War. uh. What is it good for (again)?

On Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Simon Amstell once revealed that he had done a voiceover for an Army recruitment video. Amstell’s one-liner, which he apparently said to the director of the ad, ran something like: ‘Can you absolutely assure me that this advert will not lead to any middle-class kids getting killed?’ Big laugh. But, to quote the American catch-phrase: It’s funny ’cause it’s true. The modern history of war has involved far more working class young people dying for their country (or some more numinous end) than those who our society has considered as having ‘prospects’.

Last week, as we learned that 15 British troops had been killed in Afghanistan in just 10 days, the question of their background or relative ‘prospects’ did not come up. Nor should it have done. The needless death of one young person before they have had the opportunity to live a full life is appalling, whether he could have been a doctor or a construction worker.

FRom nowpublic.com

FRom nowpublic.com

But at some point, if we are to be active citizens, allowing our faith to inform our political voice, we will need to ask whether this, and many more of our assumptions about war, are right.

As one followed news coverage of and comment on the Afghanistan deaths last week, one could have been forgiven for thinking that all that mattered was whether these brave young people had big enough helicopters and good enough cars. As if a war can be fought without people dying. As if there is a level of ‘equippedness’ that would mean an 18-year-old being shot at or whose car has been bombed in Helmand province will have a 100% chance of going back to his mum alive.

The fact is, young people die in war because that is what has been planned. Why has Britain not put more troops on the ground? Because someone in charge has done the numbers and come up with a sum that says that with the likely rate of deaths, a certain number of troops will be enough to outlast and overpower the enemy without being completely wiped out. This is one of the calculations that happens before any war or battle. Sure, we keep the numbers of our dead soldiers to a minimum, but the acceptability that some will die is fundamental to all military planning. So when politicians try to play a blame game (even using the very real issue of equipment) it seems disingenuous. Because, for the most part, they were in favour of sending these kids to die. Perhaps not the ones in the news this week, but certainly some of them.

Please understand: I am not an absolute pacifist. I can’t say, with Hitler in our recent past, that military action (and yes, the violence that entails) is never necessary.

From favianna.com

From favianna.com

But I am with Larry Norman, who reminded Christians in the 70s that the Vietnam war constituted ‘sacrificing your children’ and trying to ‘kill all your enemies.’ And I think we should remember that when considering whether a war is worth it.

I’m not saying it’s a simple question. But when the old, wealthy men and women (on both sides of the House) who make the decisions to send people who have barely finished being children to be slaughtered (and, let’s never forget, to slaughter the children of others) start trying to use deaths for political capital, I want them to be conscripted to the front line.

Want to do more than get angry?

Here is a list of charities that take care of British servicemen and women who have given limbs, psychological well-being, or just time in very dangerous situations.

My personal recommendation is this one.

You can also give towards reconstruction in Afghanistan here.

And please don’t forget the other side.

OKAY, so that was quite serious. But this is quite funny:


One Response

  1. Just to clarify, the middle-class kids thing was the implication of what the Army representative told him (‘The sort of kids who apply to the army after hearing this ad would have only ended up working at Burger King anyway’). He said he felt uneasy about it. (But he did still do it.)

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