How to keep selling war to a public that consistently opposes government war policies
Armed Forces Day was brought into being as part of a distinct project. Far from being an initiative born of popular demand, it is a top-down effort meant to counter the anti-war feeling in this country.
It was only of the programs, pioneered in part by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a mover and shaker in the battle to recondition imperial history, to respond to a percieved gulf which had grown between the armed forces and the population as a result of unjustified wars. In grown-up speak, we can read this as a response to the gulf between foreign policy and the electorate as amply evidenced by the Recognition Of Our Armed Forces Paper from 2008.
In short, the only people clamouring for a celebration of successive British government's capacity for armed force were the very people inclined to use it as a means of furthering narrow interests.
In the mid-2000's, as today, anti-war feeling has been ingrained across the political spectrum.
Far from such feeling being the sole preserve of marginal groups of lefties, a combination of activism and dissent at home and resistance to occupation abroad has scuppered the patched together narrative of freedom and democracy being installed through the medium of Hellfire missiles and artillery.
This victory for progressive people needed to be countered, and thus the hero-soldier brand was rehashed once again.
Afghanistan, like Iraq, is a safe topic for lament - and ridicule - everywhere except the inside of the ivory towers where the wars were planned. Though the Cameron government, for example, can hardly argue that its love affair with Tommy Atkins is genuine while at the same time subjecting maimed soldiers to the ravages of Atos and stripping denying them their entitlements at an unprecedented rate. One soldier, an Iraq veteran who lost one arm and the full use of his remaining one, was asked by Atos assessors if he was left or right-handed!
Even on a military level it would seem we have little to celebrate. Though there can be no doubt that the majority of soldiers tried their hardest to do the wrong job well, Iraq and Afghanistan are failures to the extent that even the military's top general is arguing we really should have talked to the Taliban ten years ago.
As a veteran, the idea that our efforts are something to be bragged over is ridiculous.
What becomes more and more apparent to me as I explore the phenomenon of martial, militaristic nationalism is that far from being motivated by courage or a desire to recognize the courage of others, the practice of lionizing of the military is better understood when you turn it entirely on its head. The real reason these kinds of efforts have been carried out is, and has always been, fear.
To be precise, I mean the terrible fear among the ruling class that they wouldn't be able to expand empire further than their rivals in the 1800's. Later, it was the fear that they would be unable to maintain empire as in the period leading up to 1914 – and we know where that got us… And today the terror that Britain, as a second-rate power in the post 9/11 world, will not be able to keep up with the American empire.
Armed Forces Day is far from a nod to the bravery of our soldiers, sailors and airmen, it is an exercise in political theatrics meant to mitigate good sense with wind and jingo.
Former soldier Joe Glenton was jailed in 2010 for refusing to fight in Afghanistan. His book Soldier Box: Why I Won't Return to the War on Terror, was published in May 2013.
Source: Stop the War Coalition