Lest we forget… 2012

In a couple of days time, on 11th November, we’ll celebrate once again the holy cause of war. “Remembrance Sunday”, symbolised by a red poppy, was originally intended as a commemoration of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers whose lives were sacrificed or ruined in arguably the most grotesquely cynical slaughter of all time, otherwise known as the First World War. Many of those poor young fools went willingly and quite cheerfully to their deaths with the words of the lying propagandists ringing loudly in their ears. They sincerely believed they were off to fight the “War To End All War”.

Major General Smedley Butler, one of the most highly decorated senior officers in the US at that time clearly understood the real nature of war. He wrote in War is a Racket:

“War is a racket. It always has been… Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

And he said:

“I spent 33 years… being a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short I was a racketeer for capitalism.”

At the end of the “Great” war, by which time the British Empire had somehow grown by 14% and the Middle East’s oilfields had miraculously appeared under western control, some of the survivors of the trenches returned and the cynical reality of it all hit home. Many would see out the rest of their lives in impoverished tight-lipped bitterness; and Annie Souls, who lost all five of her sons to the blood-fest, refused for the rest of her days to stand whenever the national anthem was played.

And that was when war was relatively honest. How many of today’s generals would be as forthright as General Butler was, given they must know the truth just as well as he did?

In the First World War over 90% of the casualties were soldiers. In today’s so-called “wars” that our so-called heroes are ordered to wage thousands of miles away from homes that are in absolutely no danger of foreign attack, about 90% of the victims are defenceless civilians; and even those victims who are “enemy” soldiers are all but incapable of defending themselves. What’s heroic about that? Bomber pilots can and do slaughter hundreds of defenceless civilians at a time. Helicopter gunship crews can and do butcher obviously unarmed civilians one at a time, some of whom are children, and think it’s “nice”. The sailors of our mighty warships, who are all as safe as if they were at home, if not safer, assist in preventing life-saving medicines and other essential goods from reaching desperate defenceless civilians (prior to and during the Iraq war about half a million children were killed this way). There’s almost no danger to all these “heroes” who operate these various killing machines. What’s so brave about this work they do, work we’re often told they love doing, work that should by rights keep them from ever again sleeping well at night?

Conflating modern “wars” — genocide is a more accurate name — with some of the very real heroics of the First World War (misguided as those heroics were) is not to honour the poor young fools of that holocaust but to besmirch their names and ridicule the cause they believed they were fighting for. Equating the actions and conditions of the truly brave young people of World War One with those who sit in climate-controlled comfort today whilst they casually kill defenceless civilians is to plumb new depths of cynical hypocrisy. Surely those tragic victims of the “Great” war, if they had the chance, would plead with today’s young fools to ignore today’s relentless lying propaganda, which is little different to the lying propaganda of a hundred years ago, and treat the warmongers with the contempt they deserve. Surely they would plead with today’s young people to stay at home and direct their energies to campaigning in their own streets for social justice for themselves and their families and friends, because it’s in our own austere jobless streets where the really heroic struggles need to be waged.

I will never again wear a red poppy – which has come to symbolise the very opposite of what it was originally intended for. I wear instead a white poppy at this time of year. The white poppy is for Peace and a permanent end to Permanent War.

John is a writer and political activist based in England. He can be contacted through his website. His main contribution comprises three free-to-use works-in-progress: The People’s Constitution, The School of Kindness, and EnMo Economics . Read other articles by John.