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Showing posts with label The Poppy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Poppy. Show all posts

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Two entirely reasonable men debate the Politicised Poppy

Would that all television discussion could be conducted in such a civilised manner ...

But then, neither of them are politicians. The innate decency and humanity of both men shines through, despite their difference in age and opinion.


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The poppy and pro-war propaganda

I have written on the poppy and the war before, and most of what I say below I have said before. But it needs to be said again.

PetieEddie

 
These are my uncles – Peter and Edward McCluskey.

They volunteered as teenagers for service in the Great War – they didn’t have to fight, they weren’t conscripted, there was no military tradition in their family, they were both born in Glasgow, and both of their parents – my grandparents – were Southern Irish, and had no love for England or the UK. They fought for Scotland, the country of their birth.

Both died before their time, indirectly as a result of their injuries in that appalling war - Eddie at the age of 28 and Peter well after World War Two. I never knew my Uncle Eddie, but my Uncle Petie was a familiar figure during my childhood. He rarely spoke of his experiences, but was horrified when WW2 broke out and he saw his younger cousins Gerard and Peter, whom he had taken into his home after they lost their father, conscripted into the Highland Light Infantry and the RAF respectively. He spent the war crouched at the radio, following every report, devastated at the casualties and praying for peace.

Peter McCluskey was moved to tears each Armistice Day, and maintained the two minutes silence, but he would not have been seen dead wearing a poppy – he felt that this potent symbol of life, rising from the blasted earth of the battlefields, amid the corpses of his comrades, had been debased by its association with Earl Haig and that it had been hijacked by militaristic politicians.

Hence my identical feelings about the poppy, reinforced by experiences in industry and commerce, where people who never had a thought for others, or the dead, or any injustice, who never contributed a penny to funds for wounded and disabled ex-servicemen, suddenly acquired a poppy in November, and accosted me, asking “Why aren’t you wearing your poppy, Peter?” They wore their poppy like they acquired their golf handicap – it was the career-wise move.

They got a dusty answer, plus, on more than one occasion the challenge from me to write a cheque there and then for an ex-serviceman's charity and I would match it. I never had an acceptance …

OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO OUR SOLDIERS

If we send young men and women, in the flower of the youth, to place themselves in harm’s way, risking death or serious injury in the service of the nation, we owe them a duty of support.

We have a bounden duty to properly equip them, to properly pay them, to support their families, and in the event of serious injury to offer speedy, effective medical care and long term support for both physical and psychological injuries.

We have a duty to rehabilitate them, return them to appropriate duties in their chosen profession if possible, and to offer comprehensive help to find employment outside of the armed forces if this is not possible. In the event of their death, we owe them and their families full and tangible recognition of the supreme sacrifice they have made, including adequate financial and support provisions for their dependants.

But above all, we owe them the right not be placed in harm’s way by politicians in conflicts that are irrelevant to the security and defence of the nation, especially where such conflicts are based on a fraudulent premise and are illegal under international law. One egregious example was the Iraq War.

THE CONFLICTS

Where our armed forces are deployed and engaged in a conflict that seemed justifiable at the outset, we have a duty to constantly review the rationale for such an engagement, to constantly question its continuing validity, and to speedily bring it to an end and withdraw from it when it ceases to be either winnable, or relevant, or both.  Such a conflict is the ‘war’ in Afghanistan, now of nine years duration – greater than the total length of WW1 and WW2 combined – and forecast to continue, in the words of our new Prime Minister, at least for another five years.

THE POPPY

The poppy is sold in a good cause – to raise funds for soldiers harmed by war - but it must not be hijacked by politicians and the British establishment for other reasons. There are deeply worrying indicators that this is exactly what is happening, especially in the behaviour of the Tory Party in the Commons, and over the FIFA poppy issue, including today at PMQs.

Politicians and military commanders are aware that the casualties and images from the weekly repatriation ceremonies influence public opinion.

Major-General Gordon Messenger, a military spokesman on Afghanistan, talked last year about “balancing opinion”.

"If I had a plea, I think it would be to better understand the reasons why they're there and the progress that's being made and to not simply view Afghanistan through the lens of the casualties," he told Sky News.

"I think it is incumbent on me and on everyone who has an understanding of the Afghan campaign to do all we can to better inform the public as to those reasons."

