Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Column, September 27, 2005

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.


cymrumark said...


Below is a copy of a letter sent to Daily post tonight in response to your column of 4/10/05.....I know all columnists like a response even critical!!

Your columnist David Banks is easily one of the most balanced, coherent and interesting writers on any Welsh newspaper. However his column of October 3rd , in which he attacks Plaid Cymru for suggesting Wales should try to submit a team to compete in the London Olympics raises important issues for journalists and politicians alike.

There is no doubt it will be a tough battle to get the IOC to change its rules. Does David Banks think nobody should even bother trying? Presumably no politician should ever try and do anything difficult for fear of ridicule at the hands of columnists. Plaid Cymru want to ensure that Wales can still field an international football team after 2012 . The decision to submit a “British” football team will play into the hands of those in FIFA who have long campaigned for the merger of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales into a single “British” team.

I agree with David that people in Wales do not wake up every morning and think “My life would be so much better if Wales had a team in the Olympics”. However they are concerned about the closure of small schools, council tax re-banding and the funding gap in higher education amongst many other things. In the same week we are campaigning for a Welsh Olympic team Plaid led the other opposition parties in producing a budget programme that would help address these concerns.

At a time when the public is ever more cynical about politics it’s a pity that a columnist of David Banks ability chose to ignore this example of parties putting aside their differences to work for the good of Wales. Its even more of a pity that he chose to attack one of those parties for daring to be different to all the others.

Banksy said...

Balanced, coherent and interesting mark? I think you've mistaken me for someone else.

Mark's comment refers to a piece in my column of October 4 - posted above this entry.

And you need to update your blog mark.

cymrumark said...

Hmm yes think the time has come for the blog to be updated....

Banksy said...

You might consider allowing comments on it too.

cymrumark said...

The blogg is updated now and I will continue to do was set up as part of the "So Now who do we vote for" campaign/website by writer John Rhys Harris and there was a comments section on the there are not that many Plaid friendly bloggers (in English anyway) it might fill a gap in the market and I will enable comments... comments .....

Rhys Wynne said...

NIce to see that you've started blogging again Mark, there's nothing worse than politicians only popping up during election time ;-)

But do allow comments please (so I don't have to use David's blog to contact you!). you will get some nasty one's I'm sure, but you'd be surprised at how many Plaid friendly bloggers are out ther (in both languages)