They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Today's news: soldiers are violent


timesonline: So what did you think happens in a war? What did you think happens when you take a group of young men, school them in violence and the need to obey without question orders to behave in an aggressive manner, and then place them in a situation in which confrontation, tension and a threat to personal safety is ever-present; a quarrel in which their physical superiority is so great that they know, by using violence, they can always win.

The rules of engagement, the oxymoronic concept of an ethical war, is the sugar to sweeten the pill, the subtle way the brutal reality of invasion, subjugation and death is sold back home and in recruitment campaigns. While we sleep tight and with clear consciences over what is done in our name, the Iraqis have different words for what our leaders call collateral damage. Mum. Dad. Junior.

Yesterday's bulletins led on concerns over reaction in the Muslim world to video evidence of British soldiers administering savage beatings after a riot in Basra, but it is fear of a loss of faith within our home environment that remains our first anxiety. This is why, at these moments, forces are always mobilised to reassure us [link added] glibly that brutality is the work of a handful of bad apples and the remaining servicemen are heroes. Some may be. Acts of sacrifice and bravery are common. Yet, unquestioning and unquestionable, the public is told that our Armed Forces in their entirety and all they stand for represents the best of British.

In this way, a sequence of film that should open a debate is instead used to close one. There is a party line, regardless of political empathy, that suggests that to dwell too long on the subject of state-sponsored violence is part of the problem. "British soldiers were braced for a violent backlash . . ." (Daily Mail), "Army on alert for backlash . . ." (The Times), "Army fear reprisals . . ." (The Guardian). The inference is plain: to make too much of these rogue individuals puts heroic comrades at risk.

Here is an alternative theory. The repeated assertion that the best, bravest and most admirable citizens are those that seek employment in which part of the job is to maim and kill an enemy not of ones choosing is perhaps the single most harmful falsehood in Western civilisation, and until it is rejected will continue to keep mankind in an unending state of turmoil and misery. Read more