On 7th February 2013 The Oxford Union held the debate “This House Would Not Fight for Queen and Country”. it was the 80th anniversary of the original debate in 1933 in which The Oxford Union voted in favor of the motion.
Speaking for the motion were Ben Sullivan (Christ Church College), Ben Griffin (Former SAS soldier) and Gareth Porter ( US Historian).
Speaking against were Rory Stewart (Conservative MP), Nikolai Tolstoy (International Monarchist League) and Malcolm Rifkind (Former Foreign Secretary).
On the night the motion was defeated as it has been on every occasion that it has been held since 1937.
Below a transcript of the speech given by Ben Griffin of Veterans for Peace.
I Will Not Fight for Queen and Country
Fight for Queen and Country, what does that mean? It is a jingoistic phrase dream’t up by some propaganda merchant intent on stoking the fire of that false religion patriotism.
The idea of fighting for Queen and Country is held tight by those who never have and never will actually fight.
It is held by those who long to bask in the reflected glory of war.
It is held by those who have no experience of the suffering that war inflicts.
It is an idea held up by those who gain the most from war, Politicians, Generals, The Arms Industry and The Media.
It is a phrase that is dredged up again and again to stifle dissent and build unquestioning support for the aggression we choose to unleash.
We must look at what lies behind this decrepit phrase.
Who is it doing the fighting?
A well-trained and professional force that’s highest collective desire is to go to war, any war.
This force does not fight for Queen and Country. it fights when it is told to fight.
Even when the Generals believe that a certain war is illegal or un-winnable or detrimental to the long-term security of these isles, when it comes to the crunch they always want war.
What does the fighting involve?
Well if you believe the media or the citations written for medals awarded you might imagine that the fighting consists of bayonet charges, lone hand grenade assaults on enemy positions or modern-day spitfire pilots scrambling to some noble action.
In my experience the reality is a lot darker.
Long periods of waiting punctuated by unforeseen moments of extreme violence.
Having your legs blown off by an IED.
A supposed ally shooting holes in your chest.
Dying in a helicopter crash.
Burning to death in a transport plane.
Being beaten to death by an angry mob.
Being shot in the face as you break into someones home.
The reality is setting up thousands of checkpoints in the country you have occupied, disrupting the lives of the people and then killing them when they approach too quickly or fail to stop in time.
The reality is raiding people’s houses, using explosives to enter homes. Detaining previously unknown males some as young as 15 and handing them over to be tortured. Whilst their families are left to fend for themselves, Traumatised by your action.
The reality is killing people from the safety of an attack helicopter or drone control room. As if you are playing a computer game, with no regard for the lives of people who have been dehumanised.
Haji, Raghead, Sand Nigger, Chogie, Argie, Paddy, Gook, Chink, Jap. Kraut, Hun. All terms used by our armed forces. The product of a society which still believes in its superiority over other people’s and cultures.
We pretend that we wage war for higher, noble causes. We claim that our armed forces fight for Freedom, Democracy or Human Rights.
This is not the case. We wage war according to Policy. It is a choice determined by Government. This policy is influenced by those who gain the most from war. Politicians, Generals, The Arms Industry and The Media.
These scoundrels always predict victory. Always insist that violence is the answer. They Ignore the inevitability of unforeseen consequences. The existence of Blow-back The fact that it is our own policy that creates our enemies.
They deny that we have been defeated to maintain support for current and future bloodletting.
The reasons they give for starting wars rarely match the reasons they give for continuing wars and rarely match the actual outcomes.
These scoundrels currently hold the noble position of backing a military junta in Mali against insurgents that we decided to arm in Libya.
Before that they celebrated the Arab Spring whilst turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabian aggression in Bahrain. Where weapons that we supplied were used by our Saudi allies to kill civilians engaged in non-violent protest. Their silence in this matter shines a light on their complicity.
In both Iraq and Afghanistan, once the reasons for going to war were found to be false, or unattainable or just forgotten, those with a vested interest in continuing the wars resorted to one of the oldest tricks in the book.
They cultivated the myth of the soldier as hero.
They told you that you might not understand why the war continued but that you should support the soldiers.
They told you that to stop the pointless slaughter would be sacrilege to those heroes that had already died.
Truth is the first casualty of war and tonight you will see this phenomenon first hand. You will hear men speak in reasonable tones using educated language to mount a defence of Fighting for Queen and Country.
They will argue that at the very least we must be ready to defend this country. But they are talking about a hypothetical situation. The Taliban are not going to invade, The Chinese are not massing on the coast of France.
From positions of vested interest they will try to convince you that Fighting for Queen and Country is your highest duty. But what they are really calling for is a continuation of business as usual. Fighting and killing in accordance with their policy. Which is designed to fulfill their interests, their greed, their ambition.
