Saturday, 24 September 2011


This week the President of Iran made a great public show of bringing about the release of two Americans, Shane Bauer (29) and Josh Fattal (29) who have been held in single cell custody for the past 26 months, but not of course before securing bailment of $1 million (£644,000).

This was meant to coincide with the Iranian President's speech to the UN General Assembly where, as is his practice, he castigates the West and seeks to belittle all who oppose Iran, but usually singling out the USA and the UK.

For a few moments, one is left to consider the possibility that this people is perhaps trying to come to terms with living in the 21st Century - a task rendered almost impossible by its insistence that its religious creeds must be read and acted upon in exactly the manner in which they were written and laid down 1,500 years ago. To them this is the 'will of Allah' and they cannot comprehend that western civilisation sees this as utterly barbaric and repugnant, and most definitely an affront to the current Arab Spring.

Strong words?

Yes, but deliberately chosen.

In this same week we read the international reports of the public execution of a 17 year old boy, Alizeera Molla-Soltani, for the murder in July of Ruhollah Darlashi, an athlete and who, "The Times" of London reports in an article by Martin Fletcher on Thursday 22 September 2011 as "Iran's strongest man."

We read that Alizeera Molla-Soltani was hanged before dawn in front of a crowd of thousands, in the town of Karaj, a few miles from Tehran. Martin Fletcher writes that eye witnesses reported that this boy was crying aloud, calling for his mother and begging for forgiveness before being hoisted by a crane by means of a noose around his neck. As can be expected with this benighted country, some in the crowd cursed him, while others chanted Allahu akbar [God is greatest].

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has denounced this execution, in the words of the FCO Minister Mr Alistair Burt, as "inhumane' and 'abhorrent'. I would have said it was inhuman. Mr Burt commented that death by suspension strangulation was a punishment with no place in [this] modern world.

That, I think, is putting it mildly.

I meet Iranians here. They are pleased to be living in the UK. It is why they are living here. Others worryingly surmise that such methods should be adopted here. Thankfully, the one or two who say such things are too few to warrant serious consideration, though that does not stop me from giving them some good old-fashioned advice.

Let us be in no doubt that Iran remains a very serious threat to global peace, as too does Syria.

Whether or not this young man committed murder or was, as has been suggested by some, acting only in self-defence and happened to get the better of a popular public figure is irrelevant. Simply put, you do NOT execute people who have not even attained the age of 18. Neither do you use different calendars, in this case the lunar calendar, to overcome that problem. In short, you do not execute people.

A society that goes about justice in the barbaric manner that we have seen this week is unfit to occupy a place at the UN General Assembly. It is a pariah state. It is putting into effect methods of killing that the Nazis used; but of course its president denies that there ever was a Holocaust.

No. Any nation that allows itself to be ruled and dictated by religious leaders of whatever religion is a nation that is unfit for involvement in international affairs, international trade and international assistance.

Ian Bradley Marshall

Friday, 23 September 2011


Earlier this week, it was reported that The Royal British Legion was being forced to agree not to attend certain areas and main street shops because members of those particular communities found the concept of our national Poppy Appeal not in accord with their own stated beliefs and outlook on life.

No part of the British Isles, and certainly no part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, should be a 'no go area' for the Nations' Poppy Appeal. Whether we recognise it or not, we are fighting a vicious, lethal and ruthless war against terrorism. All of our Armed Forces are engaged in this war. We, at home, in the safety of these islands, have little comprehension of what active service means. Military families know only too well what this means. And they demonstrate every day a resolve and stoicism that is the embodiment of the British People. We are a peace-loving people, and with a remarkable ability to help less fortunate communities in far off lands, whether in the Middle East or in Eastern Europe, to build up their own democratic freedoms but that dovetail with their own, not our, culture. That last point is vitally important to understand, and indeed has been highlighted by the Prime Minister over the last two days, both in Mr Cameron's Inaugural Address to the United Nations General Assembly and also to the Canadian Parliament.

