- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2005

LONDON — The British army is in danger of losing its reputation as a “highly respected British institution” because it is being forced to recruit soldiers from a “morally corrupt and dysfunctional” society where young men idolize foul-mouthed footballers, one of the army’s most senior officers has warned.

Maj. Gen. Graeme Lamb branded many recruits as “cocky and arrogant and brought up on a diet of football [soccer] brats and binge drinking … who are not educated in and able to recognize self-discipline.”

His stark assessment came in a speech to senior infantry officers about the war in Iraq. He said accusations of prisoner abuse against soldiers could fatally undermine the army.

“We are in very real danger of losing our place in society as a highly respected British institution, an institution built on over two centuries of bloody investment and one which today stands virtually alone in the eyes of this and many other nations. … This trust, this underlying admiration, is today under direct and sustained attack,” he said.

“If we lose this trust — like parts of the medical profession, the political parties, the police and even more recently the Catholic Church — the road back is simply blocked. Heed the warning, the road back if trust is lost will be blocked for the better part of my life if not a generation.”

Gen. Lamb, the commander of the army’s 3rd Division, received the Distinguished Service Order, the top military honor, after leading British troops in Iraq from July to December 2003 when the army was under almost daily attack from insurgents.

Sources said Gen. Lamb’s comments, made to the Infantry Conference in Warminster, Wiltshire, recently, reflect concern among senior officers, including Gen. Mike Jackson, the chief of the general staff, that the military’s reputation is being eroded by accusations of abuse in Iraq, bullying and sex scandals.

In a reference to abuse in Iraq, Gen. Lamb said: “The officers and men under our command did not live up to the standard we expected of them. Those who failed were empowered when they should not have been, were left unsupervised when we probably knew they should not have, were allowed to embrace and populate a culture that was simply unworthy of us all.”

He appeared to suggest that the problems were exacerbated by having to recruit and retain soldiers of poor quality because of the pressure of military commitments.

“In striving to achieve hard manning targets we retained some of those we might not have, while we recruited from a society which has in the last 30 years become marginally more dysfunctional and increasingly self-interested and in places morally corrupt,” he said.

A Ministry of Defense spokesman said Gen. Lamb’s comments were his personal views.

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