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Better than Shakespeare ?
March 20, 2003 5:44 AM   Subscribe

We will not fly our flags in their country The finest speech so far in the whole war thing. Good luck boys!
posted by terrymiles (54 comments total)

 
That was well said. Exactly the sort of thing you'd want a commander to say on the brink of war. But I still rate Tony Blair's speech to the House of Commons the best speech on the subject. It was exactly the sort of thing that George Bush should have said, but never tried to. Too bad Bush doesn't remotely have it in him to be that gracious towards people who disagree with him.
posted by Zonker at 5:56 AM on March 20, 2003


Wonderful post.
posted by hama7 at 6:07 AM on March 20, 2003


I agree with both terrymiles and Zonker. The British are demonstrating the correct, moral approach to this war. I wish our U.S. leadership could have shown the same grace. But in the end it's the result that counts -- and the world will be a better, safer, more peaceful place without Saddam Hussein.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:08 AM on March 20, 2003


A very good speech. Their intent there on the ground is well. Thanks for the post.
posted by davebushe at 6:15 AM on March 20, 2003


I only hope that in the heat of battle his words echo in the minds of his soldiers.
posted by ?! at 6:20 AM on March 20, 2003


The British are demonstrating the correct, moral approach to this war.

I hope so. Actions speak louder than words.
posted by Summer at 6:22 AM on March 20, 2003


That really was a good speech. Hopefully the US commanders echo the same sentiments when addressing their own troops.
posted by Stuart_R at 6:23 AM on March 20, 2003


Give that man a knighthood. If there's one thing we Brits can do well, it's make speeches.
posted by squealy at 6:25 AM on March 20, 2003


I could start by asking since when the "garden of eden", the "great flood" and the "birthplace of abraham" are *historical* landmarks? Did he mean *biblical* perhaps?

... okay, let's not go down that road. I'll simply ask what was so honorable again about lying their way into battle? That was one hell of a crappy speech trying to justify the unjustificable: a "moral" pre-emptive strike and a "liberation" by "shock and awe".

Yeah, the guy's job is to do this completely pathetic "uplifting" job in the middle of the dessert and I can see how that must suck big time. But I still cannot discern how it made it to FPP in Mefi. It' not like the Americans will not do as they please (seeing how in the first Gulf War scout units had to get the hell out of the way or risk anihilation by friendly fire - finessing it was not in the rulebook, the dessert being too tough for that).

Coalition my ass. You're sucking up to Uncle Sam, commander. Better get it clear in your head early on, as people don't want to hear abnything about "Gulf War Syndrome" complains later on. Remember the DC sniper and that other McVeigh dude: they also heard "uplifting" speeches in the dessert, and look how they ended.
posted by magullo at 6:26 AM on March 20, 2003


I do find that uplifting speeches improve dessert, perhaps as much as extra whipped cream and a nice glass of Cognac on the side.
posted by SealWyf at 6:31 AM on March 20, 2003


On 8 march 1917, lieutenant-general Stanley Maude issued a proclamation to the people of the wilayat of baghdad. maude's anglo-indian army of the tigres had just invaded and occupied iraq – after storming up the country from basra – to free its people from their dictators. Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators," the British announced.
"People of Baghdad, remember for 26 generations you have suffered under strange tyrants who have ever endeavoured to set one Arab house against another in order that they might profit by your dissensions. This policy is abhorrent to Great Britain and her Allies for there can be neither peace nor prosperity where there is enmity or misgovernment."


Which eventually turned into this:

“The attack with bombs and machineguns must be relentless and unremitting and carried on continuously by day and night, on houses, inhabitants, crops and cattle,” wrote Wing-Commander J.A.Chamier...
“Bomber” Harris, the young commander of the RAF’s 45 Squadron, was a particularly enthusiastic advocate[of bombing]. “The Arab and Kurd now know what real bombing means, in casualties and damage: they know that within 45 minutes a full-sized village can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured,” he bragged. This was imperial law enforcement by high explosive. Drop “one 250lb or 500lb bomb in each village that speaks out of turn,” Harris urged.

