the Disillusioned kid: Support The Troops?
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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Support The Troops?

When the invasion of Iraq began in March last year those of us opposed to the whole misguided imperialist adventure where decried for not "supporting the troops". Although it was rarely stated openly this was exactly the same as supporting the war, but was apparently a national duty now "our boys" were actually killing Iraqis rather than just thinking about it. At the time I pointed out that this was all pretty stupid: how are you supporting someone by endorsing the conflict which may very well see them seriously injured, disabled or even killed? I could have added that our leaders had a strange way of showing their "support" for the troops, equipping them with substandard equipment, like the SA80 rifle, or not giving them enough of little things like body armour which could save countless lives. Of course, this would have been dismissed out of hand because "supporting the troops" was less about the troops then about subservience to power as the treatment of soldiers once they come back from imperial escapades makes clear.

Consider the Falklands/Islas Malvinas conflict in 1982. More soldiers have subsequently committed suicide than perished in the war itself. A Guardian article from January 2002 reported, "The South Atlantic Medal Association, which helps Falklands veterans, knows of 200 suicides among its own members and contacts, and estimates that the total now exceeds the 255 who died in battle" (Guardian, 16/1/02).

In March 2002 254 veterans of conflicts in the Falklands, Gulf, Bosnia and Northern Ireland diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) brought a claim against the MoD, with another 1,600 would-be claimants waiting in the wings. They brought their claim on the basis that the MoD had failed in its duty of care, not for exposing them to the risk of dying which they had signed up for, but for failing to prepare them for the horrors they would see, not providing debriefings, not screening vunerable individuals from certain areas of combat, not recognising or treating their conditions and not helping veterans integrate back into civilian life.

Those suffering from the various conditions now associated with Gulf War Syndrome were treated even worse. Troops returning from the First Gulf War in 1991 who complained of a range of illnesses were made to feel like the enemy. At an independent enquiry which opened yesterday a former RAF Tornado bomber navigator, captured by the Iraqis in 1991, said, "The men and women you will hear from over the coming days are not the enemy, but many times over the past few years that is exactly how they've been made to feel. They deserve better" (Times, 13/7/04).

Enough of the rubbish about "supporting the troops". If you want to support them, get them the hell out of someone else's country where they aren't wanted, bring them home, provide them with counselling and treatment for any psychological conditions and give them something useful to do. It's not so difficult.

Incidentally, you have to wonder, given the effects of war on soldiers who do at the end of the day get to go home, how much worse must it be for those who don't have that choice and have to live with the consequences of our wars for the rest of the lives. They don't have much hope of getting any treatment for any psychological conditions or successfully suing the MoD and the Western media cares even less about them than it does about the troops it was previously so vocal about "supporting". This presumably isn't something we're supposed to think about.

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