Her Majesty’s troops in Iraq, pure as the driven snow

Published Wednesday, December 9, 2009, 1:27 PM

I have been stunned recently by yet another series of foul accusations of serious misconduct against Her Majesty's troops in Iraq. Will it never end?

Down all the decades of my lifetime, from about every corner of the globe, these vile and foul accusations continue to be directed against Her Majesty's men and women despite the fact that full and thorough investigations of them by Her Majesty's other men -- usually distinguished retired judges and officers -- find that all of them are unjustified.

Can the world's accusers not get it into their heads that Her Majesty's troops are not just blemish free in all respects, but are among the most humane and compassionate souls in the whole wide world which they once ruled in the days when the sun never set on the borders of the British Empire?

The latest spate of accusations from about 40 Iraqis alleges that British troops abused them in every way shortly after the beginning of the war there. The allegations stop just short of murder, though there have been earlier allegations of that too.

But there are allegations of torture by British troops, of numerous assaults and humiliations, even of rape. Women soldiers are alleged to have exposed themselves to terrified prisoners, some of these seized off the street at random.

The list goes on and on, and the group of accusers is now represented by a very articulate lawyer indeed. The Ministry of Defense has stated that they take these allegations very seriously and will investigate them thoroughly. They say that if it is discovered that any of their squaddies stepped even an inch out of line they will be very severely punished.

The Ministry always says that. The Ministry always investigates such foul allegations as these very stringently indeed. If necessary they even hold totally transparent public inquiries so that the truths can be fully exposed through the testimonies of Soldier A and Soldier B, and Officer L and Officer K (retd.) and be seen to be exposed.

And in the end the Ministry can relax totally because Her Majesty's other men, the learned judges and authorities, find that the accusations are totally groundless and the soldiers' hands are white as the driven snow.

American troops do misbehave sometimes, as we all know. There was serious misbehavior in that Abu Ghraib jail a few years ago when detainees were clearly mistreated and tortured and abused.

But American troops, in fairness, are merely former colonials, and their descendants (many of them Irish too) and some degree of imperfection is accordingly to be expected. The guilty parties were quickly punished by their own military authorities, disgraced and dishonored totally.

And that punishment again emphasizes the gulf that exists between all other armies and Her Majesty's men who are as near to perfect, we all know by now, as Pope John Paul or Mother Teresa of Calcutta. That has been proved time and again by Her Majesty's distinguished other Men.

The bloody Irish, of course, started it all off in the course of their long drive towards independence. No other nation made so many vile accusations against Her Majesty's men as the Irish.

Think about it. The allegations began during the reign of the Black and Tans nearly a century ago and have persisted to this day.

Did we not allege constantly that the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries were animals? Did we claim that they shot innocent men simply because they happened to have their hands in their trouser pockets?

Did we say they committed many murders? Did we allege that they were the sweepings of British prisons and constantly set fire to entire towns as reprisals for strikes against them?

These allegations, too, were thoroughly investigated by Her Majesty's Other Men and were found to be groundless. No Black and Tan was ever found guilty of indiscipline.

On the contrary, they were clearly proven to be as white as the driven snow. That's history.

And, not just once, but twice, did we not create the term Bloody Sunday and use that as a saddle upon which to seat more vile accusations.

Did we claim that Black and Tans actually entered Croke Park and opened fire during a hurling final there? We did that.

Was it claimed that some of the players were gunned down as well as spectators in a frenzy of fur by Her Majesty's men? We did all that.

And what was the outcome? The outcome was that Her Majesty's men, after a sustained IRA attack upon them the previous night, were simply carrying out their patrolling duties when they came under fire again.

None of Her Majesty's men went to jail on that occasion either. Pure as the driven snow as always.

And a half-century later we dragged up the Bloody Sunday propaganda again, this time in Derry rather than in Dublin. We should be ashamed of ourselves!

We claimed that Her Majesty's most elite corps, the Paratroopers, began gunning down unarmed civil rights marchers at the beginning of a riotous kind of situation in the city. We claimed that nearly 20 young men were shot down like dogs in broad daylight in an unjustified shoot to kill situation at a time when riots were a virtually daily occurrence in Derry.

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