates into the city themselves will be destroyed).

    It is sad to see the mistakes made in so many Western cities being made in the most ancient capital city in the world. The Chinese are doing a similar thing with Peking (sorry “Bejing”) – those “liberal” morons at “Newsweek” magazine had a front page story praising all the tower blocks that are to be built (I have been hearing terrible stories about the destruction of historic houses, indeed whole areas of the city, for months now).

    Definition of a “modern” person – someone whose ideas are stuck in the past (broadly from the 1940’s to the 1960’s) and who refuses to learn, either from reasoned argument or from experience.

  • Alice


    … they [Islamist terrorists] value the fight not the ground. It were better to deny them the fight.

    Fair ‘nough, Guy. Although this does sound a little like one of those old-fashioned English Public School novels — if fat weak Biffy in the Third Form refused to put up his fists when challenged by big bullying Carruthers of the Sixth Form, the consequences would be limited to Carruthers making some withering comment about Biffy’s cowardice and then sauntering away.

    If murderous Islamist terrorists would agree to play by English Public School rules, then there might be some value in denying them the fight. Meanwhile, back in the real world ….

  • I don’t know about the rest of Muslims, but Arabs do value ground very much.

  • Nick M

    Damn it, Alisa!

    You got in before me.

    For Islamists land is critical. OBL himself seriously took against the USA only after the feet of infidels* despoiled the holy deserts of Arabia in Desert Shield.

    spence,
    Thanks for the reply. Soldiers ought to have better pay and conditions. Low-grade office wonks in government depratments earn more and they don’t get shot at, though a great many of them should be.

    That was initially a typo but I’m allowing serendipity to take her merry course.

    *Some of them women, without hijab, driving vehicles and armed! The horrors the poor man must’ve suffered. just thinking about it.

  • Sunfish

    *Some of them women, without hijab, driving vehicles and armed! The horrors the poor man must’ve suffered. just thinking about it.

    The horrors indeed. Ever contemplated the Former Mrs. Sunfish, armed and behind the wheel?

  • Do Islamicists link ‘blood and land’?
    Anyway, citizens, history is inevitable.
    It is useless to resist.
    Exterminate! Exterminate!

  • Nick M

    Yes, Pietr they do link “blood and land”.

    Wherever the flag of Islam has been planted is Islamic land forever.

    I am not the only one who thought the Madrid outrage had less to do with Jose Aznar’s support for Bush’s Iraq policy and more to do with the reconquest by Ferdinand and Isabella.

    While Islam flourishes we will be forever fighting the battle of Tours and the way things are going we’ll be doing it without a Charles Martel.