Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The right way to celebrate Armed Forces Day?

Before I get into the detail of this blog, I want to make it absolutely clear that I have nothing but respect and admiration for the men and women of our armed forces who put their lives on the line each and every day to protect this country and her interests around the world.
I also want to make it clear that I wholeheartedly support the idea of 'Armed Forces Day', a specific day each year when we can all take a little bit of time out of our busy lives to recognise and thank those very same people for their hard work and sacrifice.

Why then do I feel so uncomfortable with the way in which Armed Forces Day was celebrated in Darwen on Saturday - specifically, the presence of the charity 'Support Our Soldiers' in Sainsburys, along with our very own MP, Mr Jake Berry, collecting items to put in 'care packages' for our troops; a copy of the list of items for inclusion in those packages is below.

There's a saying which is something along the lines of 'You can judge a society by the way it treats its prisoners' (which is probably a misquote from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's House of the Dead: 'The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.') - well, I would suggest that you can judge a society by how well it treats those whose job it is to protect it; and if that is the case, what does it say about our society when we have to ask shoppers to put shower gel and stock cubes in care packages to send to troops fighting in the desolate mountains of Afghanistan?
Not a lot.
But then again, we do send those same troops out to fight with defective weaponry and with shit radios but without proper body armour...and we do send them out into hostile environments in Snatch Landrovers that are about as much protection against IEDs as a wet paper bag...and when they do return home with terrible physical and mental scars, we turf them out of the army and leave them to fend for themselves...and for those who pay the ultimate price, we make sure we reclaim any pay they weren't entitled to because they went and got themselves killed before the end of the month and then we treat their families with nothing but contempt.
Personally I would very much prefer to spend an extra £5 or £6 billion on making sure that, if our troops are going to be asked to fight in a war in some godforsaken country for the sake of national security, they are properly equipped for what we ask them to do (and yes, that does include making sure they have access to basic things like pens and noodles) and that they (and their loved ones) are properly looked after when (and however) they come home.
To me, it would be a much better society that did that than relying on the laudable efforts of Saturday shoppers, charity supporters and Conservative MPs to provide 'care packages'.

But, I hear you cry, where would you raise that £5 or £6 billion in these times of financial austerity, when we are cutting back on everything?
Maybe this extract from the recent spending review will provide the answer: