Latest lessons from Ulster to Afghanistan

In the week of the Afghanistan conference, Portadown-born Captain Doug Beattie MC makes a vigorous soldier’s defence of the Afghan operation that , agree with it or not, makes more sense than 1,000 pieces of politics- speak. The Afghan Army is promising he says, unlike the locally recruited police

This would be like taking a police recruit from Crossmaglen in south Armagh, then getting him to patrol in Crossmaglen. Imagine all the local pressures he would be under from republican dissidents he might have gone to school with, or who knew where he or his parents lived. That is taking place in Afghanistan, and we, the west, are facilitating it.

It’s clear that Beattie for all his outspokenness remains onside of the British Army, as they still allow him to blog on the Army’s website in Helmand. Why 27 years in the army and only a captain although decorated for gallantry? Because he started out in the ranks. Typical Prod, he was no slavish admirer of his boss, the equally opinionated Col Tim Collins. If no man is an idol to his valet, no battalion commander is charismatic to his RSM, as he describes it in his own account.

Beattie, who was Collins’s regimental sergeant major at the time he made the famous speech, claims that, far from rousing his men, it made them fearful and apprehensive and it was left to him to “snap them out of it” by “bollocking them”. Collins’s speech was a brilliant, almost Shakespearian piece of battlefield oratory, and many will not like having it knocked down. By contrast, Beattie says, “like most Ulstermen my language is straight out of the gutter”. Yet it is this that makes this memoir such a riveting read.

I wonder what it was like overhearing the two of them in the tent, each trying to cap the other’s best lines?

  • Jaggers

    If Northern Ireland is the blueprint for Afghanistan, then in 20-years odd, there will still be a dissident Taliban (with brothers from Indonesia to Pakistan to South Caucasus to Yemen to Sudan to Nigeria to Walthamstow to Queens and a lot of places in between which haven’t been invaded) who will be capable of launching mass casualty attacks . Time to accept things have changed, change military tactics to gain relative victories and educate society. Install strong tribal leaders in Afghanistan to try to keep the lid on the pressure cooker, and withdraw with a relative victory. Engage with Pakistan and Iran – these people do have the nukes.

  • FriarsBush

    Good point here Brian….Robert Fisk has some great insight into the carry-on of the Afgan police force and there contact with the locals….it ain’t too nice..and the UK govt knows what’s going to boot… this corrupt regime.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Cetainly does say a lot about how a Portadown person would regard a person from Crossmaglen.

  • lamhdearg

    i look forward to the day when iran has the bomb so they can tell the west to f off and mind there own business, im sorry if this sounds simplistic but “our” do as we say not as we do view of the world makes me sick.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Thank goodness there is at least one other person in the world who wants Iran to have nukes.
    Surely the problem with Iraq is that it didnt have nukes.
    The great advantage that PDR Korea has is that it has nukes.

    The lesson is that if you DONT HAVE WMDs you are banjaxed.
    But if you have them the Coalition of the Stupid wont touch you (see Pakistan).
    The Americans in USA believe in their own constitutional right to have weaponry and the NRA types believes it makes them and their families safer.
    A lesson here for the world.
    The UN should therefore hand out nukes on a pro rata basis to all its member states.

    We will all sleep safer.

  • wild turkey

    ‘i look forward to the day when iran has the bomb’

    you cannot be serious.
    you can not be serious.

    Pakistan and Iran – these people do have the nukes, and so do ‘we’.

    but who is more likely to use them?

    note to readers. above comment in no way endorses or agrees with Blairs flimflam on Iran towards the conclusion of his evidence to the Chilcott teaparty on Friday, 29 Jan.

  • lamhdearg

    wild turkey
    no one will use them,for this simple reason it would mean death to both partys,this is why there has been no world war 3,guaranteed mutual destruction,also please tell me why should we be allowed something but tell someone else they cant have it?.

  • Scaramoosh

    So Iran names a street after Booby Sands, and they are hoping that it gets an Atom bomb.

    I Ran …

  • lamhdearg

    as for bobby sands street, i think we can assume this was a case of “my enemys enemy is my friend”but in your second line(and they are hoping)who are “THEY”???.

  • RepublicanStones

    but who is more likely to use them?

    Your inference here WT is both void of any historical legitimacy (try that question in the past tense) and also indicative of your orientalism.

    Those swarthy, base and immoral middle easterners eh 😉

  • wild turkey

    Your inference here WT is both void of any historical legitimacy (try that question in the past tense) and also indicative of your orientalism.


    point taken… to a point

    only bombs ever used? hiroshima and nagaski
    why? not to end the war, but because the nascent national security state under truman wanted to scare the shit out of stalin.

    did MAD work? when nuclear arms were essentially confined to the USSR and USA, yep… and it worked because both sides did not want to take a hit.. and were also fairly versed in game theory.

    i suggest, with states like pakistan, an admitted USA client state, and Iran, the same constraints, suggested by game theory, and history, may very well not apply. i hope i am wrong

    Finally, RS, can i ask a favour? go off load your misplaced racism and political correctness elsewhere.

    you and i might very well be playing for the same team. a little respect might go a long way

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Do as I say not as I do.

    Wel what can you say.

    I can be trusted with my nuclear bombs (Though we did use two of them)

    You on the other hand cannot be trusted with nuclear bombs

    Its kind of got the ring of para-military justice about it

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    As the British are only in Iraq/Afghanistan to impress the World hard man (America) then it is a little difficult to put much credence on their advice in such matters.

