Unedited version of column published in Scottish Sun on Sunday 17th November 2013
‘ROYAL MARINE-A’ THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG?
A Royal Marine Sergeant became the first British soldier to be convicted of murder in Afghanistan. Video footage showed an unarmed Afghan prisoner in 2011 injured after a helicopter attack dragged from a ditch, kicked, abused and shot dead.
Ironically ‘Marine A’ joking on the video about breaking the Geneva Convention was only caught because a fellow marine kept the ‘trophy video’ on his computer. When it broke down the local repair man back home called in the police.
There has been widespread horror at his actions but it’s easy enough for us sitting in the comfort of our armchairs to pontificate about the rules of war.
There is of course no excuse for the Marine’s actions but those trained as ‘killing machines’ are regularly treated as cannon fodder by our politicians, celebrated for their sacrifices whilst their desperate cries for help are ignored when they return home traumatised and dehumanised from wars in which they have often watched their comrades blown apart.
Whilst the British Army claimed that Royal Marine A ‘stained’ their reputation he really is just the tip of the iceberg, the Army’s top brass has always managed to wash its hands of such incidents by closing ranks, destroying the evidence and scapegoating individuals- ‘Bloody Sunday’ was a prime example.
Another notorious case was that of Baha Mousa, a 26 year old hotel receptionist taken into custody with nine other Iraqi civilians by British soldiers in Basra in 2003.
Thirty six hours later Baha was dead leaving behind two young orphans, his wife having died of cancer some months before.
His post mortem found 93 external injuries, a broken nose, nine internal injuries including fractured ribs.
Hooded and kept in a ‘stressed’ position, his death was caused by a combination of a ‘lack of food, water, sleep deprivation, heat exhaustion, acute renal failure and multiple injuries.’
He had been repeatedly punched, kicked and thrown across the room by British soldiers.
Seven soldiers faced court martial but only one was found guilty of war crimes and imprisoned for one year.
It took a public inquiry some seven years later to reveal the true extent of the systematic abuse of Baha Mousa and his fellow detainees.
Hundreds giving evidence to the Inquiry spoke of torture and mistreatment by the British soldiers. Detainees were beaten, hooded, urinated on and scalded with boiling water.
Not one soldier has ever faced trial for the other 160 deaths claimed at the Inquiry.
As for Baha Mousa’s crime? There wasn’t any, he certainly wasn’t an insurgent but merited ‘special treatment’ after his father complained of British soldiers stealing bundles of cash from his hotel safe.
One fellow detainee said
“On the second night, everyone was screaming. I heard him crying out something like, Have mercy on me, I’m dying, help me. Then after a while I did not hear Baha scream out any more.”
Another Public Inquiry is now underway into allegations surrounding the action of British soldiers following ‘the Battle of Danny Boy” and their taking into custody of Iraqi men.
The following day 22 dead bodies were handed over with gunshot wounds to the head, face and chest, severance of sexual organs and gouging out of eyes.
There can be no moral justification for cold blooded murder. If Remembrance Sunday teaches us anything then it should be to remind us of those clichéd words ‘Justice and Freedom’.
The actions of ‘Royal Marine A’ are proof that the Geneva Convention is as relevant as ever. Redrafted over sixty years ago because of Nazi atrocities an occupying army today still owes a duty of care to prisoners of war and the civilian population.
Whether it be decrepit old Nazis, Serbian Warlords or soldiers from whatever country, if they commit war crimes they should never escape justice. (That should include ex- Prime Ministers as well by the way!)
JOIN US AT THE RADICAL INDY CONFERENCE
Next Saturday 23rd November I will be joining over one thousand others at the Radical Independence Conference at the Marriot Glasgow.
The fact that so many from across the political spectrum (more than any Scottish Political party conference) will turn up, is testimony to the people trying to shape a new Scotland ten months from now.
People are sick to death of Westminster’s politics of fear. Only weeks ago NHS Scotland said a widening poverty gap was causing thousands of needless deaths.
How is it possible that in over a decade the income of the richest people in Scotland has managed to grow by 50%, with the UK now one of the ‘most unequal countries in the developed world’.
If you want to hear passionate arguments for Independence and are fed up of screaming at the TV, register for your tickets at radicalindependence.org before they sell out. Oh and I’ll be speaking at 10am- ‘On Why Britain isn’t Working.’
I cannot believe the destruction my two kids can cause whilst I wrote this, food, toys, spilled drinks, nail polish, lipstick, nappies and socks everywhere and all because I’m in on my own with them.
‘Free spirits’ but I’m not sure if I’ll even make through the night once Mrs A gets back from her night out!