Friday, December 12, 2003

Hoon - and those apologies he was after

I notice that, back on the 14th of May, our much despised Secretary of State for Defence Geoff Hoon said in parliament that

"All the requisite numbers of boots and clothing and equipment were there..the truth is that when they went into operations all of our forces were given the right boots. There was sufficient clothing and protective equipment in theatre to deal with a force of this size. I am waiting for apologies from either individual journalists or their editors.."

Well, I'm waiting for apologies from this apology for a minister for his outstanding incompetence, dishonesty, and double dealing. Oh yes, throw in his charming crack about Iraqi mothers whose children had been wounded thanking the coalition. This was of course part of the immediate pre-Kelly period when Alastair Campbell was trying to get revenge on the media for being rude, and I suppose his remarks to the Defence Select Committee should be seen in this light, as an exercise in calculated bullying rather than a contribution to parliamentary debate. That doesn't change the rules though - lying to parliament is a resigning matter, and the National Audit Office report shows that he did just that. Literally. I thought I would have to wade through reams of text - but on the bottom of page 14, I found the evidence - in the huge glossy photo of a Royal Marine standing in front of a huge portrait of Saddam - WEARING A GREEN CAMO JACKET! (One-quarter of the 7th Armoured Brigade had woodland camouflage kit and black boots throughout the war.) From the horse's mouth (page 25 figure 6):

"The procurement was regarded as of limited success as few troops received their full complement and mismatches in sizing continued into the postconflict phase".

Better yet, the supply of body armour is described as follows:

"Despite these efforts, insufficient numbers were distributed in theatre largely as a result of difficulties with asset tracking and distribution"

Which means there wasn't any, of course. Other highlights of the document include the fact that only 8% of the highest priority stores requests were supplied on time, the missing nuclear/biological/chemical filters for the tanks, and the curiosu way the accommodation for headquarters was completed by the end of May but for everyone else much later. When will this man finally resign? In passing, wasn't it a remarkable coincidence that this crushing report was released on the same day as Hoon's White Paper?

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