Bravo Two Zero isn’t a book I would have chosen to read. A work colleague told me that he never read books until he came across Andy McNab’s stories, and he lent me this autobiographical account of McNab’s involvement in the first gulf war.
The prominent thing I see in the book is how little life is valued in war and how men can be uncompromisingly brutal, committing unthinkable atrocities against “the enemy”.
Most of the book gives graphic detail of the obscene treatment of McNab by his Iraqi captors during his time as a prisoner of war. I had to wonder whether that kind of treatment of prisoners by their Iraqi captors was the norm and if so what does it reveal about their national character?
And then I recalled the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by their US captors a decade later during the second gulf war and I saw that the capability of inhumanity is within us all, ready to be exposed when faced with the “right” circumstances.
McNab’s experience also shows another side of human nature. After an extended period of brutal bashing, threats of death, being kept in the filthiest of conditions and being denied adequate food and water, McNab reveals:
“For fifteen minutes one night I found God…and I had a little discussion with him.
“’Come and help me now,’ I pleaded. ‘If you help me now, I’ll be your best mate forever. If you’re there, f***ing do something about this. We need your help now – all of us. If you’re there, do it, and I’ll be putting pennies in your pot every day.’
“I said as much of the Lord’s Prayer as I could remember from school, but nothing happened. God did not exist”
I think the above quote (sadly) reveals more about mankind than the obscene inhumanity demonstrated in the killing and torturing described throughout the rest of the book. In fact the sentiment revealed in that quote exposes why such inhumanity is possible. It is the literal belittling of God: reducing Him to a being required to jump to our service when we finally see fit to turn to Him.
Thinking that He can be won over by the promise of mateship, or the offer of daily “pennies”. Expecting Him to act the second we call out – despite having ignored and dismissed Him throughout the rest of our lives.
Looking at Him like a lamp-bound genie, whose existence is disproved when he doesn’t immediately appear at our command to grant our wishes