Thursday, 3 February 2011

‘Councillors snub war hero’

At Tuesday’s council meeting, myself and Councillor Ishtiaq declined to join in the standing ovation for Lance Corporal Matt Croucher, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Today, I am at the centre of a little media storm, as the Birmingham Mail leads with the front page headline ‘Councillors snub war hero’.

Almost ten years of war in Afghanistan has produced nothing but death and destruction on all sides. Any talk of democracy and progress is long forgotten. And the war has plunged neighbouring Pakistan into a hell of daily car bombs and suicide attacks. This disastrous and interminable war is driving more and more people into the arms of the religious extremists.

This disaster is not the fault of the individual soldiers. It is entirely the fault of our hypocritical politicians who cry crocodile tears over the plight of our troops, and do nothing to bring this war to an end.

Of course it is easier to mask the dereliction of their duty to interrogate the flawed premise of the war by awarding medals and platitudes instead. And it is easier to stifle any dissent by portraying it as a lack of respect for troops and patriotic duty.

I have every sympathy with Lance Corporal Croucher and all his comrades serving in Afghanistan. Indeed, I have spoken out before now on the disgraceful lack of support that returning soldiers receive from the very governments that sent them to war (including on BBC's Question Time). But I  refuse to stand with those politicians who lack the moral courage to question sending our soldiers to lose lives and limbs in a war that they know cannot be won.

This war has gone on too long already. If our politicians really want to demonstrate their support for our troops, they should abandon substituting medal pinning and phoney patriotism for rigorous and honest debate. And they could also try reflecting the will of the majority of British people who are opposed to our military presence in Afghanistan, and put their efforts into getting these soldiers home and safe where they belong.