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War and Order

#1
From The Grauniad (and elsewhere):

War and order

Leader
Thursday July 21, 2005
The Guardian

It is not good for democracy when soldiers say they are being betrayed by politicians and there were disturbing echoes in yesterday's complaints from anonymous military sources about the decision to try three servicemen for war crimes under the International Criminal Court Act - the first time this legislation has been used. But the theme is familiar: last week several former chiefs of the defence staff expressed concern about what one of them sneered at as "political correctness" applied to military discipline.

The facts are that 11 servicemen, including an army colonel, are now facing courts martial over events in Iraq, two of the cases involving deaths in Basra. Three soldiers have been charged under the ICC act, the latest legislation on the statute book, because of a pattern of conduct of alleged inhumane treatment. It is not possible to comment on these cases. But it is hard to avoid the impression that anger over the form of prosecution is misplaced. It is heartening to note too that the decision has been welcomed by the Muslim Council of Britain.

It is not surprising that the top brass are worried about morale. British forces enjoy an excellent reputation, especially for peacekeeping, but the Iraq war is more unpopular than any fought since 1945 and is in a profound sense unwinnable. It is disconcerting to hear muttering about the way discipline is legally enforced. The decision to press charges was taken by the army prosecuting authority, the military equivalent of the CPS. The objection seems to be semantic and symbolic - to the phrase "war crime". This may conjure up images of a scowling Slobodan Milosevic in the dock at the Hague tribunal or of piles of skulls in Rwanda, but it can apply to many abuses. The Labour government fought hard to create the ICC, unlike the US, which not only opposed it but continues to try to sabotage it - and to flout its spirit in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. It is good that this landmark of international human rights law is part of our domestic law, like the Human Rights Act, and right that it should be used without hesitation if and when appropriate.
The story above is here. Couple that in with this:

Soldiers may refuse to serve over legal threat

Officers say troops will be scared to act and morale will suffer

British soldiers will refuse to serve in Iraq if they face the threat of being prosecuted for war crimes, serving and former service personnel warned last night. A number of non-commissioned officers who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity - they are forbidden from talking to the press by Queen's Regulations - said they had been disgusted to learn that more fellow soldiers face prison as a result of their actions in Iraq.

One soldier, who served with the Irish Guards in Iraq during the conflict in 2003 and knows the three soldiers charged on Tuesday with war crimes, said: "It's going to put all the other lads in a horrible position. Everyone is going to be scared to do anything. If they get fired upon, they are going to be scared to fire back.
"Morale is going to hit rock bottom. The situation in Iraq is just going to turn into Northern Ireland. People are going to refuse to serve in Iraq or everyone is going to be asking to go on rear party or other duties."

The Irish Guards who have been charged are alleged to have punched and kicked a looter before forcing him into the Shatt al-Basra canal, where he drowned.

The soldier went on: "Soldiers will be scared to touch anyone. If you run over and crack one of them [an Iraqi] on the back of the legs and put them in plasticuffs and nick them and then the MPs are on your patrol and they go back to camp and then pass it on to SIB [Special Investigation Branch] and then they decide you are too aggressive, what were you supposed to do? You are told by your commander, 'Right lads, you are going out on aggressive patrol,' so you have got to go out and patrol aggressively. Then they put their umbrellas up and deny all knowledge of this and it's the average soldier that gets the shit."

One still-serving veteran of the Iraq war called the charges "a bloody disgrace" and said: "It's hardly going to make anyone want to go there any more than they do at the moment." He added that soldiers of lower rank were not officially schooled in the Geneva conventions or laws of war.

The soldier, serving in the newly merged Scottish Regiment, was part of the advance guard sent into the battle zone of central Iraq, alongside US troops. A number of his fellow soldiers were killed and others very seriously injured.

"It's a while since I was in Iraq," the soldier said. "But even then the feeling was not too high. Folk are usually relieved to be sent somewhere else. It's not a popular place to serve, and it's getting less of one. Certainly if you suddenly find you end up in a court because you're accused ... yes, not by the army, but by politicians".

Talking from barracks in Warminster, Wiltshire, the soldier said: "People have got to understand that when you're facing the kind of enemy in Iraq, this isn't an enemy with a uniform. This is suicide bombers and stuff. It could be anybody. You don't know who is who. You don't know who you are supposed to be protecting and who is going to attack you, whether they're in a car, or on the street."

Earlier this year four soldiers were convicted in courts martial in Germany of the abuse of Iraqi looters in what became known as the Camp Breadbasket scandal, in which prisoners were forced to strip naked and were photographed simulating sexual positions.

Scapegoat claim

The four members of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers claimed that they had been scapegoated and that an order had been given that they "work" the looters and force them to run with boxes on their heads. In their defence, the soldiers claimed they had not been briefed on the Geneva convention and had not been told how to treat prisoners.

Last night the soldier with the Scottish Regiment said: "We don't really get taught officially what's in the Geneva convention. No one gave me anything to read or anything. Maybe there's a rough idea it exists, you know, about civilians ... yes, prisoners and all that. I think the officers might get more details, study it all. But no one ever told me to. I think most people think that sort of thing is done with proper war, between armies, not terrorism and looting."

Another former corporal, who served on the frontline during Operation Telic - the codename for the British operation in Iraq - but has since left the army, said: "It's terrible that it's happening. I don't think Britain should have signed it [the International Criminal Court Act 2001] in the first place. The Americans are exempt from it. This is just putting British soldiers' lives at risk.

"I think the fact that these lads are getting prosecuted and it could happen to any other British soldier is wrong. If all this was happening 60 years ago, where would we be now? In the present climate it adds more fuel to the fire for these terrorists in Iraq."

Another former soldier, who served in Iraq with the Household Cavalry for six months, said: "You are out there to do the job. If you have got to start thinking about silly things that you might be prosecuted for, you're putting people's lives at risk.

"If you have got to think about that at a moment's notice, it is going to be you on the floor and not them. It is going to bring the morale of the British soldier down. That's when you will get people refusing to go out and soldier in Iraq. I would definitely consider not going out and doing it, especially if I thought I was going to be shot.

"The people that are sitting behind a desk that are putting these people through the court, they should really put themselves in the shoes of soldiers and see what he goes through in Iraq and other places like that. It's just constant pressure out there, never knowing when your next bit of rest is going to be. You're always worrying whether you are going to be bombed or shot at, you never know what's going to happen."
This piece is here.

What amazes me (apart from the fact that The Grauniad are banging this particular drum so loudly) is the propensity of certain elements within the Army to make up utter rubbish. I'm absolutely positive that LOAC is a mandatory part of the annual training requirement (ITD(A)s) and that soldiers deploying to Iraq receive a healthy dose of refresher training. Indeed, some Formations have made it the primary requirement apart from WHT/APWT(TS) and ITD(A)1&2.

I still remain to be convinced that the morale of the British soldier is going to be compromised in the long run. This issue is a perennial one - it happened in NI and it's happening now. My personal belief is that the vast majority of British soldiers regard these incidents as an inevitable by-product of conducting high profile operations in the public eye.
 
#3
Good to see which side the grauniad is on...

We should never hadve signed up to the ICC, as it's wide open to abuse and leaves our servicemen/women open to accusations. The yanks knew what would come of it, but good old tone had to bow to the 'human right's' lobby.

please don't post any more of their articles as my peptic ulcer can't take it! :D
 
#4
"Soldiers will be scared to touch anyone. If you run over and crack one of them [an Iraqi] on the back of the legs and put them in plasticuffs and nick them and then the MPs are on your patrol and they go back to camp and then pass it on to SIB [Special Investigation Branch] and then they decide you are too aggressive, what were you supposed to do?

As long as a fair and complete investigation is carried out within a reasonable timescale and justice is delivered quickly then I have no issues with any charges brought. Unfortunately, as long as RMP, SIB and the APA are involved then I have a great feeling of unease. They make the keystone cops look professional and attila the hun look reasonable. I pity any poor soul who they decide to get involved with.
 
