Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Monday, 4 October 2010

For What It's Worth

Illustration: Andrew Dyson- The Age

I've refrained from commenting on the current controversy about the three Commandos charged for their actions in Afghanistan for two reasons.

One is that every second blogger has already done so; the other is that I'm not sure I have anything to contribute.

Having said that, the issue nags away, and I feel very uncomfortable about the whole notion of serving soldiers being treated in this way.

My memories of service as a rifleman are also a factor. The army must be a very different organisation these days from what it was back in 69-70. The notion that soldiers could be charged with manslaughter after an incident in which they were under fire would have seemed fantasy back then. This incident was not, I understand, a situation anything like, for example, My Lai, where without question action against the individuals involved was justified.

Personal recollection of being under fire is that the last things on your mind are the legal niceties. A whole bundle of more basic emotions kick in. Funnily enough, the relevance of the identity of the person doing the shooting tends to fade - I remember being so angry that someone out there was trying to kill me, that all I wanted to do was fire back. At the time, it didn't matter to me that the people doing the firing were "friendlies". Little lumps of 7.62mm diameter lead coming at you at supersonic speeds don't sound friendly.

We didn't fire back, of course, because we couldn't identify targets, and rules of engagement demanded we were sure of our targets - very fortunately as it turned out.

My point is that individual actions in situations such as these have to be viewed through a prism much wider than the narrow legalistic one apparently applied here.

Which leads me to some questions - hopefully someone out there can answer them.

Why were reservists involved in such an operation? Were they trained sufficiently? How well were they briefed? Did they fully understand the rules of engagement? How reliable were the communications used? What were their orders? At what level were these orders given, and how specific were they? What options did they have?

And in terms of how the incident has been dealt with -

Why has it taken so long for charges to be laid? Who made the decision to proceed? Did the person/persons making this decision have experience of combat as well as knowledge of the law? Are the rumours that the charges were laid to prevent the ICC from taking action true, or a media beat-up?

And so on…..

Until these questions (and many others) are answered, the whole question remains deeply troubling, and must be doing incalculable damage to the individuals involved in particular and morale in general.

And no matter what the Court Martial outcome, nothing will bring those kids back. This is something the soldiers involved will have to live with for the rest of their lives.


Boy on a bike said...

For what it's worth, some Reservists put in a lot of days per year - so much so, they are Regular in all but name. There are supposed to be rules to prevent this from happening, but I served with blokes who were active over 200 days per year. They did every exercise that came along, and volunteered for the pre-exercise and post-exercise duties. Some gave in eventually and went Regular - and then came back to complain that they actually got less training as a Reg!

1735099 said...

Times have changed. I glimpsed a reservist once at the Dat in 1970, and have a vague memory of an overweight reservist being choppered in with a resup whilst we were on our second Op. He stayed with us until the next resup (3 days) and didn't seem to be enjoying himself. He was an officer - 2nd Lieutenant - I think.

Boy on a bike said...

We never seemed to have time to get fat - how things have changed! Everyone in our regiment seemed to be a mad keen runner - we'd all be out running at least every second day for 5-10km, and doing work with a loaded pack and webbing in between. We even had two mad buggers who were training for the SAS selection course - they were murder to keep up with. I know one of them made it. I used to have terrible trouble with a training buddy as he could do the 5km run in just over 15 minutes - essentially marathon pace - and he could maintain that pace for miles. The only time he stopped was to allow me a pause to vomit.

I think people joined the reserves in your day to avoid Vietnam. In my day, they joined because they wanted to join, and therefore they were very keen to stay fit and keep in shape.

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