I am a Human Being and my allegiance is not to Queen and Country but to the whole of Humanity.
I no longer accept the lies which perpetuate war.
I no longer accept that violence can lead to Peace.
Never again will I be complicit in the killing and torture of my Brothers and Sisters.
Never again will I accept the vile religion of Patriotism.
I refuse to pull on that rancid uniform.
I refuse to fight for Queen and Country.
Fantastic speech Ben – beautifully crafted, with clear and passionate delivery. You speak my mind. war will never solve anything, but it will create the conditions for more war. Great that you talked about the privileged who don’t fight, but who profit from war. Arms traders & policy makers rank with the worst.
thanks for your courage and your wisdom.
Towards justice & peace….
Jo Vallentine. (People for Nuclear disarmament – Perth W. Australia, former Senator for the Greens in Australian Federal parliament.)
Epic, moving and enlightening. This speech will definitely have a place in the history. Well done Ben, many thanks.
Rifkind disgraced himself. Ben excelled as always. Some more facts avoided by the opposers of the proposition:
US oil companies in Kuwait were slant drilling into Iraq. Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait was under the circumstances indeed reckless and ultimately fatal. But by UK, US and international standards, it was an act of self defence. We know that now.
Those of us who’ve read John Perkins’ excellent ‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman’ also know that the entire situation was engineered by the Corporatocracy.
Queen and country is a myth. Only humans matter, whoever they are, wherever they are.
just a quibble, perhaps, since the warmongers and sell-out merchants ( to the US Big Brother) have so destroyed the proper meaning: patriotism means love of one’s country, and each has to define what that country is, not just geographically, but humanly and ethically. As Dennis Potter put it in his Interview with Melvin Bragg, one can, even should, love one’s country in the sense of a particular environment , material and human. It is notable that some of the biggest blackguards who have distorted patriotism in our age have been Murdoch and his lackeys, quite patently sold out to the US dream of World Domination. A real patriot is, naturally, the opponent of imperialism, as he/she can see that others may feel attached to their country and its best customs in just the same way as , say, an Englishman (not a “Briton”, of course- a pure invention; most Englishmen themselves are , in any real sense, attached not to the whole of England, but to that part of it which they consider home, where they grow up, choose to live, put down roots)
So the argument is not with peaceful, respectful patriotism but with the ghastly paraphernalia foisted on the public since at least the Boer War by the Establishment- in a word, imperialism. We now face the particularly loathsome task of perpetual kow-towing to the US, so that imperialism itself is not “ours” as it was, say, until c. 1940. Yes, our “leaders ” know their place- as poodles to the US.
One can only suppose that many of the elite, probably most, get a little frisson as they vicariously show “courage” (defined, we recall, by Dubya) and send other people’s children to kill “for Queen and country”. Killing people is basically wrong; going thousands of miles to kill complete strangers on command is not a heroic thing to do, but we are daily taught that it is. Patriotism cannot be aggressive.
Excellent speech, given your usual expert delivery. Well done Ben.
Very moved by Bens heart felt speech. What a courageous man to stand up their and deliver truthful and honest reflection on the horrors of War. We (the UK and its allies) are the real terrorists, we impose sanctions on the poorest countries affecting millions of innocent human beings when these countries do not bend to our political will or rules.
“Military men are dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns for foreign policy.” – Henry Kissinger.
Violence will not lead to peace. But this type of heroic action will. Inspirational Ben.
WAR IS ILLEGAL PAYING TAX IS A WAR CRIME
Under the laws of war each of the wars fought since 2001 against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya is illegal. Not only do they violate the Treaty for the Renunciation of War and the UN Charter, but by killing 1.5m civilians the leaders and taxpayers of every State involved in these wars committed murder, crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Under the common law doctrine of joint enterprise or Article 25 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court every citizen of a NATO or ISAF State who has paid tax since October 2001 is technically an accessory to the crimes committed by their Government, and is criminally liable for arrest, prosecution and punishment for complicity in war crimes.
The fact, that taxpayers can be arrested, tried, convicted and punished as war criminals alongside the civil, political and military leaders responsible for starting the wars may come as an unwelcome surprise to those who are not familiar with the laws of war. But it should be no surprise to anyone who has experienced or even considered the horrific consequences of war. Starting a war, in which tens of thousands of totally innocent men women and children are injured and killed is the world’s most evil act; so supporting a war by providing the funds that purchase the weapons and pay the troops ranks alongside it as a monstrous crime.
The legislation however provides relief for taxpayers who have unwittingly supported illegal wars. Providing they end their participation in the crimes and refuse to pay any further taxes to their government or its agents until the wars and the crimes have ended, they will not be punished for aiding and abetting the crimes.
