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sensible article in Guardian

#1
Lest we forget, most ex-soldiers don't go bad in civvies | Nick Cohen | Comment is free | The Observer




Despite the parades and the professions of gratitude, soldiers are more belittled today than at any time since the 19th century. Menacing, working-class men haunt middle-class nightmares. They appear all the more frightening when the services have trained them in the techniques of violence and sent them to Afghanistan and Iraq to hone their skills.

In contemporary cliche, the ex-serviceman is like a cornered animal. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder that leaves him angry enough to lash out without reason. His road home takes him from Helmand province to Wormwood Scrubs via a spell living rough. A society that in the mid-20th century treated the squaddie as a working-class hero now depicts him as a thug.

Whether his thuggery is his fault is a question that divides people you can broadly define as pacifists from militarists or, if that is too strong, those who believe that we should support the armed forces as a point of principle.

All sides pretend, however, that military service invariably changes men for the worse. In my experience, when all sides agree, you should open your eyes and look for the falsehoods they are failing to confront.

The pacifist doctrine that war is always wrong is easy to state but almost impossible to follow. True pacifists should condemn all who take up arms equally. But the pressure of holding to a pacifist position when your country is at war is often too much to bear. Nearly every opponent of the Afghan war I know has begun by justifying their opposition by imagining moral equivalence between Britain and the Taliban jihadis. They then stop mentioning radical Islam and talk as if there are no killers on the other side. The horrors of war become the sole responsibility of the west, which appears to be fighting out of sheer malice.

I, and I guess most people watching the ceremony at the Cenotaph on 10 November, will applaud the troops, while reserving the right to condemn the politicians and generals who have led Britain to effective defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pacifists, by contrast, have to condemn the lions along with the donkeys. Writing for the religious website Ekklesia, Jill Segger explained why good people must not show solidarity with ex-servicemen and women. British troops had tortured and murdered Iraqis and Afghans, she said. The case of "Marine A", who killed a captive in cold blood, then told his patrol: "Obviously this doesn't go anywhere fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention", supports her argument. But even Segger has to admit most soldiers do not torture and murder. War had tainted them nevertheless. "The brutalising experiences of combat lead many to harm themselves and others when they return to civilian life."

The popular press screams at those who "hate Britain" and "insult our boys". But it is as keen to present pictures of brutalised men. In a typical piece, the Sunday Mirror "revealed" that ex-service personnel made up one in 10 rough sleepers on Britain's streets. They were poor and dangerous – "a ticking time bomb" in our towns and cities.

The only difference between the tabloids and the pacifists is that the newspapers want to condemn the state that sent men to war rather than war itself. The military charities – and there are hundreds of them – are happy to go along with the tale of a callous government pushing the men and women into desperate lives because it helps bring the donations in.

Yet the story both sides tell is such a half-truth you may as well call it a lie. The homelessness charity Crisis told me the notion that there were almost 10,000 ex-service personnel sleeping on the streets was nonsense.

Meanwhile, the Howard League for Penal Reform was so concerned by reports that battle-hardened men were turning to crime that it organised an inquiry under the chairmanship of Sir John Nutting QC. Its results bust every contemporary myth.

The inquiry found that ex-servicemen were more likely to be in prison for crimes of violence than the average offender. But its endorsement of middle-class prejudice stopped there. There was no significant rise in the numbers of ex-servicemen in prison after the Afghan and Iraqi wars, Nutting said. On the contrary, the average ex-serviceman was less likely to end up behind bars than the average civilian.

Let me repeat: you are less likely to turn to crime if you have a career in the forces than if you stay at home. Sir John concluded that it was hard to find a direct link between crime and service in the forces.



Liberal readers may not care to hear this but, if they can survive combat, a spell in the forces need not be a disaster for young working-class men and women. The army teaches them how to better themselves when they leave. It and the other services help men and women make the transition to civilian life, as do the military charities. No one should be surprised that most ex-servicemen and women lead law-abiding lives.

Hugh Milroy, the chief executive of Veterans Aid, told me there are about 4 million former servicemen and women in Britain. "If the stories special interest groups looking for money circulated were right, British society would have broken down," he said.

I've no difficulty wearing a poppy while asserting, and indeed exercising, my right to damn the politicians and generals. There's nothing jingoistic about a flower from a battlefield, while the Cenotaph service is mournful and contemplative. With the exception of Rule, Britannia (which will sound more of a joke than ever this year), the music is elegiac on the whole. No nation determined to assert its superiority would play Elgar's Nimrod or Dido's Lament at its national ceremony of remembrance. Nor would it ask for a respectful silence.

