THIS IS A REPUBLICATION. AFTER THE ORIGINAL WAS EMAILED TO REGISTERED FOLLOWERS IT INEXPLICABLY DISAPPEARED FROM THE SITE.
Lord Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice, has said of the Blackman court martial: “The case is of the greatest public interest, involving as it does a unique charge of murder against soldiers on military operations against a wounded detainee. There is, therefore, the greatest public interest in the whole of the proceedings being publicly reported.”
And when sentencing Blackman the Judge Advocate General spoke of the importance that “this Court sends out a very strong message that while this sort of offence is extremely rare, if not unique, those Service personnel who commit crimes of murder, or other war crimes or crimes against humanity while on operations will be dealt with severely. This is a message of deterrence but it is also to reassure the international community that allegations of serious crime will be dealt with transparently and appropriately.”
So both the Lord Chief Justice and the Judge Advocate General recognise the importance of the public interest and, specifically, in the JAG’s words, the importance of the message. Accordingly, it may fairly be assumed that both judges accepted that there would be public discussion of the trial, of the verdict, and of the sentence. The JAG alluded also to transparency – which is a good start point for public discussion of what some consider a travesty of justice, and which others have described as a political ‘stitch-up’ recalling memories of Admiral Byng, of Captain Dreyfus and, more recently, of Sergeant Nightingale.
So let us look at transparency.
Public comment has compared, for example, Blackman with a drug addict who murdered his baby son in anger because he had exhausted his supply of cannabis and yet received a prison sentence of only six years, and, more tellingly in view of the ‘transparency’ urged by the JAG, compared with the late prime minister, the Rt Hon Anthony C.L. Blair, who avoided impeachment and wanders the world accumulating treasure.
The killing of Osama bin Laden offers an interesting comparison. He was shot dead by Special Forces who could have captured him and could then have taken him to America for trial (an inconvenient trial perhaps). He was defended only by his unarmed wife. He may have preferred death to capture, as probably also may the Afghan in the Blackman case, but that is not relevant. Osama bin Laden, although not in a war zone, was shot in the line of duty, and was alive when the trigger was pulled, while Blackman’s Afghan, who in contrast was in a war zone, also was shot in the line of duty, may not actually have been alive when Blackman pulled the trigger, and earlier had been attempting to kill British servicemen, for which purpose he was when discovered still armed. (No one can swear that he was alive when shot, but medical specialists in this field explain that a dead man’s muscles can twitch, giving the appearance of life, if the chest is hit soon after death, as it was in this case by a bullet.)
Equal and appropriate treatment! Is this the message?
We can take this a little further during the next couple of weeks. For the present, responding to the JAG’s call for transparency, we shall just ask for the reasons that a child killer, a soldier killing a live al-Qu’aida leader, and a civilian whose moral deficiencies wilfully led to the loss of more than a hundred thousand lives, should be treated so differently from Blackman. All are not equal in the UK, certainly not in the decisions of the MoD when the objective of treating an accused man with justice is replaced by the objective of looking good to the liberal establishment and pretending to the world that “the British Government is whiter than white.”
The question we must ask as we search for transparency will be about the apparently compulsive need to punish our own, propitiating Moloch, the god of the Guardianistas, in a spirit of self-abnegation that appears to justify, as once with the first-born, Penance-by-Proxy (PbP). For the higher civilian ranks within the toxic environment of the MoD, no opportunity to injure servicemen ever appears to be deliberately neglected, whether by reducing pension entitlement, by premature redundancy, by misinterpreting or rewriting regulations, by invalidating allowances, or by convening avoidable courts martial – and Blackman’s court martial was avoidable, as, for similar reasons, was Sergeant Nightingale’s. Psychiatric evidence in both cases was accepted by the court and then discounted, yet both men deserved at least the consideration freely given to the psychoses of undeserving politicians.
Those who allow PbP to persist in the official treatment of the Armed Forces betray them as surely as do those of their leaders in the MoD who send them out on patrols where every footstep may shred their legs, emasculate them, mutilate their bodies, or kill them, and then – if they have survived so far – after the continual stress of these patrols has accumulated to such extent that it affects their judgement, insist that there can be no allowance for this because not everyone, according to the JAG, buckles at the same point.
Sergeant Blackman, RM was betrayed, and such betrayal will continue (and Army recruitment will decline in consequence of this and similar betrayals) until the Government stops it.
