The politicians need to assign handlers to top commanders so that utterances can be cleared before they get uttered. It seems that many military people seem blissfully unaware that their role is not to say what they believe but what they ought to believe according to their political masters.
Basra fight pointless, says British commander
Gethin Chamberlain in southern Iraq
Last Updated: 2:02am GMT 28/10/2007
One of the most senior British commanders in Iraq has claimed that there is no point in fighting on in Basra, likening British troops in the city to "Robocop" and admitting that innocent people were hurt as a result of their actions.
On the ground with British troops in southern Iraq
The officer, who spoke to The Sunday Telegraph on condition of anonymity, said commanders had concluded that a military solution was no longer viable.
"We are tired of firing at people," he said. "We would prefer to find a political accommodation."
The officer, who is responsible for thousands of troops, said the decision to pull soldiers out of the centre of Basra last month came after commanders concluded that using Iraqi forces would be more effective. "We would go down there [Basra], dressed as Robocop, shooting at people if they shot at us, and innocent people were getting hurt," he said. "We don't speak Arabic to explain and our translators were too scared to work for us any more. What benefit were we bringing to these people?"
British forces have struck a deal with Shia militias to withdraw to a single base at the international airport in return for assurances that they will no longer be attacked.
Yesterday, former military commanders and politicians expressed outrage at the officer's comments.
Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, said: "A lot of those who have served in Iraq will be disappointed and angry at being portrayed in this manner."
The former SAS deputy commander Clive Fairweather said he was appalled by the message coming out of Basra. "One wonders whether the Union Jack or the white flag should be flying over Basra airfield," he said.
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