BRITISH singer James Blunt said his refusal to obey orders from an American general helped avert an international incident, and a potential Third World War.
The You’re Beautiful singer, a former captain in the Life Guards – the senior regiment of the British Army – said in an interview today he risked a court martial by countermanding an order from General Wesley Clark to attack Russian forces.
Blunt, then 25, was in command of British troops ordered to take control of Pristina Airfield in Kosovo in June 1999, during the Balkan conflict.
However, 200 Russian soldiers got there first, and Blunt was asked to remove them.
He said in an interview for BBC radio program Pienaar’s Politics that Col Clark wanted him to “destroy” the Russians.
Blunt, now 36 and a patron of the UK Help for Heroes charity, was at the head of a column of 30,000 NATO troops with his unit.
“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,” he said.
“The direct command [that] came in from General Wesley Clark was to overpower them. Various words were used that seemed unusual to us. Words such as ‘destroy’ came down the radio,” he added.
Blunt, who sometimes kept his guitar strapped to the side of his tank, also said that “we had 200 Russians lined up pointing their weapons at us aggressively … and we’d been told to reach the airfield and take ahold of it. That’s why we were querying our instruction.
“Fortunately, up on the radio came [commander of the British forces] General Mike Jackson, whose exact words at the time were, ‘I’m not going to have my soldiers be responsible for starting World War III.
“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?’”
The musician insisted that even if Jackson had not intervened, he would have refused to carry out the order from Col Clark, who was in overall command.