By Jack Peat, Editor of The London Economic
Coordinated occupation of armed forces avoids the terrorism label, but it isn’t exempt from it.
Britain has invaded all but 22 countries in the world in its long history according to analysis contained in All the Countries We’ve Ever Invaded: And the Few We Never Got Round To. Of the countries left untouched, only the likes of Guatemala, Tajikistan and the Marshall Islands make the short list, along with the closer to home but equally trivial Luxembourg. The US, in its own short history, has invaded 70 nations.
Since the great wars neither Britain nor America has been invaded. That is to say, the ground justification of national conflict – the threat of attack – has never been warranted. But the World Police have still managed to rationalise the occupation of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and others under the guise of uniform. Terrorism, it would seem, has replaced threats to sovereignty as the world moves into a new era of conflict.
An eye for an eye
Before the brutal Woolwich attacks occurred in May a British soldier stabbed an Afghani child of 10 years-old in the kidney with a bayonet after getting drunk on a bottle of vodka. The soldier was jailed for a solitary 18 months and dismissed from the Army in an incident that went largely unreported. “Deaths in Iraq are stripped of the elements of empathy and surprise that would propel them into the eager vacuums of our news cycles,” Jonathan Green of The Drum wrote after the Boston bombings.
British medical journal Lancet reported that the number of Iraqi civilians killed since the US invasion may number as many as 98,000. The Economist and an organisation called the Iraq Bodycount have tabled significantly lower estimates; the latter projecting 15,000 civilian casualties since the war began. But even if that lower total was accurate, “it suggests that Iraq has suffered at least five times the impact of 9/11 — and the fact that its population is one tenth that of the US would magnify the impact to more like 50 times that of 9/11”, Time journalist Tony Karon reported.
So who’s really the terrorist?
War is for heroes and terrorism is for cowards; but how can the two terms be so comparably alike yet interpreted so differently by society? War is between willing participants, perhaps, whereas terrorism leaves citizens as potential targets. But when chaos and destruction are considered, the lines between the two become far more blurred.
Terrorism derives from the Latin verb terreō, meaning ‘I frighten’. It was traditionally used to refer to acts committed by a government, and even though the focus has shifted to non-official parties, it still has its government uses.
Terror justifies war, and war encourages terror in a perpetual cycle of conflict. The armaments industry – a pillar of both the British and US economies – relies on war and there is strong evidence to suggest the governments of both countries are well aware of that.
BAE Systems is tantamount to politician in Britain, with powerful lobbying privileges and influence in Whitehall. We each gave BAE Systems £64 last year as billions of pounds leaked from the public purse; money which could have been spent on health, welfare, or putting our economy back on the road to recovery. The size and sphere of influence has led to widespread corruption which is rarely explored.
White poppy appeal
It is for these reasons that I chose to wear a white poppy on Armistice Day/ Remembrance Day/ Veterans Day. Not only am I conscious that the language of remembrance is often more like propaganda than passion, but I am massively sceptical about the red poppy’s association with military power and the justification of war.
The wearing of a white poppy on Armistice Day symbolises respect for fallen veterans as well as support for the peace movement. It avoids the hypocrisy of praying for peace while preparing for war. As the Peace Pledge Union’s White Poppy Appeal slogan read in 1990: ‘War cannot create peace’. John F Kennedy also summarised: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Lest we forget; war should be a precursor to peace. War on a word is an insult to our fallen heroes.