Fancying Chips, Mushy Peas and a good cup of Tea I head to “Oh My Cod”, a British ‘Fish n Chip’ Café in Bangkok’s ‘Farang’ heartland near Th Khao San. The Cafe is busy with ex-pats, Brits, Irish and other holiday makers, enjoying ‘Full English Breakfasts’, Cups of PG Tips and catching up on the news from ‘back home’. In the gents toilets one wall has a shockingly hilarious list of Bushism’s, on the other wall are quotes from The Office’s David Brent.
They have the latest copies of The Sun, Daily Mail, News of The World and Sunday Times. There’s Internet access and WiFi. On multiple plasma screens, BBC World was running on loop, their Interview with Prince Harry, fresh back from Afghanistan, complete with a sound bite that ‘it was one of the happiest times of his life’.
I read ‘HARRY IN AFGHANISTAN, ONE OF OUR BOYS, Frontline Prince Kills 30 Taliban’ in The Sun, February 29th’. It struck me as a painfully sad story of how Harry, who is desperate to be ‘one of the boys’ and ‘a normal person’ is being used a pawn in the on going propaganda of the ‘war on terror’. A war that’s as much about pictures, as bullets, bombs and collateral damage. The Sun, fully signed up to this war, even had a pull out poster of Harry on Patrol in Afghanistan with the words “One of our Boys”, “Our Army of readers Salutes You, Harry.”
All the papers feasted on the images and copy fed from the chief reporter of the Press Association. The Independent described the tone of the Media coverage as "Hello! Goes to Helmand"
I believe Harry when, on the BBC Interview, he talks about wanting to ‘Serve his country’ and ‘do his bit’. But is he not just being used (abused) to gain support from the war’s financial backers, The British tax payer? No doubt the ‘news’ will go down great, ‘across the pond’, in the US too.
Governments always use the media in order to get the public behind wars it wishes to wage. As Chomsky writes “It is also necessary to whip up the population in support of foreign adventures. Usually the population is pacifist, just like they were during the First World War. The public sees no reason to get involved in foreign adventures, killing, and torture. So you have to whip them up. And to whip them up you have to frighten them....”
We believe Harry was in Afghanistan? right? This wasn’t a Hollywood Set? Wag the Dog was just a film…?
The Tabloid Media often critical when his male bonding exercises were falling out of Pubs n Clubs drunk, are now calling him ‘A credit to the Nation’. The News of The World (March 2, 2008) commented ‘Harry, a prince among heroes’, adding ‘Helmand has truly been the making of Harry. But it’s the courage of 11,000 like him there that makes for a free world’
Another Headline, in The News of The World, quoted him as saying “IT’S NOT NICE TO DROP BOMBS … but to save lives that’s what happens.”
Soldiers are put into horrendous situations, and this we must respect. I am not questioning their bravery. Soldiers are ‘just doing their job’, but what if their masters are deeply wrong?
Can’t we question what is being done in our name?
How can we stop the endless spiral of violence?
Why are anti war ‘protesters’ or ‘campaigners’ continually portrayed as weak, niave, not-normal and unpatriotic? Even Human Right’s campaigners, Military Families Against The War, and Arms trade lobbyists are routinely dismissed. Aren’t soldiers that speak out against ‘extraordinary rendition, torture, secret detentions, extra judicial detention, use of evidence gained through torture, breaches of the Geneva Conventions, breaches of International Law and failure to abide by our obligations as per UN Convention Against Torture’ heroes too?
Is war always Noble and Heroic?
Sitting here in a British Café in Bangkok, after traveling here overland from Birmingham, England, through ‘rogue states’ - Iran and Pakistan, I was fully hooked up to and bombarded by The British and global media. I couldn’t help reflect on ‘the War’ and how we are being continually ‘programmed’, who ever you are, where ever you are. Our opinion must be important?
Harry’s brother William was quoted as saying “You’re making Mum proud”. Is he? Surely not Diana, the ‘activist’ against land mines? Would Diana be proud of ‘our boys’ dropping Cluster Bombs, as we have in Afghanistan, Iraq, Serbia…? Cluster Bombs that kill and maim innocents, including women and children. Cluster Bombs that can remain unexploded, just like land mines, for years.
A story on the BBC from 2003 explained how “Eighteen months ago, in western Afghanistan, a 15-year-old boy picked up what he thought was a packet of food - it blew his head off.
Sayyid Ahmad Sanef believed the bright yellow object lying on the ground near his home was one of the 37,000 plastic humanitarian aid packages of the same colour dropped on Afghanistan by US military aircraft - but it had come from a cluster bomb.”
Amnesty International claims that The UK appears to be 2nd largest exporter of Cluster Bombs after the US.
