I have more respect for our soldiers than I have for any other group of people on Earth. The British armed forces are the mainstay of our society, they allow us to have a democracy and a freedom that others around the world can only dream of, they keep us safe and they fight without question when asked to by politicians who may have an agenda or may simply be misguided. They truly are men of honour and I salute them. I salute them today as we remember the fallen from WW1 and WW2 and all of the fallen since then up until this day in 2013. We always will remember them and we respect them and all we can offer is simply two minutes of our lives to them to silently mark what they gave in service to their country. So little we can offer to people who have given so much. Silence and thought and remembrance. They are the ultimate example of pure, decent humanity. The fallen soldier. To die for others.
I have never given such service to my country. I foolishly think as a tax payer I am allowed to have a voice and I often scream and shout about everything and nothing and yet other men are dying for my right to be the opinionated asshole that I often am. I have this voice, the one you’re reading now, without killing another man for it, or even pulling on a uniform. I have it because my British brothers and sisters are willing to volunteer and offer themselves as part of a vocation, for safety, security and freedom. Men and women of the Navy, Royal Air Force and Army please know that I am grateful for what you do and I am your servant. I don’t pretend to be anything other than a man who is living in the slip stream of your selfless courage and duty that you freely give to your country.
And I offer all of that, sincerely, with gratitude, before I dare write another word. That is because I want to write about Marine A.
I cannot ever understand the strain and stress that day to day life in the killing fields of Helmand province offered to the unfortunate and brave men and women that served so professionally in the name of peace and freedom. I cannot know what it is like to see your comrades and brothers in arms get injured and die fighting a futile war against a group of suicidal radicals, I cannot know what it is like to see body parts of your brothers hung as trophies in trees along your patrol route as you try to chip away at a region that is full of misguided hatred and radicalised thinking and offer it some heart and some goodness and some stability. I simply cannot do that.
But at the same time I cannot understand why Marine A killed an injured enemy combatant, once he was in the custody of him and his men. An eye for eye doesn’t leave us all blind, it just make you no better than the scum you wish to eradicate. And I know I cannot know the circumstances, the emotions on the ground at a single given point in time after seeing and experiencing horror and hell on Earth. But I know that given those circumstances, a thousands times, to a thousand British soldiers, most of them didn’t act like you did.
I am proud to be British and I am proud to be English and I am proud of our soldiers who have worked tirelessly in a lawless and corrupt country to try and defeat a radicalised enemy that would stop at nothing to kill or be killed in the name of martyrdom.
But I am also tired of the right wing, ill-judged, lack of understanding and the almost sickening blind flag waving by some people who support Marine A and say that he didn’t commit murder. He did.
If a hundred or a thousand British soldiers have been in a similar situation we haven’t heard about it. We haven’t had to because they didn’t kill the enemy. Medical treatment for a new prisoner is what usually happens. I know that and you know that and everyone in Afghanistan trying to better that country knows that.
We are signatories to the Geneva Convention. Because we don’t want events like this to become a standard. And people often say it only happens once or twice and “we’re to blame” and yet it happens a dozen times a day on the Taliban side, and all I can say to that is; yes it probably does. And that is the reason we fight them. We fight the inhumanity, the murder and the almost ceaseless death and destruction to all of humanity who come into contact with them.
I know a lot of people will disagree with me but I’m glad Marine A was convicted, but I also hope that his punishment reflects the situation that he was in. He doesn’t deserve life in jail, but he deserves to be discharged from his military position and sent home to his family. Maybe a few years in Colchester just to think about what he did.
I don’t care about the plight of Marine A, I don’t care about the death of the guy he killed, but I do worry about the meaning of freedom and peace being erased by hatred and anger and bullshit ideas of justice dished out willy-nilly and I also worry about the good name of the rest of the hundreds of British soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. Why should our troops be dirtied because of the actions of one man who makes headlines whilst hundreds of others work tirelessly and hard in the same theatre of war? He is but one man, acting alone, selfishly dishing out judgement and punishment.
Agree with me or disagree. That’s not an issue I care about. But let’s stop waving the flag of truth & justice whilst turning a blind eye to occasional acts that are as brutal as the peoples we claim we want to defeat. I support our troops, but I don’t condone criminal behaviour. Thankfully its a very rare case indeed.
In previous wars it has been much more defined, the enemy and the purpose, these days it’s not so clear. But that’s no excuse to act unlawfully at all.