#5
Finex

Your post deleted. I don't want to close this thread , but really, I am not going to be taking any chances at all. My stance on this issue is very clear , and it is for the reasons stated over and over again.

There is to be no discussion on the particulars of any pending or current Courts Martial posted here. The media is all over this for a reason , they think there is something more to these stories, and they are looking for more.

This is not some anonymous board in cyberspace, this is the ARMY Rumour Service, whose membership is composed of mostly currently serving personnel, Regular and Reserve. Some people here will personally know those who will be tried.

The Media has quoted from Arrse repeatedly, and I can guarantee any 'informed' commentary on cases will be appearing in print somewhere. I cannot not allow the chance that unguarded comments may be used to directly or indirectly prejudice or influence the proceedings of a Court Martial. JAG Michael Hunter made this point during the Fusiliers CM.

Arrse is here to allow people to comment on the issues of the day in an anonymous fashion. It is not here to provide "Anonymous Army sources" for news stories involving incredibly sensitive issues with the hand of politics laid firm thereon.

PTP
 
#6
The excuse that no one taught me the geneva convention frankly baffles me . We have heard the charges easy to tell that they were wrong if they did what they accused of .
 
#7
Yes, we are all taught the Geneva Convention, but although the underlying principles can be applied to operations in Iraq at the moment (i.e. humanity and decency towards your captured opponent and non-combatants) it is my understanding that the Convention itself was last revised before the concept of 'peace-keeping' became commonplace in the mid 90's. The Convention is not designed to cover what are effectively COIN (Counter Insurgency for the media reading) or Peace Support Operations. Can you imagine discussion of the terms of the Geneva Convention in respect of operations in Northern Ireland???

Operations in Iraq are a very nasty mix of COIN and PSO, where, as people above have rightly pointed out, you have no way of telling friend from foe until the shooting starts. The lads are expected to fulfill the roles of the police and the social services all the while being on constant alert for enemy contact. How the hell are you supposed to apply our very conventional understanding of the Geneva Convention and Law Of Armed Conflict (LOAC) to that? The members of the Police Forces of GB & NI have weeks of dedicated training before they are allowed near a punchy civvy with a pair of handcuffs, and apart from a moderate amount of public order training our lads (among whom, to be fair, there are many who are probably not all as bright or well-educated as your average copper).

This is not a matter of law, this is a matter of training & acceptance of risk. If you want people to go and police somewhere (Mr Blair & the Grauniad take note), then the best people to send would be trained policemen. If you have not got the resources to send in trained police, or they could not reasonably be expected to cope with the circumstances, then fair enough. But if you decide to send in the Army, you must expect them to occasionally be a little rougher or cruder than the police might be. This is a risk which the PM chose to take, and that is a risk which should therefore be carried by the politicians, not the lads out on the street. What Teflon Tony has done is to let all the risk slide down to the lads doing the job, by not giving them the legal backing that they deserve. He could have accepted the political risk by maintaining the absolute primacy of Military Law for soldiers deployed on operations.

But he didn't, did he. He sloped shoulders again, to keep his Muslim muckers happy. I have not got words to describe the contempt in which I hold him, not because I am annoyed that he has let the lads down again, but because it is precisely this sort of spineless political shoulder-sloping which puts him so at odds with the steadfast loyalty and integrity that are the preserve of the vast majority of the soldiers and officers he deploys to 'defend the United Kingdom's interests'.
 
#10
asr1 said:
"Soldiers will be scared to touch anyone. If you run over and crack one of them [an Iraqi] on the back of the legs and put them in plasticuffs and nick them and then the MPs are on your patrol and they go back to camp and then pass it on to SIB [Special Investigation Branch] and then they decide you are too aggressive, what were you supposed to do?