Others were equally keen. Winston Churchill, then Secretary of State for War and Air, encouraged the use of mustard gas, pointing out that it had already been employed “with excellent morale effect” on the ground. For technical reasons, gas bombs were less effective than delayed detonation explosives, but Lawrence was another enthusiast for chemical weapons. “It is odd that we do not use poison gas on these occasions,” he said, as if describing what sort of canapé ought to be served at a cocktail party.

posted by talos at 6:33 AM on March 20, 2003


pardonyou? '...it's the result that counts -- and the world will be a better, safer, more peaceful place'

In what way? Iraqs belliscosity could have simply been a result of CIA encouragement aided by the US and UK governments. Without that encouragement, Iraq only ever attempted to annex Kuwait (with US approval), which was a part of Iraq in the past, before the British carved up the area to their own advantage.
I feel less safe knowing that the 'rules of war' are not respected by the worlds only superpower. Pre-emptive paranoia does not make for a good nights sleep.
'Only a year ago, we and the United States were part of a coalition against terrorism which was wider and more diverse than I would ever have imagined would be possible. History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition.'

I hope we don't see any US flags flying in Iraq, either.
posted by asok at 6:33 AM on March 20, 2003


SealWyf That's how I like it: sweet and sour. Good call. Cheers.
posted by magullo at 6:37 AM on March 20, 2003


Makes a change from the blaring rock music that preceded a US General's 'let's roll' speech I saw on TV last night. We British are terribly good at taking the moral high ground, just a pity that this time Tony Blair deserted that position months ago.
posted by niceness at 6:39 AM on March 20, 2003


magullo: You wrote your first post in a way that suggests that the Lieutenant Colonel had personally ordered the attack on Iraq.

Can you write it again bearing in mind that he hasn't?
posted by ed\26h at 6:46 AM on March 20, 2003


Yeah, good stuff. Lets hope they behave in the way he suggests.
posted by ed\26h at 6:49 AM on March 20, 2003


>I'll simply ask what was so honorable again about lying their way into battle?

Exactly. Essentially many of the above posters are saying, "Excellent rhetoric and propaganda, govn'r!"

This is a war about WMD and the threat posed by Saddam by using them on Americans as described by the Bush administration and Blair. This has nothingto do with liberation. I'd like to be in denial about the war too, but I actually cracked open a newspaper now and again.

This is Bush's rationale for the war. Believe Bush or not (I dont), but do not raise this conflict to the level of "kind Americans and Brits saving people from tyrants" There are hundreds of dictators, tyrants, and warlords in power all over the globe. We don't care. Some we embrace as our kindest allies.

>will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis.

Wow, this speech is an insult and unbelievably condescending.

>I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts, I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them.

Arguably, this whole war can be described as being needless. Thus according to his logic we're all wearing the mark of Cain.
posted by skallas at 6:57 AM on March 20, 2003


ed\26h First sentence, third paragraph - did you miss it or where you indeed confused by the "dessert" typo ;-)?

Let me just point out one last thing that bugs me quite a bit about the speech: the "coalition of the willing" (2 makes a crowd these days, it seems, because Spain is willing "no to send troops") has warned Iraqi commanders not to use WMD or they will be held responsible for it in a post-war tribunal. Yet this commander, serving on army whose mission is arguably illegal (according a large chunk of the free and civilized world), threatens his troops with permanent scorn ("your families") if they so much as show cowardice. Cowardice? How about agreeing with the rest of the world? Does that fare as cowardice these days?
posted by magullo at 6:58 AM on March 20, 2003


Far be it from me to be pedantic but I think the great flood happened in the Black Sea basin.
posted by vbfg at 7:04 AM on March 20, 2003


Don't worry I can't spell anything at all. No I didn't miss it.

Telling the troops to behave and be respectful can never be a bad thing as far as I'm concerned no matter what kind of politics landed them there.
posted by ed\26h at 7:09 AM on March 20, 2003


Magullo, the point about cowardice is to not let down your comrades when in battle. Doing so whether you believe in the war or not ought to be a hanging offence because your inaction or unwillingness to do your job could lead directly to the death of your own friends and colleagues.

I'm passionately anti-war and I'm passionately anti this war but I'd be happy to join in any scorn and ritual humiliation of any soldier who did such a thing when the chips were down.
posted by vbfg at 7:10 AM on March 20, 2003


magullo, you don't seem to be getting the point that the legitimacy of the war is not something that it's Lt Collins place to comment on. The army doesn't make policy, it carries it out. That considered, how else would you have liked him to address the troops? "Don't think of them as human, remember this is about the oil?"

Yet this commander threatens his troops with permanent scorn if they so much as show cowardice. Cowardice? How about agreeing with the rest of the world? Does that fare as cowardice these days?

1. It's not his position to agree or disagree with anything. He's not the policy maker.
2. He actually said "If you harm the regiment or its history by over enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer. You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest for your deeds will follow you down through history. We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation."

