Notes From the Margins…

Praise God and Pass the Ammunition

  • December 22, 2012
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It’s the season of goodwill, and the great and the good and the not-so-good have deigned to share their thoughts with the nation.

These include the Crown Prince of Sandringham,  who has taken time out to deliver a lecture to the medical profession on the need to become more compassionate and develop ‘healing empathy’ with patients.

Next up is the Archbishop of York John Sentamu,  in  an  interview with British Forces News.      Sitting next to a Christmas tree with a homely fire in the background, Sentamu  asks for cuts in defence to be conducted with ‘ far, far greater sensitivity’.

Why is this necessary?   Because, according to Sentamu:

‘ We live still in a world that is very fragile, and there are people out there still wanting to do harm to many, many people’.   Luckily  the British Armed Forces will be required for the forseeable future to prevent this from happening.’

Sentamu cites Afghanistan as an example of these efforts,  with a version of Afghan history that would fit easily on the back of a shampoo bottle.  He hopes  that ‘ for the realm and its peace, for this country, the armed forces will be treated with great respect’ and that cuts should be administered with a view to where the military will be in 20 years time.

Asked by his unctuous interviewer about the role of military padres at this ‘special time of year’, Sentamu says they are there to provide ‘God’s presence’ to soldiers and their families, and remind them that God is ‘concerned about the other person, but God is also interested in peacekeeping and peacemaking, because that’s the very heart of God is a God of peace and a God of justice.’

With all due respect, this is sanctimonious, sententious, shallow, drivel.  This, in the same week that the MOD has had to fork out millions in compensation to the Iraqis it tortured during its disastrous tenure in Basra, with thousands more cases pending.

In the last decade the British military has been involved in two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that had nothing to do with making or keeping peace.  Hundreds of thousands of people have died in these wars.

Hundreds of British soldiers have been killed, maimed or traumatized in them.

Some years ago I met a Methodist chaplain in the British Army who told me how hard it was for him to explain to wounded British soldiers in Iraq why they had lost their legs or their arms or been hideously disfigured in a war that they didn’t understand.

No doubt Sentamu would tell them it’s what the God of peace and justice requires.  Sentamu also  completely ignores the   testimonies from less sentimenal observers that the British mission in Helmand, according to its own criteria, has been a spectacular failure.

And then there is  British participation in Cameron’s Libyan adventure – a war intended to ‘prevent a massacre’ which killed at least 50,000,  and which has now spread into Mali where – guess what? – the ‘international community’ is now getting ready for another war.

Sentamu’s peacemakers have also participated in less visible special operations in countries around the world, from Iraq to Iran, whose activities include assassinations, bombings and extra-judicial executions.   And now Lord Snooty has been in Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates, to announce new military cooperation  with  the Gulf States.

The UAE is apparently looking to buy 40 Eurofighter Typhoon combat jets, while Oman already has twelve.  But arms sales are only part of this blossoming relationship,  says His Lordship, since:

‘What you’re seeing specifically with the UAE is not just a plan to sell Typhoon aircraft, but a big significant defense cooperation which could, yes, lead to British troops stationed in their country.  This is an exciting possibility for both countries to have a proper strategic defense relationship.’

Very exciting.   But no doubt the good Archbishop will be pleased to know that Britain is out there defending the realm and protecting the world from the evil ones who are trying to do ‘harm to many, many people.’

Because there couldn’t be any other reason for boosting the arsenals of the repressive and reactionary Gulf monarchies, could there?  Like whacking Syria, then Iran, perhaps Hezbollah too?

Or re-shaping the Middle East and managing the ‘Arab Spring’ in the West’s interests, regardless of how many countries are unraveled or how many people die in the process?

Could it be that these forthcoming deployments have nothing to do with ‘defense’ or ‘peace’ at all?

So Happy Xmas.   And may the God of peace and justice keep you safe from the scheming militarists, from the arms salesmen who will always profit from their activities,  from the two-faced politicians who speak of peace when they mean always war, and from the clerics who have so witlessly given these activities their blessing.


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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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