In other words, the Government, the MOD and some sectors of the military are worried that the public might be questioning the weekly escalating blood sacrifice that is being made by the flower of our young people in the name of a flawed, confused and increasingly irrelevant strategy in pursuit of confused and conflicting aims. Armed Forces Day has already been hijacked and converted to a PR propaganda exercise for a failing political and military strategy and the poppy has been heading the same way for some time now.

All the emblems, symbols and techniques that support the old lie will be deployed to this end – parades of military equipment and military might, the Union Jack, old men in berets and medals, flag-waving children, and a solid presence of members of the Royal Family, together with the insidious sub-text, that anyone who does not support the Afghanistan War is somehow unpatriotic and failing to support our servicemen.

This serves as a smokescreen to obscure to real failings of a failed state – the UK – to address the very real and fundamental needs of those on the frontline, and continuing to defend the massive drain on resources represented by Trident and weapons of mass destruction that are entirely irrelevant to the modern world and the defence challenges it presents.

It serves as a PR exercise to attempt to validate the UK’s increasingly false claim to be a major player in the geopolitical great game, when in fact it is merely a convenient puppet for US foreign policy, draining its resources in an increasingly nonsensical claim to be a great power on the world stage.

Meanwhile, the confused aims and contradictory strategy of the Afghanistan coalition will continue: generals will come and go, and little men like politician Liam Fox will strut and posture - and vanish - while young men die. Behind the scenes, cuts to budgets have been made that endanger our armed forces effectiveness, bribes will be paid to corrupt Afghani politicians, and secret talks will take place with the Taliban warlords, while innocent men, women and children will be killed by ‘friendly fire’.

I fear that Armed Forces Day, with all its parades and exaltation of military might, all its band and martial music, all its speeches about heroes and sacrifice, all its flag waving and cheering, was simply a colourful cabaret to conceal the ugly realpolitik that represents the real threat to our brave servicemen and women. I fear that the deaths and the maimings will continue - and will escalate - until the citizens of these isles see clearly the blood sacrifice of their children that is being made in their names, and in the name of Britishness.

Extract from Sept. 2011 blog

WHY DEFENCE AND FOREIGN POLICY MATTERS TO UNIONIST POLITICIANS

A sharp distinction must be made between why defence and foreign policy matter to Scottish unionist voters and why they matter to unionist politicians, including the Scottish variety.

Scottish unionist voters either have a vaguely romantic notion of Britain’s imperial glories, or they are afraid that Scotland could not defend its security against threat and its international interests independently of the UK. They are rarely, in my experience, clear about what such threats could be, and what Scotland’s international interests are. All they have to do to achieve clarity is to look at any small European or Scandinavian nations, something they rarely do, except to patronise or deride, e.g. the tired old ‘Arc of Prosperity’ jibes. From my perspective, Scottish unionist voters are the victims of 300 years of unionist propaganda and imperial myth, exactly the kind of paranoid, jingoistic narrow nationalism that they falsely accuse the SNP of displaying.

Unionist politicians believe that defence and foreign policy - especially the nuclear deterrence policy, nuclear weapons and nuclear bases - matter fundamentally, because they are the passport to global politics, international roles, power, prestige – and money, money, money

Tony Blair, a lawyer and subsequently an MP for an obscure North East of England constituency, Sedgefield, now has an estimated annual income of in excess of £15m, and a personal fortune variously estimated at £40/60m. Such wealth was not created by democratically representing the electors of Sedgefield or the interests of the electors of the UK as Prime Minister, it was built on the back of an international career involving death, destruction and war.

Peter Mandelson, an architect of New Labour, had to borrow money from a businessman to buy his first London house. He is now a Lord, an immensely rich man, and is in the process of purchasing an £8m house. Such a fortune did not come from his earnings as a Member of Parliament, nor from his modestly lucrative salary an perks as a European commissioner, not from his liberal daily expense allowance as a Lord – it came from international consultancies and directorships that relate directly or indirectly to defence and foreign policy.

THE MOD

Under Labour, the Ministry of Defence, the legendarily incompetent - but unfailingly lucrative - body that fails to adequately equip our young men and women in the armed forces, spent an average of £5.6m on entertaining each year under Labour and probably far in excess of that under the current regime. We don’t have to be told who they were entertaining, boozing and eating lavishly with while Scottish soldiers died – while Fusilier Gordon Gentle died because his vehicle was not fitted with an electronic bomb detector.

