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The Journal: MoD cannot be allowed to take cover.

THE Government has, in recent months, become extremely sensitive to any suggestion that our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are not properly equipped.

Yesterday's decision by a High Court judge elevated the issue on a whole new level. Mr Justice Collins - in a test case over the death in Iraq of Pte Jason Smith - ruled that a soldier did not lose "all protection" just because he was sent to a battlefield.

Soldiers sent into combat, he said, were subject to the Human Rights Act and should have the right equipment.

The Ministry of Defence, which is to appeal against the decision, believes it is "impossible" to afford to soldiers on active service outside their bases the benefits of the Act.

The fact is that, in the chaos and brutality of armed conflict, that is probably a correct assessment of the situation.

But this case is not about the minute by minute, life or death, situations which our service people accept as potentially part of their job.

This case is about giving them the right tools - offensive or defensive - to do that job. It is about preparation, technology, training and expense - before the shooting starts.

And that is where political sensitivities are at their most acute at the moment.

The campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have been punctuated by complaints about equipment.

We are now, sadly, in a period where a equipment issues are regularly being raised at inquests.

The Ministry of Defence cannot be allowed to win an argument which is based on the argument that the "chaos of war" absolves it from properly equipping those tasked with doing a very dangerous job.
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Title Annotation:Leaders
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 12, 2008
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