A Soldier’s Tale


Chris Herbert

This is a tale of two soldiers.

Here is the first.

In some ways this story is an assortment of parables, the ‘Good Samaritan’,  ‘Jesus and the Prostitute’, or the ‘Friend at Night’, among them. Or it could be described as a straight-forward story of a soldier’s awakening about tolerance overcoming hate.

British soldier Chris Herbert from Portsmouth was just 19 years old when the vehicle he was travelling in through Basra in Iraq was hit by a roadside bomb. His friend was killed, another was injured and he lost his right leg. Because of this, some of his friends assumed he’d become angry and bitter over anybody who espoused interest in Islamic culture, that he’d hate Muslims, and who knows, think the BNP or Trump wise guys. There were wrong.

The message below, posted up on his Facebook page, has gone viral – and for good reason.

“Getting frustrated by some people expecting racism from me, because I got blown up.

Yes. A Muslim man blew me up, and I lost my leg.

A Muslim man also lost his arm that day wearing a British Uniform.  A Muslim medic was in the helicopter that took me from the field.  A Muslim surgeon performed the surgery that saved my life.  A Muslim Nurse was part of the team that helped me when I returned to the UK. A Muslim Healthcare Assistant was part of the team that sorted out my day to day needs in rehabilitation when I was learning to walk.  A Muslim taxi driver gave me a free ride the first time I went for a beer with my Dad after I came home. A Muslim doctor offered my Dad comfort and advice in a pub, when he didnt know how to deal with my medicines and side effects.

Contrary to that,  a white brit spat in my girlfriends face for ‘fucking a cripple when you could have me [him]’.  A White brit pushed my wheelchair away from a lift so he could use it first.  A White brit screamed at my Dad for parking in a disabled bay when I was in the services coming home. (Although, a lot of people helped in my recovery! I don’t hate white brits either! Ha, ha, ha!)

Point is, fuck off. I know who I dislike, and I know who I don’t.

I know who I appreciate, and I know who I don’t. If you want to hate an entire race of men and women for the actions of a few dickheads feel free, but don’t push your views on me, thinking I am an easy target because one douchebag decided it was my day to die. Blaming all Muslims for the actions of groups like Daeshe and the Taliban, is like blaming all Christians for the actions of the KKK or Westboro Baptist Church. 

Get a grip of your lives, hug your family and get back to work.”

His words arrive as politicians and others speak their outrage at the comments of US presidential candidate and all-round bully Donald Trump who called for Muslims to be barred from entering America, and then claimed parts of London are no-go areas for police because some areas are ‘so radicalised’.

Some of the people praising Herbert for his capacity to forgive are the same crying out for more war and more wars again, and Muslim refugees banned from entering the country.


Here is the story of the second soldier.

This soldier is Israeli. You might not have heard of him. Readers can decide what parable applies to this tale.

The Israeli soldier who approached and shot a wounded Palestinian in the head at point blank range in the occupied city of Hebron, Ramallah, on Thursday was offered hearty congratulations, complete with handshakes and pats on the arm by the far-right activist Baruch Marzel, the leader of the radical Kach movement.

In a video of the killing of Abdul Fattah Al Sharif, the Israeli soldier, Elor Azraya, is seen smiling alongside Marzel while the body of Al Sharif was being removed from the scene.

The initial investigation carried out by the soldier’s battalion proved that the soldier falsely claimed to have feared for his life as he believed Al Sharif had a bomb belt on him.

The platoon commander said that the victim was checked for explosives before the soldier arrived on the scene in order to ensure that rescuers could operate safely in the area. In the video that showed the execution, several Israeli soldiers are seen standing and moving only a couple of metres away from the wounded and disarmed Palestinian victim.

According to the testimony of another soldier in the unit, Azraya told him that the wounded Palestinian deserved to die before opening fire. The Israeli army announced the soldier’s intention before the video went viral when he told his friend that “the wounded Palestinian deserved to die; he stabbed a friend of mine”.

Mohammad Azmi, of the Fatah Movement, said that Al Sharif’s murder is fresh undisputed proof that the Israeli occupation forces execute Palestinians on the field without any kind of fear of being punished for their crimes.

“In the total absence of accountability, the Israeli soldiers act with a free hand to kill the Palestinians,” he said. “Al Sharif’s murder is not the first and will not be the last as the crimes of the Israeli occupation forces continue round the clock. We have documented tens of other Israeli crimes which will and should be used at the right time to punish Israel for its crimes against the Palestinians.”

War makes mad men of us all.

And the next right-wing ideologue who claims his forefathers died in one, or while invading some arid desert of the Middle-East, just so we can have our lives taken over by corporate power, criminal bankers, sadistic politicians, and referenda blocked in case the outcome disagrees with his prejudices … gets a mouthful of abuse.

Tolerance doesn’t include allowing people to walk all over democracy and justice.

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8 Responses to A Soldier’s Tale

  1. David McCann says:

    Excellent and timely post.

  2. Grouse Beater says:

    I find it all very depressing.
    I can find so little in the first soldier’s story to give hope we will cease our folly. You can admire his resilience, his optimism. But he’s only one man, an exception. And there is no hope in the second story.
    I’m reminded of the gifted writer Primo Levi, who, before his untimely death, was so alarmed by the rise of fascism in Europe he assumed dead and buried that he stopped writing. He survived Auschwitz but rekindled memories killed him forty years later.

  3. jimnarlene says:

    A depressing post, the human race really needs to get it’s act together.
    I normally hit the “like” button, but it didn’t seem quite right; given the subject matter.

  4. Grouse Beater says:

    I’ve experienced a gathering sense of profound dread, but some of that has to be because of my disintegrating domestic situation.

  5. Troubling times, Gb. Sorry to hear there’s trouble at home. Friendly ears available if required.

  6. Grouse Beater says:

    Am grateful.

    The bleakness of Scottish politics can divert subvert my optimism. Better to concentrate on others and help by personal experience. The construction company I’m in dispute with is pretty adept at getting it’s money, by any means it can.

  7. hettyforindy says:

    A moving read, thanks.

    I however, feel less pessimistic. It takes just one person, remember Tiananmen Square to create a sense of change for the good of all. The butterflies wings beating, reverberate around the globe.

    I have to tell myself and my boys, that the bad is balanced out by the good, at least 50% of people are truly good in heart and spirit, probably a lot more.

    We must put our trust in those people to influence and fight for justice.

    My dad was in Malaya, in the 50s, he said that they were brainwashed, into thinking that all of the people they were meant to be fighting were the ‘enemy’. However, many of the ordinary soldiers took matters into their own hands, not allowing officers to be cruel to mothers with babies for instance.

    I won’t go into what happened, if the officers wanted to dish out unnecessary and punitive punishment on the local people. It was miles from anywhere, in the middle of the jungle…

    I hope things improve, life is a struggle, G. B. Surround yourself with good caring folk, the bad times will pass. We all have a strength, you obviously do. Your writing hopefully helps.

    I find anything creative, anything in nature, and the cat, are an inspiring, and life affirming force.

    Today I saw so many flowers, and even enjoyed the fantastic markings in the stones on pavements when delivering SNP leaflets. I don’t care if people think I am mad for inspecting the pavements!

    Keep going, the demons can take a hike!

  8. Grouse Beater says:

    “We must put our trust in those people to influence and fight for justice. 🙂

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