Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Our Boys Can Do No Wrong

British defence secretary John Reid is a true Labour man, defending the underdog (or is it the British Bulldog?). When the public was made aware of the superior people skills of British Marines who went out to pick up unarmed Iraqi youths after a demonstration (oops, sorry: riot, must get the terminology right), took them to their compound and proceeded to beat and kick them senseless, Reid asked the public for some more understanding – no, not for the poor youths being beaten up, but for the soldiers doing the beating. They were doing a difficult job in difficult circumstances.

Now I agree with John Reid that it cannot be easy to be posted as a soldier of an illegal army of occupation to a place where you’re not wanted, but that’s not what he meant. He was peddling the old Labour mantra that we are all the result of social conditioning and therefore not entirely responsible for our actions. It’s the environment, stupid. So in spite of all the training they receive, when British soldiers get frustrated and can’t take the heat (literally), they just can’t help themselves, they have to kick ass and beat up some little kids. We shouldn’t be condemning them so readily.

American defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld should learn from such British wisdom. The whole negative publicity of Abu Ghuraib could easily have been prevented had he only explained to the American public early on that those abuses at the American prison camp weren’t really some form of torture intended to humiliate the Arabs. Far from it – when those poor American GI’s have been so far away from home for so long, and seeing that the local maidens did not welcome them with flowers as promised, they just can’t help themselves, they have to live out their sexual fantasies some way or other. Now the logical conclusion of all this sociology must surely be that we should bring our boys home and give them therapy. I’m pretty sure that when regional councils in Southern Iraq ended their cooperation with the British army after the video was made public, it was for such compassionate reasons.

Nearer home there was another case of the Our-Boys-Can-Do-No-Wrong syndrome. The Crown Prosecution is taking the unprecedented step of charging police officers with a crime, but wait for it: the crime is not the cold blooded murder of an innocent Brazilian on the London underground. The crime these officers are accused of is having tried to pass the buck. Special branch wanted to wash their hands from the murky business they regularly are involved in and place all blame squarely onto the individual firearms officers, so they conveniently altered the logbooks. Now this is unforgivable: If you have to execute an innocent man, at least stand by it. What would the world come to otherwise?

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