I have a soft spot for British soldiers, the ordinary guy on the ground. He’s probably joined the army for the same reason that men have done for hundreds of years – because it was a way to earn a living, even though earning that living meant being taught how to take the life of other human beings. That’s what soldiers do – follow orders to kill or be killed.
At the moment, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer is being criticized by other MPs for trying to freeze the pay of British soldiers. Which makes you wonder what sort of world those arguing for an increase in armed forces pay live in. Because you reveal your values as a society by where you put your money.
And it’s not small money. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Britain in 2010 spent nearly $60 billion on ‘defence’. In 2011 Liam Fox, the British Defence secretary, said the price of constructing replacement nuclear submarines could rise to more than £25 billion. Greenpeace figures the renewed Trident programme will cost, over 30 years, £92 billion. Contrast that with the NHS, which is being told to make “efficiency savings” – code for cuts – of £20 billion.
It all ties into the arms industry, of course. With the ending of the Cold War, weapons manufacturers and share holders were in a sweat – they needed something to replace the gap left by the implosion of the USSR. Hence Iraq, Afghanistan and now phony claims that Iran is manufacturing nuclear weapons and may need an invasion.
Of course, many of us remember another British prime minister, who knew what you do when you find that things are falling apart a bit at home – giant unemployment, industry collapsing, the government increasingly unpopular. You invent a foreign adventure to distract the masses. You invent the Falklands.
Iran is today’s Falklands. We know that country hasn’t actually any plans to develop nuclear weapons and we know that it’s surrounded by countries with nuclear weapons and US bases – Israel, Russia, Pakistan, India. We know Iran hasn’t invaded anyone this past 200 years and we know that for over 100 years Britain exploited, occupied and overthrew governments in Iran. But none of that matters. Look out, Iran.