Rod Liddle

Soldiers aren't social workers, Mr Cameron. Remember that before taking on hopeless wars

Those pleading for leniency for Marine A are saying we can't fight properly and comply to the Human Rights Act

16 November 2013

9:00 AM

16 November 2013

9:00 AM

The ghost people, the letter people. The ones we hear about in court but never call by their real name; instead, Baby P and Girl A. And now Marine A. They remain hidden from us for reasons which are, one supposes, rational and sensible, but somehow this non-naming magnifies our shame or abhorrence at whatever has befallen them, or what they have done. It must be bad if we’re to strip them of their identities, no? Eventually they shuffle off the stage, after some sort of justice has been dispensed, still in some cases anonymous, shrouded.

Shuffle off, indeed. Marine A dispatched a Taleban insurgent with a bullet to the chest and a quote from Shakespeare which he had usefully expanded and modernised: ‘Shuffle off this mortal coil, you cunt,’ he said as he pulled the trigger. Marine A’s job was to dispatch Taleban insurgents with or without recourse to Hamlet; but not, of course, when the insurgent is a prisoner of war, which this one was. If he had been shot in the chest by Marine A in the battlefield, then that’s a different thing, we are all agreed. But not when he is shot away from the battlefield in that other thing, ‘cold blood’. Then, instead, it’s an act of savagery and for a moment, back home, we are no longer able easily to differentiate ourselves from the enemy, people whom we are habituated to see as medieval savages, with some justification.

This, after all, is why we are in Afghanistan: to civilise these people, in effect. Immediately after the murder the soldier issued a plea of mitigation to someone — his comrades, the dead man, the helicopter circling overhead or a still higher authority: ‘It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us.’


As an excuse, an alibi, it could scarcely be worse: that’s the point, soldier. That’s precisely why we don’t do it. Or don’t let on that we do it, at least. Because in watching the clip of the insurgent being killed, you do get the feeling that this action might not have been a singularity; there was a fairly casual discussion with his two colleagues (Marines B and C, subsequently cleared of murder) about what should happen. There was no screaming psychotic rage or other demand for vengeance on behalf of Marine A. He did not go berserk, like you see GIs doing just before they do something deranged in American films about how horribly brutalising the war in Vietnam was. Quite the reverse. Nobody seemed terribly shocked or worried that he’d killed the jihadist, or remonstrated with him about his behaviour in even the mildest tones: ‘Hang on, that’s a bit rich, old boy…’. Instead the enemy combatant was sent shuffling from his mortal coil in a rather matter-of-fact manner and with the simple injunction, from Marine A to his fellow soldiers, not to tell anyone about it.

And nor did they tell anyone about it. We only know about all this, and Marine A was only brought to justice, because of the chance find of the video on some soldier’s laptop. More hardcore porn, then, begging to be discovered. But maybe I’m wrong and this was a one-off and the rest of our military behaves towards captured soldiers with the indulgence and sensitivity of a parole officer dealing with a slightly truculent ‘client’.

Our most senior and gilded soldiers have demanded leniency for Marine A. Of course they have. Colonel Richard Kemp suggested that this sort of stuff, this murdering of prisoners, is not comparable to ‘cold-blooded murder back home’. Major General Julian Thompson has said much the same thing. Being in combat ‘can warp and twist the behaviour of otherwise decent human beings’.

Yes, I’m sure it can. Drugs can also warp human beings, and alcohol, and sexual -jealousy and mental illness, but we do not usually accept these as a plea of mitigation. But the unspoken belief at the back of these entreaties is this: we cannot fight a war under these sorts of conditions and strictures. We cannot fight a war when the death of every soldier as the consequence of some barbarian’s IED is treated to a full parade back home and subsequent litigation from the bereaved about the care he was given by his employers, questions in the House of Commons and so on. We cannot fight a proper war when our servicemen have to comply with Section 2 of the Human Rights Act and behave, when they are not being blown up, like social workers.

And it is true too that in the last 15 years, British soldiers have been sent to fight in more wars — some of them absolutely nothing to do with the welfare of Britain, others the consequence of misplaced liberal evangelism from our rulers — than in the previous 100 years combined. And far more soldiers have been hauled before the courts martial for not abiding by the standards of civilised behaviour which we would expect from, say, Guardian leader-writers or members of the clergy.

