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Bowler Hats

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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