The armed forces that fought two world wars included men and women of every colour and creed and that fact could do with being remembered. I cannot help thinking as well that, were it not for certain residents of old people's homes, who could do with charitable support, the Nazis would have sent my ancestors to the gas chambers.

But above all others, camaraderie provides the best reason for giving former servicemen and women their due. Despite everything you read, they are a part of us and all around us. And I am happy to say that the overwhelming majority of them are getting along just fine.
 

Auld-Yin

ADC
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
#2
In the tone of Cleese, Barker & Corbett:

I am an ex-serviceman. I know my place!

While good, though somewhat surprising, to see this in the Guardian, I feel that it was the patronizing tone that ensured its inclusion.
 

SPIDER38

On ROPS
On ROPs
#3
i remember reading someone say that Hitlers greatest achievment was turning men like leonard cheshire into ruthless killers...cheshire was looking down on the bomb when it exploded over nagasaki,he was also a pacifist....
 

FORMER_FYRDMAN

LE
Book Reviewer
#4
Nick Cohen is one of the few columnists for any paper that I will go out of my way to read - but I think he's wrong that suspicion of soldiers is a Middle Class thing per se. I think it's a Liberal Middle Class thing specific to the tofu-knitters and general bed-wetting 'right ons' infesting Islington, Oxbridge and the like, who consistently voted for governments for whom war was the preferred policy option.
 
#5
It's rather a pity that the comments below the line are the usual bunch of whinging-metrosocialist-faux-Trots and the occasional troll.

Or, as Former_Fyrdman puts it "tofu-knitters and general bed-wetting 'right ons'"
 
#8
A sensible article that rests in the shade of the front page piece informing us that an "Emeritus Professor" at Napier Technical College in Edinburgh thinks the Church of England should boycott and/or be banned from the ceremony at the Cenotaph.

Remembrance Sunday: call for Church of England to ditch Cenotaph role | UK news | theguardian.com
"Norman Bonney, emeritus professor of sociology at Edinburgh Napier University and a director of the National Secular Society, argues that the Cenotaph was deliberately conceived as a non-religious memorial and should be treated as such."

F**kwit clearly hasn't bothered to learn anything before opening his fat gob. Because if he'd bothered he'd might have learnt that the Cenotaph is meant to be that shape as the word means Empty tomb

From wikki "The word derives from the Greek: κενοτάφιον = kenotaphion (kenos, one meaning being "empty", and taphos, "tomb")"

And this empty tomb is for all the men and women of the British Empire who fought and died for Empire. Not all of whom were Christian. He might also have noticed that a priest from pretty much every faith attends the service.

Thro the slapdown was pretty stinging

"As millions of people prepare to gather at churches and war memorials for remembrance services led by clergy this Sunday, they will be accompanied by those on active service who will join services led by chaplains in the field. To see the National Secular Society – and its barely 10,000 members – hijack this time of solemn remembrance is rather sad."
 
C

cloudbuster

Guest
#9
i remember reading someone say that Hitlers greatest achievment was turning men like leonard cheshire into ruthless killers...cheshire was looking down on the bomb when it exploded over nagasaki,he was also a pacifist....
Cheshire's autobiography, (I think; it's been a few years since I last read it) reveals that he became a pacifist following his experiences of WW2. Just like his brother, Cheshire joined-up to serve his country in it's hour of need, and did what was required of him. It was in his character to become a leader, and his award of the VC reflected his endeavours throughout his service, rather than one particular operation.
 
#10
I think Cheshire survived when thousands of his chums didn't. My mum in law typed his dedication at the air ministry and said she was amazed he got through without either being killed or a breakdown. He was also an observer on Enola Gay. Given the circumstances I'm not surprised he became a pacifist and devoted his life to the disabled.
 
#11
This thread is entitled 'Sensible article in Guardian'.

Can it be moved to naafi.
 

SPIDER38

On ROPS
On ROPs
#13
No, he wasn't. He was supposed to have observed the bombing of Nagasaki, but didn't, due to a failure to link-up with Bockscar.
apparently he watched it at 39,000ft instead of 30,000ft...the reason given by the US pilot was that he was essentially protecting his passengers,Cheshire was not happy..but he was a wittness to it.
 
#14
This thread is entitled 'Sensible article in Guardian'.

Can it be moved to naafi.
How dare you question the output of the left's second favourite organ!

Since they saved the world from having its facebook posts read by James Bond, the Grun has been on a roll. Here we see the Editor and his Deputy on the way to the Turks and Caicos Islands to visit the Guardian's head-office-for-tax-purposes.



The rest of the Politburo will be running the show until these two return, bringing us a mixture of spectacular scoops about the suffering of traditional cocaine farmers due to deforestation of the Amazon by evil capitalists, and readers' offers for cut price garden furniture produced by evil capitalists using traditional, Amazonian hardwoods.
 
C

cloudbuster

Guest
#15
apparently he watched it at 39,000ft instead of 30,000ft...the reason given by the US pilot was that he was essentially protecting his passengers,Cheshire was not happy..but he was a wittness to it.
If Wiki is to be believed, what Cheshire witnessed was the subsequent cloud of vapourised Nagasaki.
 
#16
It is a sensible article at many levels. Mr Cohen attempts to dismiss the myth that a significant proportion of those living rough are former Soldiers. At a social event recently I met with my old boss - now very senior in SSAFA - who concurred that many of those ''on the street" claiming to be ex military were either fibbers or had left the service during training as being unsuitable or on disciplinary grounds. Furthermore, their military service was often decades ago. Ditto prison populations.

The article also alludes to the wider 'heroising' of the military. Yes, I've served in the Balkans, Middle East, Afghanistan and other places but I recoil back in horror when I am referred to as a 'hero'. I've not been decorated for gallantry and I am not 'bravely fighting' life-changing injuries, but wider than this (and in the latter case) hero and victim are often interchangeable. An IED victim is referred to - at least in the medja - as a hero and this is conflating the public opinion of British troops (and the recent ignorance regarding the conviction of a Royal Marine for murder illustrates this). In other words British Soldiers = victims: victims of injuries/PTSD/'LIBLABCON' conspiracy...you name it. When I started applying for jobs almost 2 years ago, I sensed that some very senior managers/partners interviewing me wondered whether I was, in some way, damaged goods because of my service, albeit in the RAF(!). This opinion is clearly derived from media perceptions and 'hard luck' stories of former soldiers, which in no way represent the vast majority of serving and retired service personnel. Now I am sure that these stories are well-meaning but they do not portray reality; indeed they simply reinforce the myth.


Oh, and for those criticising Oxbridge, I think that they would be surprised at the level of informed support for HM Forces from these august institutions. Both universities - which are organised on instantly-identifiable Regimental structures (ie colleges) - are still a significant source of officer recruits to all three Services.
 
#17
A sensible article that rests in the shade of the front page piece informing us that an "Emeritus Professor" at Napier Technical College in Edinburgh thinks the Church of England should boycott and/or be banned from the ceremony at the Cenotaph.

Remembrance Sunday: call for Church of England to ditch Cenotaph role | UK news | theguardian.com
I do wish dear Professor Bonney would not conflate his secular views with his position as a retired academic in a Transport Research group. How these two relate, I really do not know..

..and anyway his point regarding the design of the Cenotaph as "non religious" is IMHO wrong.. the monument is "non denominational" not "not religious"!

Just for the record, members of Staff from Edinburgh Napier University did take a full part in the joint service of rememberence held with the other three Universities in the quad at Old College Edinburgh University yesterday along with service detachments from the URNU, OTC and UAS.
 
#18
It is a sensible article at many levels. Mr Cohen attempts to dismiss the myth that a significant proportion of those living rough are former Soldiers. At a social event recently I met with my old boss - now very senior in SSAFA - who concurred that many of those ''on the street" claiming to be ex military were either fibbers or had left the service during training as being unsuitable or on disciplinary grounds. Furthermore, their military service was often decades ago. Ditto prison populations.

The article also alludes to the wider 'heroising' of the military. Yes, I've served in the Balkans, Middle East, Afghanistan and other places but I recoil back in horror when I am referred to as a 'hero'. I've not been decorated for gallantry and I am not 'bravely fighting' life-changing injuries, but wider than this (and in the latter case) hero and victim are often interchangeable. An IED victim is referred to - at least in the medja - as a hero and this is conflating the public opinion of British troops (and the recent ignorance regarding the conviction of a Royal Marine for murder illustrates this). In other words British Soldiers = victims: victims of injuries/PTSD/'LIBLABCON' conspiracy...you name it. When I started applying for jobs almost 2 years ago, I sensed that some very senior managers/partners interviewing me wondered whether I was, in some way, damaged goods because of my service, albeit in the RAF(!). This opinion is clearly derived from media perceptions and 'hard luck' stories of former soldiers, which in no way represent the vast majority of serving and retired service personnel. Now I am sure that these stories are well-meaning but they do not portray reality; indeed they simply reinforce the myth.


Oh, and for those criticising Oxbridge, I think that they would be surprised at the level of informed support for HM Forces from these august institutions. Both universities - which are organised on instantly-identifiable Regimental structures (ie colleges) - are still a significant source of officer recruits to all three Services.
i read this article yesterday and it follows some of the same themes you do (hero = victim etc)

Help Veterans by Taking Them Off the Pedestal - Alex Horton - The Atlantic

tbh i was more suprised as it was in the US
 

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