The Breaking of the Military Covenant

Following the weekend run of stories on the medical neglect of British soldiers injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Independent on Sunday has published an open letter to the Prime Minister. Politicians, leading figures in the arts and entertainment, and relatives of dead soldiers have put their names to it. Signatories include the playwright Harold Pinter, campaigner Bianca Jagger, Sir Menzies Campbell, leader of the Liberal Democrats, and MPs Peter Kilfoyle and Ben Wallace.

The letter is reproduced below via MFAW

To sign the letter write to [email protected]

Dear Prime Minister

We the undersigned believe that the military covenant is a cornerstone of our democracy, a mutual obligation between the nation, the armed forces, and every serviceman and woman. It is a common bond of identity, loyalty and responsibility that has sustained the armed

forces – and the country – throughout an often difficult history. In practice, this means that governments make the decisions, and the armed forces implement them. In return, the armed forces have:

* the right to expect any war to be lawful;

* the right to have adequate resources to carry out the tasks the

politicians demand of them;

* the right to be properly cared for in the event of injury;

* the right to know that, in the event of their death, their families

will be looked after properly.

This is a terrible war that has led to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians being killed, maimed or displaced. At best, the legality of the war is dubious. Britain’s hard-pressed armed forces have been denied the support they require; in some circumstances, service personnel have paid with their lives because of this failure to make required equipment available.

Accommodation for many of the armed forces and their families back home is, as General Sir Mike Jackson, former chief of the general staff, says, “frankly shaming”. Military hospitals in this country have been closed while they have never been more essential, and wounded soldiers evacuated from the battlefield suddenly find themselves on civilian wards and at risk of physical or verbal attack from members of the public.

Servicemen and women are receiving insufficient treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, and many are desperately ill, out of work, homeless, and even suicidal. We also believe that the Government is failing properly to look after the British widows and the children left behind.

We believe that the military covenant is broken, and that you have neglected the young men and women who carry out your orders in our name. At a time when the country is asking so much of our overstretched forces, it is failing to play fair by them. In this, you have prime responsibility, and you should at the very least meet the families of the bereaved to discuss their concerns. We call on you to reconsider your approach towards our military personnel, to restore the vital covenant, and to deliver to our men and women the just and proper treatment they deserve.