Thursday, July 09, 2009

Its the Somme all over again

'The line between life and death has become dangerously thin in Afghanistan's bloody war zone, writes BBC correspondent Ian Pannell, who reports exclusively from the front line where he is embedded with British soldiers.

Seven soldiers dead in seven days. It is a grim statistic, but it is also the reality of British losses in the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Six of the seven died in operation Panchai Palang, or Panther's Claw, in Helmand in the last week.

We had been travelling on the front line with the troops from A Company, 2 Mercian, part of the Light Dragoon Battle Group.

This is a brutal, bloody struggle.'

Has the art of war reporting fallen to its lowest ebb? The British forces lost around 400 dead retaking the tiny sheep haven in the south Atlantic, fighting some Argie conscripts. It could have been much worse, but for luck and the Grace of God. While every death is a tragedy for a British family and for the friends of that man, for the British army as a whole, with 104,000 infantrymen, its really just a tiny pinprick. Peacetime training exercises sometimes have more fatalities.

I'm not sure what Ian Pannells regular beat is, but it definitely isn't anything to do with the military. He doesn't know the jargon, he doesn't know tactics, he doesn't know strategy, he has no context, no historical knowledge and no benchmarks for his judgements. And those are his good points. He is a hysterical nancy with a florid turn of speech.

Britain used to have many of the best war correspondents in the world. Why the fuck can't we turn out even one decent one, and get him a job at the BBC?

If you watch the little video, the funniest bit is this: when one solitary bloke opens up with something that sounds suspiciously like a MAC 10 (not even the stopping power of an AK 47), he intones '...and yet the Taliban attack yet again.' What would the guy have made of Bastogne, or Dien Bien Phu, or the Pusan perimeter? I think we all know. He'd have pooped his pants and run all the way back to Pinner or wherever.

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