I note Richard Dannatt’s comments today relating to his personal experience surrounding the use of the drug Lariam by the MoD when he was the Head of the British Army.
Ex Service Chiefs have previously been criticised for speaking out only after their service was complete, and they were not subject to military sanction, thus leading to the question – “why did you not do anything about it while you had the chance?”
This simply cannot be applied to Richard Dannatt.
During his time, life changed significantly for Servicemen and Women in a way that is seldom felt by a single force of personality at the top of a large organisation. From the small but significant extended phone-calls on operations and financial operational bonuses on operations for his soldiers, to calling for a change in strategic direction from Iraq to Afghanistan to give us a chance of success in one of those theatres, Richard Dannatt improved the lives of every individual soldier during his time as Head of the Army.
His personal reflections today are in-keeping with his well-known and ruthless honesty. It is unfortunate that the organisation which he led, paid so little heed to the welfare of our Servicemen and women, fundamentally mis-understanding it’s vital role in combat power and success on operations, unlike our allies which we fight alongside.
This needs to end. In 2020 it will be too late; Iraq and Afghanistan will be on the same pages in the history books in school as Vietnam and Suez. Teresa May must grasp – as David Cameron did – that how we look after this Iraq/Afghanistan warrior generation will define our attitude to our Armed Forces for a generation to come.
In the ongoing fight against international terrorism and threats to our way of life, in Defence our people remain our greatest asset. It is time we started making sure how we talk about looking after them, and what we actually do, are the same thing.