More than 10,000 ex-soldiers are homeless, as many as 2000 live rough on London’s streets, 10% of prisoners are former soldiers.

Ian Chamberlain

As national Armed Forces Day approaches, local councils will fly flags to show their support for British service men and women.

But should those flags be flying on town halls across the country, given how the government treats veterans who fought Britain’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Showing support for British soldiers should be about concern for the welfare of soldiers. It should also be about critically examining the government’s so called “war on terror” which sent British troops into a series of disastrous wars.

These wars claimed many lives, including the lives of British soldiers. In Afghanistan 453 soldiers were killed, and in Iraq up to 75,000 soldiers were injured and 179 killed.

We also know that soldiers returning from armed conflict face many difficulties, including poverty and post traumatic stress.

Campaigners for armed forces veterans say that more than 10,000 are homeless and as many as 2000 are thought to be living rough on the streets of London. One in 10 of the prison population is an ex-soldier. Suicides among former soldiers are soaring.

Unfortunately, the British government, rather than tackling the issue of soldiers living in poverty, uses Armed Forces Day to cynically defend its disastrous foreign policy, which has led to misery for millions abroad, including one million dead in Iraq.

The Veterans for Peace (VFP) campaign has long highlighted the hypocrisy of Armed Forces Day, when former troops are so neglected by the government.

This year VFP is releasing a series of films calling on the UK to stop recruiting children into the army by glorifying war. Britain is the only state in Europe or Nato that still enlists minors, a policy criticised by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

“It’s not OK that people with a vested interested are pushing the notion of a noble military career to children,” says VFP co-ordinator Ben Griffin, who served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Criticism of the government’s foreign policy should not be seen as criticism of soldiers and their families, many of whom have suffered greatly.

And this is the main problem with flag flying on Armed Forces Day: it confuses concern for soldiers with support for our government’s wars.

If our concern is to mean anything, we must campaign to end poverty in our society and put an end to these wars. To truly honour the fallen, we must learn from the mistakes of the past.

In the run up to Armed Forces Day, Veterans for Peace is launching a series of films, titled Action Man – Battlefield Casualties. An exhibition of the films and props will show at the Red Gallery, 1-3 Rivington Street, London EC2A 3DT from 23 June to 2 July. For more information about VFP, see

Ben Griffin: We will not fight for Queen and country

Stop the War Coalition

25 Jun 2015

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