So what he's saying is remember to be ethical when you're fighting. You have a problem with this?
posted by Summer at 7:17 AM on March 20, 2003


vbfg My bet is that the great flood will never become a historical event. Maybe it will some day be deemed pre-historical. Not yet, anyway.

As for cowardice being not letting down your comrades when in battle, that is a bunch of patriotic spin. What if the soldier simply does not believe in killing Iraqis or does not want to die in Iraq or does not believe he is serving his country's interests? Giving up on a war that the majority of the world does not agree with can hardly be called cowardice, no matter the circumstances. To argue the opposite is to say that the criminal that turns on his mates is a bastard. Maybe to his mates, but is that bad?

Summer "Don't think of them as human, remember this is about the oil?" is right up there with changing "french fries" to "freedom fries" in the congress cafeteria. Quite frankly, much more coherent with the rest of the wacky war drumming. Why try to hide it now that the real deal begins?
posted by magullo at 7:30 AM on March 20, 2003


Thanks for the post terrymiles. I am very much against this war, but it is none the less gratifying to know that there are leaders in the Gulf that are able not only to understand the seriousness of what they are about to undertake in an immediate and historic context, but also able to communicate this to the troops. This was a healthy antidote to that embarrassing "Hammer Time" speech that the leader of the US Navy gave to his troops (complete with Queen soundtrack), and the Hollywood designed media set-up at central command.
posted by chill at 7:35 AM on March 20, 2003


If Bush could talk like that commander, I might personally have vastly different feelings about the war.

I don't choose to forget that Bush has spent the last year looking for excuses to go beat the crap out of Saddam though. The war isn't being fought to liberate the Iraqi people -- that may just be a nice side effect.
posted by Foosnark at 7:39 AM on March 20, 2003


skallas: This is a war about WMD and the threat posed by Saddam by using them on Americans as described by the Bush administration and Blair. This has nothingto do with liberation.

This war can be "about" different things to different people. The war itself simply has a course and an end result. Whatever motivation this or that person ascribes to it can be debated separately. But it does not make logical sense to argue (as many essentially do): "I would support this war if it was really for liberation, but since it's really for X, Y, and oil, I'm against it." I don't personally care what the official "reasons" are -- my own sense of morality and ethics tells me that the greatest human good comes from ridding the world of Saddam Hussein. That's enough for me.

more skallas: I'd like to be in denial about the war too, but I actually cracked open a newspaper now and again.

Wow. Talk about "unbelievably condescending."
posted by pardonyou? at 7:42 AM on March 20, 2003


Magullo:

Right, if we do change the definition of the word "coward" to mean "not psychotic" then yes, I agree. But as it doesn't mean that I'm afraid I can't agree with your point.
posted by ed\26h at 7:45 AM on March 20, 2003


will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis.

Wow, this speech is an insult and unbelievably condescending


Yeah I know what you mean there. Someone thanked me the other day, I mean the NERVE of some people.
posted by ed\26h at 7:49 AM on March 20, 2003


Summer "Don't think of them as human, remember this is about the oil?" is right up there with changing "french fries" to "freedom fries" in the congress cafeteria. Quite frankly, much more coherent with the rest of the wacky war drumming. Why try to hide it now that the real deal begins?

Magullo, what you're saying is that the troops should be instructed to act as inhumanely as possible because the war is unjust. You do realise that don't you? As pardonyou rightly says, it doesn't matter to the troops on the ground why or how this war came about, all that matters is that now they're there, that they conduct themselves as honourably as possible towards the people they're fighting.
posted by Summer at 7:51 AM on March 20, 2003


> Giving up on a war that the majority of the world does
> not agree with can hardly be called cowardice, no matter
> the circumstances. To argue the opposite is to say that
> the criminal that turns on his mates is a bastard. Maybe
> to his mates, but is that bad?

You misunderstand. The point at which he can do that has passed. If he's against war he can buy himself out of the army. It costs about a weeks wage I think. If, during a battle, a soldier who is against the war on principle decides that he is not going to fight then IMO he is endangering the life of himself and his comrades for no perceivable benefit. Bravery that is not.
posted by vbfg at 7:51 AM on March 20, 2003


>I don't personally care what the official "reasons" are -- my own sense of morality and ethics tells me that the greatest human good comes from ridding the world of Saddam Hussein. That's enough for me.

So the ends justify the means now? Nifty.

