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Friday 17 July 2009

Chopper Cropper

War, it seems, is one of those subjects where normally rational beings lose it. Iraq was an excellent example: there was no proof of chemical or biological weapons, certainly no nuclear capability, and no better case for war than regime change, which happens to be illegal. But that didn’t stop the politicians – both Labour and Tory – from being in favour. And then we got involved in Afghanistan.

This is a country that has displayed a fiercely independent spirit for centuries. But it was also home to what Prince Harry called “Terry Taliban”, and this problem, coupled with the potential spread of said Taliban into nearby (and nuclear armed) Pakistan, was adjudged to need addressing.

So off went our soldiers, along with those from several other countries. And at first, all was relatively quiet. However, recently the fighting has got more intense and infinitely more intimate, and that has meant casualties. The Taliban, by all accounts, are losing their grip, but can still muster plenty of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to detonate under coalition road vehicles.

But there is the solution – we did it all the time at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland – of moving troops by helicopter. Unfortunately it seems – although we can’t say exactly how many there are out “in theatre” – that there aren’t enough of them. So yesterday, Pa Broon was given a verbal working over by Defence Committee chairman James Arbuthnot, the man with the Jonathon Porritt memorial barnet. Arbuthnot discovered that he is no more able than Young Dave to get the answer he wants out of the PM, but the point was well made, as the Beeb has observed.

So what can be done, given that any increase in the helicopter fleet has to go through the rigmarole of procurement? Well, the USA is also in the coalition with us, and they apparently have loads of the things, which begs a straightforward question.

If the Yanks are so flush with choppers (as it were), then how about they loan us a few, plus crews (no need to recruit more pilots and train them) to help out? After all, we’re on the same side. All it needs is for Pa Broon to phone his new pal Barry over in the White House, and we’re sorted.

It could also be worth a couple of points in the polls.

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