I recently blogged about how the Royal British Legion – who produce the red poppy – insist that Remembrance Day should honour only the British military dead. I received a fair few responses, from support to abuse to constructive discussion.
Some of those who responded agreed that there was a problem with honouring only military dead, and only British dead, but they said they buy a red poppy because the British Legion use the money to support those injured and bereaved by war.
There is some truth in this. Many people are motivated by compassion to give donations that will benefit the victims of war.
It is encouraging that there is so much compassionate feeling around. Compassion leads not only to helping people, but to seeking to do so in the most effective way possible.Therefore we must ask a vital question: Why should former members of the armed forces have to rely on charity at all?
When a government makes a decision to go to war, it calculates the costs. Such costs should include the expenditure needed to support those who come backed injured in body or mind.
However, all governments know that they can rely on charities such as the Royal British Legion to provide such support.
I don’t blame charities for helping people who are suffering, but I would rather see them do so under protest, explaining that it is necessary only because the government has abandoned those that they sent to risk their lives.
The British Legion refuse to do this, saying they are not political. But a decision not to mention something is just as political as a decision to speak out.
The Cameron government is slashing support for disabled people while preparing to throw around £100bn into renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system. At a time of massive cuts to vital public services – that really do provide security for many people – the UK maintains the sixth highest military budget in the world, providing only sham security in a world far too complicated for problems to be solved with bombs and bullets.
Let’s honour the dead and the injured by calling for a decent welfare state to support those affected and by engaging in the difficult and challenging processes that will help to prevent war in future.