Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 1 November 2012


Remembrance Sunday is almost upon us and this year I am trying something different. Instead of taking part at the usually excellent service of commemoration on the Hoe, I hope to take part in the services taking part in both Plympton and Plymstock, as well as supporting the always moving Festival of Remembrance at the Pavillions on Friday 9th November.

It is crucial to continually acknowledge the debt we owe to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the two dreadful world wars of the last century, as well as every other conflict at which our armed forces are on duty on our behalf. It is also imperative that each generation has an understanding of the sacrifice of so many and the true cost of war. If we do not learn from the lessons of history we are doomed to repeat our mistakes.

But armed conflict can bring difficult decisions. I am troubled by the courts martial recently announced into the conduct of five of our marines in Afghanistan. We do not know their identity or their units, but there is a fair chance they might be West Country based. I am receiving plenty of e-mails in their support, understandably. I am torn on this issue.

All of my sympathies are with our armed forces who have to cope with extraordinary demands in theatres of war. I have never been in the military so I do not have first-hand experience of what they have lived through, especially given that one of the major threats is from Afghans who enlist, serve alongside our troops, and then turn their weapons upon them, as happened recently. How troubling must that be?

Yet we have to demand certain standards of behaviour and compliance with the Geneva Convention. For centuries we have placed our fighting forces under strict rules of engagement with which they must comply. It cases of serious wrongdoing courts martial have been used to get to the truth and enforce discipline.  It is imperative that authority is enforced especially when we are effectively occupying a foreign country, albeit in this case with the consent of its government.

None of us know the full detail of what happened in the case in which the five marines are charged. I very much hope that they are all exonerated and can get on with their service. Although discipline must be enforced, those overseeing this charge should err on the side of leniency.

posted by Gary @ 12:43