We went to war with Saddam. So what? The world’s a better place

28 November 2009

The official inquiry into the Iraq war is expected to last a year, but here an SAS legend tells Sun readers why the conflict was worthwhile – and suggests who’s to blame for our soldiers dying.

Diplomats have suggested to the Iraq War Inquiry that George Bush and Tony Blair had “signed a deal in blood” to remove Saddam Hussein long before there was any spin to justify an invasion.

So what? Tell us something we didn’t know.

All the arguments about who said what, to whom, and when are academic now. The fact is that Iraq is better off and so are we.

Saddam was evil. He tried to kill me and killed many innocent people. He’s dead. The country is being restored. End of. What’s the problem? It was in our interest and, ultimately, in the interests of the Iraqis themselves to remove him.

I have been back to Iraq many times and the fact is that, on the ground, there is stability they never had before.

It’s not stability as you would expect in Birmingham, or Worcester, or London, but for that part of the world it is pretty stable. Certainly, in the south, people are getting jobs; oil fields are producing; people are making money. Basra international airport is truly international at last. In Basra people are saying, “We don’t want the Iranians interfering. We’re making money now.” There’s even a tourist board starting to thrive.

People say they had order under Saddam, but he just slaughtered thousands of people if they did not agree with him. Some of the old Ba’ath party men were outrageous and proof that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Any human beings given absolute control turn to abuse and violence – and that’s what Saddam Hussein did.

The old regime is gone and good, because the new regime is starting to work. But that is thanks to the military, nothing to do with the politicians.

The troops were hampered in the build-up to war; given no guidance by politicians who sent them to war; and given no plan for after the invasion. They had to work it out for themselves, and they did despite the problems that were put in their way. Job done.

The inquiry uncovering pretence over Weapons Of Mass Destruction… that’s old news.

What I really want this inquiry to find out is who was responsible for hampering the military preparations for war so that we appeared to be reacting to the UN mandate rather than a deal struck by Bush and Blair a year before.

Who was it who said: “We can’t let the military go ahead with their intelligence preparation; or ordering the kit they need; or getting it in theatre in time.”

Who was it who decided: “We can’t let them order thousands more sets of body armour or more ammunition because, otherwise, we will expose the fact that we are going to war no matter what.”

Who were the politicians who refused to give the military time to get the equipment they needed while they went ahead with the charade of going to war over weapons of mass destruction?

We were left running around like the poor cousins, with no kit and no guidance, but we still achieved something.

The success in Iraq is not down to the politicians.

But the loss of soldiers’ lives because of a lack of equipment or lack of preparation might well be.

Source: The Sun



Source & Rights: ColGarrisonfm’s Photostream


November 2009

From a 16 year-old juvenile delinquent languishing at Her Majesty’s pleasure in a north London borstal to becoming the writer of the highest-selling war book the country has ever seen is, to put it mildly, an eventful journey.  And for one night in Screen Two at the Broadway Cinema, Andy McNab, Britain’s most famous soldier-turned-writer took us through it as part of a promotional tour for his two new books.

Inaccurate expectations of Andy McNab aren’t hard to develop.  Photos of him are strictly forbidden on promotional tours due to the sensitive nature of some of his past work, which makes it tricky if you’re organising the event and waiting for McNab to turn up.  Since the publishers won’t send out photos, Ross Bradshaw (whose Lowdham Book Festival on Tour event this was) spoke in the introduction of his giving a number of people significant looks before McNab finally came forth and revealed himself.  Personally, I was hoping for a cross between Sean Bean (who played McNab in the BBC adaptation of Bravo Two Zero) and a scary brick wall, with perhaps a bristling moustache that carried with it an unmistakeably military air.  Inevitably, McNab is nothing of the kind, looking like a particularly well-groomed PE teacher and talking like the very epitome of a Sarf Landahn wideboy.

