John Harris

Journalist & Author

John Harris’s national conversations podcast: Tim Collins

Tim Collins speaks from the heart about his army career, Tony Blair’s wars and his contempt for the decision-makers that leave the army “about the third of the size it needs to be to meet requirements that are being set on it”.

In the final part of John Harris’s national conversations series of interviews, Collins looks back on the Iraq war. On the eve of the invasion Collins, then the commanding officer of the 1st Batallion of the Royal Irish Regiment, made a speech to his troops in the Kuwaiti desert. In it, he told his men “if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory”.

The speech was so unexpectedly powerful that it was leaked, and he became a poster boy for the early days of the war. Rumour had it that President Bush hung the speech on the wall of the Oval Office and Prince Charles wrote to Collins praising his rhetoric. Kenneth Brannagh played him in a BBC drama a few years later.

When he was accused of war crimes the fall from grace was dramatic. He was cleared, but quit the army in frustration anyway. These days, he is angry about Operation Telic – otherwise known as the Iraq war – which officially ended in May this year. He says the British contribution in Iraq will be seen in the future both politically and militarily as an example of how “not to do it”. He blames the Blair/Brown tussle for the inadequate leadership, arguing that they used the war “as a lever with which to whack each other”. He believes that, as a result of the Iraq war, the US military regards the UK military as “fillers in a chorus line, as opposed to frontline trustworthy troops”. The British performance, he says, was “frankly lacklustre”.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 at 11:47 am and is filed under Guardian RSS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. « Youth unemployment: aspirational talk? All the young hear is a sick joke | John Harris | Why a Rolling Stones bootleg is one of my albums of the year »
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