The Grey Line: Portraits of doubt and courage
Metson Scott described the proces of collating her book:
“The Project is about individuals, or soldiers, who have moral doubts about their involvement in the Iraq War, and over a period of five years I went back and forth to America and I interviewed about 40 soldiers. . . . I essentially was looking at what an individual does when they’re contractually obliged to do something that they’re morally opposed to.”
“The thread that runs through them all,” Griffin said of Metson Scott’s subjects, “is a moral objection to what’s going on – seeing a moral bankruptcy in what is being done in these countries.”
Griffin himself fought in Iraq in 2004:
“We would go out in the nighttime and use explosives to smash our way into people’s homes. . . . These were normal civilians . . . I suppose it could all be summed up when my commanding officer . . . said that he was worried that we were becoming the secret police of Baghdad. . . . I contemplated this every day. What was I doing? What was I doing taking part in this?”
In 2005, he refused to return and was discharged. He began criticising the Iraq War in public, and in 2008, a High Court injunction banned him from ever speaking again on what he knew from his time in the service.
Griffin adhered to the injunction for two and a half years.
“I actually became quite ill,” he remembered, “in a sort of PTSD kind of way. Got very depressed, and I was drinking a lot, and I was thinking about Iraq, and the rest of it. And I decided that maybe what was causing the illness to be worse was that I had this duty to speak.”
In 2011, he founded the UK Chapter of Veterans for Peace.
Griffin praised Metson Scott for capturing the courage in her subjects:
“The most important point to make about this resistance is that of all the guys I’ve met . . . this is not about being scared [of getting hurt].
“This is about being morally opposed to doing it to other people . . . to shooting people . . . to killing people, to torturing people, to dragging them out of their houses in the middle of the night.
“[Yet] the media likes to portray these [soldiers] as cowards.”
At its core, Griffin tied the problem to Empire – “Britain and America are basically an Empire,” he said – and that the projection of power – “the war in Iraq I think is pretty straightforward: it’s about controlling the oil supply” – has lacked a real moral footing.
Audience member Anwar Sarwar, also a British veteran of the Iraq War, agreed:
“I’ve been to Auschwitz and Birkenau . . . it was absolutely horrific. . . . This is a wider case about whether you should fight for Queen and Country, etc. When something like that happens, you’ll feel it in your stomach. And I’m sure that loads of people here are willing to get up and fight that kind of tyranny.
“That’s not the kind of thing that was going on in Iraq, where I served twice, and I was also one of the first troops to invade. . . . I was the guy kicking the doors in.”