British troops in Afghanistan were ‘out of control’ and ‘feral’


THE CASE of Alexander Blackman (the former marine sergeant sentenced to life imprisonment in 2013 for the murder of a wounded Afghan fighter) has provided another example of the war crimes committed by imperialism during their brutal occupation of the country.

Blackman had his sentence reduced to manslaughter on appeal and is now awaiting a court decision on his jail sentence. His original conviction followed irrefutable evidence recorded on camera of him carrying out a summary execution of a wounded Afghan fighter in Helmand province.

Part of his defence was a statement from Blackman’s senior officer, Oliver Lee, who in it maintained that British soldiers along with Blackman were out of control, ‘gung-ho’ and had gone ‘feral’.

During the appeal only a skeletal outline of Lee’s statement was released by the court but the Guardian newspaper has reported that it has seen the full statement. According to the Guardian, Lee was effectively silenced by the army top brass at the hearing because:  ‘The motive must be to avoid bringing discredit on the chain of command of the Royal Marines and for it to appear to the world that Sgt Blackman acted in a vacuum.’

The picture that Lee, who resigned his commission after Blackman was convicted, painted was that the unit to which he belonged, 42 Commando’s J Company, was out of control with Afghan citizens being abused, treated with contempt and that the marines showed little regard for the rules of engagement. According to Lee, some marines operating in Helmand district had ‘de-humanised’ the enemy and that far from winning hearts and minds they effectively alienated the local population.

In Blackman’s defence Lee insisted, ‘Sgt Blackman was not an individual anomaly or a single rotten apple in the basket. Rather those senior failed him.’ In fact, it was no ‘failure’ on the part of Blackman’s superiors. What has been highlighted in this case is not just a crime committed by one soldier but the real crime – imperialist war.

The mighty imperialist powers unleash their soldiers, bombs and drones to slaughter and intimidate the people of oppressed nations knowing full well that there will be mass murder of unarmed and innocent men, women and children by soldiers who become increasingly brutalised and unhinged by what they are called upon to do.

This shooting was by no means unique and as Lee says Blackman was no single rotten apple – the entire basket of politicians and military who pursue imperialism’s wars are rotten to the core. Every single imperialist war has resulted in atrocities carried out by the troops of the imperialist powers, covered up and sanctioned by the authorities.

The most infamous was carried out at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq where detainees were beaten, tortured and murdered in a planned officially sanctioned regime designed to break Iraqi prisoners. British troops were doing the same in southern Iraq at the same time. The entire history of imperialist wars has been one of murder and torture.

In 2012, the British government for the first time was forced to admit that it had committed war crimes including torture, murder and castration in Kenya in the late 1950s as British imperialism fought to keep its colonial domination.

The brutalisation of troops is not an unfortunate by-product of inadequate military leadership; it is a deliberate policy that has always been pursued by the imperialist armies from Kenya, to Vietnam right through to Afghanistan and Iraq.

It goes along with the dehumanisation of the oppressed people of the world, turning them into sub-humans with no rights. The Tories are determined that there will be no repeat of cases such as Blackman’s which reveal the crimes committed by British troops.

They intend to suspend the European Convention on Human Rights during any future conflict effectively granting full immunity to British troops to carry out any atrocity without fear of legal redress. The lesson from this case is clear. Imperialism is the greatest crime against humanity. The only way to put an end to it is by bringing it down through the world socialist revolution.