Monday, April 5, 2010

A timely warning on our attitudes to war

One of the strangest consequences of the Afghan war has been the evolution of the Wiltshire market town of Wootton Bassett into a shrine to the fallen. It has become risky to question any aspect of a burgeoning cult of flag-wrapped coffins and weeping onlookers, which is why no politician with an ambition to remain in Parliament would dream of doing so.

Instead, it has taken a serving officer in Afghanistan to question whether the manner in which the dead are being honoured is not inflicting some damage on the Army. This is principally because the now almost constant sight of funeral cort├Ęges moving slowly through Wootton Bassett, past rows of weeping bystanders, has become the defining feature of the campaign in Afghanistan in so many people's minds.

Without mentioning the town by name, Lieutenant Colonel Matt Bazeley casts a critical eye on what he calls a pervasive culture of pessimism over the Army's campaign in Afghanistan, which he believes has been exacerbated by "the post-Diana reaction to fatalities as they are brought home", and which he says does a disservice to British forces in the country.

While every casualty is to be regretted and mourned, he maintains the Afghan campaign has not been especially costly in terms of fatalities, measured against a backdrop of 300 years of Army history, noting that 129 soldiers died in Northern Ireland in 1972 alone. By comparison, 270 British troops have so far been killed in the Afghan war.

British soldiers in Afghanistan are professionals, not conscripts pressganged into serving in some conflict of which they know nothing. That some have been killed in action is tragic but not in itself surprising. Many people do not believe British troops should have gone to Afghanistan. Others are now convinced that we can never "win" there, however victory is defined. The argument over Britain's involvement in this country will go on. In the meantime, most of us will agree there is nothing to be gained by undermining the morale of the troops already there. In that context, this call for a more balanced, less lachrymose portrayal of the war is timely.


  1. I can see why the people who live there do what they do but I'm not sure it's correct. I think although the worse thing ever is for family to lose children,(I've buried a Son so...)it is in some ways equally sad that MASSIVE amounts of soldiers are losing limbs and suffering horrific injuries and nobody is saying anything about that. I think about every time a man/woman dies, there are soldiers going home to a life of disability beyond my comprehension. So to hounor our dead maybe the people of WB should raise awareness of the injured too. Just a thought.
    Still whatever, as you know, I think of you guys always and I'm thankful you are who you are.
    Much love. Sarah x

  2. I can only praise the people of WB - I think what they do is fantastic - they are showing the respect our lost Hero/s deserve. Sarah lost her son (may he R.I.P) and so she may feel differently to me, but God forbid if I lost one of mine - I would appreciate the town showing them the respect they deserve; However I do agree with her - our wounded are never mentioned - but I believe that is because 'Somebody' does not want our 'Nation' knowing how many are coming back injured - I also disagree with L/C MB - our troops know that we care for them and I don't believe that it affects their morale - we are behind them 100%+: Yes they signed up to protect Queen & Country - but they have no choice in deploying - and as for winning a war - currently the war is locating IEDs - and is not a war of guns and people but with the majority of the enemy hiding behind devices - Oh was forgetting - our troops are also there to 'Win hearts and Minds' and help rebuild a country - show a bit of respect L/C MB to the fallen/wounded and especially to the town of WB who represent how many people of the UK feel when our fallen are flown back. One very angry mother but as ALWAYS - SO VERY VERY PROUD OF OUR TROOPS - may God bless them All and bring them home soon and safely.