British soldiers denounce Iraq war, publicly throw away medals outside Downing Street
By Matt Florence. With corrections by Ben Griffin.
Who are Veterans for Peace UK and what have they done?
The recent months in British politics have seen mainstream media reports on a British group called Veterans for Peace UK (VFP-UK)-. This group is made up of British military veterans, who denounce Britain’s wars overseas. VPF believes that war is not the solution to the problems faced by the world in the 21st century. Veterans for Peace UK’s website features a list of seventy one ex British military members with their service dates, full names, and a picture of them in service. However their numbers are much higher. Adding to the prestige of this group is a man called Ben Griffin who is an ex member of Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS). The news that a member of Britain’s most elite fighting force has denounced the British military has grabbed the attention of major British mainstream news outlets such as the Guardian, Metro, the Independent, and the Daily Mail. Ben Griffin has even spoken at the Oxford Union, which is one of the world’s most prestigious debating societies in the world.
Throwing away medals and public denouncements of British imperialism:
Veterans for Peace UK puts on numerous demonstrations against British military action overseas such as in Afghanistan and Syria. One of the most famous of these was in 2015 when members of Veterans for Peace UK threw their medals onto the ground outside 10. Downing Street, the residence of the British Prime Minister. Ex-SAS member Ben Griffin stood outside the gates to the Prime Minister’s residence with his medals. Before he discarded them he said “I was given these medals for service on operations with the British army. This particular medal here was given to me for my part in the occupation of Iraq. Whilst I was over there I attacked civilians in their homes and took away their men to be tortured in prison. I no longer want this despicable thing”.
Poppies are worn in Britain as a symbol of support to the British armed forces, in a very similar way that the St George’s Ribbon is worn in Russia. However Veterans for Peace has rejected the red poppy campaign in favour of a white poppy which symbolises peace and rejecting of Britain’s foreign military actions. Members of Veterans for Peace UK laid a wreath of white poppies on the Cenotaph, one of Britain’s most famous war memorials.
Veterans for Peace have publically denounced the Iraq war and questioned the results of the Chilcot report, a 7 year investigation into the actions of the British military. The report found that many members of the British military were questioning British actions in Iraq, with one SAS chief demanding to know why the British army was “helping to run Latin American-style death squads?” According to another member of the SAS “The Americans were doing things like chucking farmers into Abu Ghraib [the notorious prison in Baghdad where US troops abused and tortured Iraqi detainees] or handing them over to the Iraqi authorities, knowing full well they were going to be tortured”.
Veterans for Peace mark Remembrance Sunday at the London Cenotaph. 9–11–14 The ex services organisation set up to peacefully oppose war marched to the Cenotaph from Trafalgar Square and laid a wreath of predominantly White poppies.
Counter recruitment of teenagers:
Veterans for Peace UK offers to send speakers to anybody requesting them in places such as schools to convince children not to join the British armed forces. The British army has put a lot of effort into recruiting children within schools and colleges. According to the British Ministry of Defence (MOD), to join the British army as a regular soldier “you need to be at least 16 years old, although you can start the application process earlier, with your parents’ permission”. One in ten of all British army recruits are 16 years old, and one in four are under 18 (too young to be legally sent into combat). According the British newspaper the Guardian, Britain’s recruitment of teenagers has brought condemnation on Britain coming from “UN bodies such as Unicef, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict”. Paola Uccellari the director of a UK based human rights group called Children’s Rights Alliance for England’ has also denounced the British military’s recruiting tactics saying “Targeting children for recruitment into the armed forces puts them at risk of serious and irreparable harm. The Government should not rely on children to plug gaps in the armed forces.”
Counter recruitment advertising:
Don’t Join the Army
“Don’t Join the Army” was a British military recruitment campaign that used the slogan “Don’t Join the Army”, followed by “Don’t become a better you”, “Don’t travel the world”, “Don’t learn new skills”, etc. Veterans for Peace created a counter recruitment website dontjointhearmy.co.uk which uses the same style as the official British military slogan but listing reasons why not to join the British military, which includes reasons such as losing your right to free speech, the lack of education in the British military, British soldiers are encouraged to hate foreigners and civilians, psychological harm, death, rampant sexual abuse of young women within the British army (Women in the British military are twice as likely to be sexually abused as women in civilians occupations), and dying in an unjust and unwinnable war.
The website says: “All the talk you have heard about the army defending the Queen and Country or keeping the people of Britain safe is bollocks. The British Army exists to go to war on behalf of the UK Government. Since 2001 the British Army has been used covertly or overtly to attack Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. None of these countries posed a threat to the people of Britain. Our wars have nothing to do with defending the people of the British Isles.”
Action Man Battlefield Casualties was a counter recruitment video made by Veterans for Peace UK. The video was made in the style of a typical 80s -90s army toys advert. Action Man Battlefield Casualties was directed by film maker Price James, written by artist Darren Cullen, and narrated by British actor Matt Berry.
The film features an action man puppet in several scenarios including action man being injured after an explosion hit his vehicle, action man being abandoned by the British army and committing suicide after a lengthy fight with PTSD, and action man being buried by his friends with “coffin sold separately”. The video shows a child playing with a graphic limbless action man squirting with blood from all lost limbs.
Since the British invasion of Iraq in 2003 the anti-war movement in Britain skyrocketed, and will only ever grow even larger with the aid of British army veterans calling for an end to British military intervention overseas. The 2003 anti-war marches against British military intervention in Iraq reached possibly 2 million the British police have claimed, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). This makes the British anti-war demonstrations the largest political protest in all of British history. The war which took place under the Labour Party government of Tony Blair, exposed the British Labour Party (seen as traditionally a left wing party like the democrats of the USA) in the eyes of the public as a party which is just as aggressive as their conservative and liberal counter parts.