The killing of a Taliban insurgent by a British Troop is not an entirely rare occurance. Years after we invaded, our servicemen and women still fight in Afghanistan, attempting to enforce some kind of lasting peace. What doesn't happen every day, is that a wounded Taliban insurgent is killed at point blank range by a British servicemen, aided by colleagues.
The Telegraph is, today, running a petition begging leniency for Marine A - suggesting that the events were 'manslaughter' at best and that these things shouldn't be a surprise in the 'pressure cooker' of war. I have to admit, that the Telegraph has never been lower in my estimation. We should not be lead to believe that what happened here was manslaughter. What happened here, was that a man in British uniform told a wounded human being to 'shuffle off this mortal coil, you c**t', before discussing how best he and his colleagues should go about killing the man. 'Shoot him in the head' suggested one marine, 'too f**king obvious' was the reply. I am the first to accept the idea of pressureised warfare - I'm the first to argue that our country has a shameful record of supporting those in uniform when they return from war. Our shocking record on PTSD stands alone. That doesn't however, excuse the actions of these men.
The vast majority of our armed forces is made up of men and women who want to do their bit. That's it. It isn't political, it's very very rarely about killing people - it's about serving Queen and country for better or worse. It's testament to this end, that we so rarely hear servicemen giving critical views on what I'd argue has been a hopeless war from the outset. Our men and women in uniform tend to get on with business. This murderous act, however, betrays those men and women. Worse still, it plays into the hands of those we argue we're fighting against.
The fact that Marine A himself said at the time to keep things quiet - 'I've just broken the Geneva Convention' beggars belief. This is a man who knew the boundaries, who was aware of them at the time of his action, but ignored them entirely. That is not, in my view, the action of a proud British serviceman. Coming so close to Remembrance, this issue is particularly poignant. Two distant relatives of mine died in the First World War - and why? Because they believed that by doing so, they were protecting the things that the British held dear.
We should stand in the world, as an agent for fairness. Even at war, we should maintain the basic human standards afforded by the Geneva Convention. Whilst our reasons for being in Afghanistan become more unclear by the day - the conduct of the vast majority of our men and women in uniform shouldn't be betrayed and besmirched by acts of this kind. These men didn't show concern for fairness, or kindness - for right and wrong.
In arguing against the acts of Marine A and his colleagues, I'm not arguing against the work of the men and women of the British Military. I'm arguing that we should never allow the positive records of our armed services to be sullied by disgraces of this kind. I hope that Marine A and his colleagues are treated in exactly the same way anybody else would be if they were guilty of such crimes. The pressures of war are one thing - but this is another entirely.
Further reading - the two sides.
An excoriating piece from Yasmin Alibhai Brown http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/western-armies-know-they-are-not-answerable-to-any-overseer--they-do-as-they-please-8931212.html?origin=internalSearch
The petition from The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/10439494/Petition-leniency-for-Marine-A.html