Keeping a close eye on the watch he kept in the palm of his hand, McNab talked for almost an hour, taking us from his recruitment into the Royal Greenjackets at 16 to his present career as a writer, consultant on military matters for films such as Heat and Pearl Harbour and member of several committees that care for soldiers in and returning from war.  In between these two points the audience were treated to tales of applying for the SAS, his training in the Air Assault Troop, missions in West Africa, Colombia, Northern Ireland and of course the ill-fated mission in the first Gulf War that led to his 1.8 million-selling first book.  Loving mentions of whatever he was driving at the time (Peugeot Turbo, Red Lancia, etc) served as amusing punctuation to stories of gunfights and creeping through jungles.

Most interesting were his insights into the practical realities of soldiering and the effects of stress on those in war, including the most succinct and clear explanation of the condition we know as ‘post traumatic stress disorder’ I’ve ever heard.  The consequences of PTSD have obviously been bought home to him over the years: of the fellow soldiers in his SAS troop only he and one other have avoided prison or death on active service or by their own hand.  His own strategy for coping with the ordeals his army career has put him through was rather less complicated than most: “Not giving a shit, really”.  Tales of obvious bravery were leavened with flashes of humour (raids on drug fields in Colombia were usually scheduled for Thursdays, as the whole team liked to be in Bogota for the weekend nightlife) and delivered with the patter of a natural talker.

Questions from the audience covered the bizarre experiments such as those currently on show in the recent film release The Men Who Stare At Goats (McNab’s entirely practical take on using amphetamines is that you’d better not be using them on a mission that lasts over 72 hours) to his thoughts on the media uproar on the MOD charging for parcels delivered to the frontlines after years of paying for it themselves (the money usually used for this was channelled into free wifi for the troops, swapping, in McNab’s words “parcels of sweaty mars bars and socks” for the infinitely preferable option for most soldiers of “email and porn”).  Warm applause at the end made it plain McNab’s talk had gone down well, and it’s hard not to warm to a man who can put brutal torture behind him and make jokes about it without batting an eye.

After the talk a long queue of happy customers formed in the Mezzanine Bar upstairs for a session of signing his two new books: Exit Wounds continues the adventures of McNab’s hero Nick Stone, while Spoken From the Front is a McNab-edited collection of first-hand accounts from the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Source: LeftLion


Tuesday 24 Nov 2009

GoSpoken.com, co-owned by ex-SAS operative turned author Andy McNab, has partnered with actress & author Michelle Gayle, The Reading Agency & BlackBerry to leverage cutting-edge technology to develop literacy levels in schools through a national workshop study.

The innovative workshops gave select secondary school pupils, aged 12-15 years, from across three schools in Halton, Southampton & Crawley the opportunity to read, write & share stories on BlackBerry handsets. Led by Michelle Gayle, author of Pride & Premiership – a mobile novel, students engaged with the creative writing workshop – discussing & contributing their own ideas using the Smartphone’s.

The aim of the workshops is to research the adoption of reading digital books on mobile phones, and the interaction of users with digitally created content – as authors or contributors – in an innovative and modern way.

Actress & author Michelle Gayle said; “The pupils seemed to take to reading on the BlackBerry’s immediately and when they began to write their own stories on them a teacher remarked that they seemed to focus more than they do in the classroom”.

The project is part of the Research & Development strategy from Mobcast – parent company of GoSpoken.com, investigating the impact of mobile technology & distance learning. The goal is to encourage user engagement with authors & content, and to create a mobile platform for users to contribute to a story, or contribute as an author. Similar concepts such as Keitai books in Asia have proved very successful in Japan where books written on mobile-for-mobile became physical bestsellers. 

Source: Booktrade.Info


A brief “Exit Wound” review from Camban:
On “Exit Wound”; you know how some novelists kind of tail off after, say, fifteen books? Well no such problem here, in fact I’d say that this is one of his best, hugely enjoyable in his now traditional, unique style. He gets more factual accuracy in these days too with plenty of canny political observations which are often alarmingly prescient. Together with the geographical and technical insights, his eminent squaddie style of dialogue makes for a fascinating tale of epic proportions. Only niggle is again the copious quantity of blank paper combined with very short chapters which makes for a feeling of being slightly cheated. Also contains many British cultural references which may confuse the foreigners here, though certain Western Europeans already steal BBC programmes without paying the licence fee so they may be aware of the TV programmes referred to in the text. Not saying who they may be but they make a clonking noise when they walk. If anyone else wants clarification just ask me.


