Tuesday 5 September 2006

Gone Awol

It really is quite bizarre but, now that the reality has been acknowledged, it is safe for the media – in this case The Daily Telegraph - to jump on the bandwagon.

Thus it is that Richard Westmacott's story on the loss of a soldier in Afghanistan, ambushed by a suicide bomber while riding in a "Snatch" Land Rover (illustrated), is headed: "Bombers target our soldiers on patrol in lightly armoured Land Rovers".

With the death yesterday of two more soldiers in Iraq, also riding in "Snatch" Land Rovers, this invites another story from the Telegraph, written by Oliver Poole with a dateline of Basra. And the headline here is: "The vulnerability of troops on roads".

All of a sudden, therefore, the fact that the "Snatch" Land Rovers are inadequate is the perceived wisdom - hence so many starting to write about it. Poole's story thus starts: "The two British soldiers killed in southern Iraq yesterday were patrolling in a lightly armoured Land Rover."

But why you just know that Poole, like his colleagues, is simply trotting out a mantra – with no semblance of understanding – is the stock paragraph which is appearing in various guises in virtually every newspaper where "lightly armoured" Land Rovers are mentioned. This goes as follows:

Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, has announced that 300 tougher armoured vehicles, mainly designed (sic) Pinzgauers, and US Cougars, will be purchased for use in Iraq and Afghanistan but they will not be available to the end of the year.
The point, of course, is that even Des Browne has admitted that the Pinzgauers are no better armoured than the "Snatch" Land Rover and, by virtue of their flawed design, probably offer less in the way on mine protection.

But that does not trouble the likes of Oliver Poole. It has entered the collective brain of the media establishment that Pinzgauers are "tougher" armoured vehicles, and that is the way they will be described – even though they are coffins on wheels.

Just at a time when a responsible, knowledgeable media should be putting the boot in to the government, in an attempt to stop the dangerous machines being sent to Afghanistan – when serious numbers of troops will be killed if they are used – all we get in a new conventional wisdom.

When – and I do mean when – we see troops slaughtered unnecessarily in these dangerous machines, the media will no doubt then apply the descriptor "lightly armoured" to Pinzgauers as well. After the event will this become the even newer conventional wisdom. But, at a time when it really matters and lives could be saved, the media has gone AWOL, along with what passes for its brains.