Making the case for leniency for marines who murder

What is the normally thoughtful Michael White, assistant editor of the Guardian newspaper in the UK, doing calling for leniency for the  marine who executed an Afghan man? The Guardian itself (8 November) reported the details of the story thus: “In the graphic footage, Marine A leans over and Imagefires into the chest of the bloodied and moaning insurgent with a pistol. He then tells him: “There you are, shuffle off this mortal coil, you c***. It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us.” A few moments later Marine A is picked up telling colleagues: “Obviously this doesn’t go anywhere fellas. I’ve just broken the Geneva convention.””

The marine is unnamed to protect him. The Afghan man is unnamed because his name is not important.

The call for leniency is not restricted to Michael White. The Daily Mail, a notoriously partisan and reactionary newspaper, had a couple of days earlier made clear its position by making the quote of Major General Julian Thompson, a veteran of 3 Commando Brigade in the Falklands War, a front page banner headline: “I won’t condemn him…”

We can all think of many cases where similar arguments could be used in the case of civilians. Would Michael White and others advocate taking evidence of victims of child abuse as mitigating circumstances when as adults they go on to do similar things, or worse, themselves? I think not.

Photograph: MoD

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