Supporting Our Boys

I will start this post with a simple statement…

We are becoming a nation of over sentimental hypocrites

The publics support for our armed forces has never been higher; Help 4 Heroes, Wootton Bassett and even the ‘Milies’ show that both ordinary people and the media all ‘support our boys’

Every time a member of the armed forces is refused entry to a nightclub the tabloids and blogosphere come alive with outrage.

But is this driven by genuine concern and interest or a mawkish, over sentimental and frankly hypocritical position that allows people to avoid asking themselves awkward questions..

Soldier Watches Parade from his Wheelchair

We may think of ourselves as a martial race with a proud military history but how many today can say they have served, volunteered to do something to help service personnel or their families or pressured their MP to argue for more and better spending on defence.

The recent issue of the drunken student who urinated on a war memorial got me thinking, this young man who was obviously full of remorse and regret committed an unacceptable act whilst totally drunk. If you ask a typical squaddie what they have got up to whilst drunk, in Germany, Bosnia, Cyprus or Belize they will tell tales that will make your eyes water. Yet we excuse them or choose to ignore their equally despicable acts, its easy to be outraged at an uncomplicated event.

The nation goes into a fit of rage about some sad loser wearing an impossible chest full of medals on a Remembrance Parade yet RBL collecting tins are regularly stolen or poppies are regularly refused to be sold in commercial and public buildings.

Are we are a nation of hypocrites, so far removed from the realities of war that the only way we can salve our guilt is by watching the Millies, dropping quid into a collecting tin for a poppy or reading the latest outrage story in the Daily Mail?

The airwaves and print columns are filled with outrage stories yet the real issues of defence and security are hardly discussed or debated, reporting in the mainstream media is generally superficial, sensationalist or just plain inaccurate.

We are constantly told about the incredible sacrifice our armed forces make, the danger they face and for their families the separation they endure yet the nation pours out its heart because the separation being endured by celebrities in a jungle holiday camp. The burden of defending this nation is falling to an ever decreasing number of individuals, for every UK citizen in Helmand there are 6,000 in the UK. We allow Afghani or Iraqi immigrants to claim social benefits in this country but go to court to recover compensation payments made to wounded soldiers, beyond the 5 minutes of outrage no one seems to bother. The level of geopolitical awareness of significant numbers of our population is so poor that many don’t know where Afghanistan is or what it would mean if we walk away prematurely. We allow public spending on works of fine art but have to rely on charity to support our veterans.

The disconnect between those that wear an Army, Navy or Air Force uniform and the rest of population is as wide as ever.

Whilst the vast majority of people in this country sign up to the vague notion of ‘supporting our boys’ when it comes down to pressuring their MP, donating money or time to a service charity or paying taxes to support the armed forces that resolve becomes a little weaker.

The UK has become a deeply selfish nation, all rights and no responsibilities and the armed forces, beyond the faux outrage and mawkish sentimentality on daily display, are just not important to the vast majority of the population, there are of course many exceptions.

Soldiers, sailors and airman do not want gushing adulation, free entry into football matches or to be patronised by The Sun, this is not the reason they take the Queens Shilling. What they do want is quite, calm respect, not to be deployed in acts of folly, adequate equipment and a commitment to look after them and their families in both a time of conflict and a time of peace, all born out in reality not speeches.

For opposition MP’s to pillory the Government for not spending enough on defence yet not bother to attend a defence debate (the last one was attended by less than 30 MP’s out of a total of 642) is sickening.

Bob Ainsworth MP (Secretary of State for Defence) was recently quoted as saying

“The mission is of vital importance to our national security back in the UK”

If that is so then why is defence spending at a historical low, why are defence debates so sparsely attended and why are more people exercised by who won the X-Factor than issues of vital importance to our security?

One of our most commented on issues is that of helicopters, if a £25 million Chinook (rough estimate) is the standard unit of currency…

The recent £1.5billion contribution to the EU climate change fund would buy 60
The Quality Care Commission, annual budget £214 million would buy 8.5
14 MEP’s yearly costs would buy 1
The Department for International Development, budget £7billion, would buy 280
Royal Bank of Scotland bonus payments pool, £1.5billion, would buy 60
London 2012, estimated cost £9billion, would buy 360
The Child Support Agency, last 5 years of staff bonus payments, would buy 1
The public sector grant to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, would buy 0.8

If you really want to support the armed forces stop calling them heroes and start doing something useful.

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December 15, 2009 10:40 pm

This is nothing new, if anything, its better than normal.
Men of the Royal Navy, fresh from defeating the Spanish Armada, were refused leave and starved to death on their ships.
Wellingtons victories and his brave boys in Portugal and Spain were celebrated greatly, and then the brave boys ungracious enough to survive being shot came home maimed, a drain on the parish, looking forward to a (short) life as a beggar on the streets.

People complaining about the failure to introduce platoon level UAV’s (me) should remind themselves of the fight to retain the musket over the rifle, or the refusal to even consider aircraft carriers or earthquake bombs.

Unfortunately, this isnt ever going to change, if mass conscription of the first and second world wars cant touch it, what could?

This is why I’m so strongly in favour of the high intensity/short duration strategic raid option, its all the public are prepared for.

December 16, 2009 12:41 am

A good idea would be for you to make a list of ways in which the public can help. Those who have knowledge know about SSAFA, H4H etc are fine, but give those who would like to help some idea as to how to go about it.

It’s my aim to keep the Afghan war in the public’s eye for my own reasons and certainly not for a mawkish or hypocritical angle.

Maybe you could do something about Combat Stress refusing to use volunteers on the basis of ‘risk of confidentiality’ breeches.

Remember we’re all different. Some people show their respect in gushing adulation, others quietly from the sidelines.

December 16, 2009 2:37 pm

I have been to war in the RN, I have “supported combat operations” in the TA, but I was not infantry and have never been in a firefight, so I count my self as one of the hypocrites too. Why ? Well because generally I blame U.S. politicians for most of our current woes, and for most of our dead and maimed – and yet, the yanks do a much better job of helping their ‘vets’ upon return from ops. Can you see the British Army setting up an organization like the “Wounded Warrior Battalions” ?

As for your excellent table of budgets that could be used to buy Chinooks – again, it shows the appalling state of politics as a whole in the UK – “government by sound bite” – shades of the fall of the Roman Empire…… :-(

Euan Stewart
December 16, 2009 5:48 pm

I agree with Dominic if the two largest wars ever fought could not change the treatment of veterans then nothing really can as both of the World Wars affected damn near every single person in the country. We all jump on the bandwagon about how great all service personnel are but we always fail to back that rhetoric with action and resources no matter if we agree or disagree with the reasons for a war. For example the Falklands Conflict was a war that had the support of the populace after all we were attacked and people rooted for our forces but after the war was over little support materialised. It is often said more service personnel died as a result of suicide after the conflict than died in the conflict itself hopefully the same does not happen after the current conflict in Afghanistan is over.

December 18, 2009 9:59 am

Good post. Talking my language.

There is, however, another thing that soldiers sailors and airmen want: governments to stop conniving in the destruction of their own country.

People join the armed forces for various reasons, but at the back of their minds (and for many, right there as the number one reason) is a sense that there is something patriotic in what they do.

Therefore, when they see their government failing to face up to subversive groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir they get angry. When they see the transfer of sovereign rights, the very rights they are serving to protect, to the EU they begin to wonder. And when they see governments pursuing an economic and welfare policy that is slowly driving us towards the rocks, they ask themselves a question: is it worth it?