I wept as I comforted our soldiers maimed in Iraq’: How could I tell them Blair’s ‘just war’ was an illusion?

12/11/2011

Daily Mail


“We can best pay tribute to their sacrifices by ensuring that in the future no British sailor, soldier, Marine or airman is asked to lay down their life except for the most urgent and honourable of causes.”

Do you think Blair should have sent us in?’ It was April 2003 and the soldier in the hospital bed fixed me with a piercing stare as he asked the question, fighting back tears.I stared back equally intensely. Partly because I wanted him to know he had my full attention with all the distractions of medical activity going on around us. Partly because the medication was affecting his speech.

But mainly because I knew that if  my concentration broke for a second my gaze would shift to the stained bandage that marked the spot where his arm used to be. Even then, my nostrils would not allow me to forget the extent of his loss.

His good hand gripped mine with all the strength he could muster. If I said ‘yes’ and offered a few platitudes I was sure he would detect the lack of conviction in my voice. And if I said ‘no’ I would have belittled his life-changing personal sacrifice on the battlefields of Iraq.

In a break with my normal habit I had the rare good sense to remain silent. After what seemed like ten minutes, but which in reality could only have been 20 or 30 seconds, he silently squeezed my hand twice to let me know that the conversation was over, turning away to hide the tears that could no longer be held back.


Also see:

Dissenting from the Old Lie

Every year, the fury levied at those who critique or refuse the red poppy obscures the complexity and spectrum of views such dissenters open up. What is lost in this explosion of vitriol and misunderstanding is the opportunity to allow us, as empathic human beings, to be open to divergent viewpoints, to think honestly about wars and to discuss their causes.