Written in 2008. Reposted on 11 November 2015 as a show of solidarity for Jeremy Corbyn, whose pacifism is portrayed as treachery
In the wake of the horrific Mumbai terror attacks, many of my Facebook friends have rushed to join thousands of others in liking the site’s ‘support our troops’ cyber groups. I have nothing against this in principle: I appreciate British and US troops are doing jobs I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, I appreciate they are mostly good people, I have no ill-feeling towards them at all, and I genuinely hope they return home safe and well. But I can’t bring myself to support them. By doing so, I feel I would also be sanctioning our disastrous, bloody and illegal campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When I was a child, my mother used to buy me a poppy every Remembrance Day. I don’t remember the first time I ever wore one, but I do recall the first time the custom was explained to me when I was around five years old. I remember feeling a sense of awe and respect for these heroic men; men who fought totalitarianism, men who fought for freedom, for liberty, for democracy, for human rights, men who fought for future generations, men who fought bravely against a very real and tangible fascist enemy. There was no question about it in my childish mind: Allies equalled goodies, Germans equalled baddies. I felt pride. God bless those poor brave boys, many of whom were barely adults, forced into trenches, forced on to the front line as cannon fodder, forced across No Man’s land, many against their will, while England was blitzed by the Luftwaffe.
I decided there and then, I would wear a poppy every November for the rest of my life.
And I did, until 2001, when we attacked Afghanistan. That year, I bought my poppy as usual, but with a faint sense of unease. It felt hypocritical to wear something in support of our soldiers when I opposed the invasion so strongly, and I found myself strangely self-conscious with the red flower on my jacket, as though it no longer represented the same things it had the previous year.
On Remembrance Day 2003, after we’d been carpet-bombing Iraq for 7 months, I couldn’t bring myself to pin a poppy on my lapel at all. I thought of the Allied forces defeating the Germans in 1918 and 1945 and I asked myself: Where is the fascist regime we are fighting this time? Who exactly is the enemy? Where is the real threat to my freedom and my country’s democracy?
The tabloids screamed we were at War. Muslims were avoided in the streets. Bush declared people were either with the US, or against them. Debates sprang up, people’s vocabularies shifted. ‘Extremist’, ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘terrorist’ jumped out of every newspaper, every letters page, every politician’s speech. This sinister and orchestrated creation of a legitimate division, of ‘us and them’, of an invisible enemy, fooled us, and continues to fool us.
A genius plan, straight from the pages of Orwell’s 1984: How can war ever cease when the enemy is everywhere and yet, paradoxically, nowhere? How can a people be truly free in a state of perpetual war? How can human rights, constitutions, and fundamental liberties be upheld in the face of the intangible Terrorist bogeyman?
To date, between 100, 000 and 655, 000 Iraqi civilians are dead (despicably but not surprisingly, nobody keeps any figures) and 4300 coalition soldiers have lost their lives in combat. There is an increase in Islamic extremism worldwide as a direct response to coalition aggression, Bin Laden has never been found, the Taliban remain strong, the situation in Iraq is hellish and shows no signs of stabilizing, and every day, hundreds of babies are born with severe disfigurements from coalition forces’ illegal and barbaric use of depleted uranium.
Yes, we are the fascist enemy. We, the coalition of the dodgy dossiers and bare-faced lies, the ‘democratic’ coalition which ignored millions of protestors worldwide, the coalition of illegal pre-emptive strikes, of war crimes, of bare-faced lies, of spin on an unprecendented scale, the coalition making billions of pounds per year from stolen oil fields and lucrative contracts to rebuild the ravaged countries it has raped and murdered for seven long years.
When we occasionally stir from our deep slumber long enough to question these monstrous and undeniable realities, we are hushed by popular culture, lulled back to sleep by reality TV, distracted by celebrity gossip and the ubiquitous quest for fame, money and the perfect body.
As tabloid headlines scream Peter and Jordan’s marriage is on the rocks, plans are drawn up for false flag attacks to facilitate invasions of Iran or Pakistan. While the Pussycat Dolls sing about their boobies and bank balances, Iraq is carved up and another innocent man shackled, beaten and starved in Guantanamo Bay.
But never mind, here’s some more bullshit to hypnotise the masses: how about cooing over the X Factor contestants as they turn Mariah Carey’s Hero into propaganda for the cause? That’ll take their minds off the unspeakable atrocities we’re committing in the name of Operation Spread Freedom and Democracy. Ha, suckers.
We are hypnotized by tycoons like Murdoch, a chillingly clever man, a Joseph Goebbels of his time, a man who uses his newspapers and TV stations to tell us our only hope is to back the coalition, to support our troops, to be patriotic. Demonising Islam, spreading lies, launching smear campaigns, inciting hatred, instilling fear.
How dare we spend last month’s Remembrance Day thinking of the Jews of Nazi Germany? We ARE the German people who stood by and watched!
How dare we pray that Auschwitz never happen again when we allow Guantanamo to exist? How dare we ask how those ordinary people allowed the mass murder of innocent civilians when we do the same today? How dare we get upset by the past when it is repeating itself under our noses?
How dare we assume we are more moral and civilised than the German people, when we have lost our right to be considered innocent until proven guilty and hardly noticed, when Muslims worldwide are dehumanized just as the Jews were?
How dare we berate their support of a fascist regime, when we have already lost the majority of our human rights, when the database state is here, when all around us is the rapid and terrifying emergence of Big Brother and plans for a world government answerable to nobody?
How dare we, when we now have trials without a jury and indefinite periods of house arrest, when we have a justice system being quietly eroded under our snoring noses, when we have inhumane periods of detention without charge, when we have the systematic use of coalition torture and extradition treaties to the US for any European citizen it likes, without question or protection at home?
Don’t waste your time lobbying to support the troops. Instead, support liberty, support equality, support peace. Support bringing the troops home. Be proud to be a pacifist.