No defence minister has retired poor: no senior MOD official retires into poverty or even a modest pension. They slide effortlessly through a revolving door into lucrative directorships and consultancies with the merchants of death, or with brutal foreign dictatorships of the kind now being overthrown by the people of the Middle East in the Arab Spring.

Scottish MPs on the high road to Westminster head for the lucrative, blood-soaked pastures of defence like heat-seeking missiles – they know where the money and the power lie.

After all, the bloody trail has been blazed for them by their predecessors. Only a state with its operating principle as eternal war, fed by inducing eternal paranoia in the electorate, can satisfy the insatiable greed of the powerful, the privileged, the amoral bankers and the military/industrial complex that ultimately controls this sham democracy, bleeding the people dry in every sense of the word.

The unionist politicians are M.A.D. men in the acronymic sense – they are committing the reluctant component nations of their dying empire to mutually assured destruction.




R.I.P. Uncle Petie and Uncle Eddie

Sunday, 14 November 2010

War, the monarchy, the poppy – blood, death and glory?

I had, in common with many others, a wonderful day in Edinburgh yesterday, courtesy of Political Innovation, Slugger O'Toole, Mick Fealty and Paul Evans. I hope to cover it in more detail shortly.

This morning, Andrew Marr interviewed the new Chief of Defence Staff UK Sir David Richards, in the news because of  a Telegraph headline today, Al Qaeda can't be beaten. Military chiefs make a rapid appearance on television after such press headlines to protest that they never really said it, or that it wasn’t quite what they meant. Sir David is no exception to this rule, as the interview shows.



(Just before this interview, we had heard from a Battle of Britain veteran, 90-year old Peter Ayerst, a former spitfire pilot, bright, alert, and looking no more than seventy to my eye. This fine, unpretentious man -who had fought in a just war, a war that was truly a war of defence of the nation against an undoubted evil, Nazism - clearly did not see himself as a hero in 1940, in spite of the fact that, if that much misused word has any meaning left in 2010, he was a true hero. When asked if he had anticipated the war when he joined the RAF as an enthusiastic amateur pilot, he said, light-heartedly, that if he had anticipated a war, he probably wouldn’t have joined … But when the challenge came, he rose to it, and placed his life on the line daily in defence of the nation.)

Sir David Richards, resplendent in khaki dress uniform, sprouting gleaming buttons, medal and insignias of rank everywhere about his person, nonetheless managed to look like a friendly bank manager, or headmaster. He slid quickly from Remembrance Day and just wars (WW2) into celebrating the monarchy’s role in militarism, then segued even more smoothly into Afghanistan, re-casting expertly his unfriendly Telegraph headlines, and managing to claim a link between the sexism and brutality of the Taliban, offering this as some kind of justification for the war.

Back to yesterday’s excellent event mounted by Political Innovation in Edinburgh. In the plenary discussion and two sub-group discussion I was involved in, among the key questions on the new media’s (blogging and Twitter) impact on politics and political awareness, we debated fruitfully the significance of hit counts, what made for high visibility, were we preaching to the converted, and was a low hit count to real opinion formers more important than high hit counts that could be meaningless in terms of political impact?

There was no mention of YouTube in any of the discussion I was part of (except by me), something that puzzled me in the light of the very active political sector of YouTube and video blogging. I freely admit that my blog hit counter often baffles me, and my YouTube hit counter (TAofMoridura channel on YouTube) even more. My current recent YouTube viewing figures range from low double figures (typical) to 8,438 for Living with the Taliban – Afghanistan Conflict and 5,817 for Douglas Murray and the delights of living in Gaza.

Among the possible explanations are of course the traditional techniques for increasing hit rate – catchy title, key words in title, good tags, etc.

A key choice, however, for any blogger or YouTube poster is how to handle comments, which sometime become threads – a topic that turns into a debate. Early on, I took the decision to pre-moderate, i.e. have the ability to review and approve comments before publishing, together with the necessary verification procedures for identity to deter the spammers and the frivolous or malicious. I had seen what post-moderation did to, for example, the Scotsman’s online postings – good comments buried alive by an abusive, superficial and sometimes incestuous rabble. As for no moderation …

(Some bloggers clearly love this kind of attention, because no moderation or post-moderation clearly increases the hit rate.)

