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It’s with distress that I’ve witnessed soldiers using live ammo on protesters in Libya and Iran this week, and the brutality of the soldiers against the paramedics in Egypt last week.

As someone who spent more than just a few years in the military and who had been involved in a few riots, and you have to have been in a riot in South Africa in the mid to late eighties to really understand the significance of that statement, I do know the fear and uncertainty involved in standing in a line; just a few soldiers against thousands of rioters. I can still remember the anxiety and can still actually remember “tasting” the fear.

What I can also remember is standing there with rifle uncocked and pointing down. We were warned that there would be actual hell to pay, court-martial style, if we ever shot a civilian; no matter the reason. The rioters were of course not aware of it, or if they were, were not always believing it, but that was immaterial; our job was not to quell the riot but to marginally control it; it was to keep people not involved as safe as we could. The rioters would only very rarely attempt to break through the lines and make our job impossible. Even in those bad old days, the military was respected by the civilians; the police… not as much.

It was during those times that I had learnt to equate the tasks of the soldiers and the police to those in certain medieval city-states: the difference between the Watch and the Guard.

In those cities who might actually have had both, the guard’s primary task was to defend the gates and wall of the city, the watch was to police the city and the wards… Well as much policing as happened in those times. Point being, while these groups would support each other in crises, these groups had their own expertise and zones of authority: the guard would watch for external threat and the watch would police the city.

It is just wrong then, that a “weapon” (there is no other way of really describing the military machine) would be used by their own government on their own citizens. The very existence of military forces is to protect the people, not to oppress them.

A note to the soldiers involved in this: these actions will come back to haunt you, and when it does please remember your beating up the poor paramedics while you lie there bleeding after it has done so…

The wheel turns. It always does…

An erstwhile buddy of mine, the joker of the platoon, would always claim you can smell fear… It smells like shi… Ah. Never-mind…