As long as a fair and complete investigation is carried out within a reasonable timescale and justice is delivered quickly then I have no issues with any charges brought. Unfortunately, as long as RMP, SIB and the APA are involved then I have a great feeling of unease. They make the keystone cops look professional and attila the hun look reasonable. I pity any poor soul who they decide to get involved with.
The Branch is part of a disciplined service and have to work to the orders they receive. They make no decision as to degree of aggression but just report what happened. Someone else decides whether there was too much aggro or not. I read a comment in another report on the vein of how things should be handled and someone (Col Collins?) said that responsibility for the war goes all the way to the door of No 10 where illegal acts were concerned.
 
#11
My only memory of LOAC is of a tache wielding NCO asking a bloke why he was making dum-dum Sterling rounds and that he was doing it because he had to 'make sure I get the bastards' ! Almost as good as the dangerous noise vid, with the fella wanging off Charlie G rounds like they're going out of fashion.
 
#12
307 said:
My only memory of LOAC is of a tache wielding NCO asking a bloke why he was making dum-dum Sterling rounds and that he was doing it because he had to 'make sure I get the bastards' ! Almost as good as the dangerous noise vid, with the fella wanging off Charlie G rounds like they're going out of fashion.
Visitors to this site, in case of misunderstanding, the above reminiscence refers to hilarious old videos from a long time ago, not to real life or current training in the Law of Armed Conflict.
 
#13
OldRedCap said:
asr1 said:
"Soldiers will be scared to touch anyone. If you run over and crack one of them [an Iraqi] on the back of the legs and put them in plasticuffs and nick them and then the MPs are on your patrol and they go back to camp and then pass it on to SIB [Special Investigation Branch] and then they decide you are too aggressive, what were you supposed to do?

As long as a fair and complete investigation is carried out within a reasonable timescale and justice is delivered quickly then I have no issues with any charges brought. Unfortunately, as long as RMP, SIB and the APA are involved then I have a great feeling of unease. They make the keystone cops look professional and attila the hun look reasonable. I pity any poor soul who they decide to get involved with.
The Branch is part of a disciplined service and have to work to the orders they receive. They make no decision as to degree of aggression but just report what happened. Someone else decides whether there was too much aggro or not. I read a comment in another report on the vein of how things should be handled and someone (Col Collins?) said that responsibility for the war goes all the way to the door of No 10 where illegal acts were concerned.
Please tell me, then, that the door of No 10 is where the accused can safely rely on for provision of a watertight defence plea... Forgive me for being cynical, but I am confident that, as alluded to above, No 10 would rather keep the Muslim Council for Great Britain, the Opposition, the Press et al happy rather than worry about the careers of a couple of Bill Oddies.

If the responsibility for war lies with No 10, then surely the responsibility for its consequences lies there also?

I wholeheartedly agree with the opinion that the military are NOT trained policemen, but find themselves more and more involved in Police-type operations, where the asymmetric nature of the threat means that your average infanteer would do better to learn the Police and Criminal Evidence Act in basic training than learning Fire Control Orders....

Just my opinion, of course.....:?
 
#14
YofS said:
your average infanteer would do better to learn the Police and Criminal Evidence Act in basic training than learning Fire Control Orders....
Wonder if you could combine Police and Criminal Evidence Act & Fire Control Orders.....


I must warn you that, enemy front, anything you say, 100, will be taken down, watch and shoot, watch and shoot and used against .....ah sod it ..fire
 
#15
If we combined PACE with fire control orders in a future New Labour-sanctioned combat environment, presumably we'd have to make sure that insurgents got three square meals a day in a properly lit and ventilated cell with an adequate uninterrupted rest period and with access to free, impartial and confidential legal advice. Then you can hose them down with as much 5.56 as you have stored in your pooches.

Watch and shoot! Watch and shoot! (on legal aid)

V!
 
#16
Darth Doctinus and Cynical Subbie - I believe you are wrong to scoff at the potential implications of these upcoming court martials. Indeed, I think the military, especially the Army, ignore the potential impact of this affair at their own peril.

There is a huge difference between this and previous disciplinary proceedings. Given the high reputation of the Army at home and abroad, I do not believe ramifications of successful convictions for committing 'War Crimes' can really be assessed. But no good will come of it.

