'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 event’s 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.
Armed Forces Day (which in truth is a whole week of jingoistic events) has become everything that Remembrance Day (no doubt, frustratingly for the UK’s vigorous militarists) cannot quite be: a kind of annual martial circus act sagging under the weight of its own bunting.
Certainly not everything has gone the way of Britain’s hawks since they began their bid to sanctify the military and war. Opposition to foreign wars, for example, has contributed towards a worrying new norm wherein remote warfare is carried out virtually unaccountably through special forces, drones and proxies. This is not the “boots on the ground” preferred by military leaders, who we should recall pushed for maximum involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.'
Read more: Armed Forces Day is a propaganda tool for arms firms and the military – and the public are footing the bill
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