The National Poppy Appeal is one of the most important charity events of the year. And it always will take precedence whilst we remain a Nation at war (and I refer here to the Nation in the singular i.e. the United Kingdom); and when the Nation is at peace, the National Poppy Appeal moves back but one pace to second position, never further than that, because we remain indebted to our armed forces all our lives. And this indebtedness is reflected through the way in which we care, as a people, for those who have lost limbs or suffered other wounds which totally change their lives, but also for the families of the Fallen.

Silly people will poppy around with silly ideas. They will look at the situation in the heat of the moment, make a judgment and take a course of action that, if they had but paid a little attention to history, had been a little more investigative, a little more searching in their reasons for making that judgment, they would have come to a different conclusion.

In my last article I came down very heavily upon the Military in respect of the use of torture. I reported the shame I felt that I had held the Queen's Commission. As I carried on through the week it quickly became apparent that it was not right to apply that shame across the board, across all of our armed forces, because the criminal behaviour of a small group of soldiers did not accurately reflect our Services.

The National Poppy Appeal must be allowed to go unhindered. If you happen to be sympathetic with the causes of the Taliban, then bluntly, the UK is not the place where you should expect to live. If you are angered, and rightly so, by those few soldiers who participated in torture, then make your representations, but do not attack all the servicemen and women who collectively have guaranteed our freedom here since World War One.

If you are one of the politicians who has decided to support a poppy appeal no go area, then I respectfully ask that you re-examine the facts, keep your own thoughts to yourselves and apply the lessons of history.

And if you are still not sure, then get on the Internet, look at the programmes by the BBC, ITV, Channel 5, Channel 4 etc about the incredible bravery of those soldiers who have lost limbs. Be inspired by them. And let your children see them.

Ian Bradley Marshall

Thursday, 8 September 2011


Followers will be well aware of my unstinting pride in our Armed Forces. In my forthcoming book, "Meanderings", out this month, one of the anchor points is the opening piece - "Helmand".

In my last dispatch I wrote of the difficulties our troops face as they try to return to Civvy Street, especially when that comes about through defence cuts and forced redundancy.

I held the Queen's Commission, and my military service is one of the most prized parts of my life. This morning's judgment in the Iraq Inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa and conditions and treatment of those who were held in captivity with him, is an indictment upon our Armed Forces.

I grew up in the long shadow of the Second World War where, as each year unfolded, more evidence of horrendous atrocities by evil regimes around the world (the Axis Powers) was released and leaving us all feeling that we had been absolutely right in fighting that war and being uncompromising in making it clear that surrender was without negotiation. It was unconditional surrrender of those powers on all fronts and in both military and civil life, or otherwise face annihilation. I well recall reading Field Marshal Montgomery's uncompromising response to the Germans when they attempted to negotiate terms.

70 years on I now read and see first hand evidence of atrocities inflicted upon hooded and hand-cuffed prisoners by young soldiers, those set to guard their captors and charged to keep them in safe custody.

It is simply unacceptable, and youthful age is no excuse. These soldiers must be brought to justice. But it does not stop there. It is clear that there has been a major breakdown in service discipline by the Officers and NCOs who have an absolute duty to ensure the safety of those held in safe custody.

It is totally unacceptable to use physical force to exact information.

These officers and NCOs too must be brought to justice. Let them feel the full weight of the law, not the protective law of the Courts Martial, but the full weight of the civil law, the awareness that the population is taking matters to the highest degree - bringing these people to trial before the Crown Court.

Today, I am thoroughly ashamed that I held the Queen's Commission and that I have been granted a courtesy rank in retirement.

It is now for Parliament and High Command to take action.

There is one comforting thought. In our democracy, the military, regardless of rank and status, answer directly to Her Majesty the Queen, through Parliament. It is Parliament that has the final say in constitutional and military matters.