The official reasons are the reasons of war, why nations aggressively attack each other. You're free to disagree wth the official reasons but taking an 'ends justify the means' apprach is morally bankrupt.

>This war can be "about" different things to different people

Its all about puppies and chocolate ice cream to me!

>Yeah I know what you mean there. Someone thanked me the other day, I mean the NERVE of some people.

ed, was that person trying to kill you too?
posted by skallas at 7:53 AM on March 20, 2003


ed, was that person trying to kill you too?

So you think troops are going to be trying to kill the iraqi civilians?
posted by ed\26h at 8:03 AM on March 20, 2003


Liberation?
Countries the U.S. has bombed since the end of World War II, as compiled by historian William Blum:

China 1945-46
Korea 1950-53
China 1950-53
Guatemala 1954
Indonesia 1958
Cuba 1959-60
Guatemala 1960
Congo 1964
Peru 1965
Laos 1964-73
Vietnam 1961-73
Cambodia 1969-70
Guatemala 1967-69
Grenada 1983
Libya 1986
El Salvador 1980s
Nicaragua 1980s
Panama 1989
Iraq 1991-99
Sudan 1998
Afghanistan 1998
Yugoslavia 1999

Number of times "liberation," in the form of a democratically elected government that respected human rights within its borders, has resulted: 0
---
That said, I appreciate the British commander's eforts to instil nobility in his troops, given that they're going in whether I like it or not.
posted by Raya at 8:15 AM on March 20, 2003


>So you think troops are going to be trying to kill the iraqi civilians?

No, but I consider Iraqi soldiers "iraqi people" too.

This "great speech" is practically a movie cliche.

These people we wasted here today are the finest human beings we will ever know.
posted by skallas at 8:35 AM on March 20, 2003


No, but I consider Iraqi soldiers "iraqi people" too.

Ah, I think that's where you may have gone wrong... When he says "the iraqi people" I think he's just referring to civilians.

This "great speech" is practically a movie cliche

No,... it's not.
posted by ed\26h at 8:43 AM on March 20, 2003


raya - what about US military efforts in Bosnia and Kosovo? Is there not some element of democratic accountability in the subsequent governments?

Furthermore most of the examples cited are from during the Cold war when (and this is no excuse) things were a little different. I think cyncism is obligatory for anyone with half a brain, but in this new era, surely you should give Bush et al an opportunity to make good on their rhetoric?

(Slightly off topic)
My personal faith in Tony Blair is the one thing that makes me think this isn't just about the oil/wmd/terror/daddy. I'll admit if he wasn't on board i'd be far more sceptical.
posted by pots at 8:46 AM on March 20, 2003


> My personal faith in Tony Blair

I haven't seen those words in that order for a while.
posted by vbfg at 8:53 AM on March 20, 2003


Good speech: they obviously teach that at Sandhurst. A pity that the politicians and pundits pulling the strings in Washington aren't making speechs like that, and they're the ones who truly decide the future of Iraq.
posted by riviera at 8:55 AM on March 20, 2003


My personal faith in Tony Blair

Mmmm. For me the most telling speech delivered to the Commons yesterday was from Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. After taking the piss out of the anti-war Lib Dems in a really pathetic manner, he went on to list all the reasons why the US is the richest and strongest nation in the world and therefore deserves our backing.
posted by Summer at 9:04 AM on March 20, 2003


So you think troops are going to be trying to kill the iraqi civilians?

Oh, no, who would imagine that? They will just killing those stupid "collateral damages" that insist in living above the oil the Empire wants and under the rule of a man the current Emperor of the world wants dead.

I forget throwing thousands of bombs in cities does not count as "trying to kill civilians". These are "accidents". And what the hell were these civilians doing in residential areas anyway?
posted by nkyad at 9:07 AM on March 20, 2003


Magullo, what you're saying is that the troops should be instructed to act as inhumanely as possible because the war is unjust.

Incorrect, what I am argueing from the beginning is that this piece of crap has no absolutely no merit given the circumstances: there is no honorable "liberation" by "shock and awe", specially if the UN and the rest of the world are not backing you up. Given those circumstances, any and all troops that bail might actually be doing the right thing (and consequently will pay dearly for it, but that is a different story).

