David Cameron ended his speech preparing for the commemoration of the first world war next year with this comment.
“At the end of the war, a 20-year-old soldier in the great war wrote, ‘But for this war, I and all the others would have been party to oblivion like the countless myriads before us, but we shall live for ever in the result of our efforts.’”
The person who wrote that was killed the following week. He did not live for ever; he was not immortal; the Prime Minister did not even mention his name. He went into oblivion, like all the other 16 million deaths in that war. Nor did he sacrifice his live or give his life. It was stolen from him by stupid political and military leaders.
There should be no question of glorifying and fictionalising WW! as we are doing with the deaths in Afghanistan.
Guy Opperman: No one is glorifying or celebrating the loss of any British soldier. Surely the hon. Gentleman accepts that. We are celebrating and supporting our troops and their commitment. Does he accept that well over 100,000 Afghan troops and police have been trained by British and other troops to maintain law and order to the best of their ability after withdrawal?
We are in the same position that we were in at the end of the first world war, in which my father fought. He was shot on 10 April 1918. He was taken prisoner and his life was saved by a German patrol, but he lived to curse the military that he believed in when he was a boy of 15 who went to war, as a patriot, to protect the small nations of the planet. He could never again do what he called a man’s job, and in 1935 his pension was changed. It was a tiny pension, paid to him because his wrecked physical condition was attributable to his war wounds, but a cost-cutting Government changed the word from “attributable” to “aggravated”. He went in as a perfectly fit 15-year-old, but later they halved his pension. For understandable reasons, he was bitter about those who on Armistice day stood erect, with a tear in their eye, mourning our brave boys. Quite rightly, the word that came to him was “hypocrites”.
We should mark the war and the consequences of it not in the heroic terms of Rupert Brooke and others who suffered in war. We must see the reality of what we have done and the consequences. We should bring our troops home from an unwinnable war. Deaths on the battlefield are rarely sweet ad fitting. They are brutal, foul and futile. Rather than the picture presented of a worthy war and the half-a-dozen deserving Paralympic medallists, we should see war for what it is and in terms of the description of death in war by Wilfred Owen:
“Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori