May 27, 2003

With friends like these...

... a soldier in trouble is better off among his enemies. By "friends" I refer to the writer of this article, one Patrick Bishop, concerning the recently exonerated-of-war-crimes British Colonel Tim Collins. Colonel Collins was accused of roughing up and in general mistreating Iraqi POWs, a charge that turns out, shamefully, to have been trumped up by an American reservist who must have been the company brown-nose, if the petty complaints that apparently spurred his accusations are any indication.

Be that as it may, Mr. Bishop uses this episode and its happy outcome as an excuse to go off into an uncalled-for diatribe against the entire American military. We are referred to as Britain's "muscle-bound allies" and our soldiers' behavior is compared unfavorably with the shining perfection of the British:

Our soldiers, as soon as circumstances allowed, regarded the local population with rough sympathy, helping them and generally treating them as fellow members of the human race. They stripped off their body armour and helmets as quickly as they could to make themselves less threatening.

The Americans still bristle with weapons and look like martial Teletubbies, swaddled in layers of kit. They seem frightened of everything and everyone and their overwhelming concern is staying alive. To them, every Iraqi is a potential enemy, an attitude that is reinforced by the endlessly instilled doctrine of the primacy of Force Protection.

This sort of Victorian dimestore sentimentality -- British paragons of all that is righteous and true vs. brutish, subhuman American cave-soldiers -- is ridiculous, divisive, and tedious, as well as dehumanizing of the members of the British military that Mr. Bishop thinks he is lauding. It also has nothing to do with the case he started off talking about -- the American reservist who started all the trouble was apparently upset about, among other things, not being able to show off the same sort of ostentatious loving kindness that Mr. Bishop claims the British displayed. So what do the petty machinations of a "Milquetoast" like Re Biastre have to do with the bloviating about brutal, survival-obsessed American soldiers "bristling" with weapons?

Nothing, except that Mr, Bishop wanted to rant about the awful Americans, thus this long, disjointed, rambling column. A disappointment to find this nonsense in the Telegraph.

(Via NZPundit.)

Posted by Andrea Harris at May 27, 2003 12:41 AM

Nearly as certain as death and taxes is the fact that the British will take nearly any opportunity to puff themselves up at the expense of the Americans, particularly regarding the military. The British are more intelligent, better educated, better trained, braver, kinder, etc, etc, etc. This was the unquestioned assumption of the pillocks who paraded on the BBC hour after hour at the start of the Afghan campaign, each one declaring how truly incompetent the American military was, and how it was going to step into a quagmire any minute now. I suppose we should be grateful they (the pillocks) didn't claim the British assistance outright won the (Afghan) war.

I feel the bubble of indignation rise up from British bloggers and readers. Yes, yes, I know. Many of you are above that sort of thing. But you can't deny that Yank-bashing is a small but greatly-relished sport in Britain.

Americans, on the other hand, care too little about the British to bother bashing them. I do it because I have an Englishman running around underfoot.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at May 27, 2003 at 01:26 AM

Some (not all) of them are still smarting from the whole Cornwallis-at-Yorktown thing.

Posted by: McGehee at May 27, 2003 at 06:59 AM

It’s true! When Mel Gibson’s ‘the Patriot’ came out in Britain, most of the country was pissed off about it. Just the sound of an American accent would set off an anti-Patriot rant.

Some never got over the loss of the colonies.

Posted by: mary at May 27, 2003 at 09:37 AM

British sniping at the American military is nothing new. Resentment of it should not obscure the fact that US soldiers have had some difficulties performing a civil affairs/public order mission they have not be trained for. British soldiers, many of them anyway, have experience that some of ours could benefit from. Furthermore the British in southern Iraq also appear to have on hand an indispensable resource -- interpreters -- that our own government has failed to provide to American troops in anything like the numbers they need. Inability to understand what the population one is policing is saying is bound to lead to some unfortunate incidents, and has already.

Posted by: Zathras at May 27, 2003 at 10:36 AM

I didn't say that there hadn't been problems in Iraq re the American forces. That's not what my post was about at all. My problem is with Bishop's article and attitude. When Americans do that kind of gung-ho, our-soldiers-are-perfect bragging, we get called jingoistic and nationalistic -- and rightly so. When other people of other nationalities do it -- it's apparently an opportunity to start a "yes, but--" argument. Not on this blog.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at May 27, 2003 at 10:54 AM

" A disappointment to find this nonsense in the Telegraph."

While the Telegraph is better than most English papers, it still rants against Americans/America fairly frequently. For instance, in an opinion piece a couple days before, on the same issue (this officer being accused by an American), they brought up the 'looting' of the Iraqi museums, treating it like it really was as bad as first claimed.

They also employ Boris Johnson, who is also virulently anti-American. Perhaps not in the Fisk or Pilger class, but he's pretty much a euro-weenie. (He also is the editor of the supposedly conservative Spectator.)

Still, at least it's generally a pro-British paper. Reading most of the other papers, you'd get the impression Brits hate themselves.

Posted by: Jeremy at May 28, 2003 at 09:39 PM