A Time for Peace

With the Iraq war inquiry underway the evidence heard confirms that it was based on lies and deception.

Even the most naïve voter must now understand that the creepily sanctimonious Blair said his prayers in private and lied about WMD to the public.

According to some reports this meant that the planning for the Iraq war was so secret that major problems about equipment and supplies meant that one unit went to war with 5 bullets each and another received a container load of skis.

Such stories have their funny side but the imperialist aggression launched by Bush and Blair was no joke as it killed thousands and devasted much of Iraq and sparked a large scale insurgency.

Now the gruesome twosome of London and Washington are well on their way to to staging the Brown and Obama encore of the performance in Afghanistan.

However this is taking place against the background of mounting public opposition to the war to save Karzai and his dubious regime and this is reflected in the reporting of the war.

Two recent events spotlight what is going on.

As the sub gutter Sun newspaper hyped the spat about a mother’s grief over the death of Guardsman Jamie Janes as a means of attacking Gordon Brown, anti war soldier Lance Corporal Joe Glenton was arrested for opposing the war.

In contrast to Glenton’s treatment BBC Radio four treated listeners to an extended interview with Captain Andrew Tiernan , Grenadier Guards, selling the war with the key line “If you really want to support the soldiers, you really need to support the cause.”

As always, what you are arguing for plays a big part in how the generals treat your actions and being an officer and gentlemen is better than being a mere “other rank” like Lance Corporal Glenton.

The ‘support the war script’ was further boosted by Foreign Secretary Milliband telling the Guardian that if the British, US and other NATO troops left then the Kabul government would collapse in weeks.

However as a selling point for UK and US soldiers supposed mission of boosting democracy the admission that Karzai would be booted out if the NATO troops go doesn’t seem like very strong case.

The offer now being made to young men and women asked to fight and die in the war is not that we will win and make the world safe as the glib politician’s mouth but that we are desperately looking for a way out.

So while soldiers die—or in many more case suffer horrific life changing injuries—politician talk to the Taliban in private while spinning the story that if they are not defeated bombs will erupt from Dundee to Doncaster.

This cynical Union Jack wrapped lie has a long history as colony after colony threw out the British and leaders who had been branded a “terrorists” re-emerged as statesmen.

The full cynicism of these Westminster platitude mongers was harshly exposed when it wasreported that both Brown and Cameron had been reprimanded by the Dean of Westminster Abbey for staging a photocall in the Garden of Remembrance dedicated to the war dead.

Apparently a concerned Cameron turned up at the garden with a snapper in tow and was pictured—looking suitably grave—examining some of the small memorial crosses erected by grieving relatives.

Then in classic In the Thick of it style the Brown camp heard about it and immediately did the same.

Stripped of the diplomacy the reprimand was saying to the two of them “don’t use the war dead as a photocall prop” and although issued by the Abbey was reckoned to have been demanded by the Queen.

Both Brown and Cameron ate some humble pie and apologised.

Of course what is really needed is not just an end to the cynical exploitation of the war dead but an end to the wars which continue to kill them.

My Fife home is over an old shop which was once the studio of the local photographer and in it scores of young men had their picture taken before marching off to the Flanders mud.

In the files of the local paper of the time those—and they are many—who were killed there, smile out from these self same photos

Their names are carved on the war memorial a few steps from my front door.

From Flanders then to Afghanistan now the script mouthed by establishment politicians and generals remains the same with fine words about duty, sacrifice and pride.

In reality much of this is challenged by historians who research the grotesque slaughter but the idea of tribute for sacrifice of life still hold considerable purchase on the public mind.

Yet despite the mixed feelings from the public and the incessant assertions that the Afghan war is necessary, honourable and worthwhile the public doubts continue to grow.

The summer of killing which was supposed to defend Afghan democracy is cruelly exposed by the withdrawal of Karzai’s main opponent protesting the poll was rigged.

Each week the toll mounts and another family watches the coffins unloaded to promenade through Wooton Basset while grubby politicians mouth platitudes and squabble as to who can best run the war.

But there is another story.

Across Scotland from Aberdeen to Edinburgh the SSP has been campaigning against the warand finding the growing mood of opposition to it and support for a withdrawal.

Increasingly it becomes clear that the loss of life, both Afghan and military, is futile and a political solution will need to be found and part of that will the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.

In their day the politicians who choreographed the Flanders death dance dressed it up in honour, duty and the national interest and today their counterparts are doing much the same.

In both cases the price is paid by the young soldiers and innocent civilians many miles away from the plush corridors of power where the war is planned.

Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s poignant novel Sunset Song chronicles the devastation of World War 1 on rural Scotland.
In its heart rending final scene villagers quietly weep as the war memorial is dedicated and Piper McIvor plays the haunting lament The Flowers of the Forest.

The lament has been played over far too many victims of the Blair / Brown wars and it is time to recognise that they are futile, wrong and should end now.