The Chiefs of Staff of all three Services must now take the most robust action to restore the Nations' confidence in our Armed Forces, send a message to those on the front line to maintain the highest democratic standards, and to understand that most important legal principle of our judicial system, the anchor point if you will, of which we were reminded by the Late Lord Denning 30 years ago when he quoted Thomas Fuller's ruling in 1733:

"Be you ever so high, the law is always above you."

Ian Bradley Marshall

Friday, 2 September 2011


This week has seen the deaths of two more soldiers in Afghanistan.

This week has seen the Union Flag lowered for the last time over the soon to be Royal Town of Wootton Bassett and handed to Royal Air Force Brize Norton which has once again become fully operational and will receive the repatriation of the Fallen.

This week has also seen yet another tranche of defence cuts with 2,000 RAF and Army personnel losing their jobs and, bluntly, their careers. All of us I think understand that the defence deficit inherited from the last Administration is unsustainable. It has to be dealt with and that means reducing our armed forces to the smallest it has been in living history.

Wars and insurrections will continue, and the UK will be expected to make its full contribution to helping the trouble spots of the world to be returned to peace, good order and, above all, freedom. Some of those trouble spots have not experienced the freedoms we enjoy, in several hundred years. So it will be tough, and the brunt will be taken by the dedicated men and women of all our Armed Forces on Sea, Land and Air.

It is widely presumed that because our forces are so highly trained, then the defence cuts will not really greatly impinge upon them. They will return to civilian life and be immediately welcomed with open arms by employers desperate to take on people with such high levels of dedication, motivation, discipline and expertise.

Sadly that is not the case.

Leaving the Services, especially when it was not even envisaged, comes as a huge shock to the system and it often brings with it the break up of the family unit, broken marriages, broken homes and single parent children who suddenly wonder why it is that the protection they naturally felt when 'dad was in the army' has suddenly stopped, and why 'I can only see dad now every other weekend', and 'I only know that when dad lost his job in the air force, he and mum stopped talking and instead started fighting.'

I do not exaggerate.

I remember too in the legal profession 12 years ago being taken aside by a bumptious partner to be told that my method of management was upsetting the department. He explained in a very pious, priestly way that "here we are all one happy family and we like to work together." This solicitor was well into political correctness - big time! I understood but argued that I am working with my department. We were a team. But I didn't suffer fools gladly, especially secretaries who were taking their employers for a ride.

What made me laugh was that the very principles he told me to not apply, he applied himself.

Civvy Street is naturally suspicious of people who have served in the armed forces. It is now 66 years since the end of the Second World War, and as a Nation we are no longer used to military service. As a civil population we have had 66 years of peace within these islands, excepting of course the Troubles in Northern Ireland and most recently the Riots in England.

I do not like listening to a report, last evening on the main BBC news, that an RAF officer, having learned yesterday that he was being made redundant, had to be taken from his office because he was in a state of shock and could not be left alone, for fear that he might try and harm himself.

In the same week we demand that our armed forces give exemplary duty on the battlefield. Reader, they are!

We must help them to acclimatise to Civvy Street again. And it's tough.

In Civvy Street the camaderie and team spirit of the company, platoon, squadron, deck or ship's company is frankly non-existent.

In Civvy Street it is more like the scrap on the international trading floors of self-seeking investment bankers and traders who think only of number one.

In the armed forces you are taught not to think of number one but of everyone of whom you have now become an inextricable part. You think of everyone else around you. Then and only then do you think of yourself. And if you are an officer then you darned well set the highest example and lead from the front, never asking those within your command to do that which you wouldn’t hesitate to do yourself.

And we see that constantly in the reports and dispatches from the front line; from the reports written by the officers, NCOs, colleagues and friends following the death of a colleague in their Unit.

We are a great Nation and a great people. But let us not forget the demands we make of our armed forces, nor mistreat them when they try to return to civvy street. For in civvy street we are a very poor substitute for how a community should live, work and play together, something that our armed forces know and value only too well.

Ian Bradley Marshall