Britain has been engaged in some small war or other for much of the last couple of decades. Small that is as they are not here- the public are not particularly involved, and most of the time are not even very interested.
The last couple- Iraq and Afghanistan- will probably come to define our age- along with the ‘credit crisis’, and the death of Princess Di.
When these wars are spoken about at all in the media, a strange kind of mythological language is used. We start from a position of ‘our brave boys’ (no argument there- mostly we send boys, and they are incredibly brave) who are part of the most professional, humane and most highly respected army in the whole world.
Criticism of the war is possible- in terms of the political decisions that have been made- but criticism of the actual way the war is being waged by our Generals is not countenanced.
If you are interested in an alternative perspective, then I would recommend listening to Start the Week on the i-player, here.
Frank Ledwidge was devastating in his analysis. He described how we lost the war in Iraq- including the humiliation in Basra, where our forces were rescued by an exasperated US army. We then went on the lose the war in Afghanistan, where we sent our troops to a place where they were only ever going to be seen as an invading unwelcome army- given our history in the region.
The scary thing about this is how little we are prepared to hear these critical voices. We have been brought up to view our own military misadventures as essentially good versus bad- the plucky resourceful Brit against the Hun/Jap/Red. We always triumph in the end- true character always does.
This ignores all the evidence to the contrary- the mounting body bags, the torture of prisoners, the resounding “NO!” echoing from the population of all these countries that we are supposedly liberating.
Them there is the stench of post imperialist self-interest, and the feeling of being manipulated by murky spinners of media messages- all of that gung ho ‘smart’ bombing and ‘shock and awe’-ing.
The discussion mentioned above identified some key myths that we really should watch out for (along with a few of my own suggestions)-
- “Failure is not an option”- we will win. We. Will. Win. Or at least give it the appearance of victory.
- “This year is the pivotal year”- as each one seems to be.
- More money will win ‘hearts and minds’.
- You can’t trust the locals.
- The hero myth- glorious death. Dulce et decorum est.
- War will solve our problems.
- You can fight a war on terrorists by terrorising their communities in return.
Yes it’s a very uncomfortable situation. Service family that I come from, I don’t live near it or really connect to it, as I don’t want my sons to grow up as ‘bullet fodder’, although I think the army offers positive aspects such as self discipline, respect (not always excersised) and education in life and in ‘book larnin’). I can’t thank the servicemen and women enough for what they do but still feel such a waste of human life cannot be justified against the whims of whoever is the minister at the time. I cry when I hear about the bravery and loss and the admiration I feel for the skill these people have is great. I also accept that there will always be unfairness and conflict will result. I have not brought my 5 and 2 year old boys up to be aggressive or violent but I’m fascinated by their fascination with ‘crashing’ toys and any media projecting some kind of fighting.
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