Treating our brave soldiers the same as evil murderers turns my stomach
The problem is that brave soldiers and evil murderers are not mutually incompatible groups. If the allegation is that some are both then, well, we’d better try to find out, eh?
It’s the disparity in treatment, rather than equal treatment, that grates. IRA members get “letters of comfort” while British soldiers get persecuted at the behest of Sinn Fein.
I agree, but suggest that the issue is bigger. It’s that the Armed Forces are the ultimate tool of the use of force to impose the will of the State.
If the NI bit of the CPS has determined that there’s the possibility of a crime having been committed by one or more soldiers in pursuit of the ends of the State, then it’s utterly essential that there be a prosecution and defence for the protection of the people from the State. If a soldier / soldiers are charged and found to be innocent, great. Honours all round, fulsome apologies, compensation etc. If guilty, then he / they go down.
Whether it’s right and proper to put troops on a public street – especially elite troops trained specifically to kill in pursuit of the ends of the State – is a question that needs answering by the political class. My sympathy is with the Paras, but my concern is protection of the rest of us from them (i.e. the State) where it’s necessary.
Mate of mine did 22 years in the Army and he can’t see it at all. To him, they shouldn’t be questioned as to what happened or why. It’s a subject we avoid discussing.
What SE says.
On disparity of treatment, quite.
Not sure Johnny ‘Quick, throw Scruton under the bus no questions asked’ Mercer is the best person to make the point, tho.
The real problem here is both the repeated attempts to go after them and the very long time after the event. That applies to Hillsborough too. It should have been sorted at the time, one way or the other. For things to drag on like this makes any verdict unjust.
The time doesn’t help but I’m not sure a statute of limitations would be just either.
And the problem with violence (or in your other example, reckless incompetence) that enjoys a degree of official state sanction, is that it’s exactly the kind of thing that should be sorted at the time but has no chance of being so.
Johnny Mercer?- no brainer: let’s waste no time on him. He makes regular references to the armed forces to underscore his previous career as one of the brave.
In my experience ex-forces people tend to be modest, reticent even, about their doings before entering civilian life.
The biggest problem I have with this is that it’s always the grunts who are put on trial and never the politicians and senior officers who put them into an impossible situation.
Not as catchy as most of his lyrics.
This is definitely one of those issues where you can see Timmy’s more liberal views coming through. After all, maybe it isn’t a good idea if we just let soldiers go round killing protesters or civilians cos their superiors plonked them, apparently quite deliberately, in a tricky situation, and perhaps they had some sort of state authorisation to do so – even if we didn’t hold any great political sympathy to the folk the guns were pointed at the last time, who knows where that state authority might be directed tomorrow? As opposed to the traditional conservative “proud for the boys and the vets” patriotism you might get on sites like ConservativeWoman.
Do sympathise with Jonathan’s point about the grunts being first to face the music, though I don’t think I want to live in a world where “just obeying illegal orders” gets one off scot-free either.
Can I tap into the Brains Trust here about something that’s been bothering me about this story for a while?
Henry Gow. Ex- Para. Ex-RUC. Currently a barrister. Also a writer of one of those gory “SAS” memoirs (his was called “The Killing Zone”, you get the idea).
He goes around a lot, gets himself in the media, campaigning against prosecutions such as these. His argument seems to boil down to “any other army in the world would have absolutely massacred as many Catholics as it could have got its hands on, you were lucky we were fairly well disciplined so we only killed as many civvies as we did”.
Which I’m not sure is a particularly helpful contribution to that cause.
What gets worse, is that he makes a whole series of increasingly lurid accusations about the behaviour of the Paras, SAS, RUC etc. All while claiming that he is a staunch defender of these guys, and they don’t deserve to be prosecuted. Things like “the Paras were so spoiling for a fight before Ballymurphy shootings that they had a sweepstake over which of them was going to get their first kill” all the way up to “one of the soldiers recovered part of the skull of one of the victims and used it as an ashtray”.
If you read any Irish press or look at Republican publicity (what they put out on Twitter, the placards they wave at demos, or press releases or presumably what they are telling their Irish-American supporters back in the States), this stuff is an absolute godsend for them. They seem to particularly love the “British soldiers killed a Catholic civilian and used his skull as an ashtray and the British authorities have done nothing to bring the guy to justice” line. Irish American politicians or Belfast teenagers being fed this stuff aren’t going to be having exemplary feelings about the UK.
Now, I’ve got no trouble believing that your typical Para is spoiling for a fight.But some of the more sensationalist stuff reads a lot like it’s just the work of a fantasist or pure publicity fodder – for the guy as a brand to show how “tough” soldiers like him were, or for his crappy book.
But Gow seems to be taking these claims seriously, up to the point of repeating them in court at the Ballymurphy inquests. And I think in seriousness everybody knows that some dirty stuff got done in NI that nobody was very proud of and rather hoped that it could be conveniently forgotten about.