To make sure that you cannot be prosecuted, ask you employer to pay your PAYE and NI payments into a trust account to be withheld from the Government until it abides by the laws of war. By paying taxes into a trust or escrow account you fulfil your national duty to pay tax as well as your international duty to withhold tax. However if you or your employer continue to pay tax to the government after you know that it is a criminal offence, you are liable for arrest and prosecution as an accessory to murder, war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide .
By joining together in international tax resistance taxpayers can force our Governments and leaders to stop their illegal wars and end the indiscriminate killing of civilians. So it is now down to us to end the carnage. Each of us has a choice; we can stop the wars and end the killing by withholding tax, or support the wars and continue the killing by paying tax.
“War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal 1946
What an excellent statement of the horrors of wars! Thanks for your witness in the halls of the Oxford Union Debates! It was great to see you–even so briefly last month in the UK. Hoorah for VFP UK!!
Well done Ben. It must of taken a lot of courage to stand in front of those guys. I read your speech riveted and I hope they all were too! Keep it up!
This is the most articulate antiwar speech I have ever read. Spoken from the heart, from experience, and from a solid appreciation of the facts. Thank God for Ben.
Your words will haunt not only those halls in which you spoke truth to the old and tired concept of fighting for King and country but will echo throughout the UK and worldwide. It is such a pleasure to read comments that are succinct and to the point. I can imagine that you could hear a pin drop in the hall as you delivered your noble truth.
For some time now, I have proposed that the Veterans For Peace become a worldwide yet decentralized movement. Our campaign to end war will gain immense leverage as we add troops from nation after nation to our demand for diplomacy and human rights vs war and genocide. Thank you again for your brave and and truthful comments in the face of the old school that never get their hands dirty or bloody.
I religiously attended Union debates over four years (1963-66, 67-68) and wish I could have been there for this one, especially as David Cameron was a former student of my old college, of which I am deeply ashamed. I hope those who voted for the motion will stay faithful to their ideals and oppose more military adventurism in support of the USA in the years ahead.
Moving speech Ben. I feel fortunate to have met you in Miami at the VFP convention and listened to you speak there. You are correct in appreciating how valuable ones humanity is. I was viewed as commiting the ultimate sin by some after I got back from Viet Nam. I got my Congressman to pull a few strings with the state department to get a visa for a young woman that I met in the war. Even my own father disowned me after I married her. Killing was praised but love was condemned. The marriage only lasted a couple years till she went on to a better life in NYC, but some of my farmer neighbors here in Illinois got to know her and came to realize that those we were killing were humans also. As the Native Americans know better than many of us, we are all in this together. As Chief Seattle said, “the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth.”
Great speech, speaking as a “veteran” you have opened my eyes & ears to the con trick which has been played on all servicemen/women from the beginning of all unnecessary conflicts that we have no business interfering in. Proud to know you.
I am an associate member of Veterans For Peace, Chapter 111 in Bellingham, Washignton. Thank you for your wonderful speech of truth and compassion. I am proud to stand with you as a member of the human(e) race. “I am a Human Being and my allegiance is not to” the global military/industrial shadow governments of the world “but to the whole of Humanity.”
Stunning speech, Ben…
I was alternately crying and cheering – impossible not to respond to it
A moving, succinct and authoritative exposure of both the deceits that keep us trusting in war and the urgent reasons for our anger to be directed to passionately and non violently resisting it.
People like you saying things like this in places like the OU on this historic occasion (and ten years on from that great lie that was the invasion of Iraq) can powerfully impact opinions, people and outcomes. This is Waging Peace, indeed.
Thanks for all you do.
Ben a great and powerful speech. Proud of the great job you did. Keep up the good work over there mate and see you in Ireland soon.
Great job Ben, glad to have you as the Great Britain spokesman for VFP.
DV, San Diego, CA. VFP
Thanks Ben. These words are all the more inspiring because they draw from experience – experience that has been thoroughly self-interrogated.
I’ve linked to a recent article about some of the “sources of violence” but the source of war is always as you have identified above.
Love and peace,
As more and more come out about the illegal actions they have been part of many seem to justify all the actions on the basis that they have to torture in order to get information to save lives. That the ends justify the means. Absolute tosh. Even taking into account the murder of Bin Laden he was not tracked down by the use of torture. When a soldier, in many cases boy soldiers, sign up, they take an oath of allegiance to the Queen. However, this is a load of tosh on the basis that they would seem to be taking orders from the president of the United States of America to whom they have not taken any oath of allegiance.
A very powerful speech !
Dear UK VFP:
Opened the door to Malcolm Rifkind at a number of houses in West London owned and at the time occupied by Saudi Royalty & more.
AWESOME. The use of the word scoundrel is quit perfect and I am sure irritated the fascists in the audience, and that is truly what they are. Has anyone from VTA addressed a British Legion club meeting, I imagine it could be a long shot but to win over the Legion would I believe help the cause. Willing to help any way I can.