Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How James Blunt Saved Us From World War III

He questioned US general's order while serving in Balkans

By Tom Peck
Monday 15 November 2010

Kosovo, June 1999. Serbia has withdrawn from the campaign. Hundreds of thousands of refugees wait over the border to return to their homes. A column of 30,000 Nato troops is advancing towards Pristina airfield – a crucial strategic position.

Unexpectedly, the Russian forces, reach the airfield first; Russia, Serbia's patron, is hoping to stake a claim in the occupation. The soldiers are pointing their weapons at the incoming Allied troops. "Destroy!" orders the US general over the radio – instructions from the very top. World War Three is on the cards. Enter crooner James Blunt. Crisis averted.

Blunt was then 25, a captain in the Life Guards and the lead officer at the front of the Nato column. He risked a court martial by refusing to obey those orders from General Wesley Clark to attack the Russian forces.

In a BBC radio interview last night, Blunt said: "I was given the direct command to overpower the 200 or so Russians who were there. I was the lead officer, with my troop of men behind us... The soldiers directly behind me were from the Parachute Regiment, so they're obviously game for the fight.

"The direct command [that] came in from General Wesley Clark was to overpower them," he said. "Various words were used that seemed unusual to us. Words such as 'destroy' came down the radio. We had 200 Russians lined up pointing their weapons at us aggressively ... and we'd been told to reach the airfield and take a hold of it. That's why we were querying our instruction." The end result was a victory for British common sense. "Fortunately," Blunt recalled, "up on the radio came General Sir Mike Jackson [commander of the British forces], whose words were, 'I'm not going to have my soldiers start World War Three.' He told us, 'Why don't we encircle the airfield instead?' And after a couple of days the Russians there said, 'Hang on, we have no food and no water. Can we share the airfield with you?'"

Blunt told John Pienaar, on Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics, that even without General Jackson's intervention he would have refused to carry out that order given by Wesley Clark, who was at that time the Supreme Allied Commander of Nato forces in Europe.

The stand-off lasted two weeks. Russian forces continued to occupy the airport, until eventually an agreement was secured for them to be integrated into peace-keeping duties, while remaining outside of Nato command. The row had seen General Sir Mike Jackson come close to offering his resignation. General Clark was eventually relieved of his position earlier than expected – his boss Hugh Shelton, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, later cited in a public debate "integrity and character issues". He went on to mount an unsuccessful challenge for the US presidential nomination for the Democrats in 2004.

Capt Blount, as he was then known, spent six years in the Army – two more than the minimum he was obliged to serve after taking an Army-sponsored place at Bristol University, where he studied aerospace engineering and sociology. He left the forces in October 2002, after standing guard at the coffin of the Queen Mother at her lying-in-state. He had only been back on civvy street a few months when he recorded his debut album, the soft rock Back to Bedlam, which contained the surprise hit song "You're Beautiful". (Some critics dismissed it as a cruel assault on rock sensibilities).

His song "No Bravery", on the same album and written in Kosovo in 1999, was taken up by the anti-Iraq war movement. Blunt has said he was deeply affected by his service in the Balkans. "For me, if anyone wants to be labelled pro-war, they would be obscene," he said. "War is an absolutely terrible, ghastly thing. I wouldn't bother describing the things we saw."

Gulf Times / Qutar : James Blunt, Press Conference And Signing Ceremony

James Blunt addressing fans in Doha yesterday. He is to perform for the first time in Qatar tonight as part of his global ‘Some Kind of Trouble’ tour 

Pop singer Blunt vows to regale Doha audience 
Publish Date: Tuesday,14 February, 2012, at 12:48 PM Doha Time 

By Peter Townson
Staff Reporter

British pop singer James Blunt yesterday expressed his excitement ahead of this evening’s concert in Doha, saying that he was looking forward to getting to know more about the country during his first visit here.

Blunt is set to perform at the InterContinental Doha beach, with around 4,000 fans expected to attend the Valentine’s Day concert.

During a press conference and signing ceremony before the event, the singer said that he was keen to get to know more about Qatar during his brief stay here.

“I have friends who live in Qatar and so I know a little bit about it from them,” he said, adding “I don’t know much about this place, but I know that my friends are here and they both have an amazing time.”

Blunt is best known for hits such as You’re Beautiful and Goodbye My Lover, which catapulted him to the top of the charts in 2005. Since then he has been a mainstay of the pop music scene, with his acoustic, folk-style pop music proving popular around the world.

The album ‘Back to Bedlam’ which features both of his most famous songs, was the biggest selling album of the ‘noughties’ in the UK, ensuring the singer’s place in pop history.

He said he was in Qatar as part of his worldwide tour for his latest album, ‘Some Kind of Trouble’ which has seen him perform during more than 220 concerts across the globe.

