Wednesday, August 03, 2005

kill the poor

Bobby had an eagle and a flag tattooed on his arm
Red white and blue to the bone when he landed in Kandahar
Left behind a pretty young wife and a baby girl
A stack of overdue bills and went off to save the world
Been a year now and he’s still there
Chasin’ ghosts in the thin dry air
Meanwhile back at home the finance company took his car
Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man’s war

Steve Earle, Rich Man's War.

Those who've seen Fahrenheit 9/11 will remember the chilling cynicism with which recruiters for the US military target poor areas. Needing cannon fodder for the wars that maintain and increase their wealth, the super-rich never send their own kids to fight.

In the Second World War - despite now proclaiming it as a war against racist ideology - the Americans sent troops in racially segregated divisions. The South Park thing of 'Operation Hide Behind Darkie' was horribly true. In Vietnam, the proportion of black troops was four times the proportion of blacks in the population at large.

These days it's not even poor non-white Americans being targeted. There's a scene in Gangs of New York where Irish immigrants arrive and queue up for processing at two tables. The first welcomes them to America and gives them citizenship. The second tells them that as a citizen they are liable for conscription, gives them their papers and sends them off to fight.

So it continues today, but without even making them citizens first. More than a quarter of American troops in Iraq are not even Americans. They are foreigners offered fast-track citizenship if they join up.

Despite the waffle from politicians about 'fighting for your country', wars are usually about fighting to get someone else's country. Our soldiers know it and say it.

Despite the LibDems' anti-war mask, Charles Kennedy has said the UK soldiers in Iraq are doing it 'for their country'. The only people doing that in Iraq, Charles, are the ones killing our soldiers.

As in the USA, in the UK recruiters like to come through our poor areas seeing who they can trawl.

As someone who both remembers the 1980s and has lived for a long time in inner cities, I can barely begin to imagine how grim these urban areas would've become after Thatcher's onslaught if they hadn't had the immigrant influx to keep energy and spark in them.

The celebration and spectacle of a caribbean carnival or an Asian mela are among the best things about a British urban summer.

This year, the Leeds Mela has several sponsors.

The main one? Royal Air Force.


Anonymous said...

I've been to the New Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, Liverpool several times recently (the place where James Bulger was abducted before being killed)It's not unfair to say that the area is rough as a bear's arse and rather poor. There's an Army recruitment "roadshow" type thing there every time I'm there. Never see one in the Marble Place shopping arcade in Southport..

Steve Earle, by the way. What a man. Get "Jerusalem". Stunning.


Leeds researcher said...

Where did you get that image of the Leeds Mela from? I have been