Today the Times Online organised a Live Chat with Andy. Thank you very much Times Online! Of course we were there to enjoy it. Apparently Andy loves Live Chats (or the chedder cheese to go with it) so we hope he’ll do some more in the future!

On the Times Online website you can replay the Live Chat  but here’s the transcript. To make it a little easier to read I’ve cut&pasted the answers below the right questions.

Times Online: Tuesday November 17, 2009

Welcome to the Times Online live Q&A with Andy McNab.

Times Online: Andy thanks very much for joining us, perhaps you could start by telling us a little about your most recent novel, Exit Wound 

Andy McNab: Its another Nick Stone thriller but this time Nick isn’t being thrown into saving the world he’s just trying to make some money! 

[Comment From Linda: ]
Andy, Exit Wound is the 12th Nick Stone novel. Does it get easier to write new stories, or harder finding new plots each time.

Andy McNab: I find it easier because the more I write the more I learn about story structure. The most important part of any of the thrillers is Nick Stone and the rest is there to drive the character. It’s all about the character. Unless the reader invests in the character the stories mean nothing. 

[Comment From simon: ]
Do you have any news regarding your book being turned into films? 

Andy McNab: Yes! I do! Firewall is being turned into a film next year in the US. I’ve co-written the script with a script writer in the states and thankfully Nick still remains a Brit! 

[Comment From Faith: ]
Hi Andy, Just wanted to say a big thank you for signing my book and action man(!) on Friday night in Nottingham. It was a real pleasure to hear your talk and meet you after all these years of reading your books.
Andy McNab: You’re welcome Faith!

[Comment From Cat G: ]
Have you seen your spoof Twitter page? What do you think? www.twitter.com/andymcnab

Andy McNab: I haven’t seen my twitter page but the more the better! I understand on a daily basis I wrestle with bears and I love it! 
[Comment From Terry: ]
Andy, how do you feel the change in media coverage post Abu Ghraib influences your writings?

Andy McNab: Terry quite a bit. I try and use real life events to put into the plots purely because it makes them easier to write. Being involved in the private military world gives me another angle of insight.

[Comment From Linda: ]
Andy, is Last Night Another Soldier the book or the radio play broadcasted by the BBC a few months ago?

Andy McNab: Yes it is. I’m adapting it as a quick read and I’ve also been asked if I want to co-produce it as a stage play. Which of course I’d love to do! 

[Comment From Linda: ]
Andy, you were aghast with the MoD bonuses. Do they still vet your books, and if so aren‘t you afraid this will get you into trouble with them? 

Andy McNab: Linda I am because what they do is a service. I didnt know they had bonuses! And yes the books are vetted but I dont care if it gets me into trouble with them as I think the bonuses are wrong. Now isnt the time to give a ‘service’ a bonus. 
[Comment From Mikey: ]
What do you think of all the fuss about violent combat games like Call Of Duty Modern Warfare?
Andy McNab: Actually I like Call of Duty! It is a fuss but actually about nothing. It’s great PR for their business! I reviewed it and agree its an 18 but thought it was great.

[Comment From Paul: ]
Afghanistan, any comments on what we are trying to achieve out there?

Andy McNab: In Afghanistan we’re trying to achieve stability. Because its not just Afghanistan but Pakistan and even more scary India – that re both nuclear powers. The problem is we must get a credible army and police force and just as importantly a credible government in Kabul. 

[Comment From Craig: ]
Andy, having recently read Seven Troop, I was impressed that you can still account for all your marbles. My brother is in Afghanistan and I know he will return a changed man, any tips on how to help him taklk through his experiences or is that the wrong approach?

Andy McNab: That’s the perfect approach – to talk things through. Fortunately a very small proportion of serving soldiers suffer PTSD, it normally happens to people between 12 and 15 years after the event. The more talking and understanding that happens now the better it is for them  in future years. 

