Saturday, April 30, 2005

Dead Man Walking

Phil has the goods on the recent sentencing of Sgt Hasan Akbar.

I am not, by and large, an advocate of capital punishment (for procedural reasons - make no mistake, I believe there are numerous people for whom it would be all too richly deserved) but it seems to me that if it is to be maintained, this is a clearly justified ruling.

Akbar's crimes are horrible enough as they stand but it seems to me that there is something about the fact that he passed about the camp, casually rolling primed grenades into the tents of his comrades that makes the flesh crawl. Many factors go to make up a successful military organisation and one of them is trust. When the chips are down, your mates are the only people you can count on - you fight for them and they fight for you. For him to work with them, train with them, live among them and then calculatedly slide metaphorical knives into their backs seems to me unusually abhorrent, quite apart from the loss of life itself.

There have been numerous cases through history when serving military men have been condemned in order to set an example to others - the shooting of Admiral Byng ("pour enocourager les autres", as Voltaire commented) is merely the most obvious case. Sometimes this is a necessary evil. In my view the execution of Sgt Akbar is both necessary and just, a happy combination if happy is an appropriate word to use given the circumstances.


Blogger john b said...

Phil seems to be neglecting one key relevant issue: Akbar is clearly mentally ill (as all prosecution and defence witnesses agree), and should have been dismissed from the army on mental health grounds long before he carried out the attack.

In pragmatic terms, court-martialling the people who kept him in the army despite his poor performance and demonstrable mentalism might do more than topping Akbar to prevent such attacks happening in future...

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