Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lions Led by Donkeys

The Chief of the Defence Staff is quoted in the Telegraph today bemoaning the "lack of understanding shown to troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan".
"They are concerned the British public does not appreciate or understand what they do. We need to express that a bit more visibly. I welcome recent efforts to do that. We need to have a little more tangible and visible expression of our appreciation."

It is all too easy for this brass hat to scold the public. Gen Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the Army, has told us off similarly.

Has he ever considered that the Ministry of Defence's gagging orders - which I blogged back in September - might contribute to this lack of understanding?

I'm going to reprint the same quote I used then:

Members of the Armed Forces and MOD Civil Servants must seek prior permission from MoD media authorities] if they wish to communicate about defence via books, articles or academic papers; self-publish via a blog, podcast or other shared text, audio or video; take part in external questionnaires, polls, surveys or research projects, speak at conferences, private engagements or other events where the public or media may be present; or contribute to any online community or share information such as a bulletin board, wiki, online social network, or multi-player game...

[This] covers all public speaking, writing or other communications, including via the internet and other sharing technologies, on issues arising from an individual's official business or experience, whether on-duty, off-duty or in spare time.

Given that the troops aren't allowed to tell anyone anything, how the bleedin' hell is the public to get the understanding that he thinks they lack?

The MOD is a shower. Do you remember when Iran seized 15 British sailors and marines in the Persian Gulf back in March? The country was engulfed with sympathy and goodwill for Faye Turney et al until Des Browne and the ministry sold them down the river with the botched and undignified handling of the issue of whether or not it was appropriate for them to sell their stories to the papers.

Somebody at the top needs to get their ducks in a row, and apply a little consistency and common sense.

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