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Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 14:22 GMT
Do you back the UK troop deployment?
Up to 31,000 UK military personnel are being sent to the Gulf in preparation for possible action against Iraq.
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon told MPs on Monday that the deployment will include 29,000 ground troops, supported by 120 Challenger tanks and 150 Warrior armoured personnel carriers.
It is the most significant step so far in the British military build-up in the Gulf and far exceeds all predictions by military observers.
Mr Hoon stressed that the deployment does not mean a war with Saddam Hussein is inevitable, saying the threat of military action would bring weight to ongoing diplomatic activity.
Meanwhile, Iraqi documents obtained by the BBC indicate that Baghdad is equipping key units with protection against chemical weapons.
The hand-written papers smuggled out by the Iraqi opposition refer to new chemical warfare suits to protect soldiers and distribution of the drug atropine to counter the effects of nerve gas.
Do you support the deployment of so many UK troops in the Gulf? Should UK troops be sent to Iraq at all? Do you think that Baghdad is getting ready for war?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Deploying UK troops is as much a diplomatic venture as it is part of a military campaign. It may be very expensive but it's piling up the pressure on Iraq to disarm peacefully.
British troops will go anywhere the USA wants them to! Why not save money and amalgamate the British with the US Army? It will be cheaper, and certainly easier for the poor frustrated souls desperately wanting to relive the British Raj!
Howard E., USA
Why is The US and Britain not taking the same stance with North Korea as they are doing with Iraq? After all, it is quite evident that the former is possessing weapons of mass destruction. Will the two super powers do anything to disarm North Korea? It seems that in the matter of disarmament the Americans are showing too much of their own interest rather than the interest of the world at large. This may be a reason why the US is softening matters with North Korea.
Our countries (US and Britain) spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on intelligence. We have numerous satellites surveying countries such as Iraq. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, that our governments have some information that are leading them down the road they have chosen? Do you think that they are willing to sacrifice lives of our service men and women for no good reason?
What sort of relationship does the Government want with Europe. Mr Blair is trumpeting greater integration with the EU and yet he is clearly at odds with what most people and governments in Europe think about Iraq. He is becoming increasingly seen as an opportunist who is following George Bush so that he is can be seen as a major world statesman. I think the rest of Europe has seen through this but when will we see it in Britain???
Why are you people being so na´ve? "Liberation" of the Iraqi people? Give me a break. Its all about oil and you know it. The US will go in and take over the oil so they can have better leverage over Saudi Arabia. You want proof? 14 of the 19 hijackers were from there and I don't see anyone saying anything against them. Why? Because they have most of the oil the U.S. uses. North Korea is a bigger threat than Iraq but what do we see? Diplomacy for North Korea and intense action for Iraq.
The comments of 'Ben' amaze me. So we should stop 'worrying about the politics' and just support the troops? You're quite right: let's forget about ethics, morality, and legality and become gullible sheep who follow wherever our governments lead us.
I am concerned at that this government is using the political situation in Iraq, to detract from the shocking state of domestic politics in Britain today. Tony Blair is not producing the goods in this Country, so he has to look abroad. His party are found wanting with the NHS, Education, Public Services. The list is endless. No Money to settle the fire dispute (40% for MPs is OK though?) Bring on the general election.
What is all this talk about no smoking gun? Does not finding the 16 warheads last week raise a basic question: Where are the other 29,984? That is how many empty chemical warheads the UN Special Commission estimated he had. And where are the 550 artillery shells that are filled with mustard gas, and the 400 biological weapons ... and the 26,000 litres of anthrax, the botulism, the VX nerve agent, the sarin gas that the UN says he has?. I see nothing but smoke here. Saddam must work to put out this fire, and so far he does not seem so inclined.
Mary Ellen Carew, USA
Mr Straw was quoted apologizing for the wrongs of colonialism a few months ago. This war is nothing but colonialism revisited.. and I suppose one of Mr Straw's successors will, in time, be apologizing for this unfettered affront to international law.
I have always supported the military and as a systems design engineer I always tried to make sure they would have the most effective hardware.
Having said that, if we go to war with Iraq then where does it end?
I am opposed to action on Iraq for two reasons; one moral and one pragmatic. Morally it is wrong to attack a country on the basis of a belief that they might be a threat. This is a Pandora's box and once this has been done I can see it being done more and more by the US until they are effectively telling all countries what they can and cannot do. Also other countries like India or Israel may use the same justification to attack neighbours. Pragmatically; if Iraq is attacked I am sure that it will lead to greater world unrest, serious terrorist activity in this country and it will take generations to undo the damage.
That doesn't mean that we must support the fool who's sending them there, though. Exactly how many and what type of WMD does Iraqi need to qualify for the Bush/Blair regime change program?
The truth is it doesn't matter. The US wants War, and what the US wants, it gets.
The recent discovery of a few dusty warheads and a number of documents (the kind of stuff nuclear physicists tend to read) proves one thing. Given sufficient time and resources, the inspection process will track down and eliminate any WMD that may be hidden. We must keep one thing uppermost in our minds, the lives of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of innocent people are at stake here. To condemn so many to death just because George Bush is 'sick and tired' and losing patience with one man, now that's what I call evil.
