IssueMarch 2009
Comment by Emily Johns , Milan Rai

Elsewhere in this issue we report the significant progress made by government propaganda in relation to the war in Afghanistan. Public support for the war is growing, despite - or because of? - the intensity of the conflict.

More people still oppose the war than support it, but the trend is worrying if the “Harry effect” is a lasting one.
Over the past two years there has been a conscious, systematic and well-resourced attempt to re-legitimise Britain's armed forces (and thereby the foreign policy they enforce).
In mid-March, it emerged that a new report has been laid before the prime minister reviewing the position of the military in British society, and recommending measures to “build better relations” with civilians. The report was the product of the “Armed Forces National Recognition Study Team”.
The military will be encouraged to visit local schools, allow civilians to use their sporting facilities, and be permitted to speak freely to the media, if the reports recommendations are carried out.
On the other side of the coin, firms will be asked to grant service personnel discounts (as happens in North America), and society will be asked to support a new veterans' day bank holiday.
Members of the armed forces will be encouraged to wear their uniforms when off-duty. This became problematic after the revelation at the beginning of March that the station commander at RAF Wittering had instructed her subordinates not to wear their uniforms in nearby Peterborough, after a military nurse suffered several months of abuse and vandalism in the city. Enormous publicity has been given to those awarded military honours for their service in Afghanistan and Iraq. Retired military leaders and right-wing MPs - and anti-war campaigner Reg Keys, whose son Tom died in Iraq in 2003 - have all supported the call for an annual “Armed Forces Day”.
What does all of this mean? That there has been an erosion of respect for the military, and for Britain's traditional aggressive posture towards the rest of the world, and that those who hold power mean to reverse this.
An army public opinion poll carried out in January indicates that while there is strong approval for the armed forces, Iraq is a real problem. 41% of people said that there was a gulf between the army and the nation and that the gulf was widening. The most commonly given reason was: “disagreement with the war and what the soldiers are asked to do”. Steps are being taken to try to repair this damage without actually withdrawing from Iraq.
Peace News believes that militarism must be resisted in all its forms, that what must be honoured is humanity, not atrocity, compassion, not aggression.
The forces of militarism are rising, and the forces of justice and solidarity, of dissent and resistance, must rise also.

Topics: Afghanistan
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