British Iraq and Afghanistan war memorial sacrifices justice for propaganda
In advance of the anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq on March 20, 2003, the British government has unveiled a memorial to British servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan between 1990 and 2015.
The 682 British soldiers killed while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq in this period were victims of conflicts fought not in the name of democracy, liberty, or humanitarianism, as the apologists for these wars and occupations continue to maintain, but imperialism. As we know, imperialism is not and has never been driven by idealism or justice but by economic and strategic advantage. It is why the lack of any commemoration of the countless thousands of Afghans and Iraqis also killed in these wars is such a crying injustice.
Let us not mince words: the British ruling elite is drowning in the blood, not only of its own young men, sent to do its bidding in this part of the world and elsewhere over many years, but even more grievously it is an elite with the blood of countless thousands of Afghan and Iraqi men, women, children on its hands too - people killed in conflicts that were, in the last analysis, unleashed in the squalid cause of might is right.
Compounding the injustice visited on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, people whose lives have been upended as a direct consequence of Britain’s military presence in both countries is the lamentable fact that those responsible, such as former Prime Minister Tony Blair, have yet to face anything even approximating to justice. With this in mind, it is impossible to view this particular commemoration and memorial as anything other than an attempt to whitewash the magnitude of what the vast majority of Iraqis and Afghans consider to have been war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against them and their countries.
Furthermore, the parlous state of Afghan and Iraqi society today, the explosion of terrorism and barbarism of Salafi-jihadism – i.e. ISIS, Nusra Front, and other such terror organizations – is inextricably linked to Britain’s role and presence in both countries, along with that of its US ally.
On a wider point, the commemoration of young men, and also increasingly women, who lose their lives serving their country in war is crucial to shaping a national consensus over the righteousness of the cause in which said wars are fought. It is why, though the courage of those who die in service to their country is indisputable, the courage and morality of those who sent them to their deaths certainly is.
Britain’s presence in the Middle East, dating back to the end of the First World War in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, has been disastrous and calamitous for people living there. The carve up of the region in partnership with France under the terms of the infamous 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement involved the arbitrary imposition of borders with scant regard for historical, cultural, or regional specificities. Those artificial borders only entrenched sectarian and religious fissures that have plagued this part of the world ever since. They are fissures which, as we know only too well, have erupted in our time.
To repeat, this is not a criticism of the troops who died and whose deaths have been commemorated with this memorial. But to commemorate them while abstracting the innocent victims of the wars and occupations they were engaged in when they were killed is an insult to the truth and to justice. It constitutes the exploitation of their deaths on the part of a British ruling class, which despite the trumpets, ceremonial splendor, and rhetoric do not in truth care about the welfare of the troops who have fought to maintain their wealth and privileges. The sheer number of ex-British soldiers who are homeless, who lack healthcare or any meaningful care in the country they have served is a withering indictment in this regard.
In 1971 former US Secretary of State, John Kerry, went to Washington to testify in front of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on the Vietnam War, a war in which he served. He told the committee, “The country doesn’t know it yet, but it has created a monster, a monster in the form of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence, and who are given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history; men who have returned with a sense of anger and a sense of betrayal which no one has yet grasped.”
Powerful words indeed, yet John Kerry could count himself fortunate that he was given the platform and opportunity to give vent to the injustice suffered by the US soldiers who were sent in their thousands to die for that “biggest nothing” he railed against. What about the Vietnamese who perished, and in far greater number than those American soldiers? Who spoke for them?
The same scenario holds true when it comes to the British war memorial recently unveiled in London by the Queen. In the official program published to mark the event, Britain’s head of state praised the troops for their role in bringing “peace and stability” to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Whoever wrote those words on Her Majesty’s behalf did her credibility no favors. On the contrary, only when those responsible for sowing carnage, chaos, and instability on a monumental scale in the Middle East find the integrity to acknowledge their responsibility in doing so will we know that lessons have been learned.
Until that day comes, justice will continue to be sacrificed on the altar of propaganda.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.