But another problem – a conundrum – remains -

Why is it that post-moderation of my YouTube channel seems to permit a reasonable volume of comment and vigorous debate and post-moderation on my blog almost kills comment stone dead?

One possible explanation, which I will investigate, may be that my blog comments are not visible under the main blog – they have to be selected by clicking on a link. I may change this.

The other is that the YouTube audience is a very different audience from the blog audience. Based on yesterday’s debate, this seems plausible on the face of it. I know I have many blog readers who never view the YouTube videos on YouTube, but on my blog, where I also place them. (If you simply click play on the blog video, it will play on the blog – if you double click, it will take you to the YouTube channel.)

Whatever the explanation, here is an example of the contrast – my blog and YouTube video on

 Does the poppy glorify war? Has the poppy been hijacked?

The comments on the blog are two in number – one comment and my reply. But here, reproduced below, is the comment dialogue to date on the YouTube video. If you have any thoughts on the disparity, I would be delighted to hear them …

EXTRACTED FROM YouTube video comments -

rickelmonoggin

It's a good point- people say that we should remember soldiers fighting 'for our freedom', but it's a pretty big stretch to say that soldiers in Iraq are fighting for our freedom - obviously they aren't, they're just fighting because of a flawed government policy. Should we therefore not remember them, or not?

 

TAofMoridura

replying to @rickelmonoggin

Our illegal and immoral involvement in Iraq is over. The the soldiers who died or were maimed didn't start the war - they did their job. Of course we should remember them - the dead, and the survivors, whose lives have been affected by their injuries. We, the UK electorate, put the war criminal Blair in power, and returned him to power twice.

England, sadly, has three warmongering, nuclear-obsessed main parties to choose from. Scotland however has a choice in 2011 - the SNP

 

rickelmonoggin

replying to @TAofMoridura

I agree we should remember them. But we can't say that we are remembering them because 'they fought for our freedom', because they didn't. So why make a distinction between 'good' wars and 'bad' wars. Soldiers don't get much of a choice which ones to fight in.

Much better to say, let's remember soldiers, but without all the British imperialist window dressing.

 

TAofMoridura

replying to @rickelmonoggin

I am in full agreement (read my blog moridura.blogspot)

The soldiers died, not for Blair and the UK but for their regiment, for their comrades, for their duty as soldiers. We mustn't make their deaths meaningless - they died because the UK electorate betrayed them. I don't want any soldier or civilian anywhere in the world to die in vain, but I can't achieve that now by a UK vote. I want out of the UK. I can ensure that Scots don't die, by my vote for the SNP in May 2011.

 

boundlesslife12

Well done to Celtic for calling out the war machine.

Blood-stained Poppy.

I'll start wearing a Celtic jersey next poppy season.

 

kellystone84

The only way to stop war is not to have it!

 

69salford69 replying to @kellystone84

"The pioneers of a War-less world are the youth who refuse military service" - the current economic crisis means ARMED FORCES offers higher-than-average salaries and training opportunities that cost thousands in society. The fact that every job vacancy out there has 10x as many applicants is forcing Army recruitment up.

The Government has done EVERYTHING possible to ensure it has plenty of recruits for the future

 

TAofMoridura

replying to @69salford69

I am not a pacifist, and believe in defending my nation - Scotland - and in the concept of a just war. I have only seen one just war in my lifetime - WW2. It was truly a war of defence - the nation was under attack – and the attacker was the truly evil creed of fascism and racism. Such circumstance are relatively rare.

I do not support empire, foreign adventures, involvement in American imperialism nor do I support wars over resources, e.g. oil. I believe in defence forces.

  • 69salford69

    replying to @TAofMoridura

    "I do not support empire, foreign adventures, involvement in American imperialism nor do I support wars over resources, e.g. oil. I believe in defence forces."

    - Didn't Glasgow airport nearly go up in flames a few years ago after an ATTACK by Muslims?

    So defend your country. Your Scottish, I'm English - I understand why being English would make you want to stamp my head in but what about the Muzzies?

    Someone you know could have been killed in the Glasgow attack

  •  

    TAofMoridura 

    replying to @69salford69

    There were no such attacks in the UK before Afghanistan and the illegal war in Iraq. The UK's ill-conceived, and illegal wars led directly to terrorism in Britain.

