CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s show: A Marine rescued by Mail readers

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s show: A Marine rescued by Mail readers

War and Justice: The Case of Marine A (C4)

Valuation:

Extreme Heights Repair Team (Dave)

Valuation:

Was the Panorama production team watching? And did they squirm to see sensitive, balanced and unbiased reporting in action?

Last month’s bizarre BBC1 attack on British special forces in Afghanistan was a catalog of baseless slanders. Even the title was derogatory: “SAS Death Squads Exposed: A British War Crime?”

In sharp contrast, War And Justice: The Case Of Marine A (C4) carefully investigated the case of Sgt. Alexander Blackman, who was accused of murder on the battlefield, and allowed viewers to make up their own minds.

Sgt. Alexander Blackman was charged with murder on the battlefield

Sgt. Alexander Blackman was charged with murder on the battlefield

War reporter Chris Terrill summed up the Royal Marines' role:

War reporter Chris Terrill summed up the Royal Marines’ role: “They were there to draw fire, the red rag for the Taliban bull – human bait to invite the attack.”

Many Mail readers already knew exactly what they were thinking. It was a farce that the Royal Marines veteran was in prison after being placed in a challenging position during combat. The Mail’s open campaign raised £810,000 for the appeal which got him his freedom. His voice cracked as he expressed his gratitude for your generosity.

Video from the head cameras of J Company patrolling the Helmand opium poppy fields in 2011 cannot be shown. But the audio was so vivid that every detail was imprinted in the mind’s eye.

After a US Apache helicopter chased down two Taliban terrorists and ravaged the fields with hundreds of machine gun rounds, Sgt. Blackman and his men were sent there. War reporter Chris Terrill summed up the Royal Marines’ role: “They were there to draw fire, the red rag for the Taliban bull – human bait to challenge to attack.”

Prosecuting Sgt. Blackman for his decision, made in the heat of the moment, was a twisted piece of legal logic

Prosecuting Sgt. Blackman for his decision, made in the heat of the moment, was a twisted piece of legal logic

War and Justice: The Case of Marine A allows viewers to make up their own minds about the case

War and Justice: The Case of Marine A allows viewers to make up their own minds about the case

One of the enemy fighters was mortally wounded but lived. The British troops faced a bitter dilemma. If they summoned paramedics to evacuate the dying, insurgents could attack the helicopter with bazookas.

Sgt. Blackman finished off the Afghan with a shot in the chest. He knew he was breaking the Geneva Conventions – but the alternative was letting him bleed to death.

Minutes earlier, the US flight crew had fired more than 300 armor-piercing rounds at the two enemy AK47 fighters that had attacked an Army outpost. While they weren’t technically unarmed, their weapons might as well have been peashooters versus a gunship. This is war.

Sergeant Blackman came across as a resilient, honest man, but the real heroine was his campaign wife, Claire

Sergeant Blackman came across as a resilient, honest man, but the real heroine was his campaign wife, Claire

Prosecuting Sgt. Blackman for his decision, made in the heat of the moment, was a twisted piece of legal logic — or, as novelist Frederick Forsyth put it, “as twisted as a corkscrew.” In an attempt to untangle the complexities, this documentary flipped back and forth in time and occasionally became knotted. Dates flashed on a blackboard like a railroad timetable, but it would have been better if the events had been presented in chronological order.

Sergeant Blackman came across as a resilient, honest man, but the real heroine was his campaign wife, Claire. “I viewed this as a real love story,” said attorney Jonathan Goldberg. “If it weren’t for Claire, he’d still be rotting in prison.” And quite possibly without the Mail’s readers, either.

Eric Phillips, a rappelling and armed forces veteran, described his work on the Extreme Heights Repair Team (Dave) as “a bit like what I did in the military but didn’t get fired on.”

Forces veteran Eric Phillips of the Extreme Heights Repair Team and his crew's labor as they rappel down the 645-foot concrete wall of New Bullards Dam in California was accompanied by ominous electronic rumbles and a breathless voiceover.

Forces veteran Eric Phillips of the Extreme Heights Repair Team and his crew’s labor as they rappel down the 645-foot concrete wall of New Bullards Dam in California was accompanied by ominous electronic rumbles and a breathless voiceover.

US documentaries love to exaggerate the machismo of their subjects. Even a movie about the dormouse mating cycle is bound to become an epic tale of sex and wildness.

The work of Eric and his crew as they rappel down the 645-foot concrete wall of New Bullards Dam in California was accompanied by ominous electronic rumbles and a breathless voiceover.

“It’s one of those moments that takes your life for like a year,” gasped narrator Trask Bradbury as a metal hook creaked slightly. The more he pushed us to be excited, the more boring it became.