Sunday, November 11, 2007

He Who Hesitates Is Lost ...

... that would be me, then. I thought about an entry on Nick's latest earlier today, but at the same time I thought I might just do it by quoting Conor Foley's comments. Then I hesitated. Conor may regret the language and the sentiment (so far he hasn't) and I didn't want to be the one responsible for repeating his emotional response. The moderators have removed that comment and others which refer to it. This may be a good thing as the comments were degenerating (not that they start from a particularly high point) into a stupid discussion about whether violence against journalists is ever justified.
Anyway, this is part of Conor's response to the response to his (now deleted) comment.

Since this particular article is on the threats of physical danger facing those working in conflict zones, I think that the views of one such person about its author are 'on topic' and make a relevant contribution to a 'hearty debate'. Let me also, again, extend an invitation to Nick to discuss this topic with me directly here, something he has, so far, been rather reluctant to do.

I'll note that Nick fails to ever bother that we're still "defeating" the Taliban more than three years after the elections which were supposed to mark their defeat.

Anecdotes abound of how fear of breaching the Foreign Office and Department of International Development's 'duty of care' is making reconstruction next to impossible. A colonel in the Territorial Army seconded to the Foreign Office could only work in Helmand with security guards charging $5,000 a day. He didn't want them because, as a soldier, he could look after himself. But the FO insisted and burnt money that could have been better spent on relief workers.

Note that this is all anecdotal. Nick doesn't have a name for the colonel, a reliable source for the security guards remuneration, or any information from the FO.

I was told about a finance officer whose job it was to decide how much compensation to give Afghans whose homes or livestock were destroyed in the fighting. Recognising that it was vital to win the approval of the civilian population, she asked to be moved closer to the front line. On no account could she take that risk, she was told. We have a duty of care, you cannot jeopardise your safety, even if you want to and even if you would do your job better if you did.

No names, no pack drill again. Nick was told. By whom? This isn't what the MoD say about this sort of posting.

One officer told me that on many days, you could count the number of British reconstruction workers working in Helmand on the fingers of one hand.

Ah, typical Brits. They take weekends off. That's 104 days in the year. Plus Christmas -- and New Year for the Scots. Or perhaps there were local reconstruction workers. I'm sure readers can think of other objections (even assuming that the officer is genuine and his account is correct).

The rules for civilians contained in the MoD's guide 'Preparing to Visit an Operational Theatre' support his account. 'The primary consideration is risk,' it declares on the opening page. 'The MoD does everything possible to mitigate risk to civilians who enter an operational theatre, but if it deems that risk unacceptable, it will not allow staff to go to individual locations or will consider withdrawing them altogether.'

I think every army in history has kept civilians out of war zones (which is what I understand by 'Operational Theatre'). That's being pragmatic. And anyway that clearly refers to MoD civilian staff not aid workers like Conor Foley.

When will Nick debate Conor Foley? Only one of them seems to have any facts.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also see he's retreading that fucking "policemen who refused to jump into a gravel pit" anecdote again - recall that the original source for this talking point is David Blunkett.

11/11/2007 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

health and safety scare stories has to be a seal of dacre. He'll be making shit up about crazy EU regulations on bananas next.

11/11/2007 05:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Observer continues it's transformation into a Mail clone. Another major spread on the liberal-left conspiracy again this week, this time in the theatre of all things. And they seem to want to add photographs of "celebrities" to every news story, now even in the Business section (Kirsten Dunst just looooves the Prius).

11/11/2007 06:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought that liberal-left (and since when was that term used in Britain?) piece was one of the weakest 'special features' yet in the Review. And this is a section which included that extract from Andrew Anthony's book...

11/12/2007 08:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh and as a follow-up, as someone on the guardian comments thread said, it's deeply suspicious to equate reconstruction workers with community support officers...

not to mention that Nick's dismissal of the de Menezes prosecution surely warranted a column more than this. he seemed to be advocating a murder/manslaughter charge, but presuambly what he was actually advocating was no charge at all, since he seems to think that police will be worried about tacking 'suspected' - note inverted commas - suicide bombers because of health and safety fears, a completely arbitrary idea given that they would surely be more fearful for, er, their own lives.

but never mind, give elf and safety a kicking. what would littlejohn do, after all?

11/12/2007 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

I think every army in history has kept civilians out of war zones

Battle of Alesia?

11/12/2007 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Ray said...

Bloody hell.
Never mind, if Nick Cohen 1997 could meet Nick Cohen 2007, the only question is who he'd shoot first.

11/12/2007 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger Ray said...

Never mind _Conor Foley_, if Nick...

11/12/2007 09:24:00 PM  

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