Monday, December 09, 2013

10 years in prison is merciless for murdering the Taliban

Most of us will never know the horrors of war: we leave the front-line butchery and barbarism to others, content to judge the effectiveness of military strategy from our armchairs and calmly pontificate on the relative morality of battles lost and won. We have no understanding of the dreads or traumas of armed conflict, and little apprehension of the kind of mind which can rationally entertain killing another human being on the orders of another.

But those who sit in courts martial do: they are officers and warrant officers qualified by experience to judge fellow members of the armed forces. They are better equipped to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused, and mete out just punishments to those who breach military discipline or violate the rules of engagement.

The Royal Marine convicted of murdering a wounded Taliban insurgent has been sentenced to 10 years in prison - a 'life' sentence - to be served in a civilian prison. After 15 years of dedicated service to Queen and country, he has also been dismissed 'with disgrace' from HM Armed Forces.

Sergeant Alexander Blackman shot the Afghan, who had been seriously injured in an attack by an Apache helicopter, in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol. He then calmly quoted Shakespeare to the dead man, and urged those who witnessed the shooting to keep quiet because (as he admitted) he had breached the Geneva Convention.

The sentence has created something of a stir: some say he shouldn't be imprisoned at all; others that 10 years is far too harsh a punishment. After all, Afghanistan is a war zone and the Taliban are out to blow us all to kingdom come, irrespective of Aquinas's 'Just War' theory or the neat codifications of the Geneva Convention.

Liberal Democrat ex-Royal Marine Lord Ashdown considers 10 years to be a fair and justified punishment for cold-blooded murder: British soldiers can't go round arbitrarily shooting prisoners just because they're having a bad hair day. Conservative former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth thinks it a rather harsh sentence. He said: "The highest standard of discipline must be maintained in the Armed Forces and this man obviously committed an offence. But 10 years is too much. Five years would be more appropriate."

Politicians are not, of course, the wisest of judges or the fairest dispensers of justice. We separate Parliament from the Judiciary in order to mitigate mob notions of justice and to ensure objectivity in sentences.

In a carefully reasoned judgment, Judge Jeff Blackett explained:
..Hearts and minds will not be won if British service personnel act with brutality and savagery.

..You treated that Afghan man with contempt and murdered him in cold blood. By so doing you have betrayed your Corps and all British Service personnel who have served in Afghanistan, and you have tarnished their reputation. In one moment you undermined much of the good work done day in and day out by British forces and potentially increased the risk of revenge attacks against your fellow service personnel. You have failed to demonstrate the self discipline and restraint that is required of service personnel on operations, and which sets British troops apart from the enemy they fight.

..Your actions have put at risk the lives of other British service personnel. You have provided ammunition to the terrorists whose propaganda portrays the British presence in Afghanistan as part of a war on Islam in which civilians are arbitrarily killed. That ammunition will no doubt be used in their programme of radicalisation.
Helmand must be hell. We can have absolutely no idea what paranoia creeps into the recesses of the mind as you look up and see the severed limbs of your friends and colleagues hanging from branches, like baubles on a Christmas tree. That's what the Taliban do, you see. They can't be quite human, can they, to do such a barbaric thing? And if they capture you prisoner, you can be sure they will taunt you, then torture and dismember you, too. They will laugh as you plead for mercy, and spit in your face as you cry out to God for release.

But we are not like them, are we?

No matter how tired, stressed or disturbed you are, you can't go round shooting a pistol at people just to let off steam.

But what if they're not quite people?

Of course, the murdered Afghan was a human person, created in the image of God. But don't you have to persuade yourself in warfare that the enemy isn't quite as fully human as you are? Don't you have to suspend in some manner their universal human rights? At the very least, don't you need to dispense with their right to life?

How else can you bomb their homes and shoot them to death? Don't you have to close your mind somewhat to the fact that they have wives and children and feel love? Don't you have to condition your conscience to ignore the fact that they live with bread, like you? That they feel want, taste grief, and need friends?  

The thing is, Sergeant Blackman's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Simon Chapman, has publicly spoken in support of the marine. He said: "Fundamentally he is not a bad man. In fact, in almost every respect, he is a normal citizen tainted only by the impact of war."

He is not a bad man.

Not bad like the Taliban.

And not as bad as convicted IRA terrorist Seamus Martin Kearney, who will serve just two years for the cold-blooded murder of part-time police officer John Proctor in 1981. Judge David McFarland said the shooting “has to be one of the most appalling murders committed during that period of our history known as ‘the Troubles’".

“That a man can be targeted when he is attending a hospital to visit his wife and newly born son, continues to appal all right-minded members of society.. He was murdered in a most brutal fashion and given no chance to defend himself or escape.”

Curiously, the Judge said: "The passage of 30 years has in no way diminished the brutality of this murder."

Perhaps not.

But a merciless 10 years for a loyal Royal Marine who is fundamentally not a bad man, and a paltry two years for a convicted IRA terrorist who manifestly is, leaves one questioning the integrity and credibility of British justice.


Blogger john in cheshire said...

