For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!" But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot; (R Kipling)
“When I was young I had a twist for punching babies with me fist.
So I thought I better had enlist and join the British Army” (Anon)
Kipling and the unknown author of the words from the above old anti British army ditty originating I think in Ireland, are both illuminating in terms of what it means to be a soldier, you can find similar stuff about almost every Army, they do not refer to every soldier of course, but they reflect the insensitivity of life in the forces where mainly young men become desensitised and brutalised while being protected by the establishment.
Before people jump on me, I want to state that I would like to see our armed forces better trained and valued, far too often young men join up as a last resort because of unemployment or time spent in care and the forces manipulate them. Just a couple of weeks ago 8 soldiers and then 23 sailors were dismissed for drug taking, the figures for this kind of kind of dismissal are running at 800 a year, the 23 sailors were from the same ship, were suspicions aroused when it was seen going round in circles I wonder ? These are horrific stats and tell a different story from the one which the official propaganda tells us.
Govt’s get accused of not caring about our armed forces while politicians sing their praises for fear of the press attacking them, Alex (the spiv) Salmond recently stated that Scottish soldiers were the very best in the world, did anyone like me, wonder how he arrived at that conclusion ? He was just grovelling for votes, cringe worthy and pathetic. The real story about the armed forces is what happens to them when the state has used them and discarded them, that’s the real problem and it represents a giant scandal. Not for those who came through Eton, Oxbridge and the Guards, not the upper class career soldier, not Hooray Henry and Winco Willie the Windsor brothers end of the pier variety act, they will be fine, the rest are not so lucky or well connected.
After the 1st. World war thousands of wounded soldiers could be found selling matches and busking on the streets of our cities and those from poor backgrounds who joined up have been badly treated since well before then. Homeless hostels and mental homes have always had more than their share of ex military men, state Army discards with no hope and no future, has it changed ? well, actually not really.
Recent investigations tell us that by far the biggest number of prisoners in our jails from a shared background are from the armed forces, approx 9,000 people, overwhelmingly they are badly damaged and can’t cope with civilian life, society is finding it harder and harder to hide them which is what it has always done. At the service in Westminster Abbey to commemorate the end of the Falklands War Mrs. Thatcher insisted that servicemen and women who were injured, in wheel chairs, limbless, blind etc. be kept in a corner of the Abbey where they could not be seen and they were to be kept out of range of cameras, TV and press.
There is very little if anything which is glorious about the military when you force yourself to face the reality of how these men and women are treated, how they are really regarded by society, flags, drums and badges can’t hide the pitiful nature of it all for ever and, it‘s harder to disguise it because of modern technology. The next time you see her majesty and the rest of the braying royal flunkies on a platform festooned with medals and swords spare a thought for the 9,000 in jail as well as those who paid a higher price still.
A root and branch overhaul of our armed forces is badly needed and something done about this scandalous situation starting with banning lies about how wonderful and glorious it all is, until we have done that we can not claim to be the best anything and we can’t claim to have a truly professional military, from wounded soldiers selling matches to thousands of ex military in jail have we really progressed ?
To finish with another thought provoking anti war song, as Pete Seeger wrote and Marlene Dietrich memorably sang.
“When will they ever learn, oh when will they ever learn”