[Comment From humpty: ]
are you and ‘chris ryan’ friends?

Andy McNab: Yes we’re friends – I havent seen him in about ten years! 

[Comment From Anna-karin: ]
Hi Andy,How do you come up with all the stories to your books?

Andy McNab: I come up with them in many different ways. I travel a lot, through private military companies you become aware of things that are going on that most people dont know about. And I was once told to at least cut out three articles from newspapers a week and keep them so I tried that for about a year but it didn’t work! (I kept losing them!) So now I hit all the weird websites – conspiracy theories you name it!

[Comment From Mason: ]
Do you think the latest round of defence cuts, like the proposed RAF cutbacks, are decisions made with our best interests at heart, or just with financial savings in mind?

Andy McNab: Mason I think its a mixture of both, the plain facts are that whatever government we have will only have a certain amount of money to give out to different departments and then they have to decide what to do with it. As a frequent visitor to the MoD I know that there’s not one man or woman working there that sits down and says ‘we wont give the troops this’ they have a limited budget and they do the best they can with it.

[Comment From josie: ]
Care to comment on some of the controversies surrounding Bravo Two Zero? In particular Vince Phillips. 

Andy McNab: Well there are none. The fact is it all gets changed through the media and conjecture. Vince was a professional soldier who was killed on the job. 

[Comment From Faith: ]
Did you find Frank and Nish’s suicides harder to deal with than say Al’s death – because at least he died doing his job?

Andy McNab: Yes Faith I did. Because once Frank became a priest I naurally assumed that he was there to take on everybody elses troubles and forgot he had some of his own. And it was a nightmare to see Nish fall from greatness into such a state that he just wanted to kill himself.

[Comment From Andy Y: ]
Big fan of all your books. As many of the characters Nick Stone gets close to are killed off, are there any plans for him to keep long-term family relationship. Often his struggle between ‘ordinary’ life and ‘work’ is really interesting and wrote well.

Andy McNab: Of course not! If Nick Stone starts getting stable relationships he might start becoming part of the real world! Which he’s more scared of than what he does, however in Exit Wound there’s the possibility of a shag later on!

[Comment From sean: ]
what do you consider your biggest achievement?

Andy McNab: My biggest achievement is getting badged, joining the SAS. 

[Comment From Stacey: ]
Will you ever reveal your true identity? 

Andy McNab: I dont know Stacey. The fact is its not protecting me its protecting the undercover policemen that I worked with who still live with their families in Northern Ireland. 

[Comment From Anna-karin: ]
How much of Nick Stone is you? 

Andy McNab: All the good bits! 

[Comment From Peter: ]
Hi Andy. I was in Afghanistan about 15 years ago, pre-Taliban, when the country was ‘ruled’ by a variety of warlords. Two things struck me. Every one seemed to have an AK-47. And allegiances were more tribal than national. Do you honestly think a stable government can be imposed on the country? Or do you think it will just revert to type – fragmented and lawless? 

Andy McNab: Its very possible. But there is a huge push now in the country to bring the warlords on side. Hopefully its going to get as close to a stable counry as possible because if we lose Afghanistan there’s a possibility we’ll then lose Pakistan and then we’ve got real problems. 

[Comment From Cathy R: ]
Hi. Are there any particular authors that you enjoy reading? 

Andy McNab: I’ve just read Stavros Flatley’s How to be a little bit Greek – its hilarious! The book I’ve really enjoyed this year is Blink by Chadwell.

[Comment From Paul: ]
Thanks for Nick Stone and the fantastic books relating you personal experiences, I’m a big fan and will carry on looking forward to each book. Cheers..

Andy McNab: Thanks Paul! 

[Comment From Fiona: ]
Do you miss being in the action yourself?

Andy McNab: I dont miss the action, I always knew that it was going to end after 22 years anyway. Now being on the board of one of the private military companies I get to do all the good stuff. Whether it’s two weeks in Kabul wearing a suit and having meetings or being invited by infantry battalions to fly south and join them in the forward operating bases.

[Comment From Neil_Derby: ]
Huge fan of your books Andy – What have been your lowest and highest points throughout your life?

