The Brits are deploying 6,000 troops to clean al Qa’eda out of the Afghan badlands – that’s excellent news. Sadly, a senior officer has had to promise the troops that he’ll do his best to stop Blair’s government prosecuting them as war criminals. The army needs our help.
Paras to have Army’s full backing over any Afghan prosecutions
The commanding officer of the paratroopers being sent to Afghanistan said yesterday that Army chiefs would give him their “full support” over any incident in which his soldiers might be prosecuted.
Following a raft of prosecutions of troops in Iraq, Lt Col Stuart Tootal, the CO of 3 Bn, The Parachute Regiment, said it had been made clear that if his men found themselves having to open fire but “made an honest mistake” they would be fully backed.
The regiment has already experienced the Army’s prosecution system after seven members were cleared of murdering an Iraqi following a court martial last year in which the judge heavily criticised military investigators.
The Paras are keen that the “rules of engagement” for Afghanistan will be robust enough that soldiers will not have to hesitate before getting involved in potentially lethal fire fights.
Can you imagine the Para commander needing to give such reassurance before this battle?
…during Operation Overlord on D-Day (June 6 1944)…the task of the airborne forces was to secure the flanks of the landing beaches in Normandy Including)…operations designed to take the specific hardened targets notably the guns of the Merville gun battery. Buried under 12ft-thick concrete, the four 105 mm guns, just miles from the beaches of Sword, Juno and Gold, had the capability to engage warships out at sea and sink landing craft heading for the beaches. The task of putting them out of action fell to the 9th Parachute Brigade which they succeeded in doing for 36 hours by killing all but a handful of the gunners.
Lt Col Tootal is doing the best he can to lead a fighting force, but it won’t work because the shots on army prosecutions are called by politicians – not just in Iraq but in the war against the IRA (my emphasis):
…hundreds of British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles face the prospect of extensive investigations – and possible prosecutions – for their involvement in past operations in which terrorists were killed.
On the evidence so far, the Government intends to give better treatment to terrorists than to its soldiers. The IRA members who murdered 11 people at a Remembrance Sunday service in Enniskillen in 1987, for example, would be effectively pardoned without ever having to attend a court.
No such warm assurances have been extended, however, to the SAS men who took part in the controversial ambush of an eight-strong IRA unit at Loughgall that same year. The IRA men had blasted a hole in the wall of a small police station – and were about to enter the ravaged station to gun down any survivors – when they themselves were ambushed and killed by the SAS.
Although the SAS action was sanctioned at ministerial level, senior Ministry of Defence officials now believe that the soldiers involved could face prosecution under the terms of the Historic Review.
The IRA objected to being pardoned, so Blair has dropped that plan. But – no doubt at the IRA’s request – he’s forging ahead with his persecution of Brit veterans.
The Army can – and must – endure until the Brits elect a decent government. Meantime, we should support our troops in the same way Americans support theirs – I’ll research this and post suggestions.