Let me think, now, whose life would I rather see destroyed; a taliban killer or a British soldier? Hmmm, difficult decision. That's sarcasm by the way. I thought we protected our own; obviously that message has been lost or forgotten by those in charge.

9 December 2013 at 09:43  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Your Grace,
I wonder which would have been considered more humane, leaving the Taliban to die of his wounds in the field or to bring a merciful end to his suffering. A procedure taken with both friend and foe in past conflicts.

9 December 2013 at 10:32  
Blogger bluedog said...

It is hard to avoid the impression, Your Grace, that whatever the offence this has been a political show trial. As such, the sentence is a political statement and not justice, as your comparisons illustrate.

Soldiering always used to have the advantage of generating less paper-work than policing. Not any longer, it seems. One possible advantage is that before the lads go over the top the lawyers will have to go first to assess the human rights implications of slaughter.

9 December 2013 at 10:36  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

If the recording technology of today had been around in the past who knows how many 'mercy killings' would have resulted in cases similar to this. Why is this kit on the battlefield at all.

What he did was wrong - allowing it to be recorded - even worse.

The sooner we pull out of this shit-hole of a place the better.

9 December 2013 at 10:45  
Blogger Mr. Morden said...

I will neither condemn nor condone the actions of Marine Sergeant Alexander Blackman - I was not there (Afghanistan). Just like many here and elsewhere.

I have two issues on this matter.

Firstly, the actions, and more importantly, the inaction's of those further up the chain of Command, who, sent men and women like Sergeant Alexander Blackman to this place. They sent them there to find and destroy Al Qaeda, not to replace the Taliban and provide security for corrupt Afghan officials and nation building. Originally, they were sent too a part of Afghanistan that was relatively quite and trouble free. The politicians, keen to look good in front of the US, decided to send them to Helmand Province and the 'Green Zone'. It was here that we started to pick-up casualties. Our Generals failed people like, Marine Sergeant Alexander Blackman, by not making the right assessments of risks involved and failing to both source sufficient manpower and the correct equipment necessary to do the (new) job. They had no Mine Protected Vehicles and so were vulnerable to bombs and ambushes. The whole saga of our war in this place is a national disgrace, that has in no way been given the airing it deserves. Too busy hyperventilating over some homosexual minor celeb and some former African terrorist cum Statesman.

The Second issue I have, is with the Geneva Convention itself. I find it a little curious, that a document lays down the rules by which, Nation States may conduct their business of killing and maiming each others people. It tells us what weapons cannot be used, and how we must treat those who are either non-combatants or combatants who no longer wish, or able, to fight. This is laudable between nation states with clearly identifiable armies and distinctions between military and civilian. However, Afghanistan is a nation in name only. It may have defined boarders, a flag, an anthem but, it is a tribal region and loyalty to ones tribe is the only loyalty there is. The Taliban are fighting a war against an enemy that is clearly defined, and governed by a code of conduct. A code, as we have seen, comes with severe penalties for those who transgress. Soldiers' like Marine Sergeant Alexander Blackman, have no way of defining friend or foe, yet these people are to be seen and regarded as equals under the Geneva Convention, a Convention to which the Taliban are not signatories or respecters thereof. It is the Geneva Convention, and its rules regarding the treatment of Guerrillas and Terrorists that need to be looked at.

I have taken more lines than perhaps I deserve, but felt it necessary to post them.

9 December 2013 at 10:49  
Blogger Len said...

What was the motive behind this action?. ' Sergeant Alexander Blackman shot the Afghan, who had been seriously injured in an attack by an Apache helicopter, in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol'

This could have been an act of mercy putting someone out of their suffering.
We could only judge(correctly) if we knew the motive behind the action.

9 December 2013 at 10:55  
Blogger meema said...

The correlation between this real life absurdity and the satire in the following link is a painful revelation.

9 December 2013 at 10:56  
Blogger The Explorer said...

To tie up this topic and South Africa, how about the film 'Breaker Marant'? About an incident from the Boer War, for those who don't know it, and from an Australian perspective. Starring Edward Woodward, made in 1980 and well worth seeing.

It gives a whole new meaning to the song 'Soldiers of the Queen'.

9 December 2013 at 11:02  
Blogger Elwin Daniels said...

Was it Seigfried Sassoon of Wilfred Owen who wrote about their experience of war

'Pray to God you'll never know

The Hell where youth and laughter go.'

9 December 2013 at 11:11  
Blogger Elwin Daniels said...

Just Googled, it was Sassoon.

Here's the whole poem

Suicide in the Trenches -

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

9 December 2013 at 11:15  
Blogger John Wrake said...

Mr. Morden has the right of it.

The essence of justice is summed up in the blindfold on the figure over the Law Courts. It is impartiality.

While the State continues to ignore the blatant crimes of those in a position to send men and women into combat involving injury and death, the pretence of the administration of justice demonstrated here is a rebuttal of every British citizen's right to live under Common Law.

Treason has been with us longer than the Geneva Convention.

John Wrake.

9 December 2013 at 11:24  
Blogger Corrigan said...

Maybe you should give him a medal and throw him a parade.