Harry has seen first hand the damage land mines can do. Dismissing his new found Hero status he said: "There were two injured guys who came back on the plane with us who were essentially comatose throughout the whole way...those are the heroes, those were guys who had been blown up by a mine that they had no idea about, serving their country, doing a normal patrol.” "I was a bit shocked ...it is a bit of a choke in your throat because you know that it's happening.”
Hopefully the bombs, Harry dropped weren’t Cluster Bombs and hopefully they all hit the intended targets. Even still wouldn’t it be more heroic to follow his mother’s cause? To highlight the devastation cluster bombs cause to innocent people, men, women and children, and vocally join the campaign (which is having some success) to get them outlawed, rather than bolster support for this murderous machine.
The ‘War on Terror’ will not be won with weapons or gung ho media stories. To quote Chomsky again, "Wanton killing of civilians is terrorism, not a war against terrorism”.
The other big story revolving on the plasma screens of “Oh My Cod” was the horrors of the ongoing Violence in Gaza and the response from the UN.
The excellent articles ‘For Palestinians, the power of mass non-violence would be undeniable’ by John Freedland and ‘Bringing Down the New Berlin Walls’ by John Pilger give much needed perspective on the situation.
What I feel we need is a total change in our engagement with the world. We need to act peacefully and constructively. Violence only leads to more violence, expanding ‘the war on terror’ and the spiral of death and destruction. At times military action may be necessary, but we should not support wars, like this, that are being fought for the political, economical and ideological advantage of a select few. (I refer to both ‘side’s). We should not support their game.
We have the means now to communicate and join together, regardless of nationality or ideology, regardless of what our master’s say and we can stop fighting and supporting their wars.
Is the nation a myth? Is ‘the war on terror’ just the latest name for an ongoing war for the select few?
We should be proud to be who we are, our identity, beliefs, ideology and culture, be it English, Persian, Pashtun… Muslim, Christian, Pagan… without being tied to a ‘Nationality’ or ideology. We shouldn’t let our identity be abused to divide and conquer, to pitch us against our brothers and sisters.
I am proud to be British, but I don’t subscribe to the notion my country right or wrong. As Howard Zinn (An American) puts it in his inspiring essay ‘The Scourge of Nationalism’ - “Surely, we must renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems… We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation…”
Later the plasma screens in “Oh My Cod” changed from war, to music then onto football. Two of Britain’s better exports. We get ‘time out’ from the war. Time we should cherish and live to the full. But we shouldn’t switch off and forget, we should keep up our outrage against the crimes done in our name. We should join together, act peacefully and constructively to build bridges rather than walls.
Join the global protest - demonstrate 15 March
Troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, Don’t attack Iran, End the siege of Gaza
Gaza Conflict - Ceasefire Now! - Sign the petition
LINKS and related articles
For Palestinians, the power of mass non-violence would be undeniable
An unarmed resistance modelled on Martin Luther King's civil rights movement could be the way to wake the world. John Freedland in The Guardian (Feb 20, 2008)
Bringing Down the New Berlin Walls by John Pilger
‘The last thing the west wants is to dismantle the barriers separating "us" from "them". They are vital for justifying invasion, plunder and nuclear proliferation.’
Cry 'God for Harry, England and St George' - George Galloway.
In their acclaim for this new Prince Hal, the media have once again made themselves the useful idiots of disastrous military adventurism
Harry, you're not normal, you're a prince. And this is war, not therapy - Marina Hyde, The Guardian.
What the cringe-making Afghanistan stunt has shown us is that royal lives are still worth more than off-brand ones
'Carry on provoking to catch this precious infidel' - Martin Hodgson, The Guardian
'UN chief condemns Gaza violence - BBC
Prince Harry on Afghan front line- BBC
Prince Harry rejects 'hero' label - BBC
‘Shame for The Queen and Prince Harry’ by Anjem Choudary
NOTE: I totally don’t support this view but it offers an insight to another view of the Prince Harry in Afghanistan story
The War on democracy
John Pilger’s latest film The war on democracy explores the theme of disenchantment with democracy, concentrating on those parts of the world where people have struggled with blood, sweat and tears to plant democracy, only to see it brutally crushed.
Read his article ‘War on Democracy’ for The Guardian
The 'Good War' Is a Bad War by John Pilger. Thursday, 10 January 2008
Cluster Bomb info and Campaign Sites
Sign Handicap International’s petition against Cluster Bombs
Amnesty International claims that The UK appears to be 2nd largest exporter of Cluster Bombs after the US.
Cluster bombs and teddy bears By Bianca Jagger. 05/11/2007
Military Families Against the War
Wag The Dog
The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, Jean Baudrillard.
WELCOME TO THE DESERT OF THE REAL! - Slavoj Zizek
The Scourge of Nationalism - by Howard Zinn
What U shoutin’ ‘bout ? – by Richard Edkins
MA Thesis about Art and the peace movement by Richard Edkins
Bush Vs Brent
Birmingham to Bangkok www.environments.org.uk