The Guardian - A bit overly wordy...but not bad all the same

No...I don't work for the Gruniad...

Why is the suffering of young soldiers treated so callously compared with that of non-combatants?

We are not, alas, in a position to pour acetic acid on Miliband or Brown's antennae, so we can only speculate on a prawn-like ability to feel

Catherine Bennett
Thursday November 15, 2007
The Guardian

Following his research on prawns, Professor Robert Elwood of Queen's University, Belfast, has recently concluded that these and other decapod crustaceans do feel pain. When their antennae were dabbed with acetic acid, the creatures reacted by rubbing the affected places for up to five minutes. When the professor administered anaesthetic before acid, there was no rubbing.

His conclusion - unlikely to be contested by anyone who has ever gone rockpooling, or forced a struggling lobster into a pot - was that the creatures did, indeed, have the ability to endure a "pain experience". This theory has, however, been challenged by chefs and scientists alike: they argued that the animals were responding to irritants - something even an amoeba can do - and warned against comparing people with sea creatures. One expert on fish pain suggested that the shrimps, which have no recognisable brain, were merely trying to clean their antennae. Or maybe they were just waving. It's so difficult to say. Even with humans, you can never quite know if someone else's pain experience is as bad as your own.

Unless, of course, they're in the military. Clearly, given the current rows about compensation, there remains a good deal of disagreement about what the suffering of an injured young soldier really amounts to. Does he, as some anguished parents are claiming, suffer all the torments of a regular human being? Or is it, as military experts have argued, bad taste even to compare a soldier's pain response to a civilian's? In the absence of any research confirming that the ruined prospects of a permanently disabled young combatant can be compared to those that might be experienced by, say, a middle-class A-level student, with a distinction at grade seven violin and a media studies place at Oxford Brookes, the government prefers the conventional view of squaddies as a lower life form, whose suffering - no matter how closely it might seem to mirror a non-combatant's - should be never be sentimentalised, nor anthropomorphised. Naturally, any financial compensation will reflect this reduced level of response. Private Jamie Cooper, for example, of the Royal Green Jackets, who is now back in the full-time care of his parents having been horribly injured in Basra at the age of 18, should be satisfied with a lump sum of £57,000 as compensation for having his active life ended as a teenager.

Again, for all the youthful appearance of many soldiers - one thinks, for instance, of 23-year-old Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, whose legs were blown off in Afghanistan (compensation: £57,500 per leg) - they should not be confused with our vulnerable younger civilians, who need to be protected from binge drinking, driving too fast, gun crime, inappropriate sexual behaviour, and all the other threats that beset the modern teenager. To its mother, even an amoeba will look vulnerable. The boy soldier is a professional. When he signed up, aged 17 or 18, he did so in the knowledge that he might, at some point, be required by someone like the defence secretary, Des Browne, to have his life ended, or effectively destroyed in a futile, unwinnable war.

Still, if the military is right to remind emotional parents of the difference between the martial and the civilian approach to pointless death, an occasional, tactful acknowledgment of the human cost of Iraq and Afghanistan might go some way to alleviating the army's current recruitment crisis. With Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup predicting a shortage of young men willing to martyr themselves in what General Dannatt, the head of the army, calls "a generation of conflict", ministers might want to consider making the odd respectful allusion to tragic losses, a nation's gratitude, homes for heroes, etc, etc, rather than treating casualties as an unfortunate piece of policy fallout, or - as both prime minister Gordon Brown and foreign secretary David Miliband did this week, when discussing their global ambitions - totally ignoring them.

Would Brown's new policy of "hard-headed internationalism", Miliband was asked, have made any difference to the invasion of Iraq? "We don't resile from the decisions that were made in respect of the Iraq war," came the response. "No one is resiling from the original decision." Honestly, Miliband, even the most emotionally stunted of hard-headed amoeba might have considered it politic, when the subject of Iraq came up, to have mentioned the sacrifice of over 170 lives, and injuries affecting hundreds more of his compatriots.

