I wear a white poppy on Remembrance Day to remember the civilians, the maimed, and the dead; the starving children, the conscientious objectors, the deformed children, the servicemen and women, and the folly of it all. The white poppy is a symbol of peace, and I wear it to remind people that the avenues for peace are seldom exhausted before the bombs are made to fall.
The First World War (ironically labelled the war to end all wars), was the only modern war in which more servicemen and women than civilians were killed. Looking back, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914 seems a frivolous reason to kill 9 million service personnel and 7 million civilians. I wear the white poppy for all of them.
Subsequent wars have claimed the lives of a disproportionate number of civilians, millions of whom have been brushed callously aside as ‘collateral damage’.
Modern warfare is about carpet bombing, depleted uranium shells, cluster bombs and chemicals. Nagasaki and Hiroshima remind us of the terrible cost of ‘collateral damage’. Underneath those hellish explosions were 200,000 ordinary people going about their daily task. I wear the white poppy for them.
I would not hear a word said against the good work done by the British Legion, but the fact is that they should not have to raise this money. If the government decides to send troops into the gates of hell, then the government should also pay to take good care of their broken minds and bodies when they limp home. The true cost of war in terms of healthcare, broken families and broken lives is never measured.
The devious lies which propelled us into Iraq and caused the death of more than 600,000 Iraqis, was morally and factually unjustifiable. This was not a just war. The women of Fallujah are still giving birth to deformed children. I wear the white poppy for them too.
No amount of Invictus Games, Help for Heroes and Poppy Appeals makes up for the damning act of war. Wars beget more wars. The middle east has been a war zone for decades. Iraq – a place we were duped into fighting – sees no respite. Syria is not our war, yet we are busy bombing it. Yemen is not our war, but we are supplying the weapons for the Saudi’s to fight it.
War, and the law of unintended consequences, such as the creation of ISIS, are frequent bedfellows. Returning violence for violence only multiplies violence. Taking an eye for an eye is not what we teach our children.
Waging war is a big and highly profitable business. Little wonder then that financiers, manufacturers, trade unions, the military and the growing band of support charities are loath to call for peace and disarmament. ‘Lest we forget’ has become a message of support for the worlds’ arms manufacturers.
Wearing the White Poppy is not an act of heresy, it is an act of true remembrance in which we can remind ourselves of the futility of war and the suffering it causes. It tells us that actively pursuing a practical policy to avoid war is a realistic and worthwhile strategy. It is not necessarily any cheaper, and it’s not the easy path. Skilled negotiators are hard to come by, and I wear the white poppy for them too.
White poppies supporting the Peace Pledge Union can be bought here: http://www.ppu.org.uk/ppushop/