9 December 2013 at 11:57  
Blogger The Explorer said...

That might have happened if he'd shot Corrigan.

9 December 2013 at 12:09  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

..Hearts and minds will not be have betrayed your Corps and all British Service personnel....and you have tarnished their reputation.

Well, there you have it; a New Justice which declares the New Warrior to be the nation's PR flak in the field, a Care Bear™ with weapons and a mission to win, um, "hearts and minds." Deep stuff An example had to be made and now the terrorists and the asylum seekers will love and respect the British even more. Won't they?

9 December 2013 at 12:30  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Len, Happy Jack says you should read the judgement of the soldiers trial if you want to know more about his motives. He waited until he thought he could get away with it and then shot this man in cold blood knowing what he was doing was wrong and he was an experienced sergeant. It was not a mercy killing. He could have served 30 years and the judges cut it down to 10 years. It must be very difficult exercising self control in a war when your friends are comrades are killed but he did do a bad thing even if he is not a bad man. The judges also wanted his sentence to be a deterrent for others too.

Corrigan, Happy Jack says the 2 years for this IRA terrorist is nonsense and would have been 20 years but for this Good Friday agreement. This man Seamus Martin Kearney was very ignorant in court too and showed no sorrow for what he had done or for the victims left behind. His was a cold blooded murder with no excuses or mitigation. Jack asks if you agree?

9 December 2013 at 12:35  
Blogger Corrigan said...

In a world of "it's different when I do it" values, Explorer, I would consider it an honour if my murder was celebrated. What is anyone suggesting here? Just forget the whole thing like it was nothing? He put a gun to a wounded and disarmed combatant and shot him dead. It doesn't matter what the Muslims think, you're soldiers claim to stand for something better; I'd say by this sentence (which is light by civilian standards) they've begun to prove it.

9 December 2013 at 12:36  
Blogger Corrigan said...

Agree with what, Jack? The length of the sentence? The sentence was actually life in both cases; all that differs is the length of the tariff. Maybe if the Marines had signed a treaty with the British Government, as the IRA did - what Ari might call a "fact on the ground", ahem - they both might be looking at two years.

9 December 2013 at 12:43  
Blogger The Explorer said...


I was drawing attention to a false dichotomy I felt you had made.

9 December 2013 at 13:04  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Good post Mr Morden.

9 December 2013 at 13:04  
Blogger Gareth said...

The sentencing of criminals seems to be driven by political imperatives rather than justice these days, cf. the sentences handed down in the wake of the 2011 riots, the release of the Lockerbie Bomber, and so on. The disparity between Marine A and this IRA terrorist demonstrates that.

9 December 2013 at 13:43  
Blogger David Hussell said...

How easy it is to pontificate when we have never faced life and death situations, or an enemy that knows of no such Geneva Convention, but when you are bound by it. What must it be like to live in close quarters for months on end and then see your comrades in arms treated inhumanely by the enemy, knowing also that this could be your fate as well? What must it be like to know that so called "safe" nationals are capable of gunning down your colleagues at the flick of some secret switch in their heads? How can this not warp your mind or at least cause you to lower your standards. Has there been a psychological assessment from a psychologist experienced in assessing such war cases, one asks ?

And has been asked "what was his motive?", and "why are they wearing such video recording kit?". It is asking too much of men to go into battle, month after after month, in such a legally unsymmetrical situation carrying equipment designed to convict a single false move - it fails to recognize the soldiers humanity, smacks of the theoretical and is totally detached from reality.

It is impossible not to suspect that this was a political show trial, as too I suspect was the IRA one mentioned by His Grace, but designed to achieve a very different political effect.

As the article says, a military court should have been involved, and if found guilty, he should serve his time in a military prison, not a civilian one which will be at best a torture, and quite likely a death sentence. And what of the security of his family, now that his name has been revealed, what care is there of them, as they too are suffering ?

All human life must be respected, including an enemies, but if we must send men to these terrible places to do terrible things we should treat them fairly, with justice, and with compassion when they err, under extreme pressure. A country that does this to its soldier is betraying itself and especially the troops who do the dirty business for the shiny ones, our politicians, who never make a make a mistake or admit to it, ever, publicly. Why should young men and women volunteer to protect us, if they are treated with such callous disdain when they make a mistake ? The judgement and his incarceration in a "civilian" prison is a chilling one for this man, his family and all who respect our armed services. He has been betrayed.

9 December 2013 at 13:44  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

David Hussell, Happy Jack asks if you have read the judgement?

Here's some bits from it:

Of course sitting in a court room in middle England is a far cry from the brutality of the conflict in Afghanistan, but you have been judged here by a Board made up of Service personnel who understand operational service because they too have experienced it. That is one of the strengths of the Court Martial system.

We have reached an independent decision on the appropriate sentence based on all of the evidence we have heard, your plea of mitigation and the legal framework which we are obliged to apply, together with our collective experience of the law and the context and stresses of operations. Board members have served in all the theatres in which you have served.

