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I was reading about the defeat of Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan by the Israelis in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The verdict has to be that there were too many political generals and not enough professional and capable military commanders on the Arab side. Those in the know say that one-third of the British casualties in Afghanistan were avoidable or unnecessary. British generals are political with a small "p". The upper echelons of the British Army are filled by club-able chaps of the right sort and background. Competence takes second place to having no interest whatsoever in changing the status quo. There can be no more Cromwells, or his Major Generals. This means that the talent pool the British Army chooses to draw from is by necessity pathetically shallow and includes far too many real-life Giles Wemmbley-Hoggs and Tim Nisebutdeems. There is a very good reason why in the real wars fought during the past 150 years have always started out for the British Army with a couple of disasters. Perhaps the time has come to trust the working people of Britain a little more and stop sacrificing their kids on the altar of politically safe-handed mediocrity at the helm of the British Army. 

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Fortunately for governments and businesses, whistle-blowers are often deeply troubled people. I am hard put to think of a single whistle-blower who has prospered after exposing wrong-doing by their employer. To blow the whistle usually means sacrificing your job, jeopardising future employment prospects and, almost certainly, eventually, a serious loss of income. As Scots kids of my generation used to be told "no-one likes a clype". To that maxim might be added "and no-one trusts a clype either". At the end of day, most whistle-blowers were already fragile, unhappy or deeply troubled people before they went public. One of the first things an employer does after the balloon goes up is to attempt to discredit the whistle-blower. Whatever made the whistle-blower unhappy, odd or difficult to work with in the first place often makes this easier than it should be. Society's, our, lack of support for whistle-blowers makes it even easier to destroy those brave, or possibly foolhardy, enough to speak up. 

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Revisionist history usually involves making some controversial accusation against an national icon no longer around to defend him or herself. Sometimes it is based on new information but more usually it is a deliberately provocative re-interpretation of the known facts. So it is fascinating with the centenary of the First Day of the Somme to see some commentators attempt to present it as a British victory - actually trying to restore the reputation of an icon, namely Field Marshal Douglas Haig, no longer around to defend himself. Some victory; 22,000 dead on the first day - about the same number of frontline infantrymen as we have in the present-day British Army. And let's not get into the numbers of men crippled for life, countless psychiatric cases and the lives ended prematurely in the years after the conflict. The cream of the British working class, the brightest and best who volunteered in 1914, was slaughtered on the Somme and Britain has still not recovered from the loss. The "victory" claim is based on the substantial damage done to the German Army. But the price paid was too high. The British artillery, on which the whole battle plan depended, was just not good enough at the time. When that became obvious on July 1st there should never have been a Day Two on the Somme. It is true that Haig was not the callous blimp that he has usually been portrayed as since the 1960s. But he was, sadly, probably the best of a bad bunch. The British Army's officer corps in 1916 and 1917 just was not up to fighting a modern war. It is notable that the "storm troops" of the British Empire in 1918, the Canadians and Australians, were commanded by a failed real estate agent and a former civil engineer respectively. Both the Canucks and the Ozzies suffered heavy casualties during the war but the losses would almost certainly have been even worse with a club-able chap of the right sort on loan from the British Army in charge. The Germans may have paid a heavy price to stop the British on the Somme but they were still able to come within an ace of smashing their way through the Allied lines in Spring 1918.

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I was more than somewhat appalled by the gleeful reaction from Americans, or at least some Americans, to the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox last week. The online comment section accompanying the story was filled by Americans saying "So much for gun control; see, it doesn't work". How twisted are these people? How stupid? No wonder Big Money in the United States is so successful in persuading citizens that universal heath care, such as folk in the United Kingdom, Canada and most sensible countries to a large extent enjoy, is Evil. Even Americans were shocked when 49 people were basically machine-gunned in a Florida club. But nothing will change.  It is a sad comment on the USA today that so many of its citizens believe it is necessary to own an automatic rifle. It's also sad that so many would use the stupid and futile murder of a British MP on the steps of a Yorkshire library to make such a stupid point.  Many other countries where guns are freely available have nothing like the rate of shootings or indiscriminate mass murders seen in the USA. But I didn't see any gleeful postings from those countries regarding the death of a mother of two.

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I was pretty appalled; nay disgusted, by the coverage here in North America of the deaths of US journalist David Gilkey and the man usually described only as his “Afghan translator”.  This unidentified Afghan was in fact Zabinulla Tamanna, a well respected journalist in his own right. Zabinulla was more than translator. Western media often depend on local “fixers” to expedite matters and basically make sure things go as smoothly as possible. Sometimes these fixers even act as the eyes and ears of journalists who refuse to leave the confines of their hotel. The work they do often goes unrecognised and uncredited – especially if the reporter in question is only really interested in getting their “worked in a combat zone” ticket to help move them up the corporate media career ladder. Now, I’m not suggesting that Gilkey was like that, from what I can gather he was far from that, but it does make my blood boil to hear Zabinulla dismissed in so many reports as a nameless translator.

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