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Militarised violences, basic training, and the myths of asexuality and discipline

  • JULIA WELLAND

Abstract

In recent years numerous reports of prisoner abuse and other militarised violences by British troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan have emerged. Drawing on two such incidents – the abuse of detainees at Camp Breadbasket and the murder of Baha Mousa – this article seeks to locate such violences on a continuum that can be traced back to the ways in which British soldiers are trained. Following on from a burgeoning feminist literature on militarised masculinities, and using Avery Gordon's epistemology of ghosts and hauntings, I suggest a conceptual and methodological intervention into the subject that resists generalised stories and the mapping of ‘hard’ borders. Focusing on the myths of asexuality and discipline that emerge from, and reinforce, the gendered discourses of basic training, I conduct a ‘ghost hunt’ of the haunting spectres that have attempted to be exorcised from these myths. Making visible these ghost(s) and tracing their (violent) materialisations through multiple sites and across a continuum, militarised violences – in all their ranges – begin to be made explicable.

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1 While I share Richter-Montpetit, Melanie's (‘Empire, Desire and Violence: A Queer Transnational Feminist Reading of the Prisoner “Abuse” in Abu Ghraib and the Question of “Gender Equality”’, International Feminist Journal of Politics, 9:1 (2007), pp. 3859) discomfort in the belittling of the severity of these practices through the use of the term ‘abuse’ as opposed to ‘torture’, I do deploy it in this article. I do so in a moral move; I believe we should resist ideas of ‘abuse’ not being as ‘bad’ as ‘torture’, rather we should be appalled by what takes place regardless of what it is termed.

2 Leigh Day & Co Solicitors news archive, ‘Camp Breadbasket – five more Iraqi civilians serve claims against MoD following abuse by British soldiers’ (8 August 2008), available at: {http://www.leighday.co.uk/News/2008/August-2008/Camp-Breadbasket---five-more-Iraqi-civilians-serve} accessed 3 February 2011.

3 Taken from General Sir Michael Jackson's (the UK's most senior soldier at the time), statement at the sentencing of soldiers charged with the Camp Breadbasket abuses (BBC News, ‘Army Chief's Statement in Full’ (25 February 2005), available at: {http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4299725.stm} accessed 3 February 2011.

4 Angela Balakrishnan, ‘Background: The Killing of Baha Mousa’, The Guardian (10 July 2008), available at: {http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/10/iraq.military1} accessed 25 March 2011.

5 Those authors who point to militarised masculinity's homophobic and/or violent external effects include, Melanie Richter-Montpetit, ‘Empire’; Karner, Tracey Xavia, ‘Engendering Violent Men: Oral Histories of Military Masculinities’, in Bowker, Lee H. (ed.), Masculinities and Violence (London: Sage Publications, 1998), pp. 197232; and Whitworth, Sandra, Men, Militarism & UN Peacekeeping (London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2004).

6 I use the term ‘continuum’ here to point to the ways in which these violences should not be viewed as distinct or ‘stand alone’ from one another, but intimately connected and implicated with and within one another. I do not intend my use of the term to suggest a linearity or inevitability of the violences. Richter-Montpetit, ‘Empire’ also uses the phrase a ‘continuum of violence’ (p. 40) in her discussion of the prison ‘abuses’ at Abu Ghraib.

7 Such authors include, Arkin, William and Dobrofsky, Lynne R., ‘Military Socialization and Masculinity’, Journal of Social Affairs, 34:1 (1978), pp. 151–68; Eisenhart, R. Wayne, ‘You Can't Hack It Little Girl: A Discussion of the Covert Psychological Agenda of Modern Combat Training’, Journal of Social Affairs, 31:4 (1975), pp. 1323; Sandra Whitworth, Men; Woodward, Rachel and Winter, Trish, Sexing the Soldier: The Politics of Gender and the Contemporary British Army (London: Routledge, 2007); and Hockey, John, ‘No More Heroes: Masculinity in the Infantry’, in Higate, Paul (ed.), Military Masculinities: Identity and the State (London: Praeger, 2003), pp. 1525.

8 Stern, Maria and Zalewski, Marysia, ‘Feminist fatigue(s): Reflections on Feminism and Familiar Fables of Militarism’, Review of International Studies, 35:3 (2009), pp. 611–30 (p. 619).

9 Ibid., p. 619.

10 Ibid.

11 For an in-depth account of performativity please see Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (London: Routledge, 1999 [orig. pub. 1990]); Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (London: Routledge, 1993); and Undoing Gender (London: Routledge, 2004).

12 Butler, Bodies, p. 10.

13 Stern and Zalewski, ‘Feminist‘, pp. 615–16.

14 Butler, Bodies, p. 241.

15 Stern and Zalewski, ‘Feminist’, p. 612.

16 Although I should point out that this article is part of a wider research project, my PhD, which conducts a far more detailed analysis of the feminist works listed in the following footnotes and more. Having completed this ‘literature review’, this article is meant to begin to convey what comes after.

17 Whitworth, Men, p. 160. Other authors who point to the centrality of these traits include: Arkin and Dobrofsky, ‘Military’; Barrett, Frank, ‘The Organizational Construction of Hegemonic Masculinity: The Case of the US Navy’, Gender, Work and Organization, 3:3 (1996), pp. 129–42; Connell, R. W., ‘Masculinity, Violence and War’, in Kimmel, Michael and Messner, Michael (eds), Men's Lives (3rd edn, Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1995), pp. 194200; R. Wayne Eisenhart, ‘You Can't’; Jean Bethke Elshtain, Women; Goldstein, Joshua, War and Gender (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Higate, Paul, “‘Soft Clerks’ and ‘Hard Civvies’”, in Higate, Paul (ed.), Military Masculinities (London: Praeger, 2003), pp. 2742; Hockey, John, Squaddies (Exeter: Exeter University Publications, 1988); Hockey, ‘No More’; Hopton, John, ‘The State and Military Masculinity’, in Higate, Paul (ed.), Military Masculinities (London: Praeger, 2003), pp. 111–23; Masters, Cristina, ‘Bodies of Technology’, International Feminist Journal of Politics, 7:1 (2005), pp. 112–32; Morgan, David, ‘Theater of War’, in Brod, Harry and Kaufman, Michael (eds), Theorizing Masculinities (London: Sage Publications, 1994), pp. 165–82; Niva, Steve, ‘Tough and Tender’, in Zalewski, Marysia and Parpart, Jane (eds), The ‘Man’ Question in International Relations (Oxford: Westview Press, 1998); Pin-Fat, Véronique and Stern, Maria, ‘The Scripting of Private Jessica Lynch’, Alternatives, 30 (2005), pp. 2553; Razack, Sherene, Dark Threats & White Knights (London: University of Toronto, 2004); Richter-Montpetit, ‘Empire’; Woodward and Winter, Sexing.

18 While this is perhaps most paradigmatically seen in Jean Bethke Elshtain's discussion of ‘Just Warriors’ and ‘Beautiful Souls’ (Women), the use of binary pairings in scholarship on militarised masculinities is widespread, including, Kovitz, Marcia, ‘The Roots of Military Masculinity’, in Higate, Paul (ed.), Military Masculinities (London: Praeger, 2003), pp. 114; Masters, Cristina, ‘Bodies of Technology and the Politics of the Flesh’, in Parpart, Jane and Zalewski, Marysia (eds), Rethinking the Man Question (London: Zed Books, 2008), pp. 87107; Hutchings, Kimberly, ‘Making Sense of Masculinity and War’, Men and Masculinities, 10:4 (2007), pp. 389404. However, while in his book Belkin, Aaron, Bring Me Men (London: Hurst & Company, 2012) does discuss the ways in which soldiers have been forced to embody traits and identifications that have been framed as binary oppositions, he also stresses that ‘the embodiment of masculine warriors has required those who embody masculinity to enter into intimate relationships with femininity, queerness and other unmasculine foils’ (p. 4).

19 While Connell, R. W. sets out her analysis of masculinities over a series of authored works, her book Masculinities (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995) is seminal to those working within the study of masculinity.

20 Higate, ‘Soft’, p. 30.

21 Enloe, Cynthia, The Morning After: Sexual Politics at the End of the Cold War (London: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 97–8.

22 Higate, ‘Soft’, p. 31.

23 Barrett, ‘The Organizational’.

24 It is also perhaps worth noting the degree and ease at which the subject ‘militarised masculinity’ and its elision with particular characteristics and traits has been taken on by those outside ‘the academy’, particularly within some policy circles concerned with international sexual exploitation and assault (for example the ‘Must Boys be Boys?’ Report by Refugees International {http://refugeesinternational.org/policy/in-depth-report/must-boys-be-boys-ending-sexual-exploitation-abuse-un-peacekeeping-missions} accessed 16 October 2012. This has led to others pointing to the ways in which perhaps an over-emphasis on ‘militarised masculinity’ has worked to obscure the prevalence of non-military perpetrators of sexual violence (see, for example, The Human Security Report 2012, available at: {http://www.hsrgroup.org/human-security-reports/2012/overview.aspx} accessed 16 October 2012.

25 Pin-Fat, Véronique, Universality, Ethics and International Relations: A Grammatical Reading (London: Routledge, 2010), p. 118.

26 Pin-Fat would use the term ‘leaky’ (Universality, p. 121) to describe these borders.

27 Pin-Fat, Universality, p. 128.

28 Gordon, Avery, Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (New edn, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008 [orig. pub. 1997]), p. x.

29 Gordon, Ghostly, p. 42.

30 Ibid., p. viii.

31 Ibid., p. 7.

32 Ibid., p. 17, emphasis in original. To state that something is un-visible as opposed to invisible is to make clear that it is not that it is not there, or cannot be made visible, but that it has been obscured through particular discourses or dominant stories.

33 Gordon, Ghostly, p. 8.

34 Ibid.

35 Ibid., p. xvi.

36 Numerous authors have pointed to the ‘always already’ nature of making distinctions and drawing lines, as Pin-Fat states, ‘no exorcism can banish the ghost of the other that haunts it’ (Universality, p. 121); ‘[t]hey are co-dependent and co-constitutive. One cannot be without the other. They include each other by exclusion.’ (Universality, p. 120).

37 The idea of a methodology getting you ‘lost’, or distracting you from what you set out to ‘find’, is explored by Lather, Patti, ‘Postbook: Working the Ruins of Feminist Ethnography’, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 27:1 (2001), pp. 199227, and Getting Lost: Feminist Efforts Toward a Double(d) Science (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007); and Zalewski, MarysiaDistracted Reflections on the Production, Narration, and Refusal of Feminist Knowledge in International Relations’, in Ackerly, Brooke A.et al., (eds), Feminist Methodologies for International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 4261 respectively.

38 Ministry of Defence (MoD), Combat Infantryman's Course – Line Infantry (no date). Available at: {http://www.army.mod.uk/training_education/training/18148.aspx} accessed 3 March 2011.

39 Foucault, Michel, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Sheridan, Alan (New York: Vintage Books, 1977), p. 135.

40 As well as the authors below, see also, Eisenhart, ‘You Can't’; Ehrenreich, Barbara, Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War (London: Virago Press, 1997); and, ITV, Guarding the Queen, Television documentary film (2007), for discussions on the transformative effect of basic training.

41 See Arkin and Dobrofksy, ‘Military’; and Hockey, ‘No More’.

42 Karner, ‘Engendering’, p. 215.

43 See Arkin and Dobrofsky, ‘Military’; Hockey, ‘No More’; Woodward and Winter, Sexing; Hennessey, Patrick, The Junior Officer's Reading Club: Killing Time & Fighting Wars (London: Penguin Books, 2009); Ministry of Defence (MoD) recruitment video, Introduction to ITC Catterick (no date), found at: {http://www.army.mod.uk/training_education/training/18145.aspx} accessed 3 April 2011.

44 See Woodward and Winter, Sexing, for a wider discussion on the ways in which ideas of gender are (re)produced as the circulate round, and in and out of, army and civilian cultures.

45 Both Razack, Sherene, Dark Threats and Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law & Politics (London: University of Toronto Press, 2008) and Melanie Richter-Montpetit, ‘Empire’, do excellent racial analyses of militarised masculine identities.

46 Kovitz, ‘The Roots’ points to the ways in which emphasis on male-female difference ‘serves to deflect attention from the fault lines along which military masculinity fractures internally’ (p. 9), in particular along rank – and implicitly class – lines.

47 Despite the majority of army roles now open to women, Phase One training continues to take place in single-sex battalions. Furthermore, as the British Army continues to forbid women to join Infantry battalions, all Infantry training takes place in an exclusively male zone.

48 Infamous because in 2008, eight British Commandos were sent home from a field training exercise in Norway after engaging in the game in a local pub in the town of Harstad. The men stripped naked, urinated on one another, insulted locals, and groped female customers. London Evening Standard, ‘Sent Home in Shame, the British Commandos who Stripped Naked for Crass Stunt in a Foreign Bar’ (8 March 2008), available at: {http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/sent-home-in-shame-the-british-commandos-who-stripped-naked-for-crass-stunt-in-a-foreign-bar-6617718.html} accessed 1 June 2012.

49 Woodward and Winter, Sexing, p. 68.

50 Ibid.

51 See, for example, Arkin and Dobrofsky, ‘Miliatry’; John Hockey, Squaddies and ‘No More’; Karner, ‘Engendering’; and Whitworth, Men.

52 Woodward and Winter, Sexing, p. 68.

53 While the above practices suggest an explicitly heterosexual environment, this heterosexuality is ensured through the asexuality of the practices of basic training. This co-constitutionality of asexual homosocial performances and heterosexual male bodies is discussed later.

54 Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), p. 1.

55 For example see, Arkin and Dobrofsky, ‘Military’; Beevor, Antony, Inside the British Army (Reading: Corgi, 1991); and Morgan, ‘Theater’.

56 Alexandra Topping, ‘Gay British Soldier Talks About Coming Out To His Comrades’, The Guardian (11 December 2009), available at: {http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/dec/11/gay-soldier-ben-rakestrow} accessed 26 April 2012.

57 Both my own fieldwork and Basham, Victoria's in War, Identity and the Liberal State: Everyday Experiences of the Geopolitical in the British Armed Forces (London: Routledge, forthcoming) experiences researching on a British Army base support the ‘high-testosterone’ hyper-masculinised environment described here.

58 Sedgwick, Between, pp. 1–2.

59 This however, is not to suggest that it is only in constituting militarised masculine subjectivities that such a violence is committed; the ‘doings’ of all subjectivities involve exclusions.

60 It is important to note at this point that this is not to imply that there can be such a thing as a fixed ‘heterosexual practice’, or a fixed ‘homosexual practice’, rather I am trying to bring attention to the ways in which particular ‘human’ and ‘everyday’ emotions and characteristics can be, and have been, marked as ‘homosexual’ irrespective of whether a male individual identified as ‘heterosexual’ has experienced them or not. It is also worth noting that in basic training, and the British army more generally, it is those practices marked as ‘heterosexual’ that are implicitly and explicitly privileged and valorised.

61 Interestingly, such ‘non-heterosexual’ practices are commonly associated with the feminine in wider culture; for example, emotionality, weakness, looking feminine.

62 Beevor, Inside, 30.

63 Sedgwick, Between, pp. 1–2.

64 Nor does male group nudity exclusively occur within the military in the production of masculinities. In a number of traditionally ‘macho’ environments (for example, the all-male competitive sports team), male group nakedness is a routine, ‘everyday’ body practice.

65 Woodward and Winter, Sexing, p. 74.

66 For example, Woodward and Winter (Sexing) refer to the ‘Is this the way to Armarillo’ video spoof British Infantry troops made (titled on YouTube as ‘Is this the way to Armadillo’ (available at: {http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ld1DTmXesTo}) in 2006 while stationed in Iraq, with soldiers in various states of undress throughout the video (p. 74). The central character of the video is flanked throughout by men to either side of him, and is credited with the name ‘Lucky Pierre’ at the end of the video. ‘Lucky Pierre’ is a sexual reference to the middle man, being anally penetrated, in a three-person sexual encounter.

67 Richter-Montpetit, ‘Empire’, p. 47.

68 Please see, Dark Threats and Casting Out.

69 Please see ‘Empire’.

70 Richter-Montpetit, ‘Empire’, p. 40.

71 Due to space constraints, ‘class’ will not be considered in this article. However, as I demonstrate with discourses of gender, sexuality, and race, none of these intersecting discourses can be separated from the others, all are co-constitutive. Class therefore, will always already be constituted by, and constitutive of, the discourses I trace.

72 Richter-Montpetit, ‘Empire’, p. 46.

73 Razack, Casting, p. 60.

74 Said, Edward's, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), offers perhaps the most well-known and paradigmatic discussion of orientalist ideas.

75 Richter-Montpetit, ‘Empire’, p. 42.

76 Ibid., p. 46. For example, this perceived deviant and hyper-sexualisation of the ‘oriental other’ was revealed to me in a conversation with an officer during my fieldwork. Discussing his experiences in Afghanistan and interactions with the local population, he related to me that it was common knowledge amongst British military personnel that Afghan men liked to take young, effeminate-looking boys as lovers, and that the more effeminate such a young boy looked, the more social status the Afghan man would receive.

77 However, we should bear in mind there is significant anecdotal evidence that there are numerous cases of abuse, torture and murder perpetrated by British troops that the public simply do not hear about. For example, in 2009 the BBC reported that a senior member of the Royal Military Police (RMP) said that during his time in the Special Investigation Branch of the RMP (responsible for investigating alleged war crimes in Iraq) he believed he was ‘serving in something that was party to covering up quite serious allegations of torture and murder’ BBC, ‘Whistleblower Says Army Abuse Not Investigated’ (11 October 2009), available at: {http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8300726.stm} accessed 29 May 2012. Further, a member of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, an inquiry set up to examine whether British troops had abused Iraqi prisoners, claimed it had become ‘little more than a whitewash’. See Ian Cobain, ‘Iraq Abuse Inquiry Little More Than a Whitewash, Says Offcial’, The Guardian (11 October 2012), available at: {http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/oct/11/iraq-abuse-inquiry-whitewash-claim?intcmp=239} accessed 16 October 2012).

78 Whitworth, Men, p. 152, emphasis in original.

79 In the British army's handbook on Values and Standards discipline is afforded its own section, and mentioned no fewer than 15 times. See Ministry of Defence (MoD), Values and Standards of the British Army (no date), available at: {http://www.army.mod.uk/documents/general/v_s_of_the_british_army.pdf} accessed 23 March 2011.

80 MoD, Values.

81 This revalorisation of discipline and shift away from ‘brute force fighting ability’ has occurred in line with the British military's (and other ‘Western’ militaries) evolution from an institution primarily concerned with war fighting, to an institution now intimately connected with nation building. While some commentators have claimed this points to something of a ‘feminisation’ of the military – van Creveld, Martin's ‘The Great Illusion: Women in the Military’, Millennium, 29:2 (2000), pp. 429–42 offers perhaps the most critical and polemic voices on this – others have pointed to the ways in which it may provide (white, Western) women the opportunity to take on and partake in militarised masculinity (for example, Khalili, Laleh, ‘Gendered Practices of Counterinsurgency’, Review of International Studies, 37:4 (2011), pp. 1471–91; Razack, Casting; and Richter-Montpetit, ‘Empire’.

82 MoD, Values.

83 It should be noted that while the term ‘discipline’ is used constantly in the military, the assumptions behind it and what it refers to, are rarely made explicit – what is meant by ‘military discipline’ is hard to isolate. Hockey lists official interpretations centring on ‘expectations concerning the recruits' appearance, cleanliness, and respect for rank and tradition; but, above all, unquestioning obedience is seen as the lynchpin of military discipline’ (Squaddies, p. 23). As a brief aside, it is worth mentioning here that in today's environment of counterinsurgency warfare the importance of ‘unquestioning obedience’ is perhaps less prioritised. Soldiers are now expected to be able to ‘adapt’ quickly to changing circumstances; today, discipline is often about knowing when, or if, to use lethal force.

84 MoD, Values.

85 Woodward and Winter, Sexing, p. 104.

86 Cohn, Carol, ‘Gays in the Military: Texts and Subtexts’, in Parpart, Jane and Zalewski, Marysia (eds), The ‘Man’ Question in International Relations (Oxford: Westview Press, 1998), pp. 129–49 (p. 142).

87 Showalter, Elaine, The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830–1980 (London: Pantheon Books, 1987), p. 175.

88 I am not suggesting that the militarised masculine subjectivities produced within PMSCs and national militaries are the same, however, as Higate notes, ‘there exists a good deal of continuity between military and PMSCs' culture’. See “Cowboys and Professionals”: The Politics of Identity Work in the Private and Military Security Company’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 40:2 (2012), pp. 321–41 (p. 328).

89 Ibid., p. 322.

90 Ibid., p. 331.

91 Ibid., p. 330.

92 Ibid., p. 333.

93 Aitkin, Brigadier Robert, The Aitkin Report: An Investigation Into Cases of Deliberate Abuse and Unlawful Killing in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 (London: MoD, 2008), p. 25.

94 To add a further nuance, as the colonial logics of the previous section demonstrated, enemy forces are simultaneously, and paradoxically, feminised, with suggestions of ‘cowardly’ fighting tactics (for example, increasing use of Improvised Explosive Devices by enemy forces as both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts went on) or an unwillingness or fear of fighting.

95 The Aitkin Report indicates this in their discussion of ‘Conduct After Capture’ (CAC) training that ‘simulates the sort of treatment that our people might receive from an enemy that does not comply with international humanitarian law’ (p. 13).

96 Hockey, John, ‘Head Down, Bergen On, Mind in Neutral’, Journal of Political and Military Sociology (2002), available at: {http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3719/is_200207/ai_n9123834/pg_1} accessed 16 December 2010.

97 Ibid.

98 Beevor, Inside, p. 17.

99 Hockey, ‘Head Down’.

100 Beevor, Inside, p. 18.

101 While cleanliness, domesticity, and obedience are typically understood as ‘feminine’ characteristics, so too can the traits of messiness, disorganisation, and uncontrollability. In the rational/emotional binary, it is the emotional that is associated with the feminine, with emotions considered to be messy and uncontrolled (think again to the example of the hysterical woman in Victorian medicine, a legacy that remains today in hysterectomy's etymological roots; the surgical excision of the uterus).

102 MoD, Combat Infantryman's Course.

103 In letters to Soldier, ‘Focus on Beards Causes Irritation’ (February 2011), p. 63, the British Army's official magazine, an exchange took place regarding ‘scruffy’ looking soldiers with ‘part-grown beards and overgrown locks’. The exchange included a number of army personnel of different ranks and arms. Reasons forwarded for the growth in facial hair in Afghanistan included gaining respect from Afghan elders (‘those with a “voice” in Afghanistan … all have beards’), and the makeshift conditions with only enough water for drinking and cooking.

