Yesterday the Stop the War Coalition republished your article first published this time last year in the New Statesman.
I’m not sure where to begin with it. Your critique paraphrased is essentially ‘Politicians should not wear poppies because they are evil state cutting bastards and they only do it for show didn’t you know, especially if they’ve ever sent anyone to war.’
My heart sinks when I read articles like this trying to use Remembrance Day to score, in this case, very cheap and factually inaccurate, political points.
There is only one reason I wear a poppy. I do it to honour those who have fought and died in our countries name.
There are plenty of wars I disagree with on a political level. The First World War was a monumentally tragic waste of life over the bruised egos of Europe’s last absolute monarchs. Iraq was a badly thought out and prosecuted war initiated on a lie and the Suez crisis was the last desperate gasp of a defunct imperialist foreign policy.
But when I stand outside the cenotaph on the 11th of November, as I have made a point of doing for the last 4 years, I do so as a simple act of remembrance for those whose lives have been cut short by war. Politics can take a back seat.
This is what I suspect you are missing when people critique your article. Conscientious objection is a valid viewpoint, wearing the white poppy, or no poppy at all is a valid choice but using the act of Remembrance to attack those who do not share your viewpoint simply dishonours the memory of those soldiers for whom the day should be about. It should be beneath you.
The poppy is not a “fig-leaf for the overseas military interests of successive governments”, I imagine that the decision to take your country to war cannot be an easy one and it is personally a decision I would dread to make but I would hope that those who do, do so in the best interests of the country or the defence of others.
You may well disagree with that decision but that does not give you justification to belittle the people who took that decision for honouring those who go out and carry out that mission.
Nor is it hypocritical to wear a poppy and support the premise of a military conflict. War may be the ultimate sign a foreign policy has failed but it is often justifiable.
I would have preferred Gaddafi or Milosevic stand their armies down than intervene in a conflict in order to protect innocent civilians but sometimes a military intervention is the least worst option.
I would prefer to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way to protect innocent civilians than live with the shame of another Rwanda. The fact that they are willing to do so is the difference between our armed forces and those we send them out to fight. It is for that reason they deserve our respect and our remembrance.
Finally it is undignified to use the memory of those who have died in service of their country as an emotional stick with which to beat the establishment. If you can’t think of a better way to critique what you would term the military industrial complex, make way for someone who can.
All of that said, whilst I respectfully disagree with your article I have much more contempt for those who choose to attack you in the vilest possible terms. Some of the comments you have received have been misogynistic, sexist and abusive in the extreme. I have no idea why people think such terms of abuse are acceptable in this day and age but whilst I completelty disagree with your, frankly misguided, piece, I’d defend your right to say it to the death.
Lest we forget, Remembrance Day is about remembering those who fought and died for our country. Not Politics. I will wear my poppy with pride – I hope you mark Remembrance Day in whichever way you see fit.