British PM grilled over military cuts at Iraq robe
LONDON: Prime Minister Gordon Brown today faced allegations that he under-funded Britain’s military costing soldiers’ lives when he was finance minister, in a grilling at the inquiry into the Iraq war.
Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2003 when then premier Tony Blair took British forces into the invasion alongside the United States.
Witnesses to the inquiry, including the defence minister at the time of the invasion, Geoff Hoon, have said the military lacked sufficient funding and equipment for years before the war.
Adding to the pressure, a former chief of the defence staff has alleged British soldiers’ lives were lost in Iraq and Afghanistan because Brown turned down pleas for better equipment.
General Charles Guthrie, who led the armed forces from 1997 to 2001, told Friday’s edition of The Times: “Not fully funding the army in the way they had asked... undoubtedly cost the lives of soldiers.
“He should be asked why he was so unsympathetic towards defence and so sympathetic to other departments.” The former head of special forces, Lieutenant General Graeme Lamb, also weighed in against Brown, telling the Daily Telegraph British troops were deprived of the right equipment to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The families of soldiers killed in combat have already asked why the government did not equip troops with more helicopters and more robust vehicles which could resist roadside bombs.
Brown has insisted that spending on defence is sufficient, but his appearance before the inquiry in London is fraught with risk ahead of a general election widely expected to take place in May.