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Only the good die young

At the end of August, 19-year-old Private Jason Chelsea killed himself. It was widely reported that he took his own life because he could not cope with the possibility of killing children during his, then imminent, deployment to Iraq.

Motivations for suicide are usually quite complex. However, realising you don't want to shoot children - but may be expected to - could certainly become a powerful dynamic in an already vulnerable mind.

Lies and brutalisation

Despite much being made of Chelsea being told in training that he may have to shoot suicide bombers as young as two, the British military has made it clear that this is not part of standard training. And, as far as anyone seems to know, there have been no incidents of very young children carrying out suicide attacks on the occupying forces in Iraq - or anywhere else for that matter. Of course, preparing soldiers for the brutality of war by telling them that it's possibly justifiable to kill children must ease the pain a bit when it actually happens.

The soldier's family and others have called for this to be removed from basic training. It is not clear whether this is because it paints an incorrect and prejudicial pre-combat picture of Iraq's youngsters, or because of its brutalising qualities.

However, it's an awful fact that, whether from an individual soldier's rifle or from a great height - the military kill children - deliberately or otherwise and not confined to any particular conflict.

Post combat trauma

The Ministry of Defence recently confirmed that it is providing psychiatric treatment for more than 1,400 veterans and it's widely believed that this is just the tip of the iceberg of those who are experiencing a mental health problem after returning from combat. In the US, reports suggest that the situation for their veterans is substantially worse.

Ironically perhaps, last month also saw the British government pave the way for posthumous pardons to be given to hundreds of WW1 veterans who - for a variety of reasons, including conscience, shellshock and trauma - were executed by their own side for desertion, cowardice and other “crimes”. It took their families 90 years for this to be understood and formally recognised.

No honour, no glory

Irrespective of what gets said in training, and irrespective of how much bullshit is spouted about queen and country, honour and glory, the bottom line is - if you don't want to become a killer, don't join the military. There is no honour in killing.

Staff changes on the horizon

At the end of September we will say a fond farewell to PN admin and dispatch manager Lyn Bliss.

After two years of providing ruthless administrative efficiency, Lyn and her partner Pete are off to sunnier climes. We wish them the very best for their new life and home a little further south.

Of course as we wave off Lyn we are also waving in her replacement. So welcome aboard Olivia Margo!

If you know someone who is in the military, considering joining, or who has recently returned from combat, check out these websites.

Topics: Armed Forces