Joe Glenton, who, as a soldier, was jailed for refusing a second tour of Afghanistan, is the author of Soldier Box and a member of Veterans For Peace UK. The following piece was written in May 2016 as a commentary on the Invictus Games, but we feel it’s particularly resonant on this, Armistice Day:
Veterans and soldiers have no champion but themselves and no fight but the one against their masters.
The Invictus Games raises several questions. First, how do wounded British and American veterans feel that draft dodger and Iraq-era president George W. Bush – undoubtedly one of the chief architects of their mutilation – headlined at the Games’ opening in Florida on Sunday? It is impossible to say, and I suspect they were not asked, but the decision to invite Bush aboard is obviously a bad one. Let us be clear: no one who shares a platform with George W Bush is a champion of wounded British soldiers.
Next, we might ask how the high-profile annual event gained such a powerful following and why? He is not in any meaningful sense one of us. He is a hyper-privileged Royal, fully detached from the society he was literally born to lord over. Like the politicised war charities which appeared in the “alms for heroes” gold rush of the mid-to-late 2000s, Invictus helps to nullify and redirect soldiers’ anger at their betrayal while at the same time generating militarist PR. It may not be coincidental that firms with strong UK defence interests like Jaguar and rapacious global corporations like Coca Cola are involved in the event.
It is also possible that the UK and US establishment see an opportunity to recover the face they lost in their desert wars by exploiting soldiers for political capital.
Prince Harry is not another veteran
Finally, why is Harry championing this cause? He is likely touched by their plight. But it might also be to suggest he is just one of the lads, just another veteran. But he is not. He is unaffected by major issues which concern many veterans, like relying on an NHS which is being dismantled. He will never have his benefits or pension cut at a moment’s notice and if he did the taxpayer would likely keep him afloat, as is the Royal way.
His mind may indeed be tortured – as many other veterans are – but will his trauma lead him to prison, jail, suicide, self-medication? Unlikely. He is not in any meaningful sense one of us. He is a hyper-privileged Royal, fully detached from the society he was literally born to lord over. The pains of normal people are beyond the Windsor or Bush clans and the struggles of normal veterans are not theirs to comment upon. Our champions can only come from our own ranks – and Harry has no claim on the role.