Wednesday, 7 February 2007

A Matter of Words and Anti-Americanism

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...)


Anonymous said...

"Athis kind of pointless anti-Americanism, unfortunately not uncommon in Lib Dem circles"

Completely agree. British armed forces are just as good at "blue on blue" cock-ups. This whole issue has been the excuse for yet another round of puerile anti-americanism.


Tristan said...

Sometimes I wonder if the anti-Americanism reaches the level of out and out racism...

Edis said...

Yes we do need to look to our own beams and motes – and ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Derry was rather more than a ‘friendly fire’ incident. Staying in Northern Ireland there has been remarkably little ‘Mainland UK’ reaction to the admission that UK Security Forces co-operated with certain ‘Loyalist’ death squads at the height of the still-recent bloodletting there. We seem as guilty of silence on this as are many others. Work to do?

But on the deployment of UK Troops with US forces I am afraid we do need some answers on how US Operational doctrine may lead to more ‘Blue-on-Blue’ incidents than are reasonable even in the chaos of war. There is a long history of US reliance on massive firepower on a short fuse leading to such incidents. Canadian forces in Normandy 1944 for example were bombed by the US Air Force for days in succession.

Are UK forces immune to such balls up? Of course not. However if we are to deploy our forces in combat as part of an alliance then the way our allies conduct themselves in battle can impose unnecessary risks for our troops. Too often it appears US forces in action do appear to offer such unnecessary risks for their allies. What should we do about this?

If we look at this seriously I think we will find many people in the USA (including people in the services) also concerned on this.

Norfolk Blogger said...

It was a member of the decaeased soldier's family who said the American Department of Defense had told them no tape existed. But take my words and twist them to suit your own argument if you wish.

Also, what about the 30 minutes of video that was mysteriously missing from the tape that was handed over when the ITV reporter was shot by US forces.

Accuse me of being a racist if you want. You are wrong, but it is your right to do it. Alternatively, wuestion whether your "friends" are our friends because they acti like friends or only because your have no other friends left.

Chrisco said...

If I have made an error and the Pentagon denied the existence of the tape to the Hull family I apologize for my error and will amend the piece accordingly.

However, I have not seen any evidence of this assertion.

The Terry Lloyd incident was also tragic, and I believe those responsible for his death should be brought to justice.

But once again, neither of these are really grounds to question the utility of a major strategic alliance; as I said, there exist far better reasons to do that.

What these incidents do illustrate, however, is the spinelessness of this government to stand up for British interests, not that the U.S. is a nation of war criminals and liars.

Norfolk Blogger said...

There are links on my blog about the US being accused of denying the tapes existence.

I wouldn't disagree with you one word over the idea that our own government and MOD have been spineless in the way they haev handled themselves over this affair.

I would also make clear that I am not anti-american. I simply do not support the current warmongering regime the US have installed in thw White House.

I criticise Tony Blair, the MOD and our government, but that does not make me anti British, yet as soon as I criticise the US government, I am accused of being anti american. It a warped sort of logic isn't it ?

Chrisco said...

As far as I can tell from your blog the only person to have accused the U.S., not the MoD, of lying about the tapes is Joan 'My Girlfriend Wants a Three-in-a-bed-romp: With another Man!' Burnie in her Daily Record opinion column.

If I have inappropriately labelled you as anti-American I apologise; however that was the tone of the piece that came across. There were no references to the current U.S. government, just 'the Americans', and 'the U.S.', which can be fairly construed to mean the country and the people more broadly.

If you note in your own comments just now, you do not talk about how you criticize 'the British' or 'the U.K.', or even 'Britain'; you are much more specific.

Like I said - words matter.