Let’s begin by clearing up the common misapprehension that the WP (White Poppy) is a sign of disrespect or two fingers up to our fallen soldiers; it isn’t. The best way to do that would be to wear no poppy at all but be your poppy Red or White, to wear it IS in itself an act of remembrance. However, the difference is that the WP, a very much ‘considered’ choice, also takes into account the appalling number of civilians (up to around 240,000 British alone in two world wars) killed and promptly forgotten. Something like 100 million people have been killed in conflict over the last century and among these mind-blowing figures, the mantra that was once, ‘Never Again’ has sadly been drowned out amongst the shameful drum roll that is the virulent and increasing ‘ramping-up’ of militarism.
White Poppy wearers desire to remember, and ‘respect,’ just as those who choose to wear Red poppies do. But we also refuse to be intimidated in our freedom of choice, ‘not’ to be sucked in to the establishment’s shameful hijacking of the once simple and dignified poppy (as opposed to the gaudy, diamond encrusted, mine’s bigger than yours, as currently displayed by ‘celebrities’ and those ‘in the dock,’ mentioning no names) and act of remembrance. Along with our Military too, all these things have, and currently are, used as mere ‘tools’ by successive Governments, not please note the masses who generally wear theirs with integrity, to advance their own murky agendas and constant lust for ‘filthy lucre.’ We in WP’s simply hope for a world in which, when it comes to resolving our differences, killing is not always the first and only option.
Though these views are my own, I speak to you as an Afghan Veteran (2007-2008) and member of an organisation called Veterans for Peace UK. In a recent article by Katie Hopkins in The Sun she savaged the ‘Conscientious Objectors’ and casually wrote them off as ‘cowards.’ That generalisation did a massive dis-service to the countless thousands who had enough humanity in them that they ‘didn’t have it in them’ to kill their fellow man and were brave enough to answer to their consciences and swim against, and at great cost to them, what must’ve been a truly terrific tide.
In our organisation, we have such people who have been brave enough to refuse to take part in what they’ve considered to be something immoral; the process of our involvement in ‘extraordinary rendition’ and to deploy to Afghanistan on the back of contributory factors in their decision making such as the callous annihilation of civilians in Iraq (see Wiki-leaks and ‘Collateral Murder’ film). I’m proud to stand beside these men whose conflicts range from World War Two to Afghanistan. Our oldest member served as a ‘fifteen year old’ Merchant Seaman on D-Day and members range from ex-Royal Navy Sailors and Marines to ex-Army Special Forces personnel.
Not all of our members choose to wear the White Poppy. It’s their ‘choice.’ I however do; not because I wish to disrespect my two Great-Grandfathers who fought in the First World War or both of my Grandfathers who fought in the Second. Nor my Uncle who survived Korea and Kenya or indeed the memory of my dear friend, the late Corporal, James Dunsby, who sadly died this year on that Welsh mountainside with his friends and whom i served with in Afghanistan, a nicer person one couldn’t have hoped to meet. Come the hour, I shall remember them all. But I shall also hope for a better future for humanity as a whole.
I’m no great authority on conflict by any means serving only one tour as a reservist in Afghanistan after a number of years as a regular soldier in the early nineties but I saw enough on that tour to realise the futility of it all; the insane waste of human life to such little end and the massive waste of money and resources, particularly in terms of ordnance, that would be much better employed at home or on humanitarian projects. Rather than ‘re-construction,’ I only ever saw ‘de-construction’ as what little infra-structure was there was often blown away. The Opium trade I believe is thriving, bumper crops year after year, but then why wouldn’t it be when the country is run by thieves and gangsters under Karzai? Oh yes; I at least saw that much.
Upon their return, our troops are paraded around as heroes by those who seek to gain from them but the sad truth is, despite so many suffering from mental and physical trauma, just as they come to terms with being at home, many made redundant by the constant waves of cuts, these ‘heroes’ are held in such high esteem that they’re given the minimum payout’s that the government can get away with and then forced into another fight to try to increase these paltry awards! Not to worry though because charity is on hand to do the governments job for it and The Royal British Legion won’t go short of a bob or two with the likes of BAE System’s stepping into the breech (conflict of interest in securing peace right there!). Remembering the dead is fine, but please, let’s also remember the living.
Due to the way that our poppy has been taken over, some of us find it impossible to separate this once, and in many ways, still fine emblem of remembrance from the corruptions that I’ve alluded too above. In closing I’ll say this; sadly even I can’t claim to be a pacifist. If someone wishes to invade our shores, I’ll gladly slap on my ‘greens’ again but we must always be mindful of how these situations arise in the first place. In the last war, Nazi Germany would not have been quite so mobile had a certain large motor company not intervened to build the Wermacht’s vehicles; go look it up, the list of those who financed the German war machine is long and some of the names will surprise you.
John Boulton served in The British Army from 1990 to 1995. He deployed to Afghanistan as a Reservist in 2008.