Friday, 19 November 2010

How Jackson, not Blunt, 'prevented WW3'

I'd just like to point something out.

In a recent interview the singer James Blunt apparently prevented World War III by denying a direct order from SACEUR General Wesley K. Clark.

However, the accounts of General Sir Mike Jackson, and General Wesley K. Clark differ markedly from that of Blunt's.

Clark's account of the confrontation starts four days before, on Thursday the 10th June 1999 when the Russians began to move out of Bosnia toward Pristina. Jackson, the commander of the British troops in Kosovo was made aware of the situation on Friday morning. He had lodged his first concerns by 1400 hrs the same day.

It wasn't until Sunday 13th that Jackson made the seminal statement to Clark: 'Sir, I'm not going to start World War Three for you.' (Clark 2001, 394; Jackson 2008, 272). This demonstrates a lead up of several days before Blunt's account of the event starts. Clark wanted Jackson to place, initially Apaches, and later armoured vehicles, on the runway of Pristina airport to prevent the Russians from landing.

In the time between Friday and Sunday morning, Jackson had expressed his increasing concern at this plan. Clark was aware that Jackon was 'really troubled. He says his mission is strictly humanitarian and peacekeeping; he doesn't have the legal authority in his order to do anything like this... He wants to stay with his approach, just to gain the Russians' confidence...' (Clark 2001, 393). According to Jackson, 'the feeling among my staff was that Clark was shooting from the hip.'  (Jackson 2008, 259). It wasn't until after Jackson had explained to Clark that if it came to it he would disobey the direct orders to block the runway at Pristina, that 4 Armoured Brigade was placed on readiness.

Both memoirs leave the buck stopping at Jackson, when he declared that he would not start WW3 on the morning of Sunday 13th. In the end the Russian planes never landed, and thus no orders sent, or disobeyed. At no point in their accounts do Clark or Jackson mention a Captain James Blount (Blunt is his stage name), or his apparent refusal of orders.

So it appears Blunt has an imperfect memory. Not only that, but the media apparently have an imperfect fact-checking system.

Clark, Wesley K. Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo and the Future of Combat. PublicAffairs, 2001.
Jackson, Mike. Soldier: The Autobiography. Corgi, 2008.

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