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Birdsong

28 Jan

This article was originally published on Subrosa Blonde Blog and is reproduced here with permissions.

The BBC have been heavily advertising their new shiny two-episode Birdsong programme based on the book by Sebastian Faulkes. The adverts showed a few scenes and looked interesting but I wasn’t convinced. I’d hoped that Spielberg might have picked it up or Saul Zaentz the producer of films like The English Patient, One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest, The unbearable lightness of being etc.

Zaentz could produce a film, heavy on the romantic side and treated with respect and care. Spielberg could bring realism to it as he previously did with “Saving Private Ryan”. If that film was about anything at all it was about the true horror of war rather than the censored versions we’ve been spoon-fed.

I just wasn’t sure I should watch it. What if it was a poor reflection of the book? What if the story was diluted? What if, what if, what if? It’s one of my top ten favourite books and I have the greatest of respect for the men who fought and were slaughtered in action during the First World War.

I decided to watch it. I thought I could stop if it wasn’t to my liking. However, I was pleasantly surprised, it wasn’t bad. Not as “real’ and the romantic part wasn’t overdone, so far so good.

Having the Great War brought back to the fore as it were, has reminded me of two things; the poetry created by the likes of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brook to name but three. I really must go and visit the War Poets Collection at the Craiglockhart Campus of Napier University. Owen and Sassoon were there during the war when it was a hospital.

The other thing it has reminded me off is that for all the cost in human terms that “the war to end all wars” was supposed to be we just haven’t learned the lesson. Here we are almost a hundred years down the road and there has rarely been a gap between conflicts. The recent Iraq and Afghanistan actions reinforced the incompetence of the MOD and the failings in the services procurement system. Soldiers’ lives have been lost as a consequence. Vehicles were inadequate in the protection they were supposed to provide, costing young men their lives. Body armour being shared rather than being available to all, again cost lives. The Americans do things slightly differently. They aim to send their forces out with the weapons and kit significantly better than the enemy. They’ve just started rolling out a gun which fires a grenade accurately over long distances and can then be detonated at a point chosen by the person firing it. They can now hit targets hiding behind walls barricades etc. A game changer apparently although war is only a game if it’s played on a PlayStation or X-box.

Unfortunately our sabre-rattling politicians are lining up the next conflict. Iran. Like we need another conflict.

Men and women sign up to join the forces. When they join up and take the Queens shilling they can expect to see action but they should also be protected and only put in danger if it is the last resort. Even then they should have the best kit, if they don’t have the best kit or even appropriate kit for the job they should not be put in danger.

Most incriminating of all of our various governments over the years however, is that if our forces are injured they should get the best treatment possible and if their injury means they need care and support for the rest of their lives the state should pay, ending the reliance on charity which is an insulting way to treat our service men and women. The state should also provide a reasonable level of financial support to the partner and children left behind if a life is lost and this should continue as long as it is needed.

War, conflict or whatever name people wish to call it is disgusting and inhumane, the way our forces and their dependents are treated should never be disgusting and inhumane; when planning the Scottish Defence Force Alex could do well to bear that in mind.

I don’t think the Scottish people want our forces involved in any conflicts, perhaps Alex should seek a mandate from the Scottish people, it’s far too important a decision for him or his government to take on their own?

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