Corrigan, then Happy Jack disagrees with this Good Friday agreement and asks how a government can make a treaty with a group of terrorists? The IRA were not an army representing any nation. Britain was a democracy and they had no justification to turn to arms and maim and kill.

9 December 2013 at 13:58  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

David Hussell said...

And has been asked "what was his motive?", and "why are they wearing such video recording kit?". It is asking too much of men to go into battle, month after after month, in such a legally unsymmetrical situation carrying equipment designed to convict a single false move - it fails to recognize the soldiers humanity, smacks of the theoretical and is totally detached from reality."

Ernst says;

What on earth are our brave soldiers doing in that cesspit of a land anyway. The women by and large agree to being submitted under the governance of Allah and all we do is tinker round the edges to justify political reasons for them being there for expediency sake.

Croydon is being overrun with Afghan, Somali and Iraqi immigrant gangs that spread violence and mugging in our neighbourhood due to this pathetic country letting in all and sundry immigrants that we have no historic link to (or even if they are true asylum seekers rather than thugs and jihad's) us, even with empire association or commonwealth?

I have a simple request.

As politicians work for us in our in community and parliament and decisions being made by them are effecting tumultuous change and dissatisfaction amongst our citizens, shouldn't they be made to wear video recording equipment at our bidding, to see what they get up to out in the field or in meetings that may as these mainly help to harden long-standing scepticism among those already inclined to distrust politicians. Their actions tend to give succour to others around the world that we are weak, corrupt and an easy target for any pan handler with a sob story to tell.

Perhaps this kind of intense scrutiny would stop all the press 'stings' that show what a bunch of immoral chancers we have in parliament, supposedly doing things in our best interest and the IPSA acting like Pontius Pilate, washing their sins away so they can carry on as normal until the next election or trough gathering of the herd?


9 December 2013 at 14:22  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

Many inmates survive prison by converting to Islam but forced conversion may be too inadequate a punishment for killing a Muslim. I fear for Sergeant Blackman’s life.

9 December 2013 at 14:23  
Blogger William said...

All things considered, I wouldn't be prepared to say that the court martial got it wrong. What really sticks in the craw is the fact that the life of a servant of the Crown is apparently valued at one-fifth of that of one of Her Majesty's enemies.

9 December 2013 at 14:51  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Happy Jack,

No I have not read the judgement but was commenting upon the flawed procedure whereby civilian judges sentence a soldier whose crime was committed whilst acting under military orders in a totally military situation, including the terrorist.

Our soldiers in war theatres have their actions judged by law formed and appropriate for civilian life, and this is the wrong yardstick to be used as a measure. Moreover civilian judges are unable to make sound sentencing judgements as they have zero experience of such war zones. The system doesn't deliver justice, only show trials. This soldier is sacrificed on an altar erected for political purposes, the detail of which is yet to be revealed.

That's my view Happy Jack.

9 December 2013 at 14:51  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

A couple of thoughts.

1. Military justice is never about justice. It's about good order and discipline.

2. It is little acknowledged but absolutely true that the Allies held German POWs as hostages against the lives of Allied POWs. That is one of the reasons the Germans disobeyed Hitler's order to kill them all. Force protection can impel many actions that might cause the civilian world to recoil.

3. You will never 'win the hearts and minds' of the Afghans. The effort is likely to make you appear weak and contemptible. You would have actual impact selectively castrating the sons and other male relatives of enemy leadership. Then they would at least fear and respect you. But would you want your soldiers to do that? Then you are reduced to a war of attrition that cannot be won without the infliction of massive casualties.

There is no end game in Afghanistan except terror or slaughter. So don't fight there. Kill the head and not the hand. So where is the head? Where is the money?


9 December 2013 at 15:04  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Just heard on radio that at the Old Bailey that the Muslim scumbag who all but decapitated Lee Rigby says he is a soldier of allah. Where's the f*****g justice apart from not getting his wish to claim his 72 virgins.

The bastard even has six kids and we are paying to keep him and them in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.

9 December 2013 at 15:10  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

So don't fight there.

I take it this also applies to the USA?

We were told in Parliament by John Reid that we were only going to build roads, bridges and schools while the US cleared out the Tora Bora caves and stuffed it to Bin Laden.

As all the Muslims never tire of telling us - Islam is a religion of peace - just don't object to being converted or un-accepting of anything in the Koran or calling a pineapple Mohamad.

Islam is one fu**ed-up religion.

9 December 2013 at 15:25  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


Yes, it also applies to the US. There is no successful end game in Afghanistan that I can see. And building roads will not make them love us. We can't use force or money to make Afghanistan safe for Western civilization. It's a fool's errand.


9 December 2013 at 15:38  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

David Hussell, Happy Jack has pointed out it was not a civilian court but a military court martial and was made up of experienced soldiers.

Blowers, Happy Jack agrees with your sentiments but this man was acting as a soldier serving his country and was trained and experienced. Jack is not judging him and would have liked to have seen him set free but things don't work out like that. Jack agrees with idea of putting microphones on politicians.

