Thursday, July 14, 2005

You've got a gun, but you're still afraid?


No, this isn't about the American soldiers who are too scared to come to London (although that was pretty funny, in a sort of 'ain't-it-typical' way). This is about the British Defence Staff chiefs who want British soldiers to escape the due process of law.

Put briefly, if a British soldier is accused of major wrongdoing (murder being the most obvious) he can be tried by a court martial. All well and good, but if the commanding officer dismisses the charges, the soldier then has to be tried in a civilian court.

I suspect most people will find this arrangement perfectly reasonable. After all, the army is famous for regarding acts which would be illegal if practised by a civilian as nothing to get concerned about. If the armed forces are seen as being above the law, if investigations are internal and internal only, if a soldier can get away with murder without any intervention by the state, then that is a sorry state of affairs and takes us back to a time we thought we had left behind.

In fact, the Chiefs of Staff are arguing not that the process is legally or even morally flawed, but that it is "bad for morale". Excuse me? Your soldiers find it "bad for morale" that they're not allowed to murder people outside of a combat situation? Oh, shucks. We're so sorry. Would your soldiers like us to shut them in a room with no windows for five minutes with a group of unarmed Iraqi insurgents, no questions asked? Actually, never mind that, they almost certainly would like it.

Lord Inge, interviewed this morning on the Today programme, said that it was intolerable that British soldiers should be accused of "war crimes" because it was such an "emotive" phrase. Do you have a suggestion for an alternative, Lord Inge? "Being a bit nasty to foreigners", perhaps? "Not upholding British standards of fair play and a level playing field"? "Getting cheesed off with a feelthy Arab?" Would that help the morale of "our boys" out there in the desert, coping with people who didn't ask them to be there and have the discourtesy not to speak English? Would that give them a bit more rein? Do you have another classification for shooting prisoners in cold blood, or committing acts of humiliation and terror upon them? I'm sure you'll be giving your answers to these questions in your speech to the Lords today.

(Incidentally, BBC News, I'm no lawyer, but I think you'll find the expression "military court martial" is tautological.)


Blogger CuriousHamster said...

Ffs, bad for morale? What a shame. The poor soldiers get upset them when we ask questions about who they shoot dead.
It's almost beyond belief.

1:20 am  

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