Friday, November 25, 2011

'Hang on. I just shot someone'

General Richard Dannatt, until his retirement Britain's Chief of the General Staff, is a committed Christian.

Writing in the Guardian, he says the military needs to have not only good leadership and sound morals, but a spiritual dimension to sustain the soldiers. He quotes a British private who had just shot his first enemy fighter in Afghanistan:

"Afterwards, I sat there and I thought 'Hang on. I just shot someone.' I had a brew and that. I didn't get to sleep that night. I just lay there all night thinking, 'I shot someone.' It's something strange. A really strange feeling. You feel like, you know, a bit happy with yourself - I've done me job, it's what I've come here for, know what I mean? He's Taliban and I've got one of them. You feel quite chuffed about it.

"Then you're feeling like, you know, well you know, sad. You're thinking. . . well, you know. . . you know, the, the geezer's another human being at the end of the day, like. Then you get the feeling, well, you know, it's either him or me. And then you're thinking. . .

"I think people get, like, you know, religious then as well. You're thinking, well, in the bigger picture, if there is a Geezer up there and a Geezer downstairs, what does that mean to me now I've just shot someone? Is that me done for? Am I going to hell or what? And all of that went through me mind that night, for hour after hour after hour."

Young soldiers may not understand the politics that led to war or the ethical considerations involved in their doing what they're doing. They may not have a Christian background, but they still have, it seems, an awareness of the value of human life.