Tuesday, 12 November 2013

What's the difference between 1 and 10,000?

News broke at the end of last week that a court martial had found a Royal Marine guilty of murder.  He had, it was found, shot an injured Taliban insurgent.  Just how this came to light is something I have not discovered but recordings of a discussion between him and two other Marines about it have been played on the television news and transcripts have been printed in the newspapers.  There is no doubt whatsoever about his guilt, but there is a considerable divergence of opinion about his sentence.  This has yet to be pronounced as he is to undergo psychiatric assessment first.

I cannot begin to understand the level of stress under which he was operating.  This was, I gather, his third tour of duty in Afghanistan.  Just to walk along a dusty road not knowing if your next step will be onto a bomb or if that hedge is sheltering a man with a rifle aimed at you and to do this day after day must in the end cause some people to 'freak out'.  It seems to me that this would be something akin to shell shock, as it was at one time called.

But is that sufficient justification for the court to pass a lenient sentence on this man?  He has been found guilty of a most heinous crime, a crime abhorrent to almost every one of our serving men and women, a crime which has brought shame to his unit and his family - not that the shame is of any importance here.  If he is treated leniently, will that encourage the Taliban to mete out the same treatment to wounded members of our forces who are captured?  Will it inflame the situation - or will the 'enemy' nod their heads in understanding.  Both sides of this argument have been put by senior men in the armed forces.

My own view is that we must expect the highest standards from all members of our armed forces and that they must receive sufficient training so that they do not go off the rails under stress.  Nothing less than a severe sentence for Marine A (as he has been known) will meet the need.

As we were absorbing the news of the murder of one man, we learned of the disaster that his struck the Philippines and that 10,000 people are feared dead in one town alone.  But somehow we seem to have become inured to news of natural disasters in other parts of the world: floods in Pakistan, earthquakes in China, and now, a typhoon in the Philippines.  Thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of deaths impinge on our collective consciousness less than the death of one man.  How can this be?  I suppose we hear so frequently of these natural disasters, and they occur so many thousands of miles away, that they seem almost to come along like buses in the High Street, whereas one Royal Marine murdering a prisoner is such a rarity that we are forced to sit up and take notice.  I don't suggest that it is right for us to almost ignore the natural disasters, but it is certainly right that we should take notice when something like that abhorrent act occurs and take what steps we can to avoid a repetition.


This is the tear-jerking moment a schoolgirl was reunited with her Royal Navy officer dad at a concert dedicated to servicemen and women.  Megan Adams, 10, sang in front of the Queen and Prime Minister [Saturday] as part of the Festival of Remembrance.  The youngster performed as part of the Poppy Girls, a group made up of daughters of servicemen who were chosen to perform this year's Poppy Appeal single The Call (No Need to Say Goodbye).

She was not expecting to see her dad for another three months as he has been serving with the Royal Navy in the Seychelles as part of an anti-piracy task force, but after the Poppy Girls' performance, host Huw Edwards told Megan he had a surprise for her.

As Lt Cdr Adams walked down the steps towards his daughter, she burst into tears and shouted: "Daddy!" as she ran towards him.

Not a dry eye in the house.

No comments: