By an amazing coincidence I read only yesterday a column written by George Orwell for the Tribune newspaper dated 31 December 1943. It was in reference to 'war guilt' and the surprise that people seem to have when they discover that war is not a crime.
One of the main headlines today is that a Royal Marine has been sentenced to life imprisonment for dispatching an enemy combatant who he was trained specifically to kill.
The column by Orwell and the trial of the Royal Marine has certain parallels and these raise some issues that should be taken into consideration when officers make the decision to prosecute soldiers for killing the enemy.
Before referring to Orwell and this particular case, it is worth looking back briefly at the incident in question.
As I understand it, the accused Marines were sent to check an area for live insurgents after a helicopter had attacked a group of Taliban killers.
They found one who was barely alive and after a few expletives he was dispatched to meet his maker accompanied by a Shakespearean quote from Hamlet.
The incident came to the attention of an officer and it appears the disciplinary process started from there.
Unfortunately the action was caught on a helmet camera and one of the Marines kept a diary which was used in evidence.
The dispatching Marine also made reference to the Geneva Convention which helped seal his fate.
The prosecuting attorney, David Perry QC, stated that the incident was "an execution of a man who was entitled to be treated with dignity and respect and entitled to be treated as any British service man, or service woman, would be entitled to be treated in a similar situation".
I am not sure which planet Mr. Perry QC hails from, but what he doesn't tell us is, that although British service men and women are theoretically entitled to respect and dignity, would they get it from the Taliban?
The Taliban are a formidable, utterly ruthless enemy who, as everyone knows, 'worship death like we worship life', they show no quarter nor do they ask for any in return. They have declared jihad on the west and have threatened to behead all infidels if they do not accept domination by their desert death cult.
The Taliban butcher their own kind with no mercy, including women and children, for partaking of normal activities such as attending school or flying a kite.
The Geneva Convention does not exist for these medieval barbarians therefore one cannot expect to win a war when only one side fights by the rules.
Did Mr. Perry QC take into account the stress these Marines were under after losing seven comrades killed in action and another forty injured, some with life changing injuries?
Does he accept that only people who have experienced the heat of battle can understand what being attacked every single day does to ones mental equilibrium, let alone sustaining ten casualties in a twenty four hour period.
One of the Marines on trial described as "absolutely devastating" seeing some of his comrades killed in action and their body parts hung in trees as trophies by the same Taliban insurgents who are "entitled to be treated with dignity and respect" from the comrades of the fallen.
Would it not have been better to use the effects of these attacks as mitigation, then send the Marines on some R and R for the purpose of de-stressing, rather than putting them on trial for murder?
Training Marines to kill the enemy, then prosecuting them for murder when they do just that because they didn't kill them within the rules, smacks of posturing.
This incident could have been dealt with in-house, instead the 'powers that be' chose to parade it on the international stage; this show trial has the effect of burnishing their compassionate. 'progressive' credentials for their masters at the UN.
The lessons that should be learned by military men and women who are sent into harms way are this:
a) Always remember some of your officers will stitch you up if it enhances their 'progressive' reputation on the international stage.
b) If you are going to keep a diary, make sure to keep it well hidden.
c) Switch off the helmet camera and microphones in dodgy situations.
As for George Orwell, he summed up the utter stupidity of the attitude to 'official war'. He demonstrates how a soldier dispatching one enemy outside the rules gets charged with murder but the people responsible for starting the war and killing millions are not guilty of anything.
Tony Blair, who is accused by a growing number of people of starting an illegal war in which hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed, is now laughably, a multi-millionaire peace envoy.
While helmet cameras and diaries have been used in evidence against the Marines, the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, is steadfastly refusing to release documents of communications between Blair, Bush and later Brown, to the Chilcot inquiry.
This inquiry was instituted to determine Blair's justification for the Iraq war. Two previous inquiries were so obviously flawed they were dismissed as pure whitewash.
It would appear that Blair has something to hide and the people have a right to know what it is.
(I was unable to find a link so I will write his quotes as they are classic Orwell).
"Hitler, it appears, has not done anything actionable. He has not raped anybody, nor carried off any pieces of loot with his own hands, nor personally flogged any prisoners, buried any wounded men alive..........in fact he has not done any of the things which enemy nationals are usually credited with doing in war-time. He has merely precipitated a world war which will perhaps have cost twenty million lives before it ends. And there is nothing illegal in that".
