Iraq battle stress worse than WWII

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by jonwilly, Nov 6, 2005.

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  1. The Sunday Times November 06, 2005

    Iraq battle stress worse than WWII
    MICHAEL SMITH

    SENIOR army doctors have warned that troops in Iraq are suffering levels of battle stress not experienced since the second world war because of fears that if they shoot an insurgent, they will end up in court.
    The two senior Royal Army Medical Corps officers, one of whom is a psychologist, have recently returned from Basra, where they said they counselled young soldiers who feared a military police investigation as much as they did the insurgents.

    The revelations follow the collapse last week of the court martial of seven paratroopers accused of murdering an Iraqi who died near al- Amarah just after the war and amid signs of a dramatic drop in morale among frontline infantry soldiers.

    john
     
  2. Don't know where to even start with this one. Fair enough you can not have the troops allowed to run wild unchecked, but neither can you have a soldier putting his own life at risk by the split second hesitation whilst he wonders if he is going to get done over.

    Surely this must be an issue for the ROE? I personally haven't seen the ROE for TELIC and would be interested in doing so, is the old NI and BFG "if you feel that you or the persons that you are assigned to protect are in immediate danger" get out clause not in it?

    The problem when comparing ops today and WW2 is that WW2 was a "total war", civilians were involved, war on civilians was sanctioned where a threat was felt to be in place and whilst the general rules of the Geneva Convention were imposed, there was a very thin line between uniformed combatants and none uniformed partisans. Long and short of it, if WW2 soldiers felt in danger or they knew or suspected that a target was a bad guy, they pulled the trigger with relative impunity.

    The press also has a very large part to play in today’s litigious society. Sensational reporting of alleged "atrocities" leads to a political demand for an excessive numbers of trials and investigations which, thankfully, usually end up with the truth coming through and the defendants being found innocent. This doesn't help alleviate the stress and possibly fatal split second hesitation though when soldiers are under threat and are thinking "will I do time for this?" The problem with the press is that they don't give a t0ss what people that actually serve or have served think about the consequences of their actions, they only care about sales. Look at the recent Scum defence correspondents answers to the Arrse boycott where the "if you don't like it we don't care and we won't miss you" attitude prevailed.

    I feel sorry for the soldier of today, I really do. He is sent into action by a lying government into conflicts that are never really about what the official line says they are and is expected to win at all costs as long as those costs don't infringe on some left wing idiots or national newspapers or PC exponents (most of whom have no clue about the realities of combat) view of "what is right". The answer is simple, on your next deployment don't take a weapon with you, take a notepad and make sure that when Mr. Bad Man fires an RPG at you that you ask him, in writing, to desist. Make sure he agrees in triplicate and signs a statement that he has agreed by his own free will to stop and that you haven't been aggressive to him in any way. That way at least you'll know that when your family gets given the folded flag, you'll have gone with a clear conscience.

    It's an old saying that I first heard in NI in the late 80's. Better to get tried by 12 than carried by 6.
     
  3. The Sunday Times November 06, 2005

    Sod this game of soldiers
    Rod Liddle

    Rudyard Kipling is now out of date about the British soldier. We no longer treat him with contempt and then say, “‘Thank you, Mr Atkins,’ when the band begins to play”.
    These days we treat him with contempt and, when the band begins to play, don’t bother with the thanks. We try him on flimsy charges for war crimes. We send him to fight in a bitter, gruelling war unwanted by the British public — or the Iraqi public, come to that — then try to bang him up on the word of a bunch of lying, greedy marsh Arabs out to make a quick buck.

    If I were a British private stationed in Basra right now and reading the details of the court martial of seven of my colleagues, I’d be tempted to say, “Bugger this for a game of soldiers” and desert.

    It is most likely the government wanted these ludicrous prosecutions in order to assuage Iraqi opinion — clearly more important than the morale of the common soldier crouched behind some wall in Ferkah as the snipers’ bullets whiz around his head. More important, too, than natural justice and common sense.

    The deficiencies of the case against the seven paratroopers accused of murdering an Iraqi teenager, as detailed by the judge advocate general, Jeff Blackett, were so copious that I do not have room to repeat them all here. But he did call much of the evidence against the soldiers “too inherently weak or vague for any sensible person to rely on it”. He stuck the boot into the Royal Military Police investigators whose evidence, he said, “could never reach the high standard of proof required”.

    Of the prosecution witnesses — those marsh Arabs — he said they had colluded, exaggerated, lied. They spoke frequently of fasil or blood money — that’s compensation to you and me. They made numerous wholly specious claims and at least one of the women witnesses confessed to having told downright porkies right from the start.

    As one of the defence counsel put it: “They followed a trail of dollars up the aircraft steps to come here.” I dare say some ghastly lawyer now will help them with an application for asylum. Perhaps they’ll end up pitching their tents somewhere on Romney Marsh.

    These prosecutions were perhaps not simply a wish to assuage Iraqi opinion but arguably British opinion as well. The war against, or in, Iraq is, quite rightly, deeply unpopular — not least within the Labour party. Thus there is an even greater distaste than usual for the messy end of the business.