The pleas for leniency are effectively saying that in warfare, anything goes, and if you don’t like that then don’t send us to fight these wars, these unwinnable wars. I just hope that the trial and sentencing of Marine A registers itself on the conscience of our politicians and that they think a little more keenly before sanctioning the next military adventure.

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  • laurence

    One of the many memorable lines in Apocalypse Now has Willard state that ‘charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500’.

    • george

      exactly the quote that ran through my head when I heard the verdict.

  • Colin

    Few people condone what this marine did. The pleas for leniency are more about (in my case, at least), fighting back against the hypocritical, corrupt and intellectually bankrupt state of affairs that passes for political leadership as it relates to our nation.

  • la Catholic state

    We are a Christian nation. Justice tempered with mercy please.

  • Nick

    I couldn’t give a monkeys uncle that the Taliban thing was shot dead.Good bloody job I say.
    The Taliban support sharia law therefore they indulge in sex with children.
    They marry children.
    They treat females like filth.
    They want to kill all non muslims.
    And I could come up with more examples of how grotesque they are which means that they are better off dead.
    The bleeding hearts of the world make me vomit and what makes me vomit even more is that one of our great Royal Marine Commandos has been shafted by our traitorous legal system and government…….all for the sake of some poxy insurgent.

    • Will Kettel

      No doubt the very notion of a “British army” or “War” fails to register with the belief system of many of those who were calling for the harshest possible sentence. I personally think the bleeding hearts should consider the fact that this marine had the clearness of thought to ease the wounded terrorists passing.

      • Nick

        Hello Will.That’s one way of looking at it.But this trial is all about appeasing the muslims which makes our government cowardly traitors.

    • Rtd Colonel

      C’mon they’re only following the tenets of their great prophet – peace be upon him! – same rules apply to all adherents surely not just the Taliban e.g. is grooming not just big mo’s harem of non muslim sex slaves just updated for the current age?

  • Will Kettel

    General Houghton said that Marine A had to be dealt with harshly to ensure our “moral ascendancy is not eroded.”

    Forgive me, but shooting a critically wounded terrorist doesn’t erode our moral ascendancy. I don’t believe we need to constantly demonstrate our moral ascendancy over people who do what, shoot little girls for the crime of trying to learn to read, release poison gas in a girls school and video tape the beheading of captured Pakistani soldiers in an effort to terrorise their opponents.

  • Tuff Tookas

    Rod you’re normally sound. May I suggest that you retrieve the Sunday Times Magazine of 10 November 2013. Have a good hard look at the front cover. Take a good long look at the feature inside. Then have a very thorough contemplation of how you’d feel if these guys were your mates. Then revisit your column above. Oh yes you can.

  • alabenn

    I wonder which law firm is now scouring Afghanistan for anyone related to this creature that soldier A put down.

  • DBarry

    Given the choice, I wish he hadn’t done it, mainly because he hasn’t done himself any good.

    But do care? No, I couldn’t give a stuff.

    • Daniel Maris

      Charming. Hope your son is never in a similar situation with an enemy looming over him, taking upon himself the right to determine whether your incapacitated son lives or dies.

      • Colin

        There isn’t a soldier in the entire Army who’s under any illusion about what would happen to him or her, should they be captured by these animals – wounded or otherwise, in all circumstances.

        Your attempts here and elsewhere to try to equate the general conduct and values of the British Army, to that of the bunch of murdering, cowardly savages the Army is up against in Afghanistan, says something about you and those like you.

        What this marine did was wrong and I doubt that there will be many who think otherwise. This is the exception, not the rule, get over that.

  • Tuff Tookas

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10449815/Al-Qaeda-linked-rebels-apologise-after-cutting-off-head-of-wrong-person.html

    The wrong cunt was shuffled off his mortal coil here. A prison sentence? I doubt it. Evil isn’t banal. But sometimes it is hilarious.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    “Soldiers aren’t social workers”
    You mean they don`t kidnap children?

    • The_greyhound

      Even Marine A has more common decency than Joyce Thacker.

  • FT_Ward

    If shooting one wounded prisoner is OK why not shoot the unwounded ones as well? Or the suspects? Or supporters of the suspects? Or witnesses? Historically the most effective way of fighting an insurgency is to wipe out any village near an attack as a lesson to others. Perhaps we’ve missed the boat in Afghanistan.

