Today Sgt Al Blackman and his family will hear his fate decided in the Court Martial Appeal in London. Sgt Blackman, who shot and killed an unarmed enemy combatant has to many become a symbol of everything which is unfair in the way in which this and previous governments have allowed our serving military personnel to be hounded by lawyers and civil right activists, intent on holding their actions in a war zone up to the scrutiny of standards acceptable in civilian life.
Tasked with keeping us safe, Sgt.Blackman was dispatched to foreign lands to tackle an enemy deemed to be a threat to the UK and it’s interests. Like many servicemen and women he never asked for thanks or awards, he had a job to do and he would do it. Surrounded by his fellow soldiers he had their back and they had his. If only the same could be said for those sat in Whitehall who were immune from the horrors of the frontline where split seconds could be the difference between coming home to have your family weep tears of relief and joy, or tears of despair.
Sgt Blackman shot and killed an unarmed combatant who had moments before been intent on killing him and his men. This is not disputed. Yet it only tells half of the story and it is this which has caused current and ex-servicemen the world over to stand together asking for Justice for Marine A. Denied the right at his initial Court Martial to have mitigating evidence submitted, despite years of previous unblemished military service, Sgt. Blackman was to many minds made a political example of to suit an agenda made in Whitehall. Soldiers need to know that when we send them into a warzone that we as a country have their backs. They do not need to be looking over their shoulders and second guessing how their actions would be viewed at a later date should things go awry. Hesitation can mean death.
If Sgt.Blackmans appeal today is unsuccessful and the appeal Court rules the initial verdict correct then we as a country need to ask ourselves what it is that we are asking of our servicemen and women, who will be given the impossible task of being sent to kill an enemy and then having their actions second guessed in a court room by those not fit to lace their boots. If we are to try our armed forces personnel by the standards set in a civilian environment as opposed to a military environment, then we also need to try those responsible for giving orders and commands as per a civilian environment too. A soldier becomes an employee, a Whitehall mandarin becomes a CEO and as a CEO they have a duty of care to ensure that their employees are in a fit and sound condition to carry out the tasks given to them. Failure to meet the duty of care required results in not the employee carrying the can, but the organisation and ultimately the CEO for not ensuring adequate procedures or controls were in place.
It can be argued that if Sgt.Blackmans appeal fails today, that he should be in the dock with his Commanding Officer and their superiors as it’s down to their failings too that this event happened. We should all hope that sanity is allowed to rule and that today Sgt.Al Blackman is finally allowed home to his family to await sentencing for the lesser charge of Manslaughter due to his obvious psychological trauma which he experienced.