Andy McNab: My lowest point was in the interrogation centre in Baghdad and the highest point was getting badged, it doesnt sound that exciing but it meant a lot to me. 

[Comment From Dave: ]
Andy, love the books, whats your take on the current way the MOD allocate resources to the armed forces? Is there really a situation that the “enemy” are equiped better than our lads and lasses? 

Andy McNab: Dave that’s utter crap. Wherever you’ve read that just rip it up! Our infantry have never been better equipped and protected. I’ve been there I’ve seen it, I’ve seen soldiers take rounds into their body armour and get back up again. The SA80 rifle years ago was crap but that was then and this is now. 

[Comment From Mason: ]
Thank you for comments Andy. I am particulary concerned about Britains power projection ability, and wonder if you thought our strategists worked on a narrow bandwidth, e.g. making our forces a leaner, more agile force which can react to insurgent type fighting, but forgetting before 9/11 we had a force capable of fighting classic type wars. I am worried that the international picture may change fairly rapidly, as you pointed out Pakistan/India and maybe Iran are all ‘hotspots’ and our ability to fight effective actions if needed. Your thoughts?

Andy McNab: Its a continuous problem. The fact is we are a small armed force. The problem is that continuous governments always want to project their power byond the militaries capability. The US rates us at about 9th or 10th in military ratings. If we want a force that can punch above its weight the government must put in the finance so we have a quick reaction land army but at the sme time being able to fight conventional actions alongside our allies. It’s very unlikely we’d conduct a large scale land operation on our own. 

[Comment From Gary: ]
Hi Andy, just wanted to say hi and thanks for the books. I met you last year in London for your brilliant talk in Chelsea.
Andy McNab: Thanks Gary! I think I’m back in Chelsea next year.
[Comment From Kieran: ]
Andy, I worry about the lack of military experience in the House of Commons and the Cabinet. Do you share that?
Andy McNab: Yes and No Kieran. There are surprisingly more MPs with military experience than you would think from all parties. The problem is that you’ve got two groups, the politicians and the civil service that seem to headbutt each other  trying to get ehat they want out of the situation and the military are at the end of that chain of command. Thats why I like senior commanders who now feel free to bang on the doors and be vocal with the politicians and also with the public. 

[Comment From Alex: ]
Andy, I know you’ve made several visits to troops on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan, so I’d like to know whether media reports about ‘low morale’ are strictly true. Is it as low as we are led to believe, or does it remain high because of what they are accomplishing in these places?

Andy McNab: Morale is high (certainly with the infantry) because what we forget is that these people have joined up to fight and that’s what they’re doing. I’ve been in contacts (fire fights) with 19 year old soldiers screaming out in excitement with a helmet camera on filming it at the same time! The fact is there’s a lot of young men who like fighting and that’s why they’re there. 

[Comment From Peter: ]
Just up in Inverness and had a few pints with a guy serving with the Black Watch. He’s been serving since the First Gulf War and was about to head back to Afghanistan. He had what we Aussies call ‘The Yips’ – convinced his number is up this time. What do you do when your comrades believe that? Talk him out of it? Keep an eye on him? Or avoid him in case he takes you down too?

Andy McNab: You just crack on! Carry on as normal. Everyone at some stage starts to worry about things but every professional soldier knows its not a science. If you’re lucky you’re lucky if you’re not you’re not. There certainly is in special forces the argument is if you dont like it no more get out! But you know what? There’s not that many soldiers getting out at the moment.

[Comment From Jon: ]
Enjoy your books. Have you always envisaged becoming a novelist or did it come about as more of a means of getting difficult/sensitive subject matter off your chest?

Andy McNab: Writing is like everything I’ve done. I was given an opportunity and I tried it out. Thinking if it works great, if it doesn’t I’ll try something else. I feel like I am one of the very fortunate ones who dont dwell too much on stuff. 

[Comment From Rona: ]
Hi Andy, in fiction books, the heroine/love interest always seems to come to a sticky end. How do the women who are going out with/married to SAS menfolk cope? Are they and their families always having to look over their shoulders? 