    I cannot imagine such spurious prosecutions ever being brought during the Falklands war, for example. Public opinion would not have tolerated it.

    Further, this war was not instigated for any of the usual, coldly pragmatic reasons — self-defence, a wish to swipe more territory or claim some back. Its aim, we are led to believe, was altruistic — to impose secular democracy and western standards upon people for whom, in the nicest possible way, such concepts are alien.

    So our soldiers are expected to behave more like grief counsellors or health and safety executives than men of war. When cornered by a hostile and armed rabble, it is demanded of them that they attempt to take a consensual approach. Hey, come on, guys. We can work this thing out.

    Not since the days of Lord Salisbury have we had a government so implacably at odds with the British working class. Salisbury had an excuse — it was 120 years ago, when life was a little different, and he was, after all, a Tory. Mr Blair, nominally, is not.

    So quite why the bulk of the working class continues to vote for new Labour eludes me. The party has waged war upon our pastimes, our wish to get drunk every now and again and to smoke ourselves stupid while so doing, and even our diet. No British government has less understood, or still less cared about, the aspirations of the common British soldier. No British government has packed him off to fight in more wars in such a short space of time. No British government has brought more prosecutions against its own serving men for alleged transgressions in time of war.

    None of this is intended to excuse the revolting excesses of, say, Abu Ghraib prison. But there is a world of difference between visible acts of torture and the perhaps peremptory and even brutal actions of frightened soldiers in the field.

    We should be angry at the way our soldiers are being treated, both those of us who, like me, opposed this war and those who believe it just and necessary. You cannot cleanse warfare and make it a sanitised, agreeable thing. It is a dirty business at the best of times and in Iraq it is dirtier than usual. You should not prosecute soldiers who sometimes forget the niceties, like wilfully failing to check the wine list and instead ordering the house chablis.

    Some good may yet come of this. Blackett’s scathing remarks will have reverberated within both government and the military authorities and perhaps the host of pending courts martial will be reappraised, in advance. Meanwhile, the war in Iraq continues: 30,000 Iraqi civilians dead, according to the latest estimates — but don’t wait up for the court martial.

    john
     
  4. Note of caution on these revelations all.

    To my knowledge, there are no uniformed Psychologists in the Regular RAMC. There were going to be some in the TA but that is, I believe, on hold atm.

    It may just be sloppy journalism of course' as people often mix up psychologists and psychiatrists. They are very different animals in reality.

    Full report (time limited)-
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1859664,00.html

    At face value, what is said is plausible. I do wonder however whether the "Doctors" are fictional and added to give the piece credibility value.

    Edited to include link
     
  5. I don't know about the Army specifically, but there are definitely a couple of trick cyclists in the RN Med teams assigned to the RM. It would be odd in these days of Tri-Service medicine not to follow this through?
     
  6. The RN Field Mental Health Team and their afloat counterparts (Argus usually) comprise Psychiatrists and Psychiatric Nurses but no Psychologists. Like the Army, the RN does not have uniformed Psychologists.

    I am also slightly suspicious in that I'm pretty sure that there are no military Psychiatrists in Iraq. There are three Psychiatric Nurses, two army and one RN I believe.
     
  7. In addition, I know it's a rather unworthy thought, but it strikes me that there is a difference between battle stress as it is classically described and fear of legal action and litigation. On the strength of the argument in this article I, along with every other health care worker in the UK, should be suffering from battle stress because we might cock-up and be sued or prosecuted!

    Not claiming that there isn't a problem here, just that journalists are after a story and they don't let sloppy thinking or a lack of facts get in the way.
     
  8. Whether there are or aren't any psychologists in the service isn't the issue here. The issue is that Joe Squaddie may soon reach his breaking point. I am not suggesting by that, that he will run amok with bayonets fixed, I am suggestiing that with all he currently has to endure on his domestic front, the day to day job front, the deployment front and now the likelihood of being prosecuted if you do your job front.......................he might just f*ck off out and get himself another job.

    Doesn't take a Psychologist to work that out.
     
  9. Well, I don't disagree with the general thrust of the article, although this is hardly a new development. Anyone remember Lee Clegg and a few other soldiers from NI?

    My major point is that it seems like a poorly researched and slightly suspect piece of journalism. Given the way members of the press generally get treated on this site, I'm a lttle surprised this one is being cheered on. Presumably it's a case of 'say something we like and we'll trust you, at least until you say something we don't like'?
     
  10. I think Biscuits is right...

    Although employment in the army is a way of life it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that a long periods under pressure with the appearance that there is little support from above that the chaps will wonder if there is a better way of earning a living.

    It is at the end of the day only a job. Whether you sign off or PVR you can still be out in a relatively short space of time. All it take is a well respected, liked and popular NCO/ Officer to throw in the towel and the Dominoe effect could easily occur.

    I can't imagine how it might feel to have to face a motivated and equipped enemy with the nagging thought that you may get nicked / shafted for your actions.

    I agree with Darth that the British Army can pride itself on its discipline and attitude towards doing the right thing..... I do feel that this is a completely different matter