The Amazing Richard Dannatt
That a serving military officer - the British Army's Chief of General Staff no less - should feel so free to meddle in politics is a little disturbing. What General Richard Dannatt said about Iraq - that the British military presence "exacerbates the security problems" is plainly true, and that is what he should have been telling his political superiors in private. But it is not for a serving General to tour television studios making political speeches (if he held a much lesser rank he would probably be sitting in the glasshouse by now). He has the option of leaving the army, becoming a private citizen, and then making his views public (many senior officers in the United States have followed this course). The anti-war left should be wary of making a hero of the General (difficult given that he is so gung-ho vis-a-vis Afghanistan). That Liam Fox (the Shadow Defence spokesman) should think it a "refreshing change" for Dannatt to make his views public shows a slender grasp of democatic proprieties (pretty much what one would expect from a right-wing fruitcake). One assumes that there have been raised voices in private, but it says something about Blair's loss of authority that he feels he cannot sack the General, and instead has to pretend that what Dannatt said "is precisely the same as we're all saying". Interestingly, both Malcolm Rifkind and Michael Portillo (former Defence Secretaries) have, however cautiously, criticised Dannatt for crossing the line into the political arena. Rifkind says: "I think senior generals....musn't cross the line into expressing political views at variance with the government of the day". Why does it take Tory to say that? Rifkind rather generously thinks Dannatt didn't do this "intentionally" (yeah, sure) and that "he'll be sadder and wiser this weekend". I doubt it. I think the "straight-talking" General will be reading the largely favourable press coverage and watching The Amazing Mrs Pritchard, rather wistfully.