There are other aspects to consider. Given the media interest in these cases, it is a given that a lot of detail will come out. It is conceivable that Col Mendocas' defence will put out a robust case which will receive great sympathy, both in the media and the public generally, but still be convicted. If this were to be the case, I feel there will a serious knock on effect - both on officer retention and recruitment. Already, Col Collins, late of RIR, has voiced his concerns based on his own experiences. To have another senior and decorated officer voicing the same thoughts and beliefs will benefit neither the government nor the military at large. Both the public and the media will put far more faith into such characters as Cols Collins and Mendonca than they will ever give any politician.

Finally, the odd soldier being convicted of crimes which are broadly perceived to the result of either/or over enthusiasm and excessive military zeal is one thing. If the defendants of whatever rank are able to mount plausible and robust defences, as one would hope, but are still convicted, there is potential for the situation in the military to get even worse.

It is not beyond the realms of belief that if the above were to happen the rank and file in the Army, (already suspicious of this government, to put it mildly), will believe the government will never take into account either the circumstances and situations military personnel find themselves in, or the requirements of the military, but will ALWAYS do just that for themselves, regardless of the cost or effects on the military. If that were to become the common belief of the rank and file, then the Army will be in much greater trouble than they are now.

It seems certain to me that, in the first instance both the Irish Guards and Queens Lancashire Regiment will find themselves losing an unusually high number of soldiers post this case (if not from now on). And what of other units who have served in Iraq? How many more units who, up to press, believed they have served with distinction under the most difficult of circumstances will find they are to be investigated at the behest of either politicians who have not the faintest understanding of the difficulties of the situation, or do good lawyers, trawlilng around Iraq for so called victims of war crimes? (Who are doubtless well versed in the insane generosity of our legal system).

No, there is a great deal to worry about here. If only the government were not so self interested, it might realise it. Then again, they are probably blinded the messianic vision of Old Golden Teflon Tone - the only real untouchable in this country.
 
#17
El Gringo said:
Darth Doctinus and Cynical Subbie - I believe you are wrong to scoff at the potential implications of these upcoming court martials. Indeed, I think the military, especially the Army, ignore the potential impact of this affair at their own peril.

There is a huge difference between this and previous disciplinary proceedings. Given the high reputation of the Army at home and abroad, I do not believe ramifications of successful convictions for committing 'War Crimes' can really be assessed. But no good will come of it.
Sound words indeed El Gringo. To paraphrase Col. Collins 'You cannot apply the same laws to the war in Iraq as one would to a punch-up in any city centre'. Really, the moment the shooting war started out in Iraq, the lawyers should have been put back in their boxes. What concerns me about this matter is that it is being aired so publicly. Why is this much attention being drawn down upon what really should be a matter for internal inquiry within the Army? There is a very real risk here of sacrificing men merely in the interests of being seen to be scrupulously fair. By all means hold an investigation where there is a call to do so, but not this way.
 
#18
Some comments from across the media about this issue and its impact. El Gringo - seen - but I'm shure we can agree to disagree in certain areas.

See how much of this you can read before you find yourself nodding in vociferous agreement! :D

Daily Telegraph Editorial, July 21

"Eleven British servicemen ... are to be tried by courts martial in England over their conduct in Iraq two years ago. Four are charged with the manslaughter of Ahmed Kareem, a suspected looter in Basra ... The seven others are accused of offences connected with the death in army custody of Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist ... Three of those seven - all of them members of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment [QLR] - are the first British servicemen to be charged under the International Criminal Court Act (ICCA), which was introduced by the present government to deal with war crimes ...

"Members of Tony Blair's cabinet ... have frequently shown themselves ready to demand heroics from our armed forces ... Almost always, British servicemen behave in an exemplary way ... The very least that they should expect in return is the feeling that the government ... is fully on their side. How can they feel this, when Labour's law officers choose to parade their Islington consciences by charging British troops with war crimes?"

