Bits and Pieces

Saturday, May 01, 2004


As I'm sure you've all seen, there's been a furore these past few days about reports of soldiers mistreating (and even torturing) Iraqi detainees (here and here, for starters). What surprises me is that so many people seem to be shocked by this fact. Do people not understand that some of those who join the armed forces may not be entirely stable? Obviously not.

Let me make myself clear. In my experience, the vast majority of people who join the forces do so with the intention of seeing the world and earning a decent living (lets not pretend that there is much thought of serving queen and country in this - patriotism is rarely sufficient motivation to risk life). Most of them are thoroughly decent people. However, there are a few bad apples in the bunch - the people who join because they didn't pay attention at school; people for whom the forces are their only chance of making a decent wage; people who are naturally violent. These are people who can't (or don't want to) grasp the difference between an Iraqi citizen and a terrorist, people who don't care about the concept of innocent until proven guilty. Incidentally, these idiots are the only people who seem to harbour any thoughts of serving queen and country on their application (with a generous helping of desire to fire a weapon and urinate on prisoners). Stupid people tend to get caught up with the idea of patriotism more than intelligent people (just look at football hooligans at the world cup. How many are wearing the George Cross as they kick a foreigner in the kidneys?).

That's why I can't bring myself to believe that the mistreatment of detainees is a systemic problem. Some people are just nasty. These people often find themselves drawn to the forces. I saw some of them last week when I attended an interview at the local armed forces careers office, kids who wanted to join the infantry. Most of them talked about looking forward to shooting people, and professed their interest in joining the SAS so they could use all the cool weapons. Most of this, I'm sure, was just big talk in an effort to impress their friends, but not all of it. Some of it was an honest desire to hurt and kill, because some of them were just damaged stock. A lot, I'm sure, will be filtered out during the application process (and probably end up in jail down the line), but a few sneak through and give the rest of the forces a bad name.

The bad apples should be discharged and put in prison for a long time. Their superiors, however, should not (unless the evidence suggests that they condoned the mistreatment). Anyway, I have to be up in a few hours, so off to bed. Night all.

*Update* Yes, this was written while intensely drunk, so I have corrected the spelling errors and slept a few hours.
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