The celebration on Saturday (27/6) of Armed Forces Day has raised disquiet in a number of places. Why the need for another day to honour the armed forces, surely the remembrance weekend in November is sufficient?What armed forces day smacks of is a glorification of war and those who take part in it. Let’s remember whilst extolling all the virtues of the armed services that those employed in this field are taken on in the main to kill foreign people in the names of everyone in this country.
The justification for these actions vary widely. Most would accept that fighting the Second World War was just given the activities of Hitler and the Nazis. But what of wars like Iraq and Afghanistan which are basically over the need to secure raw materials like oil – they do not come into the same category. To go back to the remembrance ceremonies in November, it has been a most unwelcome development of recent years that has seen the event very much skewed toward conflicts like Afghanistan and Iraq and away from the sacrifice of so many in the Second World War.
What is needed now is not a glorification of war with a number of futile jingoistic days but an examination as to why this country has got into a number of the conflicts it has over recent years. What was the justification for going to war in Iraq? It must be hoped that the newly established inquiry into the war in Iraq will come up with some answers. It is the least that the families of the 136 servicemen and women killed in that conflict deserve. It is also something that the 100,000s of Iraqis who have died deserve.
Maybe there should be another inquiry set up into the conflict in Afghanistan. The futility of this adventure has never been addressed. History should tell any politician that getting bogged down in Afghanistan will lead to disaster in the end. Britain last pulled out of Afghanistan in 1880, having gone into stop the Russians getting a foothold there. A century later Russian went in and after nine damaging years pulled out. During that foray the US supported the build up of the Mujahadin who fought the Russians. Among these “freedom fighters” was one Osama Bin Laden. Since 2001 the US and Britain have been in Afghanistan fighting the Taleban and Al-Qaeda. Some 137 service personnel have now been killed in this conflict. The lack of any rationale being outlined for remaining in Afghanistan is only matched by the seemingly incomprehensible deployment of more and more troops. While there has been much publicity around the withdrawal of forces from Iraq, much less is said about the default position which is redeployment to Afghanistan. There are now over 10,000 British armed forces personnel in Afghanistan with pressure for a greater commitment. One recent amazing recruit to the ranks of the warmongers was the “liberal” Guardian newspaper, which in a piece on 12 new policy initiatives for the Government came up with sending more troops to Afghanistan as the way to improve foreign policy.
If armed forces day were to have any value beyond the glorification of war then there should be some reflection on the number of service personnel who have lost their lives in these conflicts. There is also the damage done to those returning. A Ministry of Defence report suggested that six out of every 10 soldiers returning could be an alcoholic. Then there are those with mental disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Using US figures those effected in mental health terms are likely to top the 20 per cent mark. Britain disgracefully still fails to properly recognise the damage done to soldiers in war for fear that those who have served might just claim a little compensation somewhere along the way.
So while the advocates of armed services day are happy to clap returning regiments as they march through market town centres, less are willing to accept that many of those returning represent a time bomb set to go off at any time. The prisons are full of soldiers with undiagnosed PTSD, who have committed serious crimes due to this condition. Many ex-servicemen also end up in rehab centres for alcohol and drug abuse, or if they are unlucky on the streets homeless.It is this terrible waste of life that should be marked on any armed services day not the glorification of war and those who do the killing.