He goes on to describe how the Kharkov trials attempted to pin the guilt on Hitler and the rest, for atrocities committed on the Russian front by his subordinates; the fact that there was a trial, proved that Hitler's guilt was not self evident.
"His crime it is implied was not to build up an army for the purpose of aggressive war, but to instruct that army to torture prisoners".
I will conclude with Orwell's own conclusion from December 1943:
" Nevertheless, a world in which it is wrong to murder an individual civilian and right to drop a thousand tons of high explosive on a residential area does sometime make me wonder whether this earth of ours is not a loony-bin made use of by some other planet".
See a previous post on the same subject here.
A quote often attributed to Orwell:ReplyDelete
"We sleep peacefully in our beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf."
Much discussion about this at home, Daniel. Major General Julian Thompson RM (retired) has said today that though he accepts the gravity of the matter we should also remember the circumstances in which these men find themselves - fives years is adequate according to him. Seven Royal Marines had died on that tour and in one instance a marine's body parts were drapped over the branches of a tree by the Taliban.
Thanks for your comment Steve. I think that if we send people to fight an enemy as ruthless as the Taliban on their own turf, we should cut them a little slack.Delete
It would appear that the prosecution didn't take into account the stress of a long deployment, constant attacks, the death of their comrades and the abuse of their remains by the enemy.
They could have put this down to stress and closed the case. In my opinion, the only reason for a show trial on the international stage was to demonstrate to the international 'progressive' community that our chaps follow the rules and fight fair.
The Taliban must be having a good laugh as they plant their IED's and murder their own people.
As an afterthought, it is worth referring to a commentator on my original post reference this subject.Delete
He is an ex-military man who has experienced the heat of battle.
He makes the point that if the Apache helicopter pilot had spotted movement on the ground after raining hell down on the Taliban , then gave another burst to finished him off,(as is often done) he would be guilty of the same offence as the Marine.
This reinforces my opinion that this was a show trial for the benefit of a global audience.
Whilst I don't condone shooting an unarmed man I'm not going to pass judgement on the marine. I will reserve that for our despicable politicians that send our troops into hellish situations to risk their own lives and limbs in a totally pointless conflict. Our political class is made up of a mixture of incompetent self-serving troughers, and treasonous self serving troughers. If there are any decent ones I've yet to find out who they are.ReplyDelete
Its an interesting debate and as usual I find it difficult to disagree with what you say.ReplyDelete
Your views on our politicians mirror mine, and I suspect millions of others. They really are the lowest of the low.
Daniel @ 5:54:ReplyDelete
'This reinforces my opinion that this was a show trial for the benefit of a global audience.'
No love lost between the Royal Marines and the RMP (Royal Military Police/SIB) after this pantomime, I can tell you. This, decorated, sergeant had done tours in Iraq and I seem to remember an incident once when seven RMP were murdered by the local ragheads.
What people forget is he'll be reduced to the ranks and dishonourably discharged, which means he'll lose his pension. Only then will he start his porridge. Come the revolution we'll give him an absolute pardon and reinstate his rank and pension. I hate politicians.
Politicians are despicable opportunists who are not fit to clean the muck of this Marine's boots. His treatment is shameful.Delete
I hope you are right and at some point he will be pardoned and reinstated.
I am livid, so I will confine myself to one comment:ReplyDelete
The QC is a first-class vagina.
I know how you feel Roger but vagina's have their uses, this piece of crap does not.Delete
I can't believe a worthless turd like this QC can speak about a serving soldier in the way he did. I know who I would want watching my back.
Two small points if I may; 1). I don't think that a sentence has yet been passed, and 2). I very, very much doubt that ANY serving RMP NCO would want to have done this but, bear in mind that the HEAD of the Army said that there must be no mercy!!!!!ReplyDelete
Your comments are welcome here any time, sometimes a wise head is needed to stop us getting ahead of ourselves.ReplyDelete
If the sentence has not been passed yet then hopefully common sense and public opinion will prevail.
I thought about your second point and I was unable to work out what a RMP NCO could possibly get out of a case like this.
I take the point made earlier that the Marine didn't help himself but If the head of the army said that about a soldier on active service, then he is a disgrace.