Second army officer quits to reveal ‘human cost of Afghanistan’
Paul Gallagher is a reporter for the Independent and Independent on Sunday having joined the group in 2012. He has previously worked for the European Voice, Daily Mirror and the Observer and been based in Brussels, Belfast, Tokyo and London.
Friday 11 April 2014
A second Army officer has resigned his commission so he can publish an eyewitness account of the human cost endured by the British Army in Afghanistan.
Former reserve Captain Christian Hill has written a book on his experiences with the Media Operations Group, where his main role was to “promote” the war to the public back home and give the appearance everything was under control. The reality, he claims in the book, was often very different.
The Ministry of Defence was sent a copy of Combat Camera in December, when it told Mr Hill that his book, due to be published on 20 April, was subject to a 35-working day clearance review which has to be passed up the chain of command and its publication could be blocked. His request for clarification on any possible national security breaches went unanswered, so he quit his position.
Earlier this week, Dr Mike Martin resigned his position as a Territorial Army Captain to enable him to publish An Intimate War, his own heavily critical account of British operations in Helmand.
Mr Hill told The Independent: “The fact that Dr Martin has had to resign in order to go public with his research does not surprise me in the least. Given that he waited for about a year without MoD feedback, I feel I’ve made the right decision in leaving now.”
Mr Hill, who kept a diary throughout his tour of Afghanistan in summer 2011 and is now a BBC broadcast journalist in Nottingham, said: “My job was to promote the war and make it look like things are under control and getting better.
“By the time I arrived it had got to the stage where each soldier dying in Afghanistan garnered just a line or two in the newspapers or a brief mention on TV. But the same day a soldier died, I might see half a dozen guys coming back to camp with limbs blown off having being caught in an IED-explosion. That was never something we were going to shout from the rooftops to the press but I grew uncomfortable with the fact people back home were not really being made aware of this.”
He continued: “We would never outright lie but there were ways of conveying information while sticking to the key messages and provide information that the Army wanted to get across. ‘Lie’ is too strong a word for it. Our key message was that we were in the process of helping Afghanistan. I wasn’t exactly Goebbels but I was conscious of seeing a number of guys getting badly injured – you never heard so much about that in the press.”
A spokesman for the MoD said it was reviewing Mr Hill’s book when the department heard he had resigned so ended the process.
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