Daily Mail Editorial, July 21

"There is no doubt the prosecution of those accused of inflicting the beatings should be pursued. But what possible purpose is served by treating this as a war crime and dealing with it under the jurisdiction of the ICC in the Hague? ... Inhuman treatment is an offence under existing British law ...

"This newspaper argued against signing up to the ICC, warning that it would inevitably lead to British forces being arraigned on war crimes charges. So it has proved ... It is only a matter of time before British soldiers end up in the dock in the Hague - while real war criminals such as Bosnia's Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic remain at large."

Timothy Garden Independent, July 21

"We have a military of which we can be rightly proud. It is a source of wonder that they, almost without exception, operate within the rule of law ... Our major ally, the US, has not ratified the ICC treaty, and this is often taken as an enviable example by senior officers. They worry that the military discipline system will disappear, and that we might find soldiers standing trial in the Hague.

"This is all alarmist nonsense. The ICC only swings into action when a state does not have a proper investigative and legal system to deal with allegations. British servicemen are protected because of our legal system. Properly handled cases will remain within the military chain of command, and, where there is a case to answer, will come to trial by court martial ... Killing people even in war needs to be taken seriously."

Timothy Garden is a former assistant chief of the defence staff

Andy McNab Sun, July 21

"Charging British soldiers with war crimes will act as a massive recruitment poster for Muslim fanatics ... It will destroy morale among the ordinary troops on the ground and put their young lives at risk. And employing the ICCA ... to prosecute these men is political correctness gone mad ... Any abuse of Iraqis by British soldiers must be stamped out and the guilty punished. But our first priority must be to our own soldiers on the ground. They are the future and need to be protected."

Herald Scotland, July 21

"The families of Mousa and Kareem have waited a long time - three years - for the cases to come before the appropriate forum ... At the time, the QLR was under intense pressure, dealing daily with riots, looting, kidnapping [and] bombings ... But that does not excuse unacceptable behaviour ... If rules of behaviour are flouted, those responsible must answer for their actions.

"It is crucial in these fraught times that the government demonstrates beyond doubt that everyone is treated equally before the law. That, of course, applies to the military ... But it also applies in a wider sense. There is a belief among young Muslims that there is one rule for them and another for everyone else ... We cannot risk further alienation or a sense of injustice spreading. We all have a part to play in addressing these issues, including the military."

Times Editorial, July 21

"Opponents of the war, predictably, have cited the cases as evidence that responsibility for abuses stretches not only high up the chain of military command but should also extend to those in government ... who took the decision to commit Britain to war. Such a conclusion is dangerous and wrong ...

"Worse still, the attempt by opponents of Britain's involvement in Iraq to balance the alleged crimes by a handful of soldiers against the atrocities daily committed by terrorists and suicide bombers is as immoral as it is flawed. There is no moral equivalence ... Equally reprehensible is the notion, put about by those hoping to denigrate the armed forces, that a court martial is, in some way, a cover-up by the military authorities to minimise the alleged offences and limit responsibility within the command structure ...

"The cases, far from undermining military morale, should enhance it. For Iraqis, the cases show an accountability lacking under the previous regime and a rule of law abhorrent to nihilist, egotistical insurgents."
 
#19
The second rule of Fight Club is that you Look after the Boys. Period. You don't tolerate illegality, but you also don't go out of your way to stage politically-correct show trials that salve your liberal conscience.

The spams refused to touch the ICC with a ten foot bargepole, knowing full well that it would be used as a tool to punish unpopular foreign policy in this way. Well done Mr. Bush.

Tony Blair nor any of his family will never, ever, put themselves in harm's way for their country. Yet he sees fit to dump on those who would. I'm being hopelessly old-fashioned here, but it's a question of loyalty and honour to your own. What occurred might be a criminal offence, it might be a disciplinary offence but is it a "war crime?"

I can see happening to your job what's happened to mine, where seniors spend their lives filling in back-covering bits of paper rather than dynamically getting on with the tasks at hand. No way to run an army.

V!
 

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