“My music is not necessarily just the stuff you hear on the radio,” he said, explaining that he has brought a band with him to Doha, and promising “a big show.”

“I’m known for some sad slow songs but the concert we give is full of a life, full of energy and I have a blast when I’m on stage – we have a lot of fun,” he said, explaining “but we are totally dependent on the audience being involved otherwise it would just be a dress rehearsal.”

“I don’t actually know which songs I’ll play, but I’ve got plenty to choose from – you’ll have to come to the concert!” he added.
He did promise that he will play his most famous hits, for any fans who might be worried about a complete change in style. Blunt also spoke about the types of music he likes to listen to, referring to some of his favourite musicians.
“I love all kinds of music, and especially music from the 70’s like Elton John, Leanard Cohen, Cat Stevens. Paul Simon, bands like Fleetwood Mac, and David Bowie,” he noted adding that living in Ibiza has also increased his appreciation of dance music and some of the biggest DJ’s at the moment.
Blunt also mentioned the upcoming Yusuf Islam concert in Doha. “I am a great fan of Cat Stevens and a friend of his too,” he said, expressing his disappointment at having to miss his show on Thursday. “I really recommend that you go and see Yusuf in action as he is a phenomenal musician and a huge inspiration to me,” he urged.
Blunt, who served in the British army for six years, said that he would still be a military man if it were not for his career in music.
He expressed his respect for peacekeeping efforts and the importance of such work, before condemning the modern media for trying to highlight the differences between cultures.
“I don’t think it matters what race or religion, what colour what creed, what sex, or what sexuality - I think we share the same hopes and fears and that’s what drives me as a musician,” he said, adding that he feels a motivation to share these experiences with an audience, and to reach “out to people on equal terms.”
This proved a particularly popular sentiment with the crowd of fans who turned out to meet the singer during his signing ceremony, and the friendly, self-deprecating demeanour he displayed throughout is certain to prove a success on the stage this evening. For couples looking for a way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, the singer promises to provide a few memorable moments to enjoy, while his promise of a lively and exciting show will also entertain other members of the audience.

News From James Blunt: Third Time Lucky In Afghanistan

2am departure from RAF Brize Norton (Mon 27 Feb)

By James Blunt (Formerly Capt J H Blount LG)

I am, as I write, nervously seated in an RAF Tristar circling over Dubai. The plane came into service in 1972 - over 40 years ago. It has gone out of service now, with me aboard it, at 33,000 feet.

Our journey had started 13 hours earlier, at 2am from RAF Brize Norton. Unusually for the hour, the Movements Officer was still on duty to oversee our departure, I was informed. We had arrived at the Oxfordshire base by taxi, were escorted across the foggy, orange-lit runway passed the ageing aircraft in which I find myself now, and led into a small waiting room with some coffee, sandwiches and a silent Brigadier reading his Kindle in the corner.

The more important cargo was in the large hall next door - a hundred or so soldiers, who we were accompanying as they deployed to Afghanistan. Looking at them, a memory from a past life flooded over me. I have been here, some 13 years earlier, en route to Kosovo.

Tonight, we flew via Hanover to pick up more soldiers, via Cyprus to refuel and on to our final destination - Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. As we took off on the final leg from RAF Akrotiri, my keyboard player sitting beside me said cheerfully, "Well it looks like you will get there this time! Third time lucky, huh?"

Third time. I have travelled with soldiers en route to Afghanistan three times. I have spent seven full days in the hands of those whose job it is to get men and equipment into battle. I have done so of course unpaid and at the request of the Armed Forces. And every single time, myself and the soldiers I have been travelling with have failed to get there.

The first time, we'd flown from London to Dubai, and sat on a runway for three days while they tried unsuccessfully to fix our broken aircraft or find another. The soldiers I was with said they were very used to it. In a way, they didn't mind - it was three less days being shot at, but for the soldiers who were at the other end being picked up to come home with wives and girlfriends anxiously waiting for them, and until recently, those lost days cut from their official R&R (Rest & Relaxation) allowance, it must have been wildly irritating. And for those soldiers going into battle that day without their buddies who are delayed in Dubai, it must be life-threatening, to the extent that the Special Forces soldiers I was with went online to buy civilian flights into Kandahar with their own money.

