Friday, 18 February 2011

Blame Culture

Not a particularly savoury topic for today, but one I think that warrants a mention nonetheless. This week has seen the inquest into the tragic death of British aid worker, Linda Norgrove in Afghanistan. It emerged after a couple of days of confusion, that the aid worker had actually died from wounds accidentally inflicted by security forces attempting her rescue. It is yet another sad episode in the history of modern day Afghanistan, and of course, a terrible blow to her family.

It is unfathomable the combination of idiocy, fanaticism and pure evil which sees terrorists murdering innocent volunteers who willingly give their services to help the poor and weak in countries torn apart, often by war. Miss Norgrove's name is unfortunately just added to a woefully long list of kidnapped and murdered aid workers, going back the best part of 10 years, both in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, as tragic as her death is, and as understandable as the grief of her family needing an outlet, criticism levelled at her would-be rescuers is misplaced. It should not come as a surprise to anyone volunteering to work in war zones, that they are dangerous places. This applies to soldiers, sailors and airmen, private contractors (military or otherwise), and the many aid workers. If one ventures into these areas, bad things are more likely to happen. Outside of the military, if one is kidnapped, I would hope anyone concerned would consider themselves lucky that a military operation is launched at great expense and risk.

It will be unlikely to surprise you to find out I have rather limited experience in hostage rescue operations. You are most likely in the same boat. Without meaning to take the situation lightly, a cursory glance at Call of Duty suggests to me it is probably a rather complex operation, fraught with difficulty. So, it is lamentably the case that this one should be chalked down to bad luck, but with a vote of thanks to those who so bravely tried to help. Whilst impressing the need for striving for perfection, it is undoubtedly hard to come by in war. One should be careful of biting the hand that feeds - it would not be beyond imagination that military forces leave those unfortunate kidnapped civilians to their own demise, if this is how any failure in difficult circumstances is met. It is a long extrapolation from people refraining from giving first aid lest they be sued if it all goes awry, but the principle is the same. A blame culture leaves society all the poorer for it.

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