The army of any nation has an important role not only in terms of its primary role of protecting borders and territorial integrity and sovereignty but its cadres are seen as role models of national values and pride. Looking back at the past year our army the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) has largely fulfilled its expectations.
However, a few ugly incidents including robbery and murder which involved members of the army have brought some amount of disrepute and somewhat tarnished its image.
What is unfortunate is that some in our society have used these isolated incidents to paint a picture as if this is officially sanctioned and is a reflection of the entire army. Nothing more could be far from the truth. In every army, despite the watchword being discipline, there are callous, atrocious and criminal offences committed by soldiers. And our army is no exception.
The following excerpts of news reports will suffice to establish this:
“BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. occupation military police personnel mentally and physically abused (tortured) detainees in Iraq by videotaping and photographing them, both male and female, nude as well as intimidating them with military dogs, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday citing a U.S. military report.
Senior officers ”failed to comply with established regulations, policies and command directives in preventing detainee abuses,” Army Maj Gen. Antonio Taguba wrote in the classified investigative report completed in March, according to the daily.
The New Yorker magazine reported the existence of the report on its website Sunday, while the Los Angeles Times reported details for the first time, which could lead to an escalation in anti-U.S. sentiment in Iraq and other Arab nations.
The Pentagon said yesterday it was pursuing a new war crimes investigation into five American soldiers, alleged to have raped and murdered a young Iraqi woman and killed three members of her family in their home.
Yesterday’s investigation is the fourth alleged war crime in Iraq to come to light in a matter of weeks, putting the Pentagon’s legal system to its most stringent test since the Vietnam war.”
“In the latest suspected war crime, it is believed the woman’s body was burnt, and that a child was killed along with two other Iraqi adults in the family’s home.
The alleged rape and murders are believed to have taken place in the town of Mahmoudiya, about 18 miles south of Baghdad several months ago. The events were brought to the attention of the authorities on June 23 by two soldiers who saw blood on their comrades’ clothing and heard them talking about the incident.”
But those who now accuse the army of being criminal, and that it is being supported by the government on this score, seem to be suffering from a serious bout of amnesia because these were the very people who politicised the functioning of the army and therefore opened the door for its professional subversion. These were the same people who commanded the army to hijack ballot boxes and shoot to death those who protested against the raping of elections in Guyana. These were the people who used the army as scabs to break strikes in the sugar industry by sending soldiers to cut cane.
But today these very people have the audacity to talk about the unprofessionalism of the army and to tar the entire army with the brush of a few miscreants.
The army since 1992 has been allowed to function free from political interference and perform its tasks with professionalism. On elections day it is kept in the barracks rather than being involved in “breakthrough of ballot boxes.”
President Jagdeo and Commander-in-Chief at this Soldiers Day ceremony assured that the disciplined forces must execute their duties with dignity, character and strong values in mind, including respecting human rights.
“But when you have transgressions, and there will be transgressions now and in the future, we have to deal with these; but it doesn’t mean that we will forget what the institution stands for, and I say, to some of those people who constantly seem to think that soldiers and policemen can’t do anything right, that often it is these people who stand between us and the forces that try to destroy our society,” he stated.
With respect to the above many people do not seem to understand the sacrifices and deprivations members of the disciplined forces have to endure in fulfilling their duty of protecting us and our country.
But like all humans sometimes they will make mistakes and when they do they should be criticised and reprimanded appropriately. On the other hand when they excel they should be applauded but how often do we do that?
Recently, a group of soldiers risked their lives to recover a corpse from the Kaieteur Falls those that criminalise and stigmatise the army regularly have so far remained silent on that miraculous mission of the soldiers.
But perhaps that is a reflection of how fair and just some of us are.