104 Patrick Hennessey's memoir of his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan includes a photo of him and two friends sunbathing in their underwear in a logistics base in Southern Iraq (The Junior, p. 142), and numerous references to time spent sunbathing or ‘tanning’ (p. 155) during operations.

105 Perhaps one of the few practices of discipline that continues to be practiced religiously during a tour of duty is that of looking after personal equipment. However, even then, soldiers are vulnerable to their weapons failing or jamming during fire fights, revealing the haunting ghosts of disorder always already there.

106 It should be noted however, that even within the highly regulated environment of basic training the bodies of recruits resist and defy the boundaries placed on and around them. Both John Hockey (Squaddies; ‘Head Down’); and Paul Higate (‘The Body’) detail numerous examples of such resisting practices.

107 As John Hockey (Squaddies) has pointed to, superiors may in fact view such off-duty fighting as functional to the organisation as a whole (inasmuch as it displays and reinforces such privileged characteristics such as loyalty, solidarity, and aggression). However, even in such ‘licentious’ displays of violence something of a sense of discipline or restraint is expected; Privates are expected to not ‘tear the arse out of it’ (that is, in the sense not to seriously injure anyone, cause no extreme damage to private property, or involve the civilian authorities) (p. 120).

108 John Bingham, ‘Afghanistan: Gurkha Honoured for Lone Fight Against Taliban’, The Telegraph (25 March 2011), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/defence/8405932/Afghanistan-Gurkha-honoured-for-lone-fight-against-Taliban.html} accessed 10 June 2012.

109 For example, The Aitkin Report lists the drowning of two young men in the Shat' al-Arab with British soldiers allegedly responsible; the death of Nadhem Abdullah after allegedly being assaulted by British soldiers, and video footage of Iraqi youths being beaten by British soldiers during a riot in Al Amarah, as well as the Camp Breadbasket abuses and murder of Baha Mousa (p. 3).

110 Of course, by asking where such a boundary may lie implicitly assumes that such a boundary exists in a static, fixed position. As this article will demonstrate, attempts at fixing this border always fail.

111 Aislinn Simpson, ‘Baha Mousa Inquiry: Video Footage of Soldier Abusing Iraqis Shown’, The Telegraph (14 July 2009), available at: {http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/5821206/Baha-Mousa-inquiry-video-footage-of-soldier-abusing-Iraqis-shown.html} accessed 25 March 2011.

112 Balakrishnan, ‘Background’.

113 Aitkin, The Aitkin, p. 14.

114 Ibid.

115 The ‘context’ here is once again defined and understood by the soldiers in and through intersecting gendered, raced, sexual, and colonial discourses. As the myth of discipline moves from the grounds of basic training to the operational terrain, and the bodies it is enacted upon change, what violence is considered ‘legitimate’ or ‘controlled’ also shifts. As both Razack (Casting) and Richter-Montpetit have pointed to, ‘“civilized’ [read, disciplined] ways of interaction are not appropriate – the only language “they” understand is violence’ (‘Empire’, p. 42).

116 See Hockey, Squaddies, p. 51.

117 See Hockey, ‘Head Down’.

118 Stern and Zalewski, ‘Feminist’, p. 629.

* A number of individuals have supported and aided me in the development of the ideas presented in this article. Particular thanks should be given to Jamie Johnson, Cristina Masters, Astrid Nordin, Ronan O'Callaghan, Véronique Pin-Fat, Roisin Read, and Maja Zehfuss. I am also indebted to three anonymous reviewers who gave rigorous, constructive, and detailed feedback on an earlier draft. Any mistakes or omissions however, remain my own.

Militarised violences, basic training, and the myths of asexuality and discipline

  • JULIA WELLAND

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