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War-weary Britons question why UK ‘one of biggest military spenders’

Published time: January 08, 2014 19:44

AFP Photo / Ali Al-Saadi

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Britain is still overspending on the army, despite intense public opposition for the country’s military aims – which themselves have been complete failures in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Lindsey German, convener of the UK’s Stop the War Coalition told RT.

RT: The public is clearly questioning the purpose of the British armed forces – why?

Lindsey German: I think that there’s a combination of things that we’ve had a whole number of years of the war on terror, of interventions, which have not been successful. And even now, the consequences of the war in Iraq are unraveling in Anbar province, and Syria. In Afghanistan it’s generally accepted that the intervention has not been a success. So people are asking why are billions and billions of pounds being spent on the armed forces, on all these things, when there is not the money – supposedly–to pay for decent education, for the health service , for all of these different areas. So I think that’s one of the reasons.

I think secondly there has been a much longer term – so the war weariness that has been going on – for decades now, people have been skeptical about wars. More people have been prepared to come out against wars, to question the whole agenda of the government and its supporters in the media. And this is something that we’re now seeing the results of.

The majority of the people doesn’t like the wars and don’t understand why Britain is one of the biggest spenders on military anywhere in the world.

RT: Is there a lack of sympathy and support for the troops themselves?

LG: I think people make a distinction between the individual troops – people understand why many people join the army, particularly in areas of high unemployment. Although we don’t have conscription, there is, in a sense, economic conscription, and obviously nobody wants to see soldiers killed or injured in any of the conflicts that are going on. So I think at that individual level there is sympathy for the soldiers, but I don’t think there’s sympathy for the way in which these wars are being conducted. The way in which the top military try to justify the wars – there’s very little sympathy. Every opinion poll shows a clear majority against what happened in Iraq and against the continued military presence in Afghanistan. And of course, one of the things now happening is that we’re now marking the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War this year in 2014. The government is desperately trying to use that anniversary to bolster support for current wars and for the army.

RT: What about foreign policy? It was mentioned in the report that Iraq and Afghanistan were part of Britain’s grand strategic mission in the world. So where’s Britain’s global standing now?

LG: Well, I think there are very, very serious problems that need to be addressed. What happened in August, when the British Parliament voted against an intervention is Syria, this made it very, very difficult for the British to intervene. Indeed, some commentators – including some supporters of the government – think it would only be possible now for Britain to be intervening in direct colonies such as Gibraltar or the Falklands – Malvinas – off the coast of Argentina. In a way, Britain’s strategic aims of going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq have been shown to be complete failures, and I think it does raise very serious questions about British foreign policy. We can claim that we have a special relationship with the US going back decades, but the simple truth is that the US doesn’t really need the British military aspect of its operations. And therefore, it is quite a turning point for the British military and British foreign policy, and it is one that the government is reluctant to accept, but which I think in this respect – as in so many others – the public opinion is well ahead of the government.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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