Deploying this number of troops is an extremely costly. They cannot be put on readiness for an indefinite time, certainly not the year the UN claim they need for complete inspection. Yet without it the pressure would not be there. This means at some stage war may be triggered without evidence of WMD and thus without a UN mandate. This is an unacceptable political move.
I feel the Government need to keep us more up to date with the "reasons why". So far, the majority of information we are "fed" comes from the UN inspectors. How about some good old fashioned "honesty" from our Government. No Spin or side stepping of the questions. Just some good solid reasons why we should risk a WWIII. It would be nice and refreshing for any Government of whatever persuasion.
I don't understand this insistence your news presenters and interviewees all seem to have that Tony Blair must have a majority in the country with him in order to go to war against Iraq.
He has a huge mandate as the Prime Minister of a democratically elected Government, and needs no such endorsement for this or any other policy decision. He has full access to information the public can simply not have, and of course the full responsibility for any action he takes.
Maybe less than 10% might have 'agreed' with WW2, but that is entirely irrelevant to any requirement for military action - then or now.
John Harding, England
Are George Bush and Tony Blair going to don the military gear and head for Iraq? No chance, they are only prepared to put everyone else's life at risk.
One thing I find fascinating... according to Mr Blair at this exact moment of mass deployment of troops we are a prime target for an attack from al-Qaeda. Anyone else feeling a teeny bit twitchy?
Regardless of the rights or wrongs of this current deployment, the potential severe overstretch of our armed forces should be considered. With a quarter of our ground forces heading for the Gulf and 19,000 on standby to cover the fire strike there must be little left to cope with any setback. Is there anything still in reserve or is this an all or nothing gamble?
90% of these messages seem to be anti-war. Why cant you realise that nasty as it is, war is necessary sometimes. As Blair has said, we do nothing now and the task becomes immeasurably more difficult in 10/20 years time.
I cannot think of the last time Britain went to war without clear justification or provocation. We are blindly following the USA, as the fundamentalist President Bush belatedly attempts to correct the mistake of his father. This episode is a black stain on our reputation and our history.
Do I support the deployment of UK troops to the Gulf? I genuinely don't know, because I don't have the information upon which to base a decision. Ask me again after the UN Inspectors have filed their report!
The anti-Americanism that seems to be at the heart of the 'no war' camp seems to be filled with an assumption that they know best, that the American administration is full of fools and that the British are merely 'poodles'. This sentiment is arrogant, ill-informed and potentially very damaging to our interests. War must be a last resort; but the threat of it must be real if the changes required are to be achieved.
Saddam's murderous dictatorship is an affront to the world, and the innocent Iraqi people need liberation from this madman. Since the UN as a whole will obviously never take effective action, it is necessary for the US and UK and any other responsible countries to take action on the UN's behalf. To do this it is vital to present a realistic threat of force, and this size of deployment is therefore logical. Hopefully Saddam will be forced out without a major war, but only if the Iraqis see that the consequences if he isn't are not worth it.
Of course I support that deployment - hopefully it will be a mere deterrence though.
Disgraceful. The leader of a country does not represent his own people. Nobody is in favour of Britain going to war, yet war goes ahead. I feel ashamed that Tony Blair is my prime minister. He has given Britain a bad name, even by Britain's own standards.
If Mr Blair and Co put as much money into protecting our borders and refusing those who have no legitimate right to be here as he does in deploying our forces overseas, he might inspire the electorate that we have a cause worth fighting for.
I'd be much happier if we had helicopters that could fly, tanks that could move for more than four hours, rifles that didn't need oiling after every shot, boots that didn't melt and most of all if George Bush and Tony were to be at the head of the advancing army like the truly great generals of old.
Wise up England. The US has been our closest ally for many years and I hope this continues. In these troubled times we need to stick together. I trust America I do not trust Saddam Hussein.
If Tony Blair or his son were compelled to fight a war, then there would be no deployment of troops. As usual, the weak and innocent has always been used to give his life for the benefit of powerful. How can Iraq be a threat to superpowers with the most advanced sophisticated weapons? Can't we see that the threat is coming from the superpowers who are very likely to cause a great assault on innocent people who have been suffering for over a decade?
I don't agree with a possible war with Iraq on the basis of supposed WMDs which aren't aimed at the UK or our allies. I do think that Saddam is an evil despot and the world would be better off without him.
However, I support fully the allied troops, they sign up to fight and possibly pay the ultimate price for you and me, whatever your feelings about why a war happens, support our countrymen whatever after all war is hell!
Apart from the fact that this is going to cost a fortune, when the country can ill afford it, on what democratic basis has the decision been founded? Every poll I have seen has indicated that a majority of people in the UK are against unilateral action. I find Blair's support for Bush absolutely appalling and hate to think what is going to be done (allegedly) in our name.
Kristi Beck, USA
No, I don't support this deployment of British troops. However, I'm only an ordinary British citizen, it doesn't seem to matter what any of us think (see the latest opinion polls).