9 December 2013 at 15:50  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

Who in their right mind would want to join up and fight for this country anymore?
Sod that, let the politicians do their own dirty work.

9 December 2013 at 16:30  
Blogger The Explorer said...

This case is not unique to the present. In 'Breaker Marant' (referenced 11:02) an atrocity occurs in reaction to the mutilation of a British soldier.

The final comment of the most literate of the condemned is "Ma tthew 10:36."

9 December 2013 at 17:37  
Blogger David Hussell said...

The way that our politicians took us into Afghanistan, with no apparent knowledge of its history, or the country's ability to gobble up two previous 19 th century British armies, left me incredulous at the time. The Afghans defeated the Russian army which is hardly a pushover, is it ?

Our political leaders are a very arrogant and foolish bunch of chancers with little understanding of anything much it seems. Science, technology, history or the stances of the common man (or woman), all these things are a complete mystery to them. Just how did we get saddled with such incompetents, I ask?
Sadly at least one soldier must now act as a sacrifice to someones, or somethings, conscience. These politicians do not deserve the armed services that loyally serve their country.

On a different topic, their incompetence regarding Afghanistan is paralleled by their incompetence to understand national energy policy, another monstrous cock up which is hurting the poor and losing us jobs to elsewhere.

Is there any significant area of national life that is not in serious disarray? One senses that serious change is needed, and given the national character it is likely to be delivered, soon one hopes.

9 December 2013 at 17:45  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Ten years for disobeying standing orders is damned steep !

Murder of course cannot happen on the battlefield in combat. All the man did was to break the rules. 24 months is enough punishment and deterrence.

Men are taken and trained up to be warriors. The marine was so good at it, they made him a senior NCO. He was sent to kill insurgents, but in an instant, was expected to switch roles and become a care worker to the very enemy who had been laying in the grass hoping to kill him. That is NOT what war is about.

War is dirty, cruel, vicious, fatal, unforgiving. It is disgusting. It is vile. If this was fully appreciated by the politicians who send people to war, they would baulk at doing so. War would be rare. So rare.

Instead, war is to be sanitized. War is a useful policing tool. War is now standard British policy. Cameron was chomping at the bit to send UK body bags to Syria, the bastard !

There are disgusting people involved in war, and it ISN’T the soldiers…

9 December 2013 at 18:03  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

One feels this issue strongly. And there is no one who can quite capture all our sentiments like Cranmer can.

Archbishop. Can this man humbly suggest that you download this missal into the form of a letter, to petition Her Majesty the Queen.

That it so pleases her to receive it that she may in her forgiving nature so consider the royal prerogative of mercy in this case. In short, a pardon for this brave fellow, no less.

9 December 2013 at 18:05  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

It's a fool's errand

Totally agree.

Yet the 'fools' are still around to enjoy their big fat pensions while brave men are maimed, dead or vilified for politicians' vanity projects.

9 December 2013 at 18:39  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Presumably there are members and former members of our armed forces wandering around the UK now who have been brutalised like this. No wonder so many end up in prison or on the streets. I'm thinking we don't take their mental wellbeing seriously enough, and that not only impacts on them but potentially also ourselves.

9 December 2013 at 19:09  
Blogger David Hussell said...


You get to the heart of the matter, well said,
bravo !

Your Grace, Archbishop Cranmer,

I commend his suggestion regarding a plea to The Sovereign, over the heads of the craven, corrupt politicians and their judges, dispensing emasculated "justice" for thinly veiled quasi-political purposes.
Would you please consider doing this ? Justice is not to be denied, if we are to be true to those who are sent, allegedly, to protect us. This man deserves better !

9 December 2013 at 19:48  
Blogger Mike Stallard said...

Me, I have never been involved in warfare.
So I asked someone who had commanded a battalion in war in Ireland.
He noticed that the Private took the photo. What the Sergeant did was wrong in a soldier's eyes. As soon as a man puts up his hands, he is your responsibility and you have to look after him as carefully as if he were one of your own men.
The army man I spoke to was disgusted as such behaviour by a serving NCO..

9 December 2013 at 19:59  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

Good point Danj0, I don't think there is enough support and housing for ex forces personnel who are damaged and unable to adjust back to civvie street. Our government don't really give a toss and anyway can't afford to spend too much. Once the poor sods are past their usefulness then it's hard cheese.

Anyway, it'll be the European forces soon not the British forces, we are giving all our war equipment and resources to the EU.

9 December 2013 at 20:36  
Blogger Roy said...

I agree with DanJO that not enough is done for the welfare, including their mental health, of former servicemen and women, although I would imagine, perhaps wrongly, that women would be much less likely to be brutalised than men since it is less likely that they would be called upon to act in a brutal way.

It is very wrong for soldiers to kill prisoners, like Alexander Blackman did and therefore it is right that he be convicted of a serious offence. However it would be unjust for him to serve 10 years. Some civilian murderers get out in less than that.

