Monday, November 10, 2008

Remembrance and Hypocrisy

Anybody else out there feel that all this Remembrance stuff that's all over the place is a teeny weeny bit hypocritical? Here we are again, remembering the "heroic sacrifice" of the First World War, while another set of young men go out to the Gulf and Afghanistan to be "heroic sacrifices" in another pointless war.

All those young men who died on the Somme (including among them, ancestors of my own family) didn't die for a great cause. Let us be clear about this: they died in vain, to support the flawed values of a bunch of tired empires trying to prop themselves up by killing young people. They were not heroes, great warriors going in to battle evil dragons; they were ordinary working people who died in their millions to uphold the great dragon of British imperialism. The Germans who they fought were also ordinary working men upholding their own dragon of imperialism. They were no doubt terribly loyal and patriotic and, like the well-brought up young people they were, they did as they were told.

But they were sold a lie. Just as the young men (often, in the case of American troops at least, poor and ill-educated) who march off to Iraq and Afghanistan are now. Watching the black-uniformed officers marching up to the Cenotaph to lay their wreaths makes me kind of sick. These people - or at least the politicians who declare wars - are still sending young men to die for British imperialism, pretending that it's a great sacrifice, invoking God and Christ as being on "our side", and it's just as much a lie now as it was then.

But there are still some brave souls who refuse. The conscientious objectors who refused to "go for a soldier", who refused to obey orders, who refused to prop up the dragon of hatred, prejudice and greed that is still what imperialism means, deserve to be saluted. They deserve their own monument. Refusing to kill is every bit as brave as going out to kill your "enemy." In fact, it's braver. Who is my enemy anyway? An ordinary Iraqi who gets in the way of a bullet? A young German man who's just come from the fields to die in another field?


Adrian said...

I think you are essentially right about the First World War, an absolute tragic misadventure on an unimaginable scale, and to remember those who rejected its horror. However, today's soldiers aren't conscripts (though they are young, and particularly in America, poor.) I do feel that the area in the Afghanistani-Pakistani tribal regions is a major threat to world peace if left unchecked, in a way that shouldn't be confused with the situation in Iraq. Lumping them together, as so often happens, is a problem. I'm no surer than anyone else what's "to be done" about Afghanistan, but unchecked,I think its almost certain that those border areas with Pakistan will become again, a training ground for the kind of extremism none of us want to see.

Steven Waling said...

I sort of see what you mean about Afghanistan; but the problem is that this is an area that the West & Russia have tried to interfere in for 200 years, and it always fails to make much of an impact.

Anonymous said...

"I do feel that the area in the Afghanistani-Pakistani tribal regions is a major threat to world peace if left unchecked"


Do they have nuclear weapons?

This is one of the poorest places in the world, and all they have is guns, not an imeorial arsenal, so why is it a major threat?

Because they espouse Islam?

This sort of lingo is the type we in the west spout out, parroting our leaders. Have you ever rewad any of the alternative media which has the CIA being the biggest drug runners in this region?

See how the opium crop mushroomed once the brave lads went in?

Have you ever been?

Why is it the brits seem to think they have a right to go anywhere they want and whip out the flags then go kicking ass. The fact is, the UK is the rougue here, not the third world.

desmond swords