Sunday, May 26, 2013
For Queen and Country
A soldier dies in London, hacked to pieces by two extremists. It is horrific. It is in broad daylight. The killers display a crazed imperturbability to the hand held cameras of ordinary passers-by. A woman bravely accosts them. Police arrive and shoot and injure them before they themselves are attacked. The media circus follows. The soldier’s family are put on camera in their desperate grief. Every news broadcast takes the viewer to the growing mounds of flowers and tributes. Politicians talk of terror. Low-tech attacks like these cannot be prevented. We are all in danger. We should be afraid. Now the Home Secretary wants to reintroduce a snoopers’ charter which will enable everyone to be watched, followed, have his or her privacy undermined. The dead man fought for Queen and country in one of the most unpopular wars imaginable. Britain is in Afghanistan supporting its corrupt government. Britain is in Iraq where the toppling of a tyrant has led to vicious tribal war and the disintegration of its society because Britain and its allies did nothing about ensuring peaceful transition after the dictator died, having first supplied it with arms like most countries in the war torn Middle East. The death of the soldier helps the government. Cameron talks about the country being stronger for the murder, united against terrorism. He can project himself as the resolute leader. Still the media roll the images. The dead soldier’s town. The priest at his memorial service talking about the local lad who fought for Queen and country and who died on the streets outside his barracks. The poor man suffered his death in the worst circumstances imaginable but it was never going to be a personal tragedy. It was going to become something else, a cynical opportunity to raise a population’s defiance, an opportunity to divert their thoughts from the dead soldier’s fellow men and women who are being killed overseas every day in wars that could never be won and where the civilians’ obscene death toll continually mounts. An opportunity for manipulation. An opportunity to rewrite history, gloss it over, emphasise what a democratic country Britain is and how just, therefore, must be its overseas campaigns. An opportunity to get people onside. To induce support for the military. To deflect focus away from the political establishment.