Given that we are not, alas, in a position to pour any acetic acid on Miliband or Brown's antennae and watch out for rubbing, we can only speculate on the existence of a prawn-like ability to feel. While repeated use of the word "resile" certainly makes you wonder if Miliband possesses anything the rest of us would recognise as consciousness, both he and Brown are known to be sentimental, even excessively so, about fatherhood and babies. What, other than lowering the recruitment age to five, would make these doting fathers see the contradiction between loving their own little Isaacs and Frasers, and sending other people's teenagers off to be blown up in the desert, and abandoned on their return? Conscription?
I had to look it up :

Verb 1. resile - pull out from an agreement, contract, statement, etc.; "The landlord cannot resile from the lease"
bow out, chicken out, back down, back off, pull out - remove oneself from an obligation; "He bowed out when he heard how much work was involved"
2. resile - spring back; spring away from an impact; "The rubber ball bounced"; "These particles do not resile but they unite after they collide"
bounce, rebound, ricochet, take a hop, spring, recoil, bound, reverberate
kick back, recoil, kick - spring back, as from a forceful thrust; "The gun kicked back into my shoulder"
bound off, skip - bound off one point after another
carom - rebound after hitting; "The car caromed off several lampposts"
bound, jump, leap, spring - move forward by leaps and bounds; "The horse bounded across the meadow"; "The child leapt across the puddle"; "Can you jump over the fence?"
3. resile - formally reject or disavow a formerly held belief, usually under pressure; "He retracted his earlier statements about his religion"; "She abjured her beliefs"
abjure, forswear, recant, retract
repudiate, disown, renounce - cast off; "She renounced her husband"; "The parents repudiated their son"
What a good piece. Most politicians seem to think that soldiers, sailors and airmen come in boxes; when you need more, you just open up another one. Sadly, too many of our young Service personnel are ending up in boxes too. Many hundreds of others, maimed daily in the service of our country, will require dedicated care and support for the remaining long decades of their lives. As the article states, their compensation awards are shameful compared with those made for the effects of "...binge drinking, driving too fast, gun crime, inappropriate sexual behaviour, and all the other threats that beset the modern teenager".

Why does the Government still treat members of our Armed Forces as second class citizens and when is it going to realise that wars can't be fought, nor peace maintained, on the cheap? It takes both blood and treasure to enable our troops to have any chance of reversing (or even mitigating) the results of political failure.
Blimey a piece in the guardian speaking up for soldiers, wonders never cease.
Sadly, the govt can treat service personnel as second-class citizens because it can. If it had no choice it wouldn't. How many employers these days don't have a two-tier employment structure? Welcome to the 1910's.
Good article for a change from this newspaper.

All too often one hears the immortal phrase "they knew what they were signing up to when they joined"

The UK's "outpouring of grief" when the three firemen died in Warrington made me extremely angry. Where I wonder, is the difference between the life of a squaddie recently married with a young baby and the life of fireman recently married or with a new born. Surely the risk of death goes with the job of a fireman and is known when they were signing up.

As revolting as this sounds, is there a difference in compensation for the wife of a fireman killed on duty compared to the wife of a soldier killed whilst serving in theatre? Is there a difference in compensation for the loss of a limb? If there is, then as if any further proof was needed, the lives of the Armed Forces are viewed as second class.

It's sickening that it has come down to payouts but I'm afraid totally indicative of how we, as population, appear to value life, it's down to cold hard cash.
Thank you RaBC.
I've often wondered what 'resile' meant. Thought it was a word just used by politicians and talking heads. Anyway now we know the meaning of it they'll have to think of something else to baffle us with.
'Resile' - a word heard uttered by a US General in Baghdad some months ago - hurriedly looked up to ascertain meaning - PR decision made as to 'resonance' - used in cretinous response to reasonable question. Twice.
I have reread it, it now seems even more damming. Do I take it that initial lump sum compensation is so small because the injured are also paid a pension for the rest of their life? Does the pension get paid at the rank they are injured at in pension terms. If it does it assumes that no private will ever become a General? If that is the case it is very unfair.

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