I served in NI and the Falklands.
I have since had contact with an Argentine officer who lost several men from his platoon at Goose Green. we corresponded via e-mail for about 8-9 months. No animosity between us. Sadness at the loss of friends and comrades - yes. Distrust and contempt for the politicians who put us there - yes. Respect for each other as soldiers who shared the bad weather, crap food and risks - yes. I would happily drink with an Argentine veteran and raise a glass in respect to the dead from both sides.
On Op Banner we had our hands tied behind our backs by British politicians in a way in which has never happened in Iraq or Afghanistan. If we fired back we were investigated by the RMP, and God help you if you shot and killed anyone - you had to prove you did the right thing in a public court. We did not have fast air support, mortar or artillery fire, heavy armour and all the latest electronic gadgets to help us find IEDs. We generally had a magazine of 20 rounds and that was it. We had to shout a warning THREE times before we were allowed to open fire unless you were actually under fire AND could clearly see the person trying to kill you or your mates. We didn't have NATO support with troops on the ground, and US drones doing the killing at a safe distance.
The terrorists attacked at a time of their own choosing, often with more ammunition than we were carrying and, unlike the Taleban, the IRA could actually shoot straight and hit their targets. These guys aimed at YOU and some were very good shots. However, they usually shot you in the back and rarely opened fire if there was a chance they could get involved in a firefight. They did not stand and fight.
Our body armour was pathetic and the medical training and support was a joke compared to what is in place now. If you had two or three field dressings you were over-equipped. Many soldiers died in NI from IEDs that we couldn't counter and didn't have the medical facilities to keep them alive when injured.
If we saw a known terrorist on the streets, unless an arrest warrant was out on them, we had to let them pass AND be polite to them. If you did arrest them they were frequently let out again in a few hours.
They attacked our families and our towns, killed our wives and our children (M62 bombing, Aldershot bombing etc). When arrested they claimed to be "political prisoners" and demanded special status. They claimed the right to shoot to kill but demanded that we could not, and British politicians gave in to them. When we caught them out and killed them (Loughall, Gibraltar), they whined and cried to the world and the media that they should have been allowed to surrender or taken prisoner. They did not give that option to Fusilier Crocker, shot in the back in Turf Lodge and now buried in Milltown Cemetery, or my mate who was shot through both legs while driving a clearly marked military ambulance.
The British media ignored us at best, and the public gave us no support. We never saw journalists making nice TV programmes about troops serving in NI. We had no charities set up to help the families of the 1000+ soldiers killed or those who were injured. Severely injured soldiers were discharged from the system and left to fend for themselves.
The terrorists terrorised their own communities - murder, punishment beatings, bombings etc etc. The Shankill Butchers committed crimes that sound like something out of a horror film and make me feel sick to read about them. I would go on patrol knowing that these people were out there and trying to kill me, my mates, my family.
And they brought their murder to my country. I have heard bombs go off in London.
At least the Taleban have had the courage to stand up and fight for their cause, even if they have paid for it in blood. The IRA and the rest of their kind did not.
I won't forget and I won't forgive.
Full thread here: http://www.arrse.co.uk/naafi-bar/178988-can-you-forgive.html