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12 Nov, 2009 08:05

The voice of broken soldiers

We are telling the other angle of war, not the romanticized aspect that the government prefers, says Martin Webster, a war veteran, activist and artist.

In 2006, British soldier Martin Webster hit the headlines after being involved in a media scandal when he filmed British troops in Iraq beating up Iraqi youths during a siege at Al Amara in 2004, when British soldiers got in the middle of a crossfire. Webster says local youths were actively participating in the melee, throwing at the soldiers not only stones, but hand grenades as well.

Webster explains that “Once the children started using grenades and firing RPGs, they certainly became a threat to our lives. Our underlying issue as infantry soldiers is to preserve life – our lives and civilians around. So once you pick up a weapon and you are going to use it – you become a target for us to either be captured, arrested or killed.”

“When video cameras became widely available I do not think that the [British] government accounted for the fact that the public is going to see how horrific the war is,” remembers Webster. “You’re fighting kids [in Iraq]. People find it very hard that their Western boys are fighting children. That is the horrible fact of war. Those bombers were in their teens.” He added that the notorious clip with British soldiers beating up Iraqi youth destroyed his life.

To overcome post traumatic stress disorder that “isolates you from society”, Webster made a documentary “Diary of a Disgraced Soldier” – a video diary mixed with his own thoughts about war. The documentary was also made with the intention of proving his innocence after the scandal in the media.

“The whole film became like a form of catharsis and I learnt a lot about myself and I would not change anything for the word. I am really glad of what happened to me and I am very fortunate to be in a position to speak out for the soldiers that have gone through similar situations,” he says.