By lex, on July 18th, 2010
I have a confession to make: I have always rather wanted to own a Gurkha kukri.
Gurkhas, of course, are diminutive Nepalese highlanders with the fighting spirit of lions. Utterly fearless in battle, they have honorably served in the British Army for over a hundred and fifty years, having been described as a “martial race” by administrators of the British Empire. The kukri is the Gurkha’s national utility tool, and weapon.
Gurkhas continue to serve in Her Majesty’s armed forces, often with distinction. One, it appears, has gone too far:
A Gurkha soldier has been flown back to the UK after hacking the head off a dead Taliban commander with his ceremonial knife to prove the dead man’s identity.
The private, from 1st Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles, was involved in a fierce firefight with insurgents in the Babaji area of central Helmand Province when the incident took place earlier this month.
His unit had been told that they were seeking a ‘high value target,’ a Taliban commander, and that they must prove they had killed the right man.
The Gurkhas had intended to remove the Taliban leader’s body from the battlefield for identification purposes.
But they came under heavy fire as their tried to do so. Military sources said that in the heat of battle, the Gurkha took out his curved kukri knife and beheaded the dead insurgent.
He is understood to have removed the man’s head from the area, leaving the rest of his body on the battlefield.
This is considered a gross insult to the Muslims of Afghanistan, who bury the entire body of their dead even if parts have to be retrieved.
They ought to give the man a medal: Running low on ammo, hard pressed and with a mission to accomplish, he used the tool at hand to get the job done. No Taliban were (further) harmed in the execution of his mission, the high value individual in question already being beastly dead.
Sure, there’s a sniff of corpse desecration going on here. Which all revolves around intent: If the Gurkha’s actions were spitefully taken on a vanquished foe, they would be lamentable. If they were exigencies of the moment, less so.
And anyway – strictly for my own part – you can color me just a little unpersuaded about the sanctity of corpses among the suicide bomber set.