I’ve known several soldiers in my life. I have two uncles that I’m very fond of who served in the 70s. There’s my old work colleague and friend Jim who fought at the Falklands and saw some brutal conflict that can still haunt him now. I also know a comedian who fought in the same war. There’s another Jim I knew after school in the pub who did tours of Northern Ireland and narrowly avoided death on a particular occasion. Then there’s my new comedy pal Gregor who served in Iraq and always reminds me to fasten my seat belt in the back of a taxi because he’s been in vehicles that have been blown through the air.
I’m delighted to say I know all these thoroughly decent guys because they all have two things in common. 1. They’re all from the same working class background as me. 2. They’re all still alive.
Leading up to this remembrance Sunday elements of the mainstream and far right have been highly critical of people of my own political persuasion. They’ve tried to turn this time of remembrance into a propaganda war of selfish and shallow gains. Attacking everyone from Corbyn down to people wearing white poppies for peace. So before I go any further I’ll clear up some views of mine on the armed forces. I’ve always seen troops as workers like me. They come from the same working class backgrounds. Certain areas in the country that have been hammered by consecutive governments that do not care for them can be natural recruiting grounds for the army as it’s the only job available. As a comedian I’ve done gigs for the army. Just the other week I found myself in front of the Royal Ulster and Scots regiment. Please understand several of my political viewpoints are anathema to some of those guys. But I found some common ground we had a laugh and I was invited to stay back for a drink with them which I duly accepted. I pointed out I didn’t agree with nearly any of the conflicts they’d been involved in and many of them were in agreeance with me on that. This probably wont surprise people that may know someone in the forces.
And that’s the truth of it. Most of these idiots accusing either me or Corbyn or a white poppy wearer of being against our troops don’t actually give one flying fuck about them themselves. They use a dead soldiers name to further their often vile political agendas. From the selling arms to the very people we’re trying to defend ourselves from to inciting hatred of foreigners. And it’s not just in the political arena either. We hear a lot about Help For Heroes these days. But I’m afraid I find that particular organisation just another part of the same hollow propaganda and war machine.
There’s an ex-soldier who sits at the exit of Waverly train station. He’s homeless. He sits there in the winter rain in uniform. He’ll have to use all his training to survive the harsh Scottish weather. He holds a sign telling us he’s ex-military. He never accosts passers-by. He doesn’t ask for money. He just sits there silently, using his trained discipline and self-respect to let the situation speak for itself. Do you know what Help for Heroes will do for him? Nothing. Any money they raise is only ever given to help active service men. Do you know what our photo shopped on poppy wearing Prime Minister will do for him? Nothing. He’s of a political philosophy that says he deserves to be in that position. It’s that soldiers own fault.
I think there’s much truth in the only justified war or resistance to an ideal was World War 2. World War 1 was a bunch of elites having an arms race at the cost of millions of lives. The Falklands was caused by an Argentina despot who’d been helped into power by America to crush socialism in the area. Out own despot Thatcher won an election off the back of that pointless conflict sending working class teenagers to defend our sovereignty while at the same time destroying their communities back home and giving them nothing to come home to. As for Iraq? Half a million civilian men, women, children and pregnant women lie dead under the rubble of Shock and Awe for the price of a barrel of oil. That’s all wars generally are ever about money or strategical power. That’s what my friends and relatives are sent off to fight for by establishment figures who wouldn’t want your average squaddie in the same street as them.
So you can fuck right off with your ideas that my side don’t care for the forces. We care for them a damn sight more than the right. We care enough that we have an ideal that one day they won’t ever have to do what they do for a job. But the right…They’re happy to perpetuate the endless death and suffering. They can go fuck themselves. Remember the living…and fight to keep them that way.
But enough from me. Below is an excerpt from the Owen Jones Book The Establishment (And How They Get Away With It)
On this day we should really look at the words of an ex-soldier…
Joe Glenton was twenty two years old when he joined the British Army. From a working class background in York with few job prospects, he signed up for largely economic reasons. “There are those who buy into the line, the “hero” idea, the idea of the army having a “noble mission”, he says, “but most of it is economics, with soldiers coming from poor communities in the North East, Scotland, poor bits of London, and so on. But the army is sold in a very slick, sophisticated way. If you take a brochure and go into an Army Careers Office, there’s virtually no mention of killing. It’s all “more respect, more mates, more money”, and in quite an abstract, wholesome way, defending your country. He was sent to Afghanistan in 2006 during what he calls the “the big initial re-invasion of the south of Afghanistan” and was one of the first soldiers on the plane.
During his seven months in Afghanistan, Glenton felt his illusions gradually being stripped away. “Over the course of the tour, the rationale we’d been given, helping wee Afghan girls to school, rebuilding infrastructure, was shown just not to be true”, he said. “We’d created an insurgency: it was hubris.” But in part, Glenton blames Britain’s bloody involvement in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on a need to compensate for humiliations suffered by the British Army at the hands of insurgents in the Iraqi city of Basra, which culminated in a pull out in 2007 that even British and US Generals would later term a defeat. “The main reason we were there wasn’t security here in Britain or security there in Afghanistan, “ says Glenton. “It was because of a perception that we’d failed in US eyes.” As far as Glenton was concerned, Helmand was all about the British government proving their worth to the US government after the humiliating failure in Iraq.
It was not until Glenton returned to Britain that his view of the conflict in Afghanistan “crystallized” . On tour he did not have time to think; he had questions, but there was no opportunity to talk about them. “I decided I didn’t want to go back,” he said. “I wasn’t going to sign off, which is like giving notice after leaving a job, but it takes a year to leave the military. But then I had to redeploy, and I told the chain of command that I was not going back. I didn’t even know the process of becoming a conscientious objector, an they denied me the right.” He went AWOL for over two years, and in 2009 was handed a 9 month jail sentence.