Err, no

Death in Helmand: Is Alex Blackman murderer or merely mortal?

No, really. Whatever the facts of the case (and I know too few to be able to judge) the point is not that Blackman is mortal or not, but that the people he shot turned out to be all too mortal.

16 thoughts on “Err, no”

  1. You’ve no military service, Tim – and it shows. Sgt Blackman broke under extreme pressure. That sort of thing happens in combat. He didn’t go out looking for someone to kill in a pre-planned attack, he lost control in a life-threatening situation. The situation his political masters put him in led to the tragedy. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime, and that’s why serving personnel will be disobeying orders today.

  2. Which is why I specifically said I don’t know enough about it to judge. My comment is about the headline, not the case.

  3. “He didn’t go out looking for someone to kill in a pre-planned attack..”

    Erm, isn’t killing in pre-planned attacks the point of military service? Didn’t he have training precisely to keep his cool under stress. Shooting injured, unarmed human beings is not normal.

    As would be the case if a similarly psychologically damaged individual killed someone in the street.

  4. There was a time when our Lords and Masters had experience of war themselves, but that era ended by the end of the 1980s. Such politicians would never have allowed this situation to arise. Its only because we are now governed by armchair generals who have no concept of what they demand others to do on their behalf that it does.

  5. Bloke in North Dorset

    There’s a story about Goose Green told in Don’t Cry for Me Sergeant Major about a badly wounded Argentine PoW who was shot by a British soldier. Apparently the other PoWs thanked him.

    Arnald, if you read the report their job was to go out and draw fire, they couldn’t shoot first. Not quite the same as going out planning to kill someone and if they had, you are quite correct that would have been murder because the Army don’t go out planning to kill someone, that is just a by product of meeting their objective during a war.

  6. Blackman was stupid. Do you think this sort of thing doesn’t happen a lot? He should have made sure the helmet cameras were off, but everyone wants to star in their own war film these days.

    The rules of engagement were are far more criminal especially once Stanley MacChrystal’s Courageous Restraint policy really got going. Soldiers unable to return fire into a tree line from where they were being fired upon… patrols unable to call in high explosive fires and having to rely upon the artillery to drop smoke shells* on Taliban positions for fear of collateral damage. Endless low level “show of strength” flypasts by jets which were carrying bombs but not allowed to drop them. Officers going into meetings with suspected Taliban/Taliban sympathisers and being ordered to leave their rifles outside for fear of causing cultural disharmony. When you have seen your men shot and blown up and you know who did it but you can’t retaliate it is corrosive in many ways. Obviously one understands the thinking behind the courageous restraint policy, but it is very easy to dictate such policies from an operations room 300 miles away. Especially when on your own infrequent visits to the unpleasant areas of the country everyone comes fully tooled up and ready to do business, with Apaches circling overhead just to rub it in to the blokes on the ground who haven’t seen a fucking Apache all week.

    Blackman is clearly guilty of murder – unless some kind of insanity or loss of control defence applies – but he should not be imprisoned in my view. It’s simply not possible to fight wars like Afghanistan in the way one might fight wars against conventional enemies and thus we should not expect to hold combatants to the same standards.

    *I’m pretty sure that the first officer to call in HE during that period was a guy called Johnny Mercer, ex 29 Cdo, and now a Tory MP. Having people like him and Dan Piles in Parliament must make it less likely that British troops will ever again fight a war like that with one hand tied behind their backs. Probably it means we will never again fight a war like that.

  7. Arnald,

    I want to know how many Taliban soldiers have been sentenced for their crimes against the British. Do you struggle with reading comprehension?

  8. Andrew M

    Yes, I know you do, and I’m asking why you want to do a comparison. Are you asking whether the Taliban authorities have punished a Taliban soldier for murdering an injured, unarmed individual, or are you talking about the UK military authorities trying a captured Taliban soldier for the same crime?

    I’m struggling to understand how either position is relevant.

    Since you posed the question, maybe you can enlighten me?

  9. @Arnald

    ‘So you want to compare English standards with those who we deem beyond the pale?’

    Ooh, get you, you imperial racist colonialist.

  10. Interested

    err, no. My inference from what Andrew M said about comparing the punishment of Taliban soldiers killing English soldiers with the case in this thread, was that he was highlighting the superiority of English justice to Taliban justice and how it wasn’t fair etc.

    I then qualified my question with “Are you asking whether the Taliban authorities have punished a Taliban soldier for murdering an injured, unarmed individual, or are you talking about the UK military authorities trying a captured Taliban soldier for the same crime?”

    Are “we” not fighting (though not in my name) the Taliban because “we” view their regime as beyond the pale?

    Does saying any of that really make me racist, colonialist, or imperialist?

  11. “Are “we” not fighting (though not in my name) the Taliban because “we” view their regime as beyond the pale?”

    Regrettably, I believe we have been. Can’t think of any other reason.

  12. I’m late to this: a lot of my friends are RM officers, served in Afghanistan at the same time. I asked them about this and their response was unanimous: yes, it was murder. There are mitigating circumstances, but they do not excuse murder. All of them are deeply ashamed that this crime was committed by a Royal Marine. One of my pals has an interesting theory that a unit takes on the personality of its CO, and that the CO of Blackman’s unit was way too aggressive and this indirectly led to this incident. The neighbouring RM unit was commanded by a CO who was chilled out, and they had no such incidents.

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