Last US combat brigade exits Iraq - Give Tony Blair credit for a truly magnanimous gesture
The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, began crossing by land into Kuwait in the early hours of Thursday [19 August 2010], a military spokesman said.Full story: BBC - Last US combat brigade exits Iraq - Thursday, 19 August 2010; Last updated at 09:43 - excerpt:
Some 50,000 US troops will remain until the end of 2011 to advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests.
A further 6,000 support troops will be in Iraq until the end of the month, when US combat operations will end.
State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said the US involvement in Iraq was far from over, but that it would be less intrusive and more civilian focused.
"We are ending the war ... but we are not ending our work in Iraq. We have a long-term commitment to Iraq," he told MSNBC.
The 50,000 soldiers who will remain will be armed, but will only use their weapons in self-defence or at the request of the Iraqi government.
Analysis- - -
BBC News, Baghdad
US policies early on opened the door to al-Qaeda setting up a branch in Iraq. An insurgency grew, a sectarian conflict - all this directly or indirectly because the Americans disbanded the entire Iraqi armed forces in 2003. An American soldier crossing the border said "We've won, it's over." Well, no and no.
There isn't really an Iraqi government, there is a transitional Iraqi government. The armed forces are running themselves. General Zebari, the chief of staff of the Iraqi army said the other day that it was premature for the Americans to leave by the end of next year.
The country does not collapse because there is not a government, but it is a situation in which instability is more likely to grow. Al-Qaeda in Iraq have been pretty active, there was an appalling bomb in Baghdad just two days ago. Some analysts believe they are growing stronger again.
Tony Blair to donate proceeds of his memoirs to help rehabilitate injured personnel
From The Royal British Legion's website - Monday, 16 August 2010:
The Royal British Legion is pleased to announce Tony Blair will be donating all of the proceeds from his forthcoming memoirs, A Journey, to the Battle Back Challenge Centre, a Legion funded project that will provide state-of-the-art rehabilitation services for seriously injured Service personnel.- - -
The Legion has now committed £25m over 10 years to support the MoD’s Personnel Recovery Centre (PRC) programme which was announced earlier this year. The charity’s funding support covers the running of the 4 PRCs and all the capital and civilian running costs of the Battle Back Challenge Centre - a major part of the programme which aims to help seriously injured personnel using sport and outdoor activities to help physical rehabilitation and confidence building. The innovative project will help injured service personnel fulfil their potential and get back to active duty or civilian life.
The Royal British Legion’s Battle Back Challenge Centre is due to open in summer 2012. The Legion expects that most injured personnel who are able to return to active duty will go through the Battle Back Centre as part of their recovery. The Centre, which will be open to personnel across the Armed Forces, will provide accommodation and a state-of-the-art gym and training facility.
Chris Simpkins, Director General of the Royal British Legion, said:
"The Legion is delighted to accept this very generous donation which gives an excellent start to our fundraising target of £12m for the Battle Back Challenge Centre and a total of £25m as our contribution to the provision of the world class service for injured personnel for the next 10 years. The culture of the Centre will very much be about what users of the service can do rather than what they can't but some of the servicemen and women are likely to need the Legion's support for the rest of their lives. Mr. Blair's generosity is much appreciated and will help us to make a real and lasting difference to the lives of hundreds of injured personnel."
A spokesman for Tony Blair said:
"Tony Blair decided on leaving office that he would donate the proceeds of his memoirs to a charity for the Armed Forces as a way of marking the enormous sacrifice they make for the security of our people and the world. The Royal British Legion is just such a cause.
"In making this decision, Tony Blair recognises the courage and sacrifice the armed forces demonstrate day in, day out. As Prime Minister he witnessed that for himself in Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone and Kosovo. This is his way of honouring their courage and sacrifice.
"We have been consulting with a number of people and organisations to decide the best support he can give. There is one project consistently highlighted: The Royal British Legion’s Battle Back Challenge Centre.
"As Tony Blair said to the House of Commons on his last day in office:
"'I believe that they [the Armed Forces] are fighting for the security of this country and the wider world against people who would destroy our way of life. But whatever view people take of my decisions, I think that there is only one view to take of them: they are the bravest and the best.'”
Give Tony Blair credit for a truly magnanimous gesture
From telegraph.co.uk blogs
By Con Coughlin*
Monday, 16 August 2010
*Con Coughlin, the Telegraph's executive foreign editor, is a world-renowned expert on the Middle East and Islamic terrorism. He is the author of several critically acclaimed books. His new book, Khomeini's Ghost, is published by Macmillan.
Tony Blair answers questions at the Iraq Inquiry in January (Photo: Reuters)
His detractors will inevitably call it Tony Blair’s “blood money”. But personally I applaud the former prime minister’s magnanimous decision to donate all the proceeds from his forthcoming memoirs to a sports centre for badly injured soldiers.
Whatever you might think of Mr Blair, he always had the courage of his convictions when it came to defending our freedoms, whether it was confronting genocidal maniacs like Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, or tackling the modern curse of Islamist terrorism. Mr Blair went to war not because he was trigger happy, but because he believed it was the right thing to do. As a result hundreds of British service personnel have been killed or suffered serious injury, a burden that weighs heavily on Mr Blair’s conscience.
It is a measure of the man that, despite the huge amount of money that he will receive from publication of A Journey next month, he is donating all of it to the Royal British Legion, the biggest single donation the organisation has received in its history.
Cynics will claim that Mr Blair is making the donate to assuage his feelings of guilt over leading the nation during so many conflicts. But I prefer to take at face value that he has taken this decision as his way of honouring the courage and sacrifice of all those who have fought in Blair’s wars.
Tony Blair's memoirs A Journey will be released on September 1, 2010
Pre-order now. Dispatched from and sold by Amazon
Tony Blair to donate proceeds of memoirs to Royal British Legion’s Battle Back Challenge Centre
From The Office of Tony Blair - Monday, 16 August 2010
Iraq Inquiry Rebuttal Service From the Independent's John Rentoul (scroll to end of each page and click on "Previous 10" and keep scrolling to reach the beginning)