According to Tim Collins the British government, as well as the military leaders, had "absolutely no idea" about how to handle events in Iraq once the fighting was over.


This follows closely after General Dannatt laid into the MOD for forcing troops to 'muddle through' the conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

One of the things that sticks out for me though is how central the speech given by Col Collins to his troops on the eve of battle was to many people.

That speech has been shown and published around the world many times and has been seen as the definition of the whole Iraqi conflict. A 'Churchillian' effort that helped galvanise a nation and its armed forces. But as he says himself "When I gave my now notorious talk to the Royal Irish, I was trying to rationalise for those young men what was going on from my standpoint. As it turned out, it had a wider appeal because nobody had any idea why this was happening". He gave voice because the politicians had failed to do so.

His speech though was later condemned by one of his officers, Captain Doug Beattie who at time was a Regimental Sergeant Major, as leaving his men fearful and demoralised. “Heads starting to go down” in the course of his speech, which left “more and more frowns on men’s faces”.

But that's the whole point, he had to sum up in a few scant moments a very complex situation, something the politicians had failed to do.

The Sydney Morning Herald asked him:

"What went through your mind in making the speech?"

"I was about to lead men into battle and they would be asked to take other men's lives and possibly lose theirs. I felt they deserved an explanation. I had also heard a lot of talk about kicking the Iraqi's arses and I wanted to make it clear we were going to liberate the Iraqis not to shoot 'em up."

Maybe without such a speech we would have had a far greater number of civilian deaths. Followed by the inevitable enquiries and courts martial. It is up to politicians to define the war, not the soldier on the ground.

Col Collins lays a lot of the blame for inadequate planning at the feet of what he sees as obsequious senior officers just telling their political masters what they wanted to hear. But there are of course a whole raft of politicians involved and also government lawyers. Remember the legal arguments? Don't forget the lawyers who decided in the end that the conflict was legal after all.

Colonel Tim Collins' Speech delivered by Kenneth Branagh:

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