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A Challenger 2 Tank in Iraq
According to the Secretary of Defense, this type of heavy equipment is no longer the greatest threat that the British army must confront

On December 11, 2003, British Defense Minister Geoff Hoon presented an ambitious initiative aimed at restructuring Her Majesty’s armies. The “White Paper” that he disclosed, titled “Delivering Security in a Changing World,” redefines the missions that concern the UK and opts for massive personnel reductions and for more sophisticated armaments.

Firstly, Hoon confirms the absence of an opponent comparable to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. From this point of view, the British army is over-equipped with heavy armaments that will never be used - such as the useless Challenger 2 tanks, against which similar combat equipment will never be used.

Secondly, the United Kingdom’s armed forces are deployed in five fields of operation: North Ireland, the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq. This reveals the type of mission that the UK is carrying out at the moment. In this way they have become specialized in the “maintenance of peace” and in the “fight against terrorism.” In these cases, such politically correct expressions have a precise meaning: the stabilization of regions that face diverse forms of insurrection. In addition, the UK’s armed forces have intervened in internal operations such as the handling of the mad cow crisis and the replacement of striking firemen.

Thirdly, in these operations, Her Majesty’s forces have shown their swiftness in deploying in all directions. They have had the logistical support of 13 overseas territories that are also areas that must be defended, as was seen in the case of the Falkland Islands.

According to Minister Hoon, everything indicates that the United Kingdom can realize the dream of playing a central part in the “world war on terrorism” carried out by the United States.

The White Paper picks up on the precise language of Washington’s rhetoric “to prevent, restrain, disintegrate or destroy international terrorists or regimes that aid them and to oppose efforts by terrorists to acquire chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.” It defines Al Qaeda as an organization that has a secret network and also directly threatens the United Kingdom and its citizens at the present time.

As evidence of their misdeeds, the minister cited the arrests of terrorists this year in France, which allowed the discovery of the network’s attempt to use chemical, biological and radiological weapons. Unfortunately, the honorable Geoff Hoon did not indicate where he got this information, unknown by French law enforcement authorities (regarding this, read our article [in French] from the Observatory of the Propaganda: «La France a démantelé, sans le savoir, une cellule d’Al Qaïda» (France, unknowingly dismantles Al Qaeda cell).

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The British armies are “a force for good” explained Defense Minister Geoff Hoon

The minister summarized his political objective through a definition worthy of George W. Bush saying the British armies are “a force for good.” In a more prosaic way, their objective can be summarized as transforming Her Majesty’s armies into the most powerful in Europe so that they will end up being the regional axis of NATO and of European defense. As is obvious, for the European Union there are serious consequences behind the fact that the Blair government does not see it defending itself alone, but protected by the United States and Great Britain.

It is important to highlight the particular outlook of the British army that, as opposed to their French rival, has not experienced the disasters of Indochina and Algeria, and still dreams of being a colonial army in North Ireland and in the Falkland Islands.

The publication of the White Paper accompanies a plan for the reduction in the number of troops and for the acquisition of sophisticated armaments, with those weapons to be essentially co-produced with the United States, particularly the controversial Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and Apache helicopters. On this occasion, the National Audit Office (NAO), a type of accounting board, issued a detailed report on the development of Operation Telic in Iraq. That report disclosed a certain lack of preparation but, at the same time, a quick reaction time that allowed it to mitigate such a weakness.

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For example, a portion of those of the forces suited for desert combat surrendered after fighting had already ceased. In passing, we were astonished that British soldiers posted in Iraq did not have any protection against the nuclear, biological or chemical weapons (NBC).

The inspector general is limited to recommending the acquisition of the necessary materials and the planning their distribution. But the political observer cannot overlook the fact that if the Blair government ran the risk of sending troops to Iraq without NBC protection, it was because it was sure that Sadam Hussein could not use weapons of massive destruction against them - behavior this that disregards the supposed certainty of a 45 minute NBC reaction time in Iraqi!

All and all, the White Paper, although presented as a program of restructuring of the army, is above all a rearmament effort devoted to integrating the British forces into the imperial strategy of the United States. Just as Washington, London has opted to increase its military investments considerably while it affirms to not yet having an enemy of equal strength.