    Secondly, aircraft carriers, WMDs, and nuclear submarines would not have made any difference to such attacks - they are a police and security services matter.

    I have no animosity whatsoever towards the English - I have friends and family who are English.

    Lastly, your use of the term 'Muzzies' points to a racist mindset.

    69salford69

    replying to @TAofMoridura

    So on one hand you are standing up for our country by speaking against those who are doing harm to it. But on the other hand every ex-service man who survived the War has been deeply offended.

    Yes I'm racist, I also don't like gays and my favourite colour is red.

     

    TAofMoridura

    replying to @69salford69

    Don't post here again - find a BNP site to express your views - bigots homophobes and racists aren't welcome here. Red is the colour of blood - and the Labour Party. It used to mean something different for Labour, but now they are steeped in it. For fascists, red and black have always been the colour choices - blood and death.

     

    Rochie2K8

    Blood Stained Poppy

     

    gregsyswilly

    deeds that would shame all the devils in hell, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ireland. Keep your blood-stained poppy off our hoops.

     

    TAofMoridura 

    replying to @gregsyswilly and Rochie2K8 and kellystone84

    The poppy once meant something to a generation that fought and died in a war - WW1 - that they came to see as meaningless. WW2 was a just war.

    The poppy has been hijacked by the UK establishment, and they have distorted its meaning, as they do with every thought of remembrance, of pity and of sadness, and of support for servicemen and women. But the Parkhead protest did no service to any cause - it was badly misjudged and harmed the cause of peace.



    rickelmonoggin

    replying to @TAofMoridura I couldn't care less about the British army or their regiments. I care about the people. The British state and its politicians have blood on their hands as far as I am concerned, but they have hijacked Remembrance day so that it's about paying tribute to them rather than to the people who died.

    TAofMoridura

    Replying to @rickelmonoggin

    Well, I do care about them, especially since there are a number of Scottish regiments serving the UK, as they have always done. Soldiers are people, and a very special kind of people - we need them, we will always need them. That's why we mustn't allow ambitious and greedy politicians to sacrifice them needlessly.
    I want out of the UK so that Scotland can concentrate on sensible defence forces and a sensible defence policy for its own independent nation, incl. EU deployment.


    rickelmonoggin
    Replying to @TAofMoridura

    I do care about the soldiers, I don't care about the military paraphernalia that goes with them.

    Tuesday, 9 November 2010

    The Poppy–a symbol that has lost its meaning?

    PetieEddie

    These are my uncles – Peter and Edward McCluskey.

    They volunteered as teenagers for service in the Great War – they didn’t have to fight, they weren’t conscripted, there was no military tradition in their family, they were both born in Glasgow, and both of their parents – my grandparents – were Southern Irish, and had no love for England or the UK. They fought for Scotland, the country of their birth.

    Both died before their time, indirectly as a result of their injuries in that appalling war - Eddie at the age of 28 and Peter well after World War Two. I never knew my Uncle Eddie, but my Uncle Petie was a familiar figure during my childhood. He rarely spoke of his experiences, but was horrified when WW2 broke out and he saw his younger cousins Gerard and Peter, whom he had taken into his home after they lost their father, conscripted into the Highland Light Infantry and the RAF respectively. He spent the war crouched at the radio, following every report, devastated at the casualties and praying for peace.

    Peter McCluskey was moved to tears each Armistice Day, and maintained the two minutes silence, but he would not have been seen dead wearing a poppy – he felt that this potent symbol of life, rising from the blasted earth of the battlefields, amid the corpses of his comrades, had been debased by its association with Earl Haig and that it had been hijacked by militaristic politicians.

    Hence my identical feelings about the poppy, reinforced by experiences in industry and commerce, where people who never had a thought for others, or the dead, or any injustice, who never contributed a penny to funds for wounded and disabled ex-servicemen, suddenly acquired a poppy in November, and accosted me, asking “Why aren’t you wearing your poppy, Peter?” They wore their poppy like they acquired their golf handicap – it was the career-wise move.

    They got a dusty answer, plus, on more than one occasion the challenge from me to write a cheque there and then for an ex-serviceman's charity and I would match it. I never had an acceptance …

    The demonstration at Parkhead was profoundly misconceived, and has damaged the anti-war movement. These people were misguided fools, and  I wish they hadn’t done it. But I do understand the sentiment, however wrongheaded.