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Back in 1950 when Mustang fighter-bombers napalmed the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Korea, United States air force commanders freely admitted they would have lost their jobs if the attack had been on American troops. The Americans are still prepared to sack generals when things go wrong. Two US Marine generals have just been bowler-hatted over the Taliban attack at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan just over a year ago which saw six Harrier jets destroyed and the commander of the Marine Corps squadron that operated them killed. Camp Bastion is basically a British base. One of the mistakes the US generals carried the can for was trusting the British to protect the base. I don’t recall any British generals losing their jobs over this sorry affair. It turns out that the Americans had already carried out a review following an earlier incident and warned both their own commanders on the ground and their British colleagues about security short-comings at Camp Bastion. Despite this, 13 of the 24 watch towers at Bastion were unmanned at the time of the attack. That includes the tower closest to the point where the Taliban commandos got onto the base. That section of the perimeter was manned by soldiers from Tonga. If British troops, instead of two Americans, had died in the attack, I wonder if a senior British officer would have bowler-hatted. Hindsight is always 20/20 and no-one ever plays a perfect game. Everyone makes mistakes. The blame may well lie high up in the chain of command with whoever allocated insufficient troops to defend the perimeter at Camp Bastion. But I can’t help feeling that the American reaction to events there suggests they take these matters seriously and don’t regard their career military as a glorified  job creation scheme for public school boys.

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I wonder what’s going to happen when it comes to the nuclear submarine base at Faslane if Scotland does vote for independence. The Scottish National Party has made it clear they want no truck with nuclear weapons. Setting aside the debate over the real value of possessing a nuclear deterrent, an independent Scotland could not afford its own nuclear navy. And sharing one with the rump of the United Kingdom would mean the English would have effective control of it. Few independent countries would want another national calling the shots, literally, like that. Actually, I’m not sure the present-day UK does have an actual independent nuclear deterrent. The missiles are American and I just have a nagging doubt as to whether the United States would really surrender complete control of those missiles. Would one nation really trust another with that kind of mega-death capability? I think without US approval, we’re talking about Failure to Launch when it comes to those missiles. Which brings me back to Faslane. It all depends what the Americans want. I’ve got a feeling that an independent Scottish government would have its arm twisted in allowing the English (sorry Wales and Northern Ireland but you’re going to have next to no say in these matters) to keep the base. It would be a Sovereign base similar to those that the Cypriots agreed to when the Brits granted the Mediterranean island independence in the 1960s but wanted to keep its military presence there.

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I guess as long grannies have their own air forces, the grandkids will get to play with the helicopters. It’s The Queen who puts the “Royal” in Royal Air Force; though I’m not sure she actually pays for the aircraft. Anyway, I guess the price of the “Royal” brand is that if one of her grandkids wants to be a chopper-jockey, then the British tax payer should pick up the full tab for the heir to the throne’s training, regardless of whether he fulfills his entire contract. Most of Her Majesty’s subjects might find themselves having to guarantee before beginning their taxpayer-funded helicopter pilot training that they would put in at least six years on the job. Otherwise, the poor subject might find themselves being asked to repay part of the cost of their training. A deal is, after all, a deal. So, if someone agreed to spend six years flying military helicopters and then left after three; and it cost  £800,000 to train that person, then they would owe £400,000. Wrong. Not if the air force is “Royal” and your granny is the Queen, one of the richest women in world. I am sure if one of the Duke of Cambridge's RAF fitters decided to walk off the job before fulfilling his or her contract, the Ministry of Defence would take the same relaxed attitude to the repayment of training costs. To those who have, shall be given more. Your Taxes at Work. Rejoice.

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I heard a reporter from the BBC World Service, Rob Broomby, announcing he was going to the Barr-Ass Market to quiz folks on their attitude to Scottish Independence. I couldn’t help by wonder where this exotic market might be. It turned out that he was he was going to The Barras in Glasgow. I’ve said it before, but I’m happy to say it again; proper pronunciation in the electronic media is as important as spelling in print media. Mispronouncing names shows a disgusting, nay disgraceful, contempt for both the people who live or have business in the place in question and the listener. It’s like saying “I don’t care how you peasants say the name of where you live, I’m from the BBC and I’ll say it anyway I bally-well choose.” It may seem ironic that someone so guilty of cultural imperialism would be attempting to get to grips with the issue of Scottish Independence. But it is not just Scots who are treated with contempt by the Home Counties Broadcasting Service. I remember the first result in the last British General Election was declared in Houghton le Spring near Sunderland. The cream of the BBC’s journalistic talent insisted on pronouncing the name “Howton”, when it’s actually “Hawtan”. I wonder how long a reporter who insisted on repeatedly calling the self-proclaimed Mother of Parliaments “Wast-meen-star” would last at the BBC. I can only imagine that the BBC’s Pronunciation Unit has been closed down. While I didn’t expect Mr Broomby to mimic some inhabitants of Scotland’s biggest city by pronouncing it “Glesga”, neither did I expect him to make one of the city’s institutions sound like a Middle Eastern souk. Mr Broomby, if you should read this; please note I took the trouble to find out how you spell your name.

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How do you recognise a third or fourth rate country? Well, perhaps claiming territory where the inhabitants want nothing to do with you is one clue. Things seem to have gone quiet over Gibraltar and Spain’s outrageous claims of sovereignty. If proximity was good grounds for annexing territory, I guess Canada would have seized St. Pierre and Miquelon years ago. The islands lie just off Canada’s Atlantic shores but remain thoroughly French. And everyone seems happy to leave it at that. But if the Spanish, or their sad cousins in Argentina, were involved, I guess things would be different. The people of Gibraltar and the Falkand Islands have both made it clear they have no desire to come under Hispanic rule. And as long as the British taxpayer is prepared to indulge them or they change their mind, then I guess they should remain out of the clutches of Hispanic imperialism. And just how good is Spain’s claim over Gibraltar? The Rock has been British for longer than it was Spanish. It was part of what is now Morocco from 711 until 1462 when it was conquered by the Spanish. It was signed over to the British in 1713. Do the maths senor! And on the subject of North Africa; just when are the Spanish going to abandon their remaining enclaves on the Moroccan coast, the so-called plazas de soberanía? Claiming places where you’re not wanted is to enter some very murky waters. And of course, the wishes of the local people are not always paramount. Military and political reality meant that although Hong Kong island was ceded by treaty to Britain forever in 1842 when the 99-year lease on New Territories on the Chinese mainland expired in 1997, the whole caboodle and its worried population was turned over to the People’s Republic.

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