Blair battered by army chief's outburst:
TONY Blair's foreign policy was in tatters last night after the head of the Army said that the continued presence of British troops in Iraq was responsible for bloodshed at home and abroad.Sir Richard is a very devout Christian, I am told, and that seems to be the foundation of his remarks:
The scathing comments by General Sir Richard Dannatt directly contradict the Prime Minister, who has repeatedly claimed that the invasion of Iraq played no role in galvanising Muslim extremism in Britain and bringing about the 7/7 bombings.
Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, last night ordered Sir Richard to report for a meeting at the ministry this morning where his future will be discussed.
Sir Richard, who took over as the Chief of the General Staff from General Sir Mike Jackson in August, appeared to give no warning to Mr Browne or the senior hierarchy at the Ministry of Defence before making his comments.
In an interview Sir Richard said that the continuing presence in Iraq of 7200 British troops was “exacerbating the security problems” and said they should come home soon.
He added: “We are in a Muslim country and Muslims’ views of foreigners in their country are quite clear. As a foreigner you can be welcomed by being invited in a country but we weren’t invited, certainly by those in Iraq at the time. The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in.”
He said that whatever consent there may have been at the start, it had now largely turned to intolerance on the part of the Iraqi people.
“I don’t say that the difficulties we are experiencing around the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them,” he said.
He made it clear that he thought that the planning for the post-combat phase was “poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning”.
He added: “The original intention was that we put in place a liberal democracy that was an exemplar for the region, was pro-West and might have a beneficial effect on the balance within the Middle East. That was the hope, whether that was a sensible or naive hope, history will judge.”
Sir Richard even linked the presence of British troops in Iraq with the growing Islamic extremism taking hold in Britain. He said that failure to support Christian values in Britain was allowing a predatory Islamic vision to take hold.
“When I see the Islamist threat in this country I hope it doesn’t make undue progress because there is a moral and spiritual vacuum in this country.”
... Sir Richard said: “I am going to stand up for what is right for the Army. Honesty is what it is about. The truth will out. We have got to speak the truth.”