Thursday, February 24, 2005

Looters will be ... er ... er ...

So the British soldiers were found guilty. I'm not suprised. One guy's defence ("He was cold and so I moved him into the sun. With hindsight, perhaps using a forklift to do it may have been a mistake") was up there with Ian ("She fell into the bath and drowned - as you do") Huntley's story - what I call the "cat ate my homework" defence.

The Guardian is shocked at the "horrific images" of prisoners simulating various naughty acts. Surely the images themselves can't be horrific to a Guardianista ? I thought they approved of that sort of thing - indeed, they want such scenes to be a commonplace in Her Majesty's Forces.

But there is a difference between consenting and non-consenting adults. Nonetheless, this humiliating treatment, while unpleasant and wrong, comes pretty low on the list of bad things that happen in war. I'm more concerned about that hotel worker who may or may not have been beaten to death.

Apparently it's illegal to 'work hard' captured looters, a hideous crime which the Guardian makes much of (the working, of course, not the looting). I'm not sure what applies now, but not so long ago it was OK to shoot them. I think I'd prefer the happy snaps.

France, 1944. From Max Hastings' book "Overlord", Corporal Baldwin of the Westminster Dragoons.

"In a field on my right I noticed some dead British infantry. There were two civilians there and I pulled up. Another jeep with a military policeman pulled up behind me. We walked towards the two men and it became obvious that they had been looting the bodies. Two had had their boots removed. The civilians started to speak quickly in French, but the policeman simply said "Bloody bastards" and shot them with his Sten gun."

For a little more perspective, here's what the Army can do to a seventeen year old British part time soldier, captured on exercise. From Chris Ryan's 'The One That Got Away'.

"When I was seventeen, on my first escape and evasion exercise with the Territorial SAS, up at Otterburn in the middle of winter, I was caught by the hunter force of Three Para. They got us, gave us a good kicking, stripped us naked, tied our wrists and anchored us up to the chest in the middle of the river until we were completely numb. Then they took us to an insulated airborne shelter (anyone know what one of those is ?), with five gas heaters blazing, where the temperature was about 120 degrees. As our circulation got going again, the pain became excruciating - and it was then, when we were doubled up in agony on the floor, that they started interrogating us about who we were and what we had been doing. As soon as we were warm and starrting to recover, they put us back in the river and so began the whole process again ..."

On Ryan's eighteenth birthday he was captured and interrogated on exercise by Belgian paratroops. He doesn't say exactly what they did to him, but thought "there's no way I'm ever going to get captured again".

Obviously the Guardian, Respect, Malice Ahon etc will use this series of unfortunate events as a stick with which to beat the Army with. Among the rest of us, some proportion please.

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