Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Help the Heroes Day?

In the UK we are coming to the end of “Help the Heroes Day”, a day of fundraising for the charity, Help the Heroes, recently started by an army officer to provide for war wounded soldiers. It has had vast media coverage in its short life and has raised an enviable amount of money, money at least that the Royal British Legion (poppy day) might envy, since it was set up for the same purpose.

Well, no one would disagree with helping seriously hurt people, would they? but, beside the British Legion, the UK has, or had, a comprehensive National Health Service (the NHS) for which we all pay a National Insurance Stamp while we are working which entitles, or entitled, us to free health care, a basic pension in our old age so that we are not destitute or forced to beg, and benefits when we are sick or unemployed, for the same reasons. Soldiers, of course, were entitled to all of this together with any special care the government or military were willing to provide for the wounded, together with what the RBL provided on top.

The issue I have is that all the publicity that the new charity has received is more than simple advertising for a good cause, it is tantamount to a military and militarization campaign across the country.

Take the word “heroes”. Is it proper to call these soldiers “heroes”? A hero these days is considered simply to be someone who is courageous, and I don't doubt that soldiers involved in active service are courageous. But with this definition so too are many others, and among them are people who the public would not agree were heroes. The 9/11 attack involved people willingly driving aeroplanes into high buildings with death a sure consequence. These people were courageous, and so must have been heroes. Were they?

Then again, when we fight a war we fight an enemy who are also facing us as their enemy, and they too are facing death, just as our soldiers are. They too are courageous, so must be heroes, mustn't they?

Indeed, in the middle of the twentieth century we lost many myriads of heroes facing the Axis powers, Germany, Japan and Italy, and 55 million people in total lost their lives on both sides, soldiers and civilians. Were they all heroes?

Surely, a hero is not just brave, a hero is also noble, so we can count out the 9/11 bombers, and soldiers who are fighting for any cause that is itself not noble, like the fascist soldiers of Germany and Italy, and the soldiers of imperial Japan. They were all invading foreign countries and killing innocent civilians in those countries to make them submit to the conqueror. We are not like that. We do not send troops into foreign countries to make other people submit to us, do we?

By now, I hope you have got my point. Soldiers who are forcing themselves into the homes of innocent people in a foreign country can hardly be regarded as doing anything noble, they are not being heroes. They are acting like Nazis. We are not fighting them because their governments, with the support of their people, have invaded our country. The government of Afghanistan is in place because the US has put it there. The leader of the Iraqis was in place because the US had put him there. We are killing innocent farmers and their wives and children while fully aware that most of them would prefer it if we just went away.

The whole point of the current militarization campaign is to condition us to permanent warfare, just as the people of the US have been conditioned, and just as George Orwell prophesied. We are not helping heroes, and if we want to help heroes, we would do much better to force our governments not to make young men into heroes, dubious as the title is, by killing innocents abroad. Young men would be better served by an anti-war movement, not one that gives help too late to young people with shattered bodies all for a political myth.

All we have to do to see the injustice of it is to imagine that a foreign army was raiding our houses at dawn, killing or detaining our fathers and sons, and killing or raping our mothers and sisters, and all on some pretext given them by a few extremists. That is what we fought the Nazis and the Japanese to stop. But we are now doing it ourselves, and calling our bullying troops, when they suffer in retaliation, “heroes”.

Are we to suppose that we would not fight back if we were invaded and misused by some foreign bullies? Have Americans so completely forgotten that they set up their own state by fighting off the invading soldiers of the British that they are now repeatedly determined to bully other people into submission?

And what of 9/11 itself? Is that a sufficient pretext for killing tens of thousands of foreign people who had no part in the original monstrous plot? Indeed, if we had already shown our own lack of basic justice for others by supporting oppression of poor Arabs, are we supposed to stand by and expect them not to want to retaliate against the mean spirited unfairness of our own previous actions.

You can keep whipping your dog to keep it cowed, but when it gets the courage to bite you, whose fault is it? If we treat these poor foreign farmers like dogs then we can expect to get bitten, and there is nothing noble or heroic about beating innocent animals or humans that have done us no harm, and who could not kill and maim our dubious “heroes” if they were not there to be harmed.

We still need to oppose foreign wars, and not be beguiled by bogus sentimentality disguising military propaganda. Help our heroes by stopping foreign wars and bringing them home before they are wrecked.

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