Yesterday another vigil was held for Bradley Manning outside of the US Embassy. He has now been held for 900 days without trial. For nine months of those 900 days he was subjected to treatment amounting to torture. 18 people gathered and stood, in silence, in extended line, facing the Embassy. We played the audio from the Collateral Murder video. A video that encapsulates modern war. The helicopter gunship pilots removed from danger, eager to rain death onto people below them. The infantry with strained voices, unable to see the full horror of what is happening and the Iraqis silent without a voice, defenceless, slaughtered.
The scene outside the Embassy was solemn as we contemplated the events played out in the audio and the brave action of the soldier who leaked that information. This all stands in stark contrast to the jingoism and make believe that is pushed by government, media and military in the run up to Armistice Day. A day that used to be about remembering the dead of ‘the war to end all wars’ is now turned into a two week celebration of the armed forces. Recruitment drive, propaganda for the war in Afghanistan and paean to militarism rolled into one.
I was at White Hart Lane watching Spurs play Wigan last Saturday. Before kick off troops marched onto the pitch and we were told “Tottenham Hotspur supports the Poppy Appeal and ask you all to stand to applaud our brave soldiers who deploy to Afghanistan next week”. I was the only person I could see who refused to stand however I got the feeling that a lot of people were standing because of social pressure.
There is an obvious disconnect in society. On the one hand you have the media, military and politicians where the poppy is worn by all and sometimes taken to the grotesque level of the diamante poppy. On the other hand is
the public, where poppy wearing has been in decline for years. Could it be that the majority understand that the original sentiment of Armistice Day has been corrupted.
Suicide in the Trenches
I knew a simple soldier boy…..
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
And no one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.