Today marks the 10th year of Armed Forces Day with the main event held in Salisbury. Styled as family friendly, the National Armed Forces Day event, and others around the country, feature militarised activities designed for children and young people. In between the ice creams and rides, kids are able to try on military uniform and can be shown how real (albeit deactivated) machine guns and other weapons work. Yet despite the fairground veneer to the proceedings, the events’ origins point to a much darker story.
Founded by Gordon Brown – and replacing what had been Veteran’s Day – Armed Forces Day was one strand of a package of proposals put together to re-militarise British society in a bid to stave off the popular backlash from failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, lest anti-war sentiment hinder future conflicts.
It is by now well-established by serious scholars of the topic that this was done in a bid to place beyond critique the violent, extractive and discredited foreign policy doctrine to which all UK political parties, British business, sections of our media and the country’s military elite were (and for the most part still are) fully committed. The hope was that even mild criticism would be conflated with an unpatriotic lack of support for individual soldiers.… Read more