Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage

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This article was written on 29 Oct 2015, and is filled under Uncategorized.

Sergeant Blackman

For a long period of time, I was closely involved with the Army. I spoke , often intimately, to people who had been involved in combat operations and worked hard to gain an insight into what their feelings about them were and the emotions they had gone through. This makes me think very, very carefully about the story of Alexander Blackman. This is what I think.

When Alexander Blackman committed the crime of which he is most certainly guilty, the likes of Tony Blair, David Cameron and all the others in that grim cohort were probably at a speaking engagement. Or at a dinner. Or some grim constituency event. They almost certainly weren’t in a place where their continued survival was in doubt, far from home and the reassurance of familiarity, in a hostile land that resented their very presence.

My understanding is that Blackman was placed in this situation not once, on one tour, but on multiple tours. If that was me, I’d have folded on the plane out from Brize Norton. But Blackman did it repeatedly, knowing that the odds of him getting killed must have shortened each time he boarded the plane for another tour.

The affect of this on the human mind is not easy to fathom. One of the most personable soldiers I met did it once and came home seeing dead bodies all over the forecourt of his local garage, which led to him being diagnosed with PTSD. Another eighteen year old was increasingly bothered about an insurgent he had shot dead. One of the officers I knew had to clean the remains of his friend out of his body armour. The list goes on.

Exposing someone to this, repeatedly, will change them. I know of people who seemed confident, but who privately cried at having to return to Iraq or Afghanistan and of any number of desperate coping mechanisms used long after. Blackman will have been among these people. He will have been changed by his experiences and almost certainly brutalised by them.

This is not, in case you’re in any doubt, a starry-eyed apologia. He abused and then shot someone in cold blood, someone he had previously told people to stop giving first aid to. He called the man he shot ‘a cunt’. If this is not very nice, then it’s because war isn’t very nice. It’s a last resort that became a first resort, and it is on this that what I’m presenting to you as my argument hinges.

Blackman was guilty and he should have been serving a sentence with a dishonourable discharge at the end of it. But what of the people who sent him there, and pitched human flesh, mind and sinew against explosives and rocket propelled grenades? The reply, of course, is that they face no sanction at all. They can say something about standards in the British forces, condemn transgressors and then go back to their main course.

That is not so here. The people who die in war, get injured in war and then get blamed in war are generally not people who serve in Government and who went to bloody Eton. They’re ordinary people who find themselves in situations those people would never, ever want to be in, while their ‘betters’ can be relied on for quotes when the situation demands it. They haughtily say what they were doing was wrong, while overlooking the fact that they’re the ones who put them in that position, repeatedly, and created a series of thousands of little mini-crises waiting to happen.

I don’t think Blackman was serving his country by shooting his prisoner, but I also heard enough of my granddad’s stories about Normandy and the fight across north west Europe to know that prisoners were shot, drowned and ‘disappeared’ more than the history books would have you believe. The country was fighting for its survival back then, and that’s probably how Blackman felt as well. Wrongly, in point of fact, but there we go.

Any regime that punishes the executioner, however justly, and doesn’t want to pay attention to the people who signed the warrant has no legitimacy. There should be no punishment of Blackman the murderer that also fails to take in Blair and Cameron, whose hands might be very carefully clean but whose consciences are smeared in blood and shit. Blackman is in prison, but what of the politicians?

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