Tuesday, November 11, 2008

You'll be a man my son

OK, I've been holding back on this one for the last few days as I didn't want to be thought of as making light of the horror of war, but having just heard Jeremy Vine use the phrase "...when we send a child off to war ...." I've got to have my say.

We do not send children off to war - not in this country anyway. Although I'm sure that quite a few people lied about their age to go and fight on the battlefields of Flanders in the 1914-18 conflict, they did so of their own free will and were not "sent" by anyone. Those that were conscripted were all adult by law - yes they were very young, but they were not children!

Africans regularly use children in war. In recent times the Moslems have been known to use children both for suicide bombing and as human shields for their soldiers who refuse to wear uniforms so that they blend in with civilians. The way Palestinian children are indoctrinated - even using cartoon animations - to hate the Jew and to want to go and kill them any how they can is well documented, but we in the west do not "send a child off to war".

When I hear some fuckwit on the telly or radio demand how those of us who support armed intervention would feel if it was our "children" being killed in Iraq or Afghanistan I want to grab them, shake them and tell them that those men and women who are out there in British uniforms chose to join the armed forces - nobody forced them - and that they are not bloody children.

They make the choice knowing that there are consequences. They are fully grown, mature adults and if they choose to join the army, navy or air force we should respect them for that. Referring to them as "children" all the time demeans both their courage and their sacrifice.

There have been around 136 British servicemen and women killed in Iraq by hostile action since 2003 and none of them were children.

That's around 27 deaths a year -in a war zone.

Almost as many teenagers have been killed in London this year alone - how many across the whole UK over the last 5 years? - and most of those were children. Which is the truly shocking statistic?


ChrisM said...

To be fair though there are two meanings of the word child. There is child as in someone under 18, and there is child in order to denote relationship (ie with respect to a parent).

Whilst I am by no means now a child in the sense of being under 18, I am still my parents' child.

Stan said...

I appreciate that chrism, but then how many of us (Palestinian's aside) actually send our children to war? The context in which it has been used over the last few days is that our leaders/generals have/are sending children into war/battle which is untrue and deliberately emotive.

I appreciate also that the death of a child is an enormous loss and an horrendous burden to bear for any parent whether that child was 5, 25 or 55 - but that has to be balanced against the fact that the vast majority of our war dead were normal, rational adults.

ChrisM said...

Oh, I agree with your point. I was just being a pedant. I draw NO moral equivalence between sending adults to war and sending youths.

William Gruff said...

'Those that were conscripted were all adult by law ... '

Not so. The age for conscription in the First World War was nineteen, if I recall correctly, at a time when adulthood was attained in law at the age of twenty one.

Stan said...

You're referring to the age of majority which is a fair point I guess. What I really meant by that is that they were all of an age where they could work, pay taxes, have sex etc. - the sort of things you associate with rational adulthood. But you're right, legally they were minors still.