Secrets of the SAS: In Their Own Words, Channel 5, 9pm, directed by Billie Pink.

harry sas.jpg

Secrets of The SAS: In Their Own Words

As Eric, my mate, often parrots, when pissed, ‘I can’t tell you if I’ve been in the SAS or I’ll need to kill you afterwards.’ Usually by that time he can’t zip up his fly and Liz is dragging him up the road. I could probably reconstruct the whole thing, with an idling taxi and two actors and an actress, playing Liz, in a dramatic reconstruction, with the sound of gunfire zipping in the background.  Most nations’ elite forces portray themselves as being the best of the best: The American Delta Force, Russian Spetznaz, French Special Operations, Scottish Rab C Nesbitteers. What they have in common is their ability to use ‘extreme violence when necessary’. Harry, a wee guy from Pollok that joined up when he was sixteen, malnourished and in pretty bad shape tells us that. The army was his family and he went onto to become part of a SAS operation during the Falkland war that planned to drop troops behind lines in the Argentine mainland and blow up their jets, whose Exocet missiles were sinking our ships and kill all the pilots. Those going on the mission weren’t expected to make it back, or to make it to the neutral territory of Chile. But being a Pollok man a suicide mission was more than compensated for by the appeal of killing officers. They were taxing on the plane when that mission was called off. Most missions don’t make it beyond the planning stage. Despite coming from Pollok in Glasgow, or perhaps because he came from Pollok, Harry went on to work for the Northern Ireland police, rise up the ranks and leave to become a Queen’s counsellor and represent the victims of violence. That’s quite an achievement.

You can’t get in the SAS if you’re stupid. You need to be in exceptional physical shape. And it’s a common pattern, voiced by Andy McNab of Bravo Two Zero fame, you need to come from a broken home and have failed the equivalent of the eleven-plus, be classified as stupid and disruptive, and be destined for grunt work or prison, but be able to think on your feet. I’m hoping the SAS can get behind the lines of the May Government and sabotage plans for the extension of grammar schools and the eleven plus and use extreme violence in achieving their goals. Payback for all the Tory white-noise propaganda and destruction of poor people’s lives through alleged welfare reforms. It should be right up their Council house street.

‘If you’re breathing, you’re winning,’ argues McNab.

Another Nietzschean commonality is ‘If you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you’. Yorkie epitomised this with the mantra ‘take a life and save a life’. He killed a young Iraqi soldier at close range, in an undercover operation behind lines, during the Desert Storm, First Iraqi war in January, 1991, but he was lucky and wasn’t captured and taken to prison in Bagdad, interrogated and tortured like McNab, who was taking part in another mission in the desert about 100 miles away. At home Yorkie’s son was dying and he came home and left the army to nurse him. This dissonance between extreme violence and the everyday life that goes on, for example, shopping in Asda, is internalised. Silence is violence and another ex-SAS soldier, Rob, who created a charity to help his comrades, talked about getting drunk and putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger. In the First World War it was called shell shock, now it’s a constellation of symptoms: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  A common response to PTSD is to get absolutely pissed.  A disproportionate number of those in jail and the homeless are ex-forces. I’m not SAS material, but neither would I want to be. I guess we’re back to that Jack Nicholson quote in A Few Good Men, ‘You want the truth? You couldn’t handle the truth.’


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