    After we’ve given the green light to killing prisoners what’s next? Looting? A blind eye to rape? Whether you care about the enemy or not if you want a disciplined military and not just a gang of thugs you must obey the laws of warfare.

    • Daniel Maris

      Absolutely. Even if you don’t care about ethics, there is reciprocity – imagine what frightful things they will do to our POWs in revenge.

      • The_greyhound

        We already know how these creatures behave.

        Spare your sympathy for the deserving.

    • Tuff Tookas

      Extreme Islamofascism is a mental disorder with lethal consequences on or off the battlefield. It’s an untreatable disease for which the only inoculation is a bullet to the head or a bullet to the chest. On or off the battlefield. In Helmand or Tower Hamlets. The battlefield is unequal on the London Underground and in Tavistock Square. It’s less unequal in Helmand Province for which we should all be uncommonly grateful to the brave men and women who were featured in last week’s Sunday Times Magazine.
      http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/Magazine/
      Get real. Grow up.

      • FT_Ward

        If so why does NATO hand it’s prisoners over to the Afghan government to be released sooner than later?

        If the enemy are suffering from mental disorders why does the British government pay for development projects to wean them off jihad?

        • Tuff Tookas

          Because they’re appeasing stupid wastrels. We shouldn’t wean these asking-to-be-martyr-shuttled-off-their-mortal-coil cunts off their jihad. We should make every available attempt to get them to their 22 virgins as fast as possible. On or off the battlefield. Helmand, or Woolwich, or Brick Lane. Handing them over is pandering to the Guardianistas who are in denial about the disease.

          • FT_Ward

            Are you planning to bomb any mosques in the UK soon?

          • Tuff Tookas

            Waitrose were out of Semtex.

            You planning to shoot any teenage girls in the head? For the crime of education.

            I can out-sarcasm you any day.

            Problem for you … Fuckwit, is that you didn’t know anybody blown up on a train in Madrid. Whereas I did … Fuckwit.

            Shuffled off their mortal coil by cunts. Not on any battlefield I’d recognise.

          • FT_Ward

            Oh goodness. I didn’t know you were the only person in the world to know anyone harmed by terrorists. That makes all the difference. By all means start the executions.

          • Tuff Tookas

            I’m bored with you now Fuckwit. Back to The Guardian with you. Chop chop!

      • OraEtLabora

        Tuff, you might find The British Way in Counter-Insurgency, 1945–1967 by David French interesting (review here: http://www.canadianmilitaryhistory.ca/review-of-david-frenchs-the-british-way-in-counter-insurgency-1945-1967-by-david-charters/ ). Essentially, we (Britain and the Western world) have fallen for our own propaganda, i.e. that the most successful COIN campaign of modern times, Malaya, was won solely by wining hearts and minds, instead of it in actuality being only one part of, and somewhat of a veneer hiding, a ruthlessly fought campaign.

        Highly recommended reading is this essay by Lt.Cols. Thomas Tugendhat & Laura Croft, which analyses the problems caused by the Law’s intrusion into areas far beyond its competence: http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/publications/the%20fog%20of%20law.pdf

        Also of interest might be this essay, ‘When Devils Walk The Earth: The mentality and roots of terrorism, and how to respond’ by Lt.Col. (rtd.) Ralph Peters. See in particular his Chapter III, ‘Fighting Terror: Do’s and Don’ts for a Superpower’: http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmc/ceto/when_devils_walk_the_earth.pdf

        And for your amusement, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman as US Press Secretary: http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/ermey.asp

        • Tuff Tookas

          This is very good indeed. I’ve downloaded the policyexchange PDF. Cogent and fascinating. I doubt Marine A will be left to rot frankly.
          I will get to the rest of your links later. Much appreciated.

        • Tuff Tookas

          Many thanks.

        • Tuff Tookas

          By the way, if you want to appreciate the difference between the moral high ground and “elsewhere” I recommended “The Act Of Killing”, just aired on Sky Atlantic and on DVD from Amazon. Indonesia 1965/1966. Jaw-dropping.

          • OraEtLabora

            Thank you for the recommendation; I’ll buy it as soon as it becomes available on the 25th.