About 19 years ago three British soldiers based in Cyprus abducted, raped and murdered a Danish tour guide. Unlike the case of Alexander Blackman there were absolutely no extenuating circumstances in the murder of the Danish girl. The three soldiers were sentenced to life imprisonment but that was reduced on appeal to 25 years on the absolutely ludicrous grounds that they were drunk at the time. They actually served less than half of their reduced time, being released after 12 years.

It would be an obscene miscarriage of justice if Sergeant Alexander Blackman were to serve almost as long as the three murderers of that innocent girl did. Although very few of us these days have experience of war, unlike our parents or grandparents who experienced the Second World War, we can imagine how it might be tempting to kill an enemy belonging to a force that cares nothing for the Geneva Convention.

There was a time when Parliament was full of MPs who had served this country in the armed forces. It was notable that those with such experience usually tended to be more cautious about sending men to their deaths, and had a more realistic view of what force can achieve, than their successors such as Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron, all of whom are quite willing to use our armed forces while slashing their numbers and their equipment and training budgets to the bone.

9 December 2013 at 20:40  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Mr. Morden,
I agree with your post. Those who sent inadequate equipment that failed to protect our brave lads are guilty of manslaughter. Before this NCO is sent to prison, those officials should be tried for dereliction of duty.

I also agree that if our politicians had any knowledge of history, they would not have got entangled in Afghanistan.

Further, I suspect that the Geneva convention relates to combat with recognisable forces. In civvies, this man was a spy.

9 December 2013 at 21:17  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Detractors, so you wish this man to serve ten years in a civilian prison. One less ruthless criminal on the streets – is that it ?

9 December 2013 at 21:30  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

I've read that Sgt Blackman's father had died only a couple of months prior to him shooting the insurgent on top of the combat stress he was suffering too as it was nearing the end of his third tour.

The death of a parent especially the father for a son can be very stressful, grief can make folk do strange things. I really don't think he deserves to go to prison at all, they should take in his 15 year record and his good character in the appeal.

9 December 2013 at 21:50  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

...The army man I spoke to was disgusted as such behaviour by a serving NCO..

Of course the official line is to follow the 'rules of engagement' but we all knew that there were times when stuff happened but soldiers don't tell. The Military Reaction Force was set up to 'fight fire with fire' by Bandits' rules. MoD knew, and at the same time, didn't know. I and most others, didn't know for sure it existed (apart from rumours about Woods and Howes) until it was confirmed and programmed just recently.

I don't know whether the squaddie on whose hard drive the record was found, reported it deliberately to drop the Sgt in it or what kicked it all off. If he did it deliberately, I'll bet he's no longer in the army - patrol with him on tab? - not a good idea.

Blackman has been scapegoated: not for dispatching the enemy but for being found out.

9 December 2013 at 21:52  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Marie @ 21:50

I've read about the death of his father. There was a photo of father in wheelchair; so seems true.

Also, that the incident happened in the month of 23 British deaths. Also, that the Afghans were hanging the arms cut off British dead from trees to taunt their opponents. Can't vouch for the validity of that; but, if true, you can see how it would have caused provocation.

9 December 2013 at 22:04  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Inspector, Happy Jack has sympathy for this soldier but says he was not sentenced for: "disobeying standing orders", was he? And you are wrong here: "Murder of course cannot happen on the battlefield in combat." This was not combat. The man was shot in cold blood, he was wounded, unarmed and a prisoner.

And this is like a Sun newspaper headline: "Detractors, so you wish this man to serve ten years in a civilian prison. One less ruthless criminal on the streets – is that it ?" Jack says it has nothing to do with whether he is a risk. He has received a sentence the court martial considered fitting punishment for his crime - murder.

Happy Jack would like to see mercy shown to him too but that is a different matter. The court were obliged to follow the rules about imposing a mandatory sentence.

9 December 2013 at 22:19  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

.... and Inspector, have you nothing to say about the IRA terrorist Kearney?

9 December 2013 at 22:39  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Jack. You need to re-read parts of this man’s post at 18:03

In fact, why don’t you damn well re-read ALL of it !!

9 December 2013 at 22:47  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

Explorer the more I read about it the more I think what he did and said knowing it was being filmed was out of character, a cry for help maybe? He would no doubt have had friends amongst those 23 Brits killed that month.
So yes extreme provocation if he had to see their body parts hanging out to dry.

9 December 2013 at 22:48  
Blogger David Lindsay said...

Will Alexander Blackman's family now become targets for Islamists? There are ways of dealing with that. People's relatives are protected from organised crime to the sophistication of which this country's ragbag of wannabe Taliban does not compare in the tiniest degree. They are not always protected perfectly, but even so.

The only thing to be said about his trial, conviction and sentence is that they have all been by a court martial. Very few people are tried by both a judge who is an expert in the field, and a jury made up of such experts. 10 years is not a harsh sentence for murder. People get 30, and that is in the civilian courts. Not very often. But they do.

As for identifying him, well, he has been convicted and sentenced. He is now in prison. We cannot have people convicted, sentenced and imprisoned in secret. Everyone, including Blackman himself, is safer on account of his having been named.

