the Disillusioned kid: Fair's fair
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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Fair's fair

Enter stage right the Minister for War:
Mr Reid told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there had to be a balance between the scrutiny cast upon British troops and the enemy they faced.

"We can't continually have an uneven battlefield for our troops, where we are facing an enemy, unconstrained by any legitimacy, any morality, any international convention and at the same time, subject our troops to a level of scrutiny, accountability, media intrusion, questioning and every conceivable opportunity to criticise them," he said.

"I say in that kind of world, where we are facing that kind of enemy, let us be very slow to condemn our troops, our forces, and very quick to support and understand them."
This vacuous self-serving nonsense has been given a good fisking by bloggers better than I (take a bow Justin, Nosemonkey, Charlie and Jamie) and there's little point in my repeating what has already been said. What I'd like to consider here is Reid's conception of an "uneven battlefield."

The fantasy which the doctor is trying to sell to the British public is one in which the occupying forces are facing an equally matched resistance differentiated only their inveterate malevolence. I'd be the last person to pretend that all those of who have taken up arms against the occupation are models of humanity. There is no question that some (many?) of them are deeply reactionary,sectarians with little compunction about killing anybody with the temerity to disagree with them. The key element that Reid's simulacrum ignores is that insofar as there is an "uneven battlefield" the slope massively favours the occupiers.

Just how many cluster bombs, Predator Drones, white phosphorous incendiary munitions, fighter bombers, Apache helicopters and Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicles do you think al-Zarqawi and al-Sadr could muster between them? Not very many I would suggest. This goes someway towards explaining the huge discrepancies between the numbers of civilians killed by US/UK and Iraqi security forces and the numbers killed by groups involved in the insurgency. It also explains why anti-occupation groups have adopted the tactics they have. Massively outgunned by the occupiers they cannot face them head-on and so adopt more low-key guerilla tactics. This is a common dynamic familiar from occupations around the world and was an entirely predictable consequence of the invasion.

If we follow Reid's line of thinking, with its commendable focus on fairness, should we not be equipping anti-occupation forces with the military technology they have hitherto been denied? As an added bonus this would almost certainly put a stop to the use of suicide bombings which I'm sure we can all agree has got to be a good thing. Why waste valuable human resources by having them blow themselves up when you could achieve the same result with a well-placed cluster bomb? So much tidier, don't you think?

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