The British Army: Guns for Hire?

A video showing soldiers from Britain’s elite parachute regiment apparently using a photograph of Jeremy Corbyn in a shooting gallery for target practice was recently shown all over the world.

Most people who join the armed forces do so for the right reasons: they sincerely believe they will be serving their country, by which they think they will be protecting normal civilians from armed attack. So how exactly do young British people transition from that belief to using a picture of the leader of Britain’s largest political party for target practice? How exactly do young people who think they’re acting in the best interests of the majority of Britons justify shooting at a picture of someone who is not only a lifelong pacifist, but also has a lifelong track record of truly fighting for the best interests of oppressed people generally, and oppressed British people in particular?

Those of us who have been in the army know the answer to this question. It’s how you’re trained. Normal young people are turned from being normally good and caring young civilians into mindless killing machines, conditioned to obey orders, no matter what the order is. The mother of Paul Meadlo, a soldier who took part in the infamous My Lai massacre once said “I sent them a good boy, and they made him a murderer.”1 Although that was an American war crime, British forces have plenty of their own war crimes hidden away.

The superb book by Ian Cobain The History Thieves, for example, cites many verifiable accounts of grotesque criminality by British armed forces and the so-called “intelligence” services, ranging from acts of torture to creating unaccountable death squads for committing acts of terrorism against defenceless civilians. And there are many similar books — providing one looks for them, as they seldom feature in “best seller” lists.

Peterloo Massacre

In this bicentenary year of the horrendous Peterloo massacre, when British troops slaughtered defenceless civilians in Manchester, and in the light of the scandalous images of the soldiers of one of Britain’s most celebrated army regiments apparently shooting at a picture of one of the country’s most popular political figures, it’s time to take a long hard look at our armed forces.

Most young people join the army believing they will be fighting for their country. But the hard truth is that British forces haven’t been used to protect Britain since the Second World War. Today they’re used instead in support of US foreign policy, which acts mainly in the interests of US banks and billion dollar corporations. We need a total review of how British armed forces are trained, and deployed. Britain could do worse than copy Costa Rica’s example — and scrap the army altogether.

  1. The First Casualty by Phillip Knightley, p. 393. []
John Andrews is a writer and political activist based in England. His latest booklet is entitled EnMo Economics. Other Non-Fiction books by John are: The People's Constitution (2018 Edition); and The School of Kindness (2018 Edition); and his historical novel The Road to Emily Bay Read other articles by John.