My second attempt was at Christmas over a year ago. Snow was putting added pressure on the task of transporting manpower. Check-in had moved, along with the soldiers, from Brize Norton to East Midlands airport, but boarding was initially delayed due to difficulties with loading the packed meals (I struggled to fully understand this, and can't believe it was true. Surely just give the guys their packed meals as they climb the steps? But that was the reason given for the initial delay). When we were eventually bussed across the apron, I saw an old charter plane in the distance and laughed internally at whichever poor buggers were going to end up on it. We did. For seven hours. Of course it didn't work, so a replacement part was sent for and flown in, and we stayed on board because there weren't enough buses to take us to the terminal, so the crew had to stay on board with us, so that when the part had arrived and been fitted and the plane was fixed - the crew had done too many hours and the flight was cancelled. I was told it took the soldiers three days to get into theatre that time. They were paid during this time, by you and I, the taxpayer, and I'm sure they're grateful. But I'm also sure it's not how you and I wanted our tax money spent.

And now here I am, with more soldiers, failing to get to a war we have been fighting like this for 10 years. And although the military says they are under-funded, and more funds have been sent, I have to wonder if the funds are being spent in the right place? Sure, the soldiers are much better equipped, I can see that. But they can be as well dressed as you like sitting waiting on an airfield in the middle of nowhere, but it's not going to scare the Taliban that much. And you can ask me to come and raise (or perhaps lower, in my case) morale as much as you like, but if you can't get them home to see their families on time, you've done that for me.

And so, as I write to you more than six miles above the desert in the Middle East, we learn from the ever-calm Loadmaster that this iconic old aircraft we are in, the same era as the Triumph TR6, that we bought second-hand to get us to the Falklands War in 1982 from British Airways, has got an air leak. It has become very cold and we've put combat jackets and overcoats on, and eventually flown the four hours back to Cyprus to land. The soldiers were led away to a hanger for their overnight stay - this happens often enough that the hanger is pre-prepared as temporary accommodation.

The next day we are led out to a different Tristar which takes off, but soon develops a problem with the undercarriage. It won't close properly and after several attempts, we fly out to sea to dump our fuel before returning to Cyprus. If I'm honest, I'm scared. I don't need to be here. I have a very happy life on a safer kind of tour. Maybe this is why I left the army to inflict you all with my music? Blame the RAF. Right now, I blame Catherine Jenkins (she's on the plane too). For a second day in a row, we're circling in a knackered old plane hoping to get down alive.

And as we land, and say we've had enough, and get a Monarch flight home the next day, leaving a bunch of Great British soldiers sitting on the runway beside two broken planes that should have been decommissioned well over 10 years ago, and as two hundred soldiers sit in Camp Bastion whiling away the hours hoping their wives frustrations aren't boiling over into anger, and as the few thousand remaining soldiers in theatre advance to make contact with an enemy you and I will never meet, in a country I will never go to, at a cost in life and limb to a brave few and vast sums of money to the nation at a time when we hope our institutions are spending money as wisely as possible, I ask what's going wrong? Why can't we deliver people to the front line as required? Have we bought too many fast jets and not enough transport aircraft? Is it down to mis-management of resources, or painfully enacted bureaucracy at senior level? I don't know. I know I can see huge inefficiencies in deploying man-power and huge amounts of money being wasted. The fuel we dumped over the Mediterranean was worth fifty-five thousand pounds at the pumps alone.

I know that every soldier, airman, Non-Commissioned Officer and Officer that I met was professional, hard-working and keen. Every single one was charming and a pleasure to meet. Every single one made me proud to have met them. But every single one was also resigned. Resigned to the fact that someone, somewhere has constructed a vastly expensive system that simply doesn't deliver.

Either that, or they REALLY don't want me to sing to them in Afghanistan.

Broken down in RAF Akrotiri after developing an air leak over Dubai. (Mon 27th Feb)

24 Hours later, we have a new (well, different) 40 year old Tristar.

After takeoff, we had a problem with the undercarriage and had to dump fuel before we could land

Two broken 40 year old Tristars,third-time-lucky-in-afghanistan_119.htm?pg=1&f=all

From The Vaults : James Blunt: Return to Kosovo - Revisiting the Villages

This is why he wrote this song.

No Bravery Lyrics

There are children standing here,
Arms outstretched into the sky,
Tears drying on their face.
He has been here.
Brothers lie in shallow graves.
Fathers lost without a trace.
A nation blind to their disgrace,
Since he's been here.

And I see no bravery, 
No bravery in your eyes anymore.
Only sadness.

Houses burnt beyond repair.
The smell of death is in the air.
A woman weeping in despair says,
He has been here.
Tracer lighting up the sky.
It's another families' turn to die.

A child afraid to even cry out says,
He has been here.

And I see no bravery,
No bravery in your eyes anymore.
Only sadness.

There are children standing here,
Arms outstretched into the sky,
But no one asks the question why,
He has been here.
Old men kneel to accept their fate.
Wives and daughters cut and raped.
A generation drenched in hate
says, he has been here.

And I see no bravery,
No bravery in your eyes anymore.
Only sadness.

[- From : -]

How James Blunt saved us from World War 3

Singer questioned US general's order while serving in Balkans