The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Army chief urges troop pullout on Yahoo! News

Army chief urges troop pullout

By Deborah Haynes and Peter GraffFri Oct 13, 12:36 PM ET

Britain's army chief said his troops should be withdrawn from Iraq soon as their presence was making security worse, in bluntly worded comments seized upon by opponents of the U.S.-led invasion three years ago.

Chief of the General Staff Richard Dannatt told the Daily Mail newspaper that post-war planning for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was "poor" and the presence of troops there was hurting British security globally.

The remarks, extraordinary from such a senior serving officer, could have political fallout on both sides of the Atlantic. The war has damaged the standing of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and is a major issue for U.S. President George W. Bush's allies in congressional elections next month.

Although in later interviews Dannatt denied any split with Blair, he may have added to the storm by warning that overstretching the British army in Iraq could "break it."

Britain should "get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems," he told the Mail.

"I don't say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq, but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them," he said.

"I think history will show that the planning for what happened after the initial successful war fighting phase was poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning."

Blair told a news conference in Scotland later on Friday that having read the newspaper interview and transcripts of remarks Dannatt made to radio and television stations there was no division between them.

"What he is saying about wanting the British forces out of Iraq is precisely the same as we are all saying," Blair said. "Our strategy is to withdraw from Iraq when the job is done."

"The reason that we have been able to give up two provinces now to Iraqi control is precisely because the job has been done there," he added, noting that Basra was still not secure which was why British forces remained in place.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said after reviewing transcripts of Dannatt's interviews, "The comment was taken out of context and his general point was that, you know, when your work is done you hand over authority to the Iraqis."

"The Iraqis have said that they want continued presence, and they have also made it clear that when they think that they are going to be capable of assuming full control for various areas, they are eager and willing to do so," Snow said.

POLITICAL STORM

Iraq government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said U.S. and British troops were still needed.

"The Iraqi government and the Iraqi people don't want foreign troops to stay in Iraq indefinitely. But we believe the British and Americans are playing a positive role in Iraq and that their presence is necessary to control the security issue."

But Dannatt's remarks were seized upon by anti-war campaigners. Reg Keys, whose son died in Iraq, said: "Here you have an officer, at last, who is prepared to speak how it is, and not be a mouthpiece for the delusions of a prime minister."

In Basra, where most of Britain's 7,200 troops are based, locals told Reuters they agreed it was time for them to go.

"In the last three years, people started to look at these troops in a different way. They simply hate these troops," said school teacher Fatima Ahmed, 35.

A British military source in Basra said Dannatt's comments referred to Maysan province -- one of two regions controlled by British forces. He said co-operation with local residents was better in Basra region.

Asked if Dannatt's comments had hurt troop morale, he said: "He is a popular man. He is a soldier's soldier and he tells things the way they are."

Hours after Dannatt's interview appeared, he made radio and television appearances to calm the political storm. He said his remarks were taken out of context but he did not deny them.

"It was never my intention to have this hoo ha, which people have thoroughly enjoyed overnight, trying to suggest there is a chasm between myself and the prime minister," he told BBC radio.

British troops were targets in some places, but were beneficial in others, he said and insisted he was not proposing an immediate withdrawal. "I'm a soldier. We don't do surrender ... We're going to see this through," he said.

But he added: "I've got an army to look after which is going to be successful in current operations. But I want an army in five years time and 10 years time. Don't let's break it on this one. Lets keep an eye on time."

Britain has launched a large new operation in Afghanistan this year, and commanders have acknowledged that they had hoped they could reduce their force in Iraq faster.

Generals have said they now hope to cut their force in Iraq in half by the middle of next year. They have turned over control of two of the four provinces they patrol to Iraqis.

In Iraq on Thursday, a bomb in a police station in Hilla killed a police colonel and five others. The bodies of 14 construction workers were found in an orchard near a town 40 km (25 miles) north of Baghdad. One policeman and eight insurgents were reported killed in clashes in Mosul.

(Additional reporting by Aref Mohammed in Basra, Hiba Moussa and Ibon Villelabeitia in Baghdad and Katherine Baldwin in St Andrews, Scotland)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20061013/ts_nm/iraq_dc_19&printer=1;_ylt=AsHuKlvykHTvoFrjAzb60Q1g.3QA;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-

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