Anorak | Sergeant Alexander Blackman: A Life Sentence For Murdering A Not-Quite-Human Taliban

Sergeant Alexander Blackman: A Life Sentence For Murdering A Not-Quite-Human Taliban

by | 9th, December 2013



MOST of us will never know the horrors of war: we leave the front-line butchery and barbarism to others, content to judge the effectiveness of military strategy from our armchairs and calmly pontificate on the relative morality of battles lost and won. We have no understanding of the dreads or traumas of armed conflict, and little apprehension of the kind of mind which can rationally entertain killing another human being on the orders of another, writes Cranmer .

But those who sit in courts martial do: they are officers and warrant officers qualified by experience to judge fellow members of the armed forces. They are better equipped to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused, and mete out just punishments to those who breach military discipline or violate the rules of engagement.

The Royal Marine convicted of murdering a wounded Taliban insurgent has been sentenced to 10 years in prison a ‘life’ sentence to be served in a civilian prison. After 15 years of dedicated service to Queen and country, he has also been dismissed ‘with disgrace’ from HM Armed Forces.

Sergeant Alexander Blackman shot the Afghan, who had been seriously injured in an attack by an Apache helicopter, in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol. He then calmly quoted Shakespeare to the dead man, and urged those who witnessed the shooting to keep quiet because (as he admitted) he had breached the Geneva Convention.

The sentence has created something of a stir: some say he shouldn’t be imprisoned at all; others that 10 years is far too harsh a punishment. After all, Afghanistan is a war zone and the Taliban are out to blow us all to kingdom come, irrespective of Aquinas’s ‘Just War’ theory or the neat codifications of the Geneva Convention.


Photo: Taliban fighters hold copies of holy Quran as they join the Afghanistan government in the city of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013. About five former Taliban fighters from Shinwar district of Nangarhar province handed over their weapons as part of a peace reconciliation program. 



Liberal Democrat ex-Royal Marine Lord Ashdown considers 10 years to be a fair and justified punishment for cold-blooded murder: British soldiers can’t go round arbitrarily shooting prisoners just because they’re having a bad hair day. Conservative former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth thinks it a rather harsh sentence. He said: “The highest standard of discipline must be maintained in the Armed Forces and this man obviously committed an offence. But 10 years is too much. Five years would be more appropriate.”

Politicians are not, of course, the wisest of judges or the fairest dispensers of justice. We separate Parliament from the Judiciary in order to mitigate mob notions of justice and to ensure objectivity in sentences.

In carefully reasoned judgment , Judge Jeff Blackett explained:

..Hearts and minds will not be won if British service personnel act with brutality and savagery.

..You treated that Afghan man with contempt and murdered him in cold blood. By so doing you have betrayed your Corps and all British Service personnel who have served in Afghanistan, and you have tarnished their reputation. In one moment you undermined much of the good work done day in and day out by British forces and potentially increased the risk of revenge attacks against your fellow service personnel. You have failed to demonstrate the self discipline and restraint that is required of service personnel on operations, and which sets British troops apart from the enemy they fight.

..Your actions have put at risk the lives of other British service personnel. You have provided ammunition to the terrorists whose propaganda portrays the British presence in Afghanistan as part of a war on Islam in which civilians are arbitrarily killed. That ammunition will no doubt be used in their programme of radicalisation.

Helmand must be hell. We can have absolutely no idea what

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Posted: 9th, December 2013 | In: News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink