Jump to content

'we Must Make War More Acceptable': Mod


Recommended Posts

'We must make war more acceptable': MOD urged to make repatriation ceremonies low-key and use more drones, SAS and mercenaries to reduce 'body bag syndrome'

Report says images of flag-draped coffins reduces support for military action
It adds special forces and mercenary deaths don't hit public as hard
MOD says document is to foster 'debate' and is not policy

Repatriation ceremonies for the remains of dead soldiers should have a lower profile in order to make war more palatable to the British public, according to a report for the Ministry of Defence.

It examines how to sway ‘casualty averse’ public opinion, a situation commonly known as 'body bag syndrome', and was published by the MoD’s strategy formulation unit.


The document suggests that the MoD should ‘reduce the profile of the repatriation ceremonies’ where coffins carrying deceased soldiers are brought back to UK bases such as RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

It discusses ways to ‘reduce public sensitivity’ and methods of explaining that ‘risks are knowingly and willingly undertaken’ by armed forces personnel.

Suggestions included making greater use of the SAS and other special forces, as well as mercenaries, because it claims losses sustained by the elite soldiers and hired guns do not have the same impact on the public and press.

'Neither the media nor the public in the west appear to identify with contractors in the way that they do with their military personnel. Thus casualties from within the contractorised force are more acceptable in pursuit of military ends than those from among our own forces.'

It added: 'The public appear to have a more robust attitude to SF [special forces] losses.'

Reassurances are made in the paper that the British public may not be as ‘risk-averse’ as they appear, and suggests this is ‘based on recent, post-2000 experience’.

‘Historically, once the public are convinced that they have a stake in the conflict they are prepared to endorse military risks and will accept casualties as the necessary consequence of the use of military force,’ it says.

The report adds: ‘The public have become better informed and our opponents more sophisticated in the exploitation of the sources of information with the net result that convincing the nation of the need to run military risks has become more difficult but no less essential.’

The report also recommends the increased us of drones to reduce casualties

The report, written in 2012 and released under the Freedom of Information Act, has been met with criticism by relatives of soldiers killed while serving their country.

Deborah Allbutt, whose husband Stephen was killed in a friendly fire incident in Iraq in 2003, described the proposals for repatriation ceremonies as ‘brushing the deaths under the carpet’.

She told The Guardian: ‘They are fighting and giving their lives. Why should they be hidden away? It would be absolutely disgraceful.’

The deaths of mercenaries, or 'private military contractors' do not affect the public psyche as keenly as military personnel. File picture

Allbutt, with others, gained a landmark ruling this year that relatives of killed or injured soldiers can seek damages under human rights legislation.

An MoD spokesman said: ‘It is entirely right that we publicly honour those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and there are no plans to change the way in which repatriation ceremonies are conducted.

‘A key purpose of the development, concepts and doctrine centre is to produce research which tests and challenges established doctrine and its papers are designed to stimulate internal debate, not outline government policy or positions. To represent this paper as policy or a potential shift of policy is misleading.’


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...