Sunday, 19 June 2011

Harmed Forces Day

Saturday 25th June is designated Armed Forces Day, with events principally being held in Edinburgh. Forgive me, but I will not be attending.

I am not a pacifist, and indeed I have tremendous respect for the servicemen and women who are prepared to lay down their lives for their country's freedom - whatever country. I also believe that we need armed forces for the day we may need to defend our shores - but I don't  think that's what it's all about.

On the web site promoting the events, it states "The UK Armed Forces defend the UK and its interests". So what exactly are the UK's interests in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya? Iraq was about weapons of mass destruction, we were assured, but against whom? The major UK interest seemed to be that British bases in the Mediterranean could be attacked 'within 45 minutes' (unless you count Iraqi oil as a UK interest). Afghanistan hosted some Al-Qaeda training camps, arguably part of a wider terrorist threat (unless you count the country's importance as a conduit for oil pipelines as a UK interest). Libya is about protecting civilians from attack by its government forces (unless of course you count Libyan oil as a UK interest).

What starts as a simple operation so often gets bogged down (Iraq - Mission Accomplished) and the remit is widened, then things start to go horribly wrong. So why do we keep on doing it?

In all the above cases, UN resolutions were gained or sought and were part of an aim for international agreement for action. International agreement does not imply protecting UK interests unless those interests are shared by others in the international community, so the 'UK interests' bit is starting to get a bit murky in my view.

If it's about acting with others as the world's policemen, let's be honest about it, and dare I say, more even handed. Why not Zimbabwe, North Korea and China, home to some of the worst human rights abuses in the world?

Liberating the people? Whether it's Afghanistan, Libya, or anywhere else, you cannot impose democracy upon a people, it has to come from within. If we are so intent on opposing oppressive regimes, instead of bombing them, let's start by not giving them the means to oppress, like selling them arms.

Unfortunately, our armed forces are caught up in all of this. They signed up to 'defend the UK and its interests', not to act on the whims of politicians keen to strut the world stage, yet Armed Forces Day reinforces the link between legitimate defence and politically motivated military adventures.

My heart goes out to relatives and friends of soldiers every time another coffin arrives from Afghanistan; lives wasted on a lost cause. I will also continue to attend our local Remembrance Day commemoration each November as I have done for as many years as I can remember, but I will not be celebrating Armed Forces Day.

Perhaps it will be used as an opportunity for those in power to reflect on their cavalier abuse of the bravest sons and daughters in the land. But somehow I doubt it.

1 comment:

  1. Ian,

    Something we can agree on. In Edinburgh they've got BAe Systems to sponsor the event. That'd be the same BAe systems that sells weapons indiscriminately around the world to be used in all sorts of human rights abuses. And most ironically, given their sponsorship of an armed forces day, have often been used against British armed forces.