            The BBC’s Empire Warriors documentary series looks interesting (I’ve just stumbled on it but it broadcast in 2004): its four episodes covered British experiences of Palestine, Malaya, Kenya and Aden (also analysed by David French, along with other campaigns of the 1945–67 period). The Aden episode can be found online but is available as a DVD, and seems a worthwhile purchase. The late Lt.Col. Mitchell of the Argylls is given decent air time, and says at one point:

            If you find you’ve got a situation where you want to employ soldiers, because you can’t control it with policemen, then you must employ them as soldiers. You can’t really expect them to perform like constables on the beat in the middle of London. Having admitted that it is a military problem, they must hand it over to the military to carry it out in their way.

            (Lt.Col. Mitchell’s memoir, Having Been A Soldier is a good read, going into some detail about Aden as well as covering his experiences in Italy at the tail-end of WW2, Palestine, Cyprus and Korea.)

          • Tuff Tookas

            Fuckwit_Ward facetiously and lamely asked me if I planned bombing mosques. You’ll see that I matched his sarcasm by suggesting that Waitrose was out of Semtex.

            As I watch C4 News at 19:00 today Tuesday, my solution to this whole shitstorm becomes ever clearer. It exonerates Marine A. It gets blood off his hands and everybody in the EU / NATO. Possibly simplistic, but effective.

            I’m referring to the Iranian embassy bombing in Beirut. Encourage all the jihadis of whatever flavour to congregate in Syria. Arm them to the teeth. Let them anihilate themselves in this killing field. Confiscate their passports if they come anywhere near our borders whenever they’ve had enough.

            Basically, export the problem back to their shitty sandpit, whether it’s Helmand ( ok … not THAT sandy), or Greater post-Ottoman Syria.

            No blood on my hands (god forbid). No blood on suddenly prissy but usually sound Rod Liddle’s conscience. And no nonsense imposed on Marine A, and injury on those brave men and women featured in the pages of the Sunday Times Magazine of 10 November.

  • jpt4w

    ‘Drugs can also warp human beings, and alcohol, and sexual -jealousy and mental illness, but we do not usually accept these as a plea of mitigation’

    do we not?

  • The_greyhound

    “the standards of civilised behaviour which we would expect from, say, Guardian leader-writers or members of the clergy”

    Who are stealing official secrets and engaging in a criminal conspiracy to undermine the security of the nation, and molesting children, respectively.

    There’s more moral integrity in Marine A’s behaviour.

  • Tuff Tookas

    Have you organised your interviews yet …
    http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/Magazine/

  • FT_Ward

    Unless his chain of command ordered him to shoot prisoners (in itself an illegal order) he was undoubtedly disobeying the lawful command to not kill prisoners.

    Do we want soldiers to obey lawful orders or not?

  • Blazenka Hudson-trograncic

    Weren’t we in Afghanistan to suppress Opium among other things (you’ve forgotten), a bumper crop this year.
    In Helmands fields the poppies grow …..as the poem should say.

  • Michael Turner

    Remember the two squaddies who drove into an IRA funeral procession and were dragged out, beaten up and shot in the head? That was in a civilised country and not in the heat of battle. Marine A was wrong, but our soldiers are asked to put themselves into situations we cannot comprehend and deserve understanding and compassion as well as justice when they overstep the line.

  • Alan Hawkins

    our children are dying in far away lands
    for the pigs at the trough to get cash in their hands
    dying for nothing but poppies and oils so the pigs at the trough
    get a share of the spoils

    they are sent to this hell based on a lie
    and brainwashed into believing its an honour to die
    whilst the pigs at the trough look on with greed in their eye
    a mother at home lets out a cry
    and the pigs at the trough continue the lie

    in a far away land in the heat of the sun
    another child dies by bomb or the gun but the pigs at the trough
    care nothing at all for the dead and the wounded who gave it their all
    the pigs at the trough continue the lie
    “we must fight this terror or prepare to die ”

    the pigs at the trough are the ones we should fight
    not those in far away lands in the dark of the night
    the enemies is here right at your door
    killing the sick ,the old and the poor .

    when the people awake and war is no more
    the pigs at the trough will run for the door
    but the door will be locked they will have nowhere to run
    with nothing to save them no bomb or no gun

    this planet is ours it belongs to us all not just the pigs at the trough
    who are wanting it all .

    • Bob339

      The best poem I have read in ten years. Well done sir.

  • Bob339

    Please consider going here and signing the petition to release Marine A:

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/56810

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