    When they were getting it so wrong in NI in the earlier years of the troubles they were not that interested in outside help/advice.

    Is it now time for Britain to move away from the old doctrine of “Johnny foreigner will be okay eventually after we have educated him how to behave”

    The coincidence of murder and mayhem when the British interfere in other countries continues (sadly) to go over their heads.

    Perhaps the British should learn some of their own lessons first.

  • Paddy

    British terrorists troops have no right to be in Crossmaglen, Afghanistan, Iraq or Iran. They have awful records in all these places. The Iranians know from bitter experience how tricky and anti democratic Perfidious Albion is.

    Beattie is a hired gunman, with the simplistic analysis one can expect from a hired killer.

    Chemical Ali was hanged for gassing Kurds a few days ago. Winston Churchill also gfassed Kurds. He got the Nobel Prize for it.

  • Brian MacAodh

    Maybe they should all be shot like this poor guy, eh Paddy

  • Brian MacAodh

    “only bombs ever used? hiroshima and nagaski
    why? not to end the war, but because the nascent national security state under truman wanted to scare the shit out of stalin.”

    It ended the war and saved 100s of thousands of US lives, and many more Japanese lives. It may have accomplished other things but those facts cannot be disputed.

  • Brian MacAodh

    BTW, if you want fundamentalist Islamists to get their hands on a nuclear weapon you need to educate yourself a lil, or get your head checked.

  • RepublicanStones

    Brian WT is closer to the mark than you. The use of the bomb by Truman was hoped by the American adminstration to ensure the Soviets would acquiesce to their terms in Europe. As Richard Seymour writes in the excellent ‘Liberal Defence Of Murder’

    ‘The current mainstream of scholarship on the dropping of the uraniam bomb on Hiroshima and the plutonium bomb on Nagasaki concludes that it was an exercise in what Gar Alperovitz calls ‘atomic diplomacy’. The Truman administration did not need to use that weapon in order to obtain a Japanese surrender, which was practically assured upon Russian entry into the Pacific war – and Stalin had already promised to join the war by 15 August 1945. Even a clarification of surrender terms would probably have yielded peace. This was advocated by practically the entire civilian and military leadership of the Anglo-American war effort. However, a number of key figures in the US adminstration who had knowledge of the development of the S-1, the atomic bomb, hoped that it could be used to coerce Stalin into accepting American terms in Europe. Roosevelt had sought to limit Soviet intervention by securing an agreement to support the beleagured Chiang Kai-shek, but the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee…wanted ways to avert any Soviet involvement if necessary, recommending exclusive American rule over Japan and economic reform in the interests of making it an American outpost. When a successful test was finally carried out in Alamagordo, New Mexico, Truman discovered that he no longer needed the assistance of the USSR. Dropping the bomb was now preferable, not only because it would prevent the USSR from having a post-war claim in Southeast Asia, which the US planned to hegemonize, but also becuase of the beneficial effects it was likely to have on diplomacy with Russia in Europe. For these reasons, over 200,000 Japaneze civilians lost their lives in two nuclear strikes.’(p115)

    BTW WT, i did not think i my last post was disrespectful, I was merely highlighting what I (perhaps erroneously) saw as typical western suspicion of the middle east, which usually emanates from the right. Apologies old son, but I don’t think the fact somebody ‘is on my team’ should prevent me from doing so.

  • Brian MacAodh

    My opinion is that it’s not as simple as the traditional or revisionist view. But, unlike Stalin Truman wouldn’t kill 200K people for diplomatic advantages. This is a good article that came out after classified telegraph intercepts were released 60 years after the bombings. These allowed professional historians to review the whole debate. I’ll just leave the basic intro and conclusion of the article. It’s by Richard Frank, a leading scholar on Imperial Japan and the Pacific Campaign. He has written many books, of which I know his “Downfall” is often used in college classes on WW II. All I know about Seymour is that he is a Workers Party blogger. Not sure if he’s ever published any historical articles in respected journals or is even a professional historian.

    from Frank’s article…

    “The critics share three fundamental premises. The first is that Japan’s situation in 1945 was catastrophically hopeless. The second is that Japan’s leaders recognized that fact and were seeking to surrender in the summer of 1945. The third is that thanks to decoded Japanese diplomatic messages, American leaders knew that Japan was about to surrender when they unleashed needless nuclear devastation. The critics divide over what prompted the decision to drop the bombs in spite of the impending surrender, with the most provocative arguments focusing on Washington’s desire to intimidate the Kremlin. Among an important stratum of American society–and still more perhaps abroad–the critics’ interpretation displaced the traditionalist view…..

    There are a good many more points that now extend our understanding beyond the debates of 1995. But it is clear that all three of the critics’ central premises are wrong. The Japanese did not see their situation as catastrophically hopeless. They were not seeking to surrender, but pursuing a negotiated end to the war that preserved the old order in Japan, not just a figurehead emperor. Finally, thanks to radio intelligence, American leaders, far from knowing that peace was at hand, understood–as one analytical piece in the “Magic” Far East Summary stated in July 1945, after a review of both the military and diplomatic intercepts–that “until the Japanese leaders realize that an invasion can not be repelled, there is little likelihood that they will accept any peace terms satisfactory to the Allies.” This cannot be improved upon as a succinct and accurate summary of the military and diplomatic realities of the summer of 1945.”