Among the readers here will be many of those who last year realised that much of this blog’s material has been supplied to me by recently retired members of the Armed Forces and even by middle-ranking civil servants still inside the MoD. Usually, after deleting the rants, I select only what I think useful and necessary, but today I am reproducing a report in its entirety. It is alleged to have been submitted with an expense account, although I am not sure I believe that.
It was late when I arrived at the B&B, but there was a kettle with a teabag in my room and I eventually found a cup in the bedside cupboard bottom drawer, and then my tiredness hit me and I was asleep as soon as I dropped onto the bed. In the morning the shower worked but the water was tepid, yet the soap packaging had a name I knew to be expensive, so at least the management was trying.
Breakfast was the real beginning of my education. Salisbury Plain is still very much MoD-land, and this was very much the sort of B&B one expects of a lodging managed by Whitehall, especially when the staff is rumoured to be on detachment from Main Building. I sat at the only table and looked at the menu, beautifully printed, obviously designed by one of the hundreds of talented and expensive PR men the MoD employs, and spoiled only, I thought uncharitably, by its grammar and spelling. But that was not important, and I was hungry.
After waiting for rather a long time, or so it seemed, I left to find evidence of human occupation somewhere and eventually stumbled into the kitchen to discover a cook wrestling with a large and complicated food mixer. I explained that I was in a hurry and should be grateful for tea, toast and scrambled eggs.
“Ah,” he said, in a voice I recognised from my dealings with MoD over the years. “Sorry, no eggs, and although we do have bread, somewhere, we lost our toaster as an efficiency saving. I can do you some caviar, and I’m plucking one of the turkeys, and we’ve got some Christmas pudding. There’s no tea now, for when they cancelled the biscuits they decided we didn’t need any more tea bags during working hours, but there’s some champagne left in the fridge. Of course, if you’re in a hurry, and if you’re really sure you want breakfast, I’ll get you a croissant from next door. We share our resources with the French now, and if that’s not enough I can probably get you some sauerkraut later, if you’re not too fussy. European Defence Force, you know. That’s the future. More economic, they say.”
I looked around the kitchen. It was clean but, fairly obviously, not used in a regular or systematic way. There were seven pans, all of the same size, but as there was no frying pan my scrambled eggs would have been a non-starter even if there had been any eggs. I checked the refrigerator, a top-of-the-line and very expensive European model, made, I suspected, in four different countries and assembled in Lancashire, but it was empty apart from about a dozen pots of caviar and a half-full bottle of an inexpensive champagne. The oven was from the same multi-role manufacturer, but when I checked its controls no lights appeared.
“What’s wrong with this?” I asked.
“Oh, nothing, really. We didn’t plug it into the electricity because we were promised an Aga and with an Aga we won’t need an oven.” Then, responding to my congratulatory smile, he continued, “Problem is: I have to be trained and all the instructors were made redundant in the last cuts because all the new Aga ovens are oil-fired and we can’t afford the oil any more, so that’s okay, really, I think, or anyway that’s what they told me. ‘It’s to protect the bonus,’ they said.”
“So how do you cook?” I asked. “I mean, that food mixer won’t cook, will it? And although I’m no expert, it looks to me as though it won’t even work.”
“Work?” he said, in wonder. “Of course it won’t work. I’ve been waiting for spare parts for months. It’s just for show, really. We all know that. Like a soap on the telly, it’s all illusion. Nothing here actually works. We can’t afford for it to work … electricity’s too expensive … so we blame the lack of spare parts.”
“But doesn’t that upset you?” I asked. “I mean, you’ve obviously nothing to do.” And then I added mischievously, “Or are you just waiting for your redundancy money to come through?”
“Oh, no,” he said. “There’s no redundancy for me. Too many ahead of me in the queue. Now to fill the spaces opening up I have to change to being a Warrior driver, or something like that. Anyway, that’s all in the future, and no one really seems to know what’s happening. And in any case I have to do Shrivenham first.”
Shrivenham? That made no sense. The staff colleges are at Shrivenham, and only officers attend them, not kitchen hands, not even cooks.
“Shrivenham?” I said.
“Yes,” he replied. “I have to pass the Equality & Diversity Course before my next posting. Should be fun.”
So I left him for my appointment, breakfastless.
Perhaps the title I chose should have been NOT Breakfast with the MoD.
For the 2012 archives visit forbesblog.dailymail.co.uk