Sunday, 10 November 2013

Remembrance Sunday

I've been a soldier. I've seen my comrades fall in battle. I've held them in my arms at the final moment. These were men who saw life as it is, yet they died despairing. No glory, no brave last words, only their eyes, filled with confusion, questioning "Why?" I don't think they were wondering why they were dying, but why they had ever lived - Man from La Mancha

Remembrance Sunday, when we fall silent and think of the poor wretches who have died in conflict while the politicians who sent them lay wreaths and look suitably sombre at large monuments dedicated to their memory. 
As sad and mournful as the day is, the above speech by Don Quixote came into mind as the line of the War Widows Association slowly walked tearfully past the monument, shockingly young faces, some barely out of their teens, drives home the annual lament of what a waste. 
Remembering those who die in war will never go out of fashion because old men sending young men and women to war never goes out of fashion as we have seen over the past decade and you have to ask yourself, the wars we have become entangled in, were they worth it?  
In Iraq Saddam was removed but has what replaced him been any better? A decade on and Iraq has seen over 7000 civilian deaths in 2013, the second deadliest year since the invasion. 
Libya is entangled in rampant infighting and lawlessness, foreign embassies are attacked, rival militias are murdering each other as they vye for power and another civil war between the factions the West helped to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi is a real possibility. Arms recklessly handed to the militias have been passed south to terrorist groups in Mali and Nigeria where the murderous havoc has spread.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, as in Iraq and Libya, the mission of regime change was completed quickly but after 12 years and almost 20,000 civilian deaths, Afghanistan is far from the haven we were promised and the war has crossed over into Pakistan where 2227 civilians have died.

Nobody could say our legacy in these three countries is something to be proud of and all three wars were declared for the flimsiest of reasons and to the women of the War Widows Association, and to the soldiers  dying thousands of miles away, some before they have even seen their twentieth year, most before their thirtieth, must be wondering why they have ever lived, their pitifully short lives selfishly snatched away by old men in wars that they had no reason to be in and have arguably made worse the lives of the people in the country they were sent to for obscure reasons. 
The 600 plus British soldiers who paid the ultimate price really did see life as it is, and not how a politician sat thousands of miles away in safety wanted to see it. Shamefully, it was the last thing they saw.

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