Soldiers Are Not Heroes
Soldiers are many things, heroes is not one of them. Soldiers are class traitors, they are hired killers, they are as an infamous Facebook page declares “Tools of war”.
On an issue that drives so many into an emotional frenzy, it is important that analysis remains cold, calculated and answers to logic only. In our media intensive society this is rarely the case. I myself speak as a subject of Great Britain and in the first instance I am referring to British culture. However, by extension the penetration of US cultural imperialism to our shores means I encounter almost as much of the death fetish of the US media and mass population.
Child Abusing British Army Protecting Freedom
The most apt place to start must be to understand heroism. First of all heroism is dependant upon bravery or courage, we would normally expect this to be selfless courage. It is something found in times of adversity. Generally speaking those we accept as heroes are associated with being the weaker entity in an asymmetrical power relationship. Therefore, when I think of heroes I think of figures like Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks standing up against state and societal oppression for the common good and the basic human dignity for a people. I also think of revolutionaries like Nelson Mandela taking on an unjust regime and thus being incarcerated, or Che Guevara fearlessly giving his own life for the poor and downtrodden.. I do not think the soldier who killed him at the behest of imperialism is a hero, he is by definition a hired killer, an assassin.
When in the occupied counties of Ireland the British army mowed down innocent civilians, including children, for demanding their basic human rights, I do not accept that those killers were heroes. The people who they murdered are heroes. What we have is working class people murdering other working class people at the behest of the ruling class and their political state.
It is also necessary to inquire what exactly it is that grants them hero status. If you are a troop worshiper, why is that so? What I mean is do they do it simply because they are a soldier or because they are a soldier of their own country. For British people largely think that British soldiers are heroes. Americans generally think that American soldiers are heroes, but do they extend this worshiping to one another? Almost never. They certainly do not extend hero status to the Syrian, Chinese, North Korean or Russian army. What we can deduce from this is that British people or American people do not view the majority of the worlds soldiers as heroes. Meaning that it is not the being a soldier that makes them heroic. It all boils down to nationalism and xenophobia, the jingoism of the mass media molding the subservient masses behind the wars of their own exploiters.
The Unsung Heroes
It seems to me that society continues to produce heroes. Unsuspecting people who receive no coverage, no praise, no accolades are quietly doing great things. They are protecting lives and freedoms. Humanitarian workers courageously go to places like Palestine bringing the essentials of life despite the best efforts of Israel’s finest heroes to prevent them.
Here in Britain our firemen risk their lives and take no-ones away. They collectively bargain for decent conditions and are vilified and demonised.
We used to have thousands of miners working in hellish conditions that would inevitably lead to the shortening of their lives, they did this to put food on the table for their families and to power the nation. They gave years of their lives and quality of life to electrify our country only to be slandered throughout the media and have the state turn violent upon them. When the miners stood up to a bullying Tory government who served only the bourgeoisie, those miners were heroes, heroes treated like the worst sort of scum and parasites.
We have overworked, underpaid nurses working in understaffed hospitals doing the work that keeps us, our children, our parents and grandparents alive. Their conditions come under attack. The bourgeois government squeezes every last ounce of blood and sweat it can from them. But when a nurse or fireman lose their live, their name is not read out in parliament, they do not make the news and no-one is any the wiser. If I were to mourn the passing of an employee of the state It would be those who save lives, not those who take lives.
But the troops protect our freedoms we are told. Having mentioned the Russian Army, I can safely say with total conviction that the Russian (then Red Army) did more for my own freedom than the British army ever has. For Britain has only been in one defensive war in modern times: World War 2. This is the single time our country was under threat of subjugation. And in this case it was the red army of the Soviet Union who fought over 80% of German troops. It was the troops of the Soviet Republics who lost more lives in the battle of Stalingrad than British and American troops combined in the entire war. It was the British army led by the old imperialist Winston Churchill who fought in defence of the colonies in Africa and Asia. It was my country that dug its heels in and refused to open a second front in Europe against Hitler. When the red army liberated Europe and drove Hitler to suicide it was they who secured the freedom of future generations in Britain and all over Europe. Do not mistake this for criticism of those conscripted by the British state in WW2, as that this certainly is not. It is a mere reflection on cold facts.
And what freedom did I ever gain from the British strangling Malaysia’s revolution in the 50’s? What freedom did I gain from the bombing of Egypt in the Suez crisis? What freedom was ever secured for Americans by slaughtering millions of Koreans and Vietnamese? None. In fact it cost us freedom. It cost the billions of pounds and dollars that could have been spent on health and education, things that liberate the mind and body giving us the freedom to think and to live. Neither me nor you were ever made more free by taking away the most basic freedom of countless Iraqis and Afghans: their lives. Again they cost us freedom. It creates the pretext for draconian right wing governments to introduce patriotic acts, internment without trial and the intensification of state spying.
And we certainly did not bring freedom to the people of Afghanistan. It was the US afterall who brought the Taliban into power. It was they who armed them in the name of cold war geopolitics to overthrow the socialist government of Afghanistan that sent girls to school with boys and had a secular and safe society. It was the US regime and it's hired killers which took away that freedom in the first place. Saying the US gave Afghans freedom would be like if an evil doctor exposed you to radiation and gave you cancer. He then treats you and proclaims that he saved your life. This is what happened in Afghanistan.
But They Don't Choose War
One argument we will all have heard is that the troops do not choose where and when to fight. We are told that they sign up to protect and fight only where told.
It is true that they do not choose to declare war. But I must return to my earlier point, not since WW2 has Britain fought a defensive war or any war that can be said to relate to defending freedom. Instead we have had Malaysia, Suez, Ireland, Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan. We have the British still playing at being an imperialist power, while in actuality being the sidekick of the imperialist power: the United States of America. So people who sign up for the British army, like the US army are joining aggressive conquering armies. They are choosing to join an organisation that has a long history of murder and repression. But perhaps they are just simple boys who weren’t aware of our very recent history. In that case we are faced with two possibilities, they are either entirely wicked or entirely stupid, and neither is a feature characteristic of heroism.