Former Top British Commanders Tear Into Gordon Brown


Five former heads of the British armed forces have fiercely criticized Prime Minister Gordon Brown's treatment of the military, with one suggesting he treated them "with contempt" Friday.

The five former chiefs of the defense staff -- Michael Boyce, Charles Guthrie, David Craig, Edwin Bramall and Peter Inge -- launched the unusually personal attack during a debate in the House of Lords Thursday.

As lords, all five have the right to speak in Britain's upper parliamentary chamber.

Boyce, who held the job between 2001 and 2003, said he was concerned that defense funding was not high enough to cope with current deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"If you go to the Ministry of defense today, you will find blood on the floor as the defense program is slashed to meet the desperate funding situation," he said.

He renewed his attack early Friday, criticizing Brown for failing to appoint a full-time defense secretary. The current incumbent, Des Browne, is also Scottish Secretary.

"When you have got people who have been killed and maimed in the service of their government and you put someone at the head of the shop, someone who is part-time, that sends a very bad message," he told BBC television.

"And that is the message I get back from our soldiers, our sailors and our airmen. They feel insulted, they feel that he is treating them with contempt."

Guthrie said Thursday that Brown "must take much of the blame for the very serious situation in which we find the services today."

He accused him of being unsympathetic to the forces in his former job as finance minister.

And Radley asked if it was not "immoral to commit forces that are underprepared and ill-equipped for their task."

Browne defended the government's position on BBC radio Friday, saying Britain had the second-highest defense budget in the world "in real terms."

He said that the five were "not involved in these day-to-day issues, as I am" and, on his two jobs, added: "This is not an issue that has ever been raised with me by a serving soldier."

Britain currently has more than 6,000 troops in Afghanistan -- a figure that will rise to around 7,700 by the end of the year -- and around 5,500 in Iraq.

Prime minister Brown announced last month that Iraq troop numbers would be cut by more than half to 2,500 by early next year as Iraqis assumed control of Basra province in the south.

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