THE life of a soldier is not without its risks, as a glance at any war memorial should confirm.
It is not as if, when you take the Queen’s shilling, or whatever it is they pay a young man (or woman) nowadays to abandon their hoody for a short back and sides, that you think you’re signing up for kindergarten class.
Although the Army’s ad campaign which focused solely on ‘learning a trade’ and skilfully avoided the bit about fighting in far-flung climes against your country’s enemies was a little economical with the truth.
Now the ads are a little more accurate, in that they actually show soldiers in battle, which is, after all what soldiers are for – fighting, and, sometimes, dying doing so.
It is not the lot of a soldier to question whether or not he or she should do battle, it is invariably a case of following orders and getting stuck in.
Tennyson had it right – “Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do & die.”
But Tennyson was writing about the Charge of the Light Brigade, a military disaster that covered its participants in glory, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the poetic Lord T.
There is little poetry to be had from the disaster that is unfolding in Iraq, and which claimed the life of another Welsh son, Fusilier Stephen Jones, from Denbigh.
Too tired to function he turned over his Land Rover as he wiped sweat from his eyes as he drove south of Al Amarah last year. That is not a soldier’s death, to be worn into the ground until you cannot function properly and then to die in a crash.
He had been married to his wife, Zoe, for just a month before he was sent to Iraq.
The coroner at his inquest, Nicholas Gardiner, rightly questioned the hours that troops have to endure on active service.
Another question might well be to the politicians who have sent the troops there in the first place. Politicians who have been indecently willing to send our troops in to battle alongside our US ‘allies’, but who don’t want to pay the bill for having an Army that can cope with the demands placed upon it.
The Army has had to deal with cut after cut under a government more willing than any since the last war to throw it into battle.
Tony Blair and his acolytes pay solemn lip service to the heroism of our armed forces, then in the next breath they merge regiments and discard the traditions that built an Army capable of doing the many jobs they see fit to give it.
There will be more Fusilier Joneses to be commemorated before we extract ourselves from the nightmare that Iraq has become.
And if you doubt that it is a nightmare, if you believe the flannel emerging from Downing Street about things ‘getting better’ out there, consider this.
Last week the new Iraqi police force arrested two British SAS soldiers, they promptly handed them over to local militia who, we can reasonably confident, would shortly have beheaded them, with video footage to be shown soon after.
Their rescue involved some of the most extraordinary scenes of the Army in action since this conflict began as soldiers leapt from flaming Warriors and then knocked a prison down.
In a nice piece of Army understatement it was said that a ‘negotiation’ had taken place at the prison. It does tend to concentrate the mind of someone you’re negotiating with if you’ve just driven a Warrior through his wall and he’s not staring down the business end of its barrel.
But let’s just back up a little – the police handed these two men over to the militia – that’s the police that we’ve put in place to make things in Iraq ‘better.’
That’s what they sang when Labour came to power wasn’t it ‘Things Can Only Get Better’?
Perhaps they sing it in Iraq now, on the grounds that when your police force works hand in hand with a murderous militia, it’s hard to see how things can get any worse.
IT is good to see that the tourism partnership in North Wales is not in the habit of examining the dentistry of gift horses.
They expect North Wales to enjoy £2.8m of extra money from visitors when Liverpool if the European Capital of Culture.
They’re even putting their hands in their pockets to fund a worker at Liverpool City Council to develop links in the run-up to and during 2008.
“Wales can’t afford not to have a presence at what will be a global platform in 2008,” said Dewi Davies, partnership director. Never a truer word.
So all the more stinging is the slap in the face delivered to Liverpool when it had the temerity to invite the National Eisteddfod there.
No final decision has been made and I hope cooler heads will prevail at the Eisteddfod and realise what a fantastic opportunity this is to show the world, not just Liverpool, that Welsh culture is very much alive.
REAMS have been written about Tony Blair and his four-letter outburst when the Welsh didn’t duly elect the donkeys wearing red roses, sorry candidates, Labour fielded for the Assembly.
I can’t get too worked up about a Prime Minister not liking us because we didn’t vote for him, despite the fact he had given us the Assembly in the first place. An interesting idea on the part of Mr Blair though – I’ll give you democracy, but you’d better vote for me.
But mostly, I actually like being, as he bluntly put it, “f***ing Welsh.” Not a nation of cuddly, neutered, cod-Celts who weep into our whisky, about a mythical past and who can be relied upon to trot though the polls and vote Labour – but a spit-in-your-eye, troublesome reminder that not everyone can be doctored by spin.
Because the day we stop being the effing Welsh as far as the likes of Tony Blair are concerned is the day we’ve lost the streak of independence that sets us apart.
Better to bite the hand that feeds you than be thought a lapdog. It’s a lesson Tony should learn when dealing with President Bush.