But we all know who bears the greater guilt for this whole situation. Having run out of implausible reasons for being there, we are scuttling out of Afghanistan with absolutely nothing to show for our ever having gone into the place. That war has droned on, so to speak, for longer than any 18-year-old fighting it can possibly have had any consciousness of such matters.

In the meantime, we have also waged the flagrantly illegal and utterly catastrophic war in Iraq, and we have initiated an Islamist nightmare in Libya by taking out the bulwark against it, right there on the Mediterranean, facing Italy and France.

The perpetrators, and one in particular, have grown rich beyond their wildest dreams.

Law and morality have collapsed from the top down. A sergeant has been sent to prison, and that judgement has been made by those whose lot it is to make such judgements.

But that sergeant most certainly ought not to be the only person to be held to account, perhaps also by that means, if there is ever to be any justice at all.

9 December 2013 at 23:19  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Inspector, Happy Jack read it - more than once. And he disagrees. Have you read the court martial judgement?

In Jack's view you are mistaken:
when you say he, "was expected to switch roles and become a care worker to the very enemy who had been laying in the grass hoping to kill him. That is NOT what war is about." The man he shot had been wounded by a helicopter. The soldier was expected to ensure he was disarmed, no longer a threat and to summon medical help for him, not to become a care worker". He was expected to exercise military discipline and restraint. Instead he dragged him out of sight, murdered him and told his juniors to say nothing.

Jack says the man was a Royal Marine, one of the finest branches in the British military. He was a senior NCO, a leader of men, an experienced veteran. He knew what he was doing was wrong and he still he chose to do it. As Jack has said, he believes mercy should be shown and maybe it will be once our troops are out of Afghanistan.

And the IRA terrorist, have you nothing to say about his far more heinous act as a terrorist?

9 December 2013 at 23:26  
Blogger Jan said...

It's all politics and the soldier is just a pawn.Discipline the man perhaps, but to train a man to killer and then punish him for doing that is crazy. Another scapegoat.

10 December 2013 at 00:04  
Blogger David Anderson said...

Doesn't a 10-year sentence mean 5 years with good behaviour?

10 December 2013 at 01:54  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

We have placed our brave forces in a theater but not a theater of war but into a theater of non uniformed actors/combatants whose sole role is to blend in with their friendly islamic natives, sympathetic to their cause and who give camouflage to their acts of guerrilla warfare to fight/resist in the most dirtiest manner possible.

Our boys and girls should NEVER have been placed in a field of combat where it is impossible to tread lightly and where 'hearts and minds' are a thing of political fantasy. by simply being as a western nation we inflame Islamic sensibilities and that whatever action we take may radicalise the jihad's is cobblers. They hate us because they hate us!!

The tribal natives no more know what their desired outcome is from all this than our own pathetic politicians, who continue with this nonsense of British troop involvement, under Queensberry rules, in an arena we should not even be in, do. It is not a war but a political charade. Their is no identifiable enemy such as in normal wars actors all dressed the same to make the fear more intense by lack of a real objective target.

If you are going to tackle this type of armed conflict then another means of doing business that doesn't sending our troops gaga or into a psychiatric ward is needed.

How about starting with no more involvement in countries that despise us and any politician who wants to send our troops in puts forward a member of their family for front line duty or a few tours of duty if they can stand it or can simply survive them, with a video camera upon their personage so we can see and hear their fear and them cursing their politician member of family, for sending them to divers crap holes to give their lives for Blighty on behalf of the 'religion of peace'.

It would certainly have concentrated Blair's and parliament's mind and foot loose morals, Ernst thinks.


10 December 2013 at 02:29  
Blogger Nick said...

We have been in Afghanistan far, far too long and I guess the stress is beginning to show. War dehumanises soldiers and this is the result. Not that I pity the Taleban and their evil acts.

Having said that, I think that lack of discipline on the battlefield is a danger to the other soldiers and could be contagious, so it is right that he was found guilty.

This case should also send a message to our politicians that it is time to end this pointless conflict.

10 December 2013 at 08:03  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Jack. One fails to see what an IRA murderer of a policeman has to do with it. Are you so unsure of your ground that you need to make smoke ?

10 December 2013 at 09:26  
Blogger non mouse said...

Sigh, YG.

Still, our masters can rest easy. There's obviously no chance that some group of military lads/lasses will turn their disaffected sights on the Bods of Wasteminster.

There's time yet for the eu to get its militias up and running; and all the brainwashed children will then swarm to the aid of that party.

10 December 2013 at 09:41  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

One feels compassion for all concerned: for the Afghan who was killed, for as a prisoner he deserved better; for the sergeant, for we cannot truly comprehend the stress he was under unless we too have seen front-line combat; and for the sergeant's family. As to the court judgement, it was probably right, though we may indeed argue about the tariff imposed. There is, for me anyway, a greater guilt, and that lies with those who have involved this country in 'Queen Elizabeth's Little Wars' from Kosovo to Iraq to Afghanistan, often for reasons undisclosed to the public. Those who have lied to us, and have profited by warfare. We have a Ministry of Defence, not a Ministry of War, but war has been waged under the cloak of our 'national interest.' I feel saddened by the whole affair, but yes, I feel compassion too.

