Letters: Marine A, morality and the military

As a former soldier who served in Afghanistan, Joe Glenton speaks with some authority (Humans, not heroes, 9 November). In Glenton’s opinion, to understand why Marine A callously “executed” the wounded Afghan, consideration must be given to the “overarching political context” as well as the traumatising horrors encountered by frontline soldiers. Marine A had completed six tours of duty in Afghanistan. Laudably, Glenton prefers rational understanding to condemnation.

An understanding of a less rational kind for the marine’s predicament is already to be discerned in sections of the media. This will grow, inevitably evolving into mitigation, ending with a plea for leniency. Not an unfamiliar trajectory.

Understanding, however, is not being extended to the murdered Afghan, to the insurgent or terrorist as he is referred to, the bad guy in this narrative. To understand him, consideration must be given to the overarching context of his and of his community’s existence; the traumas of invasion and occupation; of military repression and collateral damage; of disruption and poverty. A continuing context that guarantees resistance and perhaps further callous killings.
John Lloyd

• Those of us who remember the execution of three unarmed IRA members in Gibraltar will realise that double standards are being applied in the current court martial (Marine faces life for murder, 9 November). Sean Savage was shot 16 times at close quarters, in the back and in the head, but there was never any question of even bringing charges against those responsible.

In addition to unarmed combatants, multiple non-combatants have been killed by the British army and the RAF, from Derry to Basra, and from Aleksinac to Sirte. The conviction of this singular marine sergeant appears to be a politically driven set-piece, staged to persuade people that he is, as General Mike Jackson points out, one in 100,000.

It is also another indicator that the British establishment, along with its allies, has again made its “peace” with Saudi-sponsored Wahhabism in Afghanistan.
Peter McKenna

• Joe Glenton’s article was a welcome alternative to the endless “hero worship” of soldiers he describes. As he says, “when a political decision is taken that puts men primed for violence into a war, bad things will happen”. Arguably it should have been on your front page rather than the more predictable comments from General Mike Jackson and his claim that “whoever we are, we are subject to the law”. Captain Mike Jackson, as he was then, was with the paratroopers when they shot dead 14 demonstrators in Derry in January 1972. It took him over 30 years to finally admit the victims were innocent and; I hope it doesn’t take him a similar amount of time to reach a “sense of perspective” on Afghanistan.
Declan O’Neill

• The shooting dead of a badly wounded Afghan enemy soldier by a British one seemed horribly callous; but when men are trained and employed to kill on a nation’s behalf and brutalised and traumatised by doing so, we cannot be surprised that sometimes the brutality of killing wounded and unwounded men loses its distinction. The dynamic …read more    

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