Andy McNab: No they’re not. They actually live a more stable life than many other military families. That’s because the SAS base will never leave Hereford so the families have a stable life while their husbands are away, there is continuity with schools. And of course many of the wives are local women so they have their families there as back up all the time. 

[Comment From Jonathan Card: ]
Do you like being branded a hero? Do you think you deserve the accolade?

[Times Online: Just another 15 minutes. Keep your questions coming and Andy will try to get to as many as possible.]
Andy McNab: It’s a strange one because if you look at it in a military sense being decorated twice for bravery people in the real world would think you are but certainly the military world looks at it in a different way. My own feelings are I was only doing stuff to get out the shit when those medals were won. My own personal hero is be Harry VC. 

[Comment From Gary: ]
How close are we to seeing Nick Stone on film?

Andy McNab: Nick Stone on film probably 2011 

[Comment From Rona: ]
Hi Andy, you said that you are now advising a pte military company. I’ve read a few bks about the Circuit – what’s your view that the number of private operators will increase because of the military’s increasing reliance on the private industry?
Andy McNab: I’m on the board of a PMC and we work a lot with the American military the fact is for al nations to use PMC’s it works well as there own armies are not taking the casualties, there’s not  the cost of veterans  welfare to consider. The American military are looking at using PMCs as a reconstruction force in places like Afghanistan as a they can go in reconstruct and protect themselves.
[Comment From Linda: ]
A live chat must be hectic, it’s great you wanted to do this Andy. Do it again sometime, please! : -)

Andy McNab: I love em! More live webchats please! I’m sitting here with a brew and a cheese sandwich! Its great!

[Comment From Mason: ]
Thank you for comments again, Andy. The perception is that the SAS is one of the best trained, elite special force groups in the world. I wonder, in the SAS, was there other groups e.g. Navy SEALs, Mossad that you revered, and were deadly in there actions?

Andy McNab: We work a lot with other nations SF and American SF are very good. We as a nation tend to give the American army a hard time as we’re secretly jealous of their numbers and power. In particular Seal Team 6 are stunning! 

[Comment From adrian: ]
How about writing a new series of novels with the main character being a clued-up terrorist? 

Andy McNab: Unfortunately in the commercial world its just not going to happen. The American market wouldn’t accept it. There was a tv comedy in the states about a bumbling terrorist cell that was very funny – but thats the only way you can approach that angle. 

[Comment From Matt H: ]
Which is your favorite Nick Stone book and why? 

Andy McNab: My favourite book is Recoil because I used some of the incidents I was involved with Two Rifles in Basra city in 2007. So it was a lot easier to write! 

[Comment From Bruce: ]
What kind of cheese is in your sandwich?
Andy McNab: Cheddar! Of course! 

[Comment From Rona: ]
Please would you give more talks in London! I know you gave one recently in Gateshead, but that was too far for me! The National Army Museum has a series of Celebrity Talks …

Andy McNab: Yes I’m doing the National Army Museum next year and I’m at the Oxford Union tonight!

[Comment From Simon: ]
If the US rates us at about 9th or 10th in military ratings, who’s occupying 2nd and 3rd spot? I’m amazed we’re considered at best borderline top 10…

Andy McNab: Its not to do with who’s best its to do with fire power. 2nd is China and 3rd is Russia. As a fighting force to do with skill and professionalism the Americans rate us highly so much so we even integrate some of our protocols. 

[Comment From Lee: ]
Is there any other career path you would like to follow?

Andy McNab: Don’t know! The reason I’m on the career path is because I was given the opportunity – I’ll try anything! I’d even go back and do a tour in Afghanistan as a Tom.

[Comment From Gary: ]
thanks for the webchat Andy. Hope your talk goes well and I am looking forward to your talk in Chelsea next year mate. 

[Times Online: Thanks very much for all your questions and thanks to Andy for getting to as many of them as possible in the time we had!] 

Andy McNab: Thanks everyone! 

[Comment From Faith: ]
Thanks for taking the time to chat online Andy.

Andy McNab: No worries!