10 December 2013 at 10:37  
Blogger Preacher said...

For all the talk of Battlefields & the Geneva Convention, I would ask the question. Was the Taliban fighter who was shot wearing a Military uniform that identified him as a Soldier of a known army or not? If not then how does the Geneva convention apply.
Further, I would ask about other service personnel, especially the 'Special' forces & even those in World Wars who 'silenced' sentries who were wearing uniforms before sabotaging strategic enemy installations.
Are they also at risk of trial & imprisonment?.

10 December 2013 at 12:13  
Blogger Len said...

I think it only too easy to sit in judgement on our soldiers from the comfort of ones armchair.
What the sight of ones fellow soldiers body parts hanging on trees like trophies must do to the emotions of our troops is probably not understandable until one has stood in their boots.
A conventional war is bad enough but the 'war' in Afghanistan is something far beyond that.

10 December 2013 at 12:25  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Inspector>, Happy Jack was referring to His Grace's article which compares the two situations and sentences. This, Jack feels, creates ambiguity in all our responses. The contrast between the sentences is startling and one sentence so unjust it makes us think the other is too.

Mrs Proudie, Happy Jack says you have captured all the points very well and he agrees with you.

Preacher, Happy Jack says the wounded man was clearly a Taliban fighter and was covered by the Geneva Convention. Even if he were not, this would still have been an act of premeditated murder. Jack understands killing armed sentries in war is both moral and legal as they are legitimate targets and pose a threat to life and the military mission.

10 December 2013 at 13:42  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear Happy Jack, thank you - sometimes one has to step out of the Cloisters and say what one thinks, and this was one such time

10 December 2013 at 13:47  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Mrs Proudie, Happy Jack hopes you enjoyed your trip out of the Cloisters. Do keep an eye on that Mr Slope in case he tries to slip in unnoticed.

10 December 2013 at 16:13  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear Happy Jack, one is always braced, believe me...

10 December 2013 at 20:48  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Len, @ 12.25

Preacher @ 12.13

The best two comments yet. Thank you both.

I am surprised by the lack of realism on this thread, ( as far as I can gauge realism from my comfortable room ) and the shortage of support for an incredibly war hardened, suffering, war stressed soldier - these soldiers are as human as we all are, we should remember, not politicians !

End of rant.

10 December 2013 at 21:43  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear David Hussell, I think that there is more realism in the thread than perhaps you give credit for. More than one person has expressed compassion for the sergeant, recognising that he faced unspeakable barbarity and horror that the rest of us can barely comprehend. There is also recognition that the wounded prisoner also was entitled to be treated decently. One thinks of Nurse Edith Cavell - no armed combatant to be sure but someone who cared for wounded men on both sides, all hatred laid aside. Alas, the Germans saw things differently and her fate was sealed. I have nothing but compassion for Sergeant Blackman, and will pray for him and his family.

11 December 2013 at 15:20  
Blogger Preacher said...

Happy Jack.
It seems to me that this IS War & that the man in question was on a mission to kill & maim uniformed soldiers by stealth & subversion.
He was armed & had he been rescued by his own side, he would have posed a very considerable threat to the lives & mission of British troops.
I don't understand how you can say that terminating the life of a man who is wearing the uniform of an opposing army is 'moral & legal' & that he is a 'legitimate target' when he is simply guarding, for example, a fuel dump.
Yet say that an armed militant in native dress who has set out to attack a military base & kill serviceman by stealth should be spared.

11 December 2013 at 17:27  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Preacher, Happy Jack says then you do not know the rules of war. An armed sentry is a legitimate target because his job is to shoot intruders and raise the alarm. He is a threat.

Jack says the "armed militant in native dress who has set out to attack a military base" was a legitimate target whilst he was armed. As an unarmed, seriously wounded, man he was defenceless and posed no threat at all. He was murdered in cold blood when he could simply have been left to be picked up by a helicopter and he may have died anyway. That's the civilised and, Jack adds, the Christian way.

The rules are there to stop people descending into acts of revenge and that's why soldiers are trained and learn them and supposed to be disciplined. Just because one's enemy is brutal and ruled by a spirit of evil does not justify acting like this is in return.

Happy Jack repeats he has a great deal of sympathy for this soldier and all like him facing such an inhumane enemy in an unwinnable war. Yet the law is the law and the only question about guilt is whether he was of sound mind and knew right from wrong. His sentence by the military court martial took all the mitigating factors into account. Jack is not judging him. Jack is just saying he broke the rules and this carries a consequence.

11 December 2013 at 18:12  
Blogger The Explorer said...

I'm all in favour of getting out of Afghanistan, but even more of guaranteeing a safe retreat for our troops.

In the First Afghan War, Lord Elphinstone's army was guaranteed safe withdrawal from the cantonment in Kabul.

The promise was rescinded by the Gilzai as soon as the retreat began, and from a British force of 4,500 there were nine survivors.

Because there were more of them, casualties for the Indian camp followers were even worse.

14 December 2013 at 12:52  

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