Or should I go like the rest: "Yep, they got away with waging an illegal war - but just look at how noble their words are as they send the boys (illegally) into battle". IOW, don't mind the pink elephant levitating in the middle of the living room: but do please notice how good do I look in that framed picture above the fireplace. Gotta go puke right now.
posted by magullo at 9:09 AM on March 20, 2003


magullo, once again you're confusing the army with the Government. I don't agree with the war, I also think it's illegal, I don't want it to happen. I don't, however, think that's the fault of the army, whose job it is to serve the Government. If they were to able bail as easily as you would like, there would be practically no point in having a standing army, but that's another debate. The Government has blood on its hands, not the soldiers. The Lt is trying to minimise this, so fair play to him.
posted by Summer at 9:41 AM on March 20, 2003


Oh, no, who would imagine that? They will just killing those stupid "collateral damages" that insist in living above the oil the Empire wants and under the rule of a man the current Emperor of the world wants dead.

I forget throwing thousands of bombs in cities does not count as "trying to kill civilians". These are "accidents". And what the hell were these civilians doing in residential areas anyway?


That was a very roundabout way of agreeing with me.
posted by ed\26h at 9:43 AM on March 20, 2003


This war can be "about" different things to different people. The war itself simply has a course and an end result. Whatever motivation this or that person ascribes to it can be debated separately.

Yes - absolutely. While rhetoric, both pro and anti, tends to reduce to one-liners with simplistic conclusions ("no blood for oil"), the situation itself is vastly more complex than that. There is not one reason, but rather a multitude of reasons why pro-war people that believe this war is justified. Some of them are self-interested and do concern money and markets, but others do view it as a moral war to liberate the Iraqi people from a tyrant.

Likewise, make no mistake about the fact that the anti-war motives are just wide and varied ... and that some of them also are every bit as self-interested and concerned with money and markets, while others do believe, on a purely moral foundation, that the use of force is never justified exacept in direct response to an attack.

Because war is binary - one either goes to war or doesn't - those multitudes of motives all must converge on being either for it or against it. But if a war is going to be fought, I could wish for no better sentiment amongst those fighting it than that expressed in that speech. CNN interviews with American troops seemed to mirror that attitude as well - the soldiers themselves seem to be universally clear that there is a great difference between the Iraqi people, and the Republican Guard soldiers ... and that their task is neither to devastate nor occupy a nation, but to liberate it's people.
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:12 AM on March 20, 2003


"I don't think that's the fault of the army, whose job it is to serve the Government. "

I humbly propose that before the next war, we try to sort out when is a soldier justified to break the chain of command (case in point: Iraqi commander not using WMD) and when he/she isn't (case in point: waging an illegal war).

Thank you and good night.
posted by magullo at 10:14 AM on March 20, 2003


"Fear will keep the local countries in line. Fear of British speechmaking!"
posted by armoured-ant at 10:22 AM on March 20, 2003


"I think cyncism is obligatory for anyone with half a brain"

I think skepticism is a lot sexier than cynicism.
posted by nickmark at 10:29 AM on March 20, 2003


metafilter; eclectic sceptics
posted by johnnyboy at 10:58 AM on March 20, 2003


I think that it was a great speech. If I were a soldier under that officer's command, I would be proud to serve and proud that I was a member of a humane and noble regimen. Of course, if I were a soldier I'd be about 20 y.o. and not enough life experience to be genuinely cynical or skeptical.

A soldier's job is to do what they're told. Not to question political decision making. A commander's job is to ensure that moral remains high and that the missions are completed.
posted by Juicylicious at 12:23 PM on March 20, 2003


I think Foosnark said it best.

I can't imagine our men ordered to deal with this:

"If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day.

"Allow them dignity in death. Bury them properly and mark their graves."

posted by zaelic at 3:08 PM on March 20, 2003


Uh oh. I feel moved to quote - and second - Midas Mulligan's comment: "....if a war is going to be fought, I could wish for no better sentiment amongst those fighting it than that expressed in that speech." Sure, there is an awfull lot of corruption in the motives of those in the Bush Administration who have pushed most heavily for an invasion of Iraq. Some well meaning idealism too. But Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins did not engineer the Invasion of Iraq, nor did he conceive and promote a conveniently self serving vision of a "Pax Americana". No, the man is merely trying to do his job as honourably as possible.


But.........idealistic intentions always come first. Before the last US and British troops leave Iraq, such noble, idealistic motives may be sorely tested.
posted by troutfishing at 7:51 PM on March 20, 2003


When Teaching the Ethics of War Is Not Academic
posted by homunculus at 12:12 AM on March 21, 2003


"We will not fly our flags in their country"

ooops
posted by fullerine at 2:35 AM on March 21, 2003


Well it wasn't the US who promised no flag waving, fullerine.
posted by Summer at 3:07 AM on March 21, 2003


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