The high-profile campaign by conservative politicians and media figures in the United States to absolve US military personnel of their proven or suspected participation in war crimes during the course of the country’s calamitous interventions in the Middle East and Afghanistan was initially assumed to be something of a political no-brainer, garnering support from Donald Trump and the populist base of the Republican Party. Surprisingly, some of the strongest opposition to the pardoning of convicted soldiers has come from American veterans themselves. By all accounts this push-back has caused President Trump to hesitate in his rush towards the issuing of a blanket pardon or immunity for serving or ex-soldiers linked to criminal actions while on overseas operations.
The attitude among military veterans in the United States, though far from universal, stands in stark contrast with the stance that has been adopted by the veterans of the United Kingdom’s counterinsurgency struggle in Ireland from 1969 to 2005. In the case of the so-called Troubles it seems that nothing less than a general amnesty will satisfy the members of the UK’s military, paramilitary and intelligence services who took part in the country’s decades-long “dirty war” on this side of the Irish Sea. One need only look at the recent television appearance of the Conservative MP Johnny Mercer MP on the BBC show Politics Live, where the former British Army officer deliberately and repeatedly misled viewers and other panellists while debating the investigations into historical crimes by the UK Forces in the Six Counties, making scurrilous allegations against the families and legal representatives of the men, women and children killed before the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
With right-wing politicians in the House of Commons demanding that candidates in the forthcoming Tory leadership contest agree to shield soldiers, police offers and intelligence agents from investigation or prosecution for their actions in Ireland it looks like the only veterans of the Troubles who will continue to face court proceedings are Irish republican ones. Highlighting once again the entirely lopsided nature of “justice” when it comes to Irish-British affairs.