In response to my post of yesterday, commenting on Nich Starling's comments on the death of Matty Hull (I cannot abide the phrase 'friendly fire', in much the same way as I hate 'joyriding'), Nich has got back to me to mention that:
"I didn't mention in my posting that the US denied on several occasions that the video even existed. Liars as well as war criminals."
And while I don't mean to single out Nich in particular, this kind of pointless anti-Americanism, unfortunately not uncommon in Lib Dem circles, saddens me.
For starters, it was the good old British MoD who denied the existence of the tape, not the Americans. Secondly, gross negligence, if that what caused the death of Lance-Corporal Hull, is not a war crime. But commentary on this issue has revealed a depth of anti-American feeling that leads to the tarring of 'the U.S.' with the same brush as Pol Pot and Klaus Barbie.
The weeping of the National Guard airmen (from Idaho, we are constantly reminded in the British media, as if it were a badge of their imbecility*) while certainly for themselves in the knowledge they had not fully followed the rules of engagement ("We're in jail, dude!"), stemmed also from the knowledge that they had killed an ally and a friend. For while this current American government does not show great appreciation for the value of Britain's loyalty (misplaced or not), the American people do.
Not that it excuses it, but the sad truth of the matter is that militaries are secretive, and they kill people. That is their job. It is also a sad truth that when they kill the wrong people they tend to lie about it. Bloody Sunday anyone? Rainbow Warrior? It is the nature of the beast. Sad; hopefully changing; but true nonetheless.
These two American airmen need to face the consequences for their negligence - of that there is no doubt. That the British government felt it easier to lie to a war widow than to challenge the secrecy of the Pentagon in the interests of justice speaks more about the MoD than it does about the United States.
However, the manner in which allegations of 'war criminal' are frequently thrown about is something I find distasteful; it cheapens the word, softens the impact, and dulls us to what are the true horrors of the war crimes the 20th century sadly became sadly too familiar with.
Words matter, and there are some we need to reserve for the most solemn of occasions. We should not allow justified and well-intentioned anger at the folly and tragedy of the Iraq War to blind us to that.
(*I was originally going to use the word moronism, but then realised that looks too much like Mormonism, which is Utah , not Idaho...)