As some of you know, my department at the defence college is responsible for the academic areas of training for RAF technicians, and engineering officers. We also lecture students from other parts of the world including, at the moment, members of the Royal Saudi Air Force.
So why am I both disgusted and furious? Well, I would stand in support of British service personnel until hell freezes over but, I am also not naive when it comes to acknowledging the fact that they are not angels. I served in the RAF myself for well over twenty years and I've seen (and done) some things that would make your hair curl.
However, what I found out today when I got to work is beyond disgraceful, beyond forgiveness and, in my view, leaves the respect in which British service personnel have been quite rightly held, at grave risk.
Last night, some of our RAF students chose to target individuals and small groups of RSAF students, on base, in some of the most sickening assaults I have heard of for quite some time, culminating in bound and hooded victims being subjected to mock executions. Those poor lads must have had real reason to believe that their lives were about to end. Certainly, there were many injuries. mostly involving the use of knives.
You will be aware that I haven't taken my usual cautious stance and used words such as alleged and there is a good reason for this. The thugs that took part in these atrocities videoed themselves. Was it one or two idiots? On the contrary, a total of thirty plus were arrested last night and early hours of this morning and as far as I am aware, at 13:00 today, not a single one has denied their part in the incident.
I don't think I need to state the obvious in defining the catalyst.
As far as I am aware, 93% of Saudis are Muslim so these students formed an easy, and vulnerable, target for the thuggish, moronic cowards last night.
I always thought that the military were supposed to protect those who couldn't protect themselves. Where is the glory in the actions of last night? (a rhetorical question, of course).
I've worked with a lot of RSAF students and from my experience I can say that they are, by and large, much the same as any other young men, except that, almost universally, they don't just call themselves Mulsims, they LIVE Islam, being kind, considerate, helpful, caring people.
They are understandably a little nervous and apprehensive about being so far away from home but they try to immerse themselves in the culture of the country which hosts them, and at the same time, wholeheartedly invite both staff and other students to take part in their daily lives and celebrations in a genuine and generous attempt to help us understand them. For example, they regularly host meals and entertainments, prepared by themselves, in the evenings to which all and sundry are invited.
Furthermore, they are all well educated in the ways of their host country and woe betide any who transgress. I know their liaison officer, a RSAF Lieutenant Colonel very well and he is a fearsome monster who scares even me.
Sadly, I am aware of the radicalisation of our youth (and the not so young) by the likes of BNP and EDL and I hear the endless moronic rhetoric and naive, immature political tenets by which they attempt to justify their xenophobic violence but, until today, I had thought that the kind of young person who was prepared to voluntarily take a job where they might have to risk their lives in defence of others, would be somewhat above this sort of thuggish cowardice.
I was wrong.