Personally I am completely behind this deployment, as I think that we have given Saddam Hussein more than enough chances to co-operate since the last Gulf War and he is clearly unwilling to do so. The gathering of forces is not a definite sign of war, simply a clear message to Hussein that we are willing to fight for our safety and the safety of others from such a clearly dangerous regime.
No. We shouldn't be sending American troops either. I notice there seems to be a lot of resentment towards "Americans" in Europe due to events like these. However, for your information, not all Americans want war - just the mindless, American media brainwashed ones. Please stop using the words Washington and George Bush interchangeably with America and Americans. We are both being controlled by our political elite. No troops at all. At least until Saddam's been proven guilty to the world.
Yes, I do. Unless, of course, the UK would prefer to hide its head in the sand, as it did under Chamberlain. That stupidity cost the world millions of lives. If the UK had pre-empted Hitler, World War II could have been avoided. Do we never learn from history?
I don't support the mass deployment of forces to Iraq.
It doesn't surprise me to here that their gear is sub standard either. UK fire fighters such as myself have campaigned for years just to get fire gear that doesn't melt or let water in, although after eight years in the job I have just got leather boots to replace my wellies.
Regardless of the politics involved here. I'd like to thank the UK for standing by us.
At first I did not back this war on Iraq but my view is changing. The news today talks about 31,000 troops going to the Gulf I say go for it. We must stand with our American allied and finish this business. They had all this time to hide their weapons, let the UK and US finish this for good! Lets stand up for the western world! After all do we want to live in fear forever I don't?
Richard N, UK
We continually harangue others for their lack of 'democracy' and yet Tony Blair blasts through the wishes of most of his country and world opinion. Send in the troops and watch the final demise of 'Great' Britain.
I strongly oppose the military deployment without sufficient evidence and national consensus. I think the government should be ashamed of itself that it has not been acting responsibly to justify its action and treating its people like fools by flagging at them with 'possible' threats from Iraq 'owning weapons of mass destruction'. Does that mean policemen should go around arresting people who 'possibly' are going to commit a crime like in Minority Report?
The UK should not support the US in Iraq at this time. There is no reason to go to war right now. If evidence should present itself in the future, then war should be considered as a last option. Why are the US and UK focused on Iraq while North Korea is building nuclear weapons?
It's an absolute outrage that the government should deploy troops for a conflict which the majority of the public, and the Labour Party, oppose. It seems the only people convinced that it's the right thing to do are in Number 10. If the conflict goes ahead without UN support I will be tearing up my Labour Party membership and I hope that others will do as well.
Rebecca Wilde, UK
Three Cheers for the British! I know it must be hard to fully comprehend the importance of your support for action against Iraq. After helping to liberate and protect W. Europe for almost 50 years, I find that you are the only worthwhile allies for the US. Next up on the list of "countries-to-do" will be N Korea and eventually China.
No, no, a thousand times no. What weapons of mass destruction? Why Iraq and not North Korea? Who has the oil? Answers on a postcard, please.
I do not think that sending so many troops to the Gulf is a good thing. There is as yet no UN backing for the move and sending so many troops is only another form of terrorism. It is almost universally agreed that Saddam Hussein should be overthrown, but not without full UN backing. Have not Tony Blair and Mr Bush thought of negotiating with the other Arab nations to find a solution? Saddam should have been toppled in the first conflict not left to Mr Bush to think he has a God given right to do it now.
Of course I support this. The UK and US standing side-by-side is critically important.
Steve E, Ipswich, England
As a Gulf veteran from the last conflict I like many hundreds of other Gulf veterans are now sitting worried that they will receive call out notices as stated by Mr Hoon. Many veterans from GW1 are now sick and suffering ill health problems as a result of their service so how can they even be considered for service a second time round?
I feel sorry for the men and women of our armed forces putting their lives on the line for George Bush and the oil industry executives.
Whatever happened to the good old principle of innocent until proven guilty? Even in the case of someone as clearly objectionable as Saddam Hussein, surely we should be the ones to take the higher ground and live up to the principles we claim to be going to war for. This deployment seems to be the next in a long line of events that point to a conflict no matter what the results of the investigation by the UN.
It feels to me as if indeed we're planning for war rather than just lending weight to increase diplomatic pressure or bargaining with Iraq. I feel that the decision has been made and the time allowed for inspection of arms in Iraq is false and the real spectre is looming.
I know several people in the armed forces all of whom tell me that they are not equipped to fight in the conditions facing them in Iraq. Although many of the equipment failures of the past may have been rectified the clothing and shelters are all designed for a conflict in Northern Europe. The feeling is that lives will be lost, through heat exhaustion, if soldiers are expected to operate, never mind fight, in desert climates wearing heavy chemical and biological proof clothing. We should leave it to the forces equipped to fight such a battle.
Putting aside any other questions - such as the legality of a war against a state that is no direct threat - the deployment does bring into question how little approval the executive branch of government now feels it needs for spending what has to be a considerable sum of public money sending 30,000 troops to the Gulf. And we still do not have any compelling evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.
Why isn't the Government also sending troops to North Korea, Pakistan, or Israel?
07 Jan 03 | Politics
07 Jan 03 | Politics
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