Cameron: Protecting UK soldiers or protecting the British State?

Richard Sudan
Richard Sudan is a London-based writer, political activist, and performance poet. His writing has been published in many prominent publications, including the Independent, the Guardian, Huffington Post and Washington Spectator. He has been a guest speaker at events for different organizations ranging from the University of East London to the People's Assembly covering various topics. His opinion is that the mainstream media has a duty to challenge power, rather than to serve power. Richard has taught writing poetry for performance at Brunel University.
A British soldier in Basra, Iraq © Atef Hassan
Almost 60 cases of alleged unlawful killing by UK soldiers serving in Iraq have been abandoned according to the Ministry of Defence.

The ministry said the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) will not proceed in 57 cases. Another case was also halted by the military equivalent of the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service).

The backdrop to this news is that UK Prime Minister David Cameron, for some time, has been calling for more protection to be given to members of the armed forces under investigation for allegations of unlawful killing.

According to the government, many soldiers who fought in illegally waged wars, like in Iraq for example, are facing ‘spurious’ legal challenges upon returning to the UK.
Cameron has said he wants to “stamp out” what he dubbed an “industry”, and has tasked the National Security Council with drawing up a plan to make it happen.

According to reports, one of the main focuses will be to remove the ‘financial incentive’ for law firms offering a ‘no win no fee’ deal for clients.

Despite this, the government and Military Prosecution Authority have also said that any genuine cases with sufficient evidence suggesting foul play by UK soldiers will still be looked into. This assurance reminds me of the assurance the police give when they say they will investigate deaths which occur in police cells.

But let’s take Cameron and the British government at their word. It all makes for very valiant reading. David Cameron, himself descended from slave owners and nobility, nobly seeking to protect soldiers who many regard as patriotic.

Soldiers, returning from war, having served Queen and country, having represented Britain’s fine values and morals abroad, can relax knowing that the government will protect them from any legal challenges at home which call into question their actions during war.

However, without wishing to cast doubt upon the integrity of the Prime Minister’s intentions, the language being used to describe the move by the government is interesting but also makes the whole proposition problematic.

First of all, one can’t help thinking that describing all legal challenges which look at the actions of UK soldiers at war as an “industry” is big generalization to make.
Firstly and most fundamentally, the wars in which the UK has been engaged post 9/11, have been themselves illegal or without a legal basis at least according to international law.

Not only was the invasion of Iraq illegal, we now know that the entire case for the war against Iraq was a cooked up fabrication, which by the way David Cameron supported. There were no WMDs, the war and sanctions against the people of Iraq turned Iraq into a failed state and provided a fertile breeding ground for Daesh. More than a million people were killed with thousands more made refugees. We are talking about a war, not accident/injury claims being made like on TV ads as the government’s tone suggests.

Not only that, but WikiLeaks and other sources exposed many of the crimes committed against Iraqi civilians by the UK and US.

Therefore, to suggest that all accusations against UK soldiers are “spurious”, by virtue of the fact that they implicate the British state, when we now understand the crimes committed in Iraq, are at best misleading. At worst it looks like a deliberate attempt to whitewash any and all legal challenges to the action of soldiers, and in language and tone plays to right-wing populism, something which Cameron has become more and more proficient in, in falling in line with the rest of Europe.

The government is not exactly tripping over themselves at the same time to assure people that genuine legal challenges will be taken seriously. A lukewarm statement by the Military Prosecution Service has been the only statement so far alluding this. Furthermore, the government is also calling for more legal aid restrictions, which again would make it an almost insurmountable task to legally challenge soldiers who represent the state.

There are other factors which also cast doubt on the validity of the government’s intentions. Cameron claims to want to protect soldiers who’ve fought abroad, and says that the move to curb legal challenges are purely driven by a motivation and a sense of loyalty to the soldiers, and nothing to do whatsoever with protecting the state.

If he really cared however, he might consider housing some of the many ex-army veterans living on the streets of London. The numbers are murky, but expert groups believe that a significant proportion of London’s homeless are ex-soldiers.
They’ve been hung out to dry by the state along with the rest of the working class, many of them suffering from alcoholism, PTSD and other problems associated with war.

The state targets the working poor, recruits them to fight abroad against other poor people for land and resources, and then abandons them upon their return.
The government’s line on war, its treatment of soldiers returning home, does not fit with the government’s suggestion that it is ‘stamping out’ legal challenges against soldiers for the benefit of soldiers.

Some might suggest, that this is a cynical ploy by the government designed to cover the tracks of the state. The government has already paid out tens of millions of pounds following previous legal cases which have highlighted crimes by the UK armed forces and its members abroad.

Our government has committed unthinkable and immeasurable crimes in places like Iraq. Could it be that the extent of the crimes committed is such that we have only scratched the surface?

Is the government anticipating that yet more crimes which implicate the state will come to the fore? And is the move also in line with the fact that the UK government expects to be engaged in yet more wars of aggression in the foreseeable future?

Given the track record of the UK government it seems highly likely. The working people of the UK need solidarity more than ever now. This curbing of the legal power and freedom of challenging the state must be seen as part of the overall assault on freedom that the government is waging against the people of Britain, not separate from it.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.