Friday, 11 June 2010


The Prime Minister has said he wants us all to 'revere and support' British forces for the work they do in Afghanistan. This is an interesting phrase and it is highly dangerous as only language, that most terrible of weapons, can be.

There are very few of us who do not strongly respect and support the work of British forces abroad. I couldn't do what they do and I can't imagine the stress it puts on them and their families so they deserve the highest respect and regard. However, we should not 'revere' an army.

One of the most striking moments in my life came when I was driving through London with a Syrian friend in the late 1980s. Coming along the Embankment in the other direction was a small, light tank on which sat a group of squaddies. My friend instantly froze and asked if there had been a coup. I laughed and reassured him that of course there hadn't been as I was absolutely certain that such things just don't happen in Britain. However, his fear was real and I stopped myself from ridiculing his question. He was scared and he understood the danger of such events because his country had seen the terror that they bring in his recent history.

Our armed forces are among the best in the world - in the words of a famous lager they probably are the best - but they should not be revered. Reverence puts them above and outside of society. They are one of the best and most reliable organs of our state because they are fully part of the state, not separate. We should support our troops wholeheartedly but revere only whatever gods we choose to worship.

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