In my last blog I expressed my conviction that we ought to be
supporting a “boots on the ground” policy in Syria and Iraq, namely extending,supporting and defending the humanitarian work of NGO’s whose brave and dedicated staffs are already on the ground in the war zone.
I would like to characterise this move from offensive violence to offensive humanitarian intervention by mentioning the career of the late David Haines, who served in the RAF before working in places of danger with a variety of Aid Agencies, before being captured and executed by Daesh, last year.
He believed that his own practical skills and knowledge of dangerous environments equipped him to work in a range of projects that needed on the ground logistical support. He realised he was often in danger, but loved his work, returning to it after settling in Croatia with a new partner and child.
He certainly did not see himself as a hero or saint, but I am convinced he is a good model for young men and women who have courage and a desire to combat terrorism. For some, military training (albeit with a difference) would still be required as there is a need to protect humanitarian workers, and safe corridors for refugees. For others, practical skills such a vehicle maintenance, first aid, packaging and transport, as well as child care, community development and media use, could be polished and put to use. David Haines was able to adapt what he already knew and to learn new things as he worked in the midst of violence.
His boots on the ground made a huge difference to people in desperate need, and I think his example could make an equivalent difference to the lives of people who are opposed to war, but reluctant to believe that nothing is else is a possible strategy against terrorism.
I am flying a kite here. i would like to believe that in Scotland at least (one of his adopted countries), churches and secular organisations could use his name to encourage a programme of humanitarian intervention in dangerous places. “Boots on the Ground” seems to me to be an expressive title for such a range of programmes which would be developed and delivered under the direction of agencies already involved in the field.
I hope that family and friends of David Haines would consider a programme of this sort to be a fitting memorial to David.
If anyone reading this is interested in this proposal, he/she should contact me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org