So, what’s his game? Is he even a quarter credible? A fantasist, a media whore, a guy desperate to sell a shoddy “memoir”, someone who’s brave enough to pop his head above the horizon and finally admit “The Truth” about the nasty stuff that just had to get done? If he thinks he’s defending the veterans, why does he keep coming up with – and publicising – such incredible accusations against them? Why not just shut up and keep his head down?
In fact, bearing in mind how these things work, what’s the chances he really did spend some time in the SAS rather than only serving in the Paras? There’s some guys on here who’ve commented before about the commercial appeal of “SAS” memoirs. “Para” doesn’t quite cut it.
Some more on those sweepstake and skull claims:
I vaguely know Mercer. He is a twat.
Any soldier prosecuted over eg Bloody Sunday is stupid. There is no way they can pin individual rounds fired from individual weapons to individual soldiers when the armoury records are old and unreliable (if they still exist) and the weapons themselves have long since been melted down for scrap.
Just go no comment.
There are only a small number of ways to deal with live rounds being fired at you from the safety of a largely unarmed crowd. Back then the idea was to return fire as accurately as possible, in the additional knowledge that the crowd was deliberately shielding the gunmen. (Actual gunmen who were hit would have their weapons removed by other members of the crowd, magically transforming them from PIRA killer to innocent victim.) That does reduce the enthusiasm of crowds but doesn’t go down well with the Guardian, the BBC or the various leftist politicians who supported the IRA so policies changed, to the point where in Afghanistan soldiers were prevented from returning fire into tree lines where they knew Taliban gunmen were located. This cost soldiers’ lives but will not prevent condemnation or future court cases costing millions.
Life doesn’t conform to these kinds of analyses. The only people really qualified to have an opinion are those who are prepared to stand and take fire without returning it on the basis that they might shoot the wrong person. No one is qualified (IMO) to make that demand of another.
Really speaking we should probably do something about the lawyers, journalists and politicians while trusting officers and NCOs to control the toms as they generally do and accepting that tragic accidents will always happen when people start shooting at other people.
If the fucking IRA are walking so should the squaddies.
Another blind spot Tim and a bad one.
Mercer is indeed a twat. And a WA BRINO-sucking twat to boot.
“It’s the disparity in treatment, rather than equal treatment, that grates. IRA members get “letters of comfort” while British soldiers get persecuted at the behest of Sinn Fein.”
In which case, withdraw the letters. They were a bad idea. Doing another bad just to make it equal makes more bad.
Oh, and Mercer has not entirely withdrawn his support. He wants to sound tough, but he’s withdrawn his support in every other area but Europe. In other words, he won’t have any effect on the numbers in a vote.
Super-squaddie is a POS. They probably used him for full-time potato-peeling.
I hold no brief for Mercer*, but any modern politician caught in a Twitter storm is in an impossible position. If you do the honourable thing and say “We will investigate the allegations and take action if appropriate”, the storm will just go on and on. Whereas throwing the unlucky victim under a bus will probably shut things down. A sad commentary on our times.
* I was seated opposite Roger Scruton on the Eurostar back from Paris a couple of weeks ago. I don’t normally do sleb stuff, but i felt impelled to tell him that I thought he’d been treated abominably. He thanked me, and I left him to his laptop,
As others have said, this is about the way politicians have caved in to demands to hold endless enquiries to appease te IRA. Being thrown under the bus of political expediency is not part of the military covenant.
Having said that, there does appear to be a very strong case against Soldier F, and a few others, and in any other circumstances I’d have little sympathy for him.
As for Mercer, I’ve read his book and understand why he’s a fish out of water when it comes to politics. He went in to it for entirely noble reasons, mental health care not just for veterans but for everyone, and worked damned had to win his seat, despite being told to campaign for someone else by Tory high command.
He was a twat when it came to Scruton and hasn’t had the balls to make a proper apology and went down significantly in my estimation. He does a lot of good work though and I think he will become and effective constituency MP.
Hopefully he will be out on his WA BRINO sucking arse long before he has the chance BiND.
@Interested May 19, 2019 at 11:15 am
+1 Well put.
The other problem is 2019 standards are being applied 1960s-1980s training, RoE, acceptability.
Soldiers were trained to kill threats, not maintain public order. Deployment of troops meant War and in NI it was War.
I detect some RC bias from you.
This puts it better than I did:
@JohnnyMercerUK points out what serving soldiers and veterans have been saying, we don’t want an amnesty, we want better protections from “lawfare”. #Legacy
Oh, and I’ve been on the shitty end of the Iraq Historical Allegations Team “political expediency”. Luckily, it was only a decade or so “historical” and I had cheated and kept evidence.
I don’t blame the IHAT team – they knew they were doing a shitty job and were try to do it the best they could. I am building a special extension of hell for PIL, though.