Today, on Remembrance Sunday, and only an hour before the Cenotaph ceremony in Whitehall, the BBC’s Andrew Marr, in an interview with the UK’s chief of defence staff, put a well-rehearsed question to General Sir Nicholas Houghton about what he thinks of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s comments that he would not be willing to press the nuclear button. The general’s predictable response was, to paraphrase, that Mr Corbyn should not become prime minister. Subsequently, Jeremy Corbyn revealed he had written to the Defence secretary, Michael Fallon, to see if Houghton, who clearly broke convention by significantly interfering in the political arena, should be disciplined. Houghton, it should be added, is himself prone to controversy in respect of his role in the aftermath of the Iraq War – see more, below…
A. The BBC interview:
In the interview with Marr, Houghton was asked if he thought it worrying that Mr Corbyn had stated he would not be prepared to press the nuclear button. Houghton replied: “Well, it would worry me if that thought was translated into power.” In other words, Houghton was worried that Mr Corbyn could ever become PM. (Marr made no attempt to challenge Houghton on this most extraordinary and unconstitutional statement.)
Houghton continued: “The whole thing about deterrence rests on the credibility of its use. When people say ‘you are never going to use the deterrent’, what I say is you use the deterrent every second, of every minute, of every day. The purpose of the deterrent is that you don’t have to use it because you successfully deter.”
Marr did not challenge (the logic) of this either. (The nuclear deterrent is based entirely on an absurdity: that the deterrent would be deployed if an enemy force was about to deploy or did deploy its nuclear weapon. If that happened, then that, basically, would be the end of some or all of the UK anyway, as well as the enemy, of course. Moreover, this chain of events would lead to more deployments and, ultimately, Armageddon.). But generals being generals are too thick to understand this.
After the interview Mr Corbyn stated: “It is a matter of serious concern that the chief of the defence staff has today intervened directly in issues of political dispute. It is essential in a democracy that the military remains political neutral at all times. By publicly taking sides in current political arguments, Sir Nicholas Houghton has clearly breached that constitutional principle. Accordingly, I am writing to the defence secretary to ask him to take action to ensure that the neutrality of the armed forces is upheld.”
B. Houghton and Iraq War scandals:
Houghton has a long career with the military, including Northern Ireland (1993) where he commanded 39 Infantry Brigade in Belfast during the period which led to the Good Friday Agreement. He has been accused of being instrumental in delaying the publication of the Chilcot Report, as he fears it will heavily criticise his role in the aftermath of the Iraq War and highlight concerns about corruption and excessive violence by British-trained police in Iraq. Houghton was the senior British military representative in Iraq from October 2005 until March 2006. He served in his most important role as chief of joint operations at the military’s permanent joint headquarters from 2006 to 2009.
The following took place in Iraq during the period immediately prior to Houghton taking over British command in Iraq – and it would have been inconceivable had Houghton not been cognisant of all the details…
British soldiers and airmen helped operate a secretive US detention facility in Baghdad that was at the centre of some of the most serious human rights abuses to occur in Iraq after the invasion. Many of the detainees were brought there by snatch squads formed from Special Air Service and Special Boat Service squadrons.
Suspects were brought to the prison, known as Camp Nama, not far from Baghdad International airport, for questioning by US military and civilian interrogators. Former members of TF 121 and its successor unit TF6-26 later described the abuses they witnessed: Iraqi prisoners held for prolonged periods in cells the size of large dog kennels; prisoners being subjected to electric shocks; prisoners being routinely hooded; inmates being taken into a sound-proofed shipping container for interrogation, and emerging in a state of physical distress.
Before setting up the prison at Nama, TF 121 was known as Task Force 20 and had run a detention and interrogation centre at a remote location known as H1 in Iraq’s western desert. The British were junior partners in TF 121: their contingent was known as Task Force Black, with US Delta Force troops making up Task Force Green and US Army Rangers making up Task Force Red. One half of Task Force Black comprised of SAS and SBS troopers, based a short distance away at the government compound known as the Green Zone. Military at Nama imprisoned ‘high-value detainees’. Other military personnel at the prison included air and ground crews of 7 Squadron and 47 Squadron of the RAF and 657 Squadron of the Army Air Corps, who lived on the camp, operating helicopters used in detention operations and a Hercules transport aircraft.
C. Previous calls for ‘coup’:
And we should not forget that it was only a matter of weeks ago, not long after Mr Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party, that an anonymous general was quoted in the Sunday Times as saying that the armed forces could stage a mutiny or a coup if Mr Corbyn became prime minister. This is what the general had to say in the Sunday Times interview…
Referring to the possibility that a Corbyn-led Government might downgrade the military, scrapping Trident or pulling Britain out of NATO, he said: “The general staff would not allow a prime minister to jeopardise the security of this country and I think people would use whatever means possible, fair or foul to prevent that. You can’t put a maverick in charge of a country’s security… Feelings are running very high within the armed forces. You would see a major break in convention with senior generals directly and publicly challenging Corbyn over vital important policy decisions such as Trident, pulling out of Nato and any plans to emasculate and shrink the size of the armed forces. There would be mass resignations at all levels and you would face the very real prospect of an event which would effectively be a mutiny.”
He didn’t mince his words. Furthermore, the general added that the military would take ‘direct action’ to ensure the Corbyn Government would not be able to carry out its mandate. Direct action usually means the use of violence (though not always) and in this context one can only assume that the military would take over key installations and organise a caretaker government until new elections can be called.
This intervention, as well as that by Houghton, is reminiscient of an alleged coup attempt back in the 1960s and later in the 1970s by those on the right and in conjunction with at least one senior military officer to oust prime minister Harold Wilson… Here is an article including an interview with Maj. Alexander Greenwood (2010) re. a conspiracy by General Sir Walter Walker, Lord Mountbatten and others… (The London Evening News gave Walker a front-page interview and asked him if he could imagine a situation in which the British Army could take over Britain. Walker responded, “Perhaps the country might choose rule by the gun in preference to anarchy,” although Walker always said he hated the idea of a military government in Britain.)
The following two items reference the 1974 ‘coup’ conspiracy (involving Sir James Goldmith, Ross McWhirter, Airey Neave, Lord Lucan, SAS founder David Stirling, John Aspinall and MI5 and others). The second item is interesting as it references a statement that Harold Wilson be declared a threat to national security – sounds familiar?