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The belligerent Major is not alone

Finally, a politician says in public that the military damages people. If only anyone would listen.

It was refreshing to hear Michael Connarty make a point in today’s coverage of the Eric Joyce affair which is usually off the agenda – the army makes people violent. It is almost completely taboo nowadays to say anything at all critical of ‘heroes’. Since the Brown/Blair gambit to distract us from their unpopular wars by making us unquestioningly admire soldiers and all their doings, it is very difficult to say anything critical about the armed forces.

That was the plan – create a US-style ‘safe zone’ around the military which excuses all behaviour and every action. Because they’re heroes. It disguises four big steps in creating social problems which we can’t even debate. First, although not exclusively the case, the armed forces attract the kinds of people who want to kill other people. It is a selection mechanism for a specific kind of young man. Second, it takes everyone who joins and then goes through a process of breaking down their individual personalities and reassembling them as obedient killers. Third, it places them in circumstances almost certain to result in serious trauma. Fourth, it disposes of them. Leaves them to society to integrate.

No-one ever points out the volume of serious violence in society which stems from ex-servicement. Connarty describes Eric Joyce as having “an aggressive attitude a lot of people who come out of the forces have”. According to Connarty he ‘showed signs of aggression when he was under pressure”. And then (by the accounts we have) he attacked a man.

Now, for all that commentators have been right to point out that Westminster is not the world’s most supportive environment, it is in fact much more ‘socialised’ than many circumstances former soldiers are dropped into. If Joyce can snap having been selected as a politician and under extreme scrutiny, what should we expect from others who have had the same training?

War and violence are the trade of soldiers and it changes them. Not accidentally, intentionally. It is a vile craft we cannot criticise for fear of being called disloyal or whatever silly jingoistic insult is at hand. We should talk about the impact on society of militarism. But we don’t. So here’s my answer to the question of what size should Scotland’s army be if we are independent. So small we can’t see it. Absolutely tiny. I have a feeling that ‘foreign enemies’ would do less harm to our society than is done by dispossessed and damaged young men turned into killers for the convenience of the British state and then dumped on society with no regard for them or their community.

Robin McAlpine