Friday, July 28, 2006

Rich man's war, poor man's fight

Eighteen months ago, Hercules XV179 was shot down by Iraqi insurgents, and all 10 air crew were killed. Eight of the ten were based at RAF Lyneham, delivering a severe blow to the small Wiltshire town.

The bereaved relatives have asked renowned human rights lawyer, Simon McKay, to represent them at the upcoming inquest. But in an incredibly mean spirited move, the Ministry of Defence is refusing to pay for their legal representation.
The issue the families wish to raise at the inquest is whether the MoD was negligent by not providing explosive suppressant foam in the fuel tanks.

All American Hercules have foam in the tanks. This is hardly new technology, and has been deployed since the Vietnam war: it makes a remarkable difference, and one American Herc recently survived 19 rounds in the fuel tank, but still landed safely.
RAF pilots had asked for British planes to be fitted with the foam two years before XV179 was shot down. The cost would be a measly £275000 plus £50000 per aircraft – in terms of military budgets this is small change.

Time ands again British casualties in Iraq show evidence of incompetence, and negligence towards their safety. Soldiers killed because they have had to give up their body armour, soldiers with insufficient ammunition, out of radio contact, or given insufficient training.

The government has a duty of care towards service men and women. That duty of care was betrayed when they were sent into an immoral invasion in Iraq, and when they were sent to Afghanistan. That duty of care is betrayed when they have inadequate equipment to protect their lives.

The anti-war movement in Britain is absolutely correct to draw attention to the scandalous disregard the politicians have towards service lives. The best way to protect service men and women is an immediate withdrawal of British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no contradiction between this demand, and also arguing for solidarity for those fighting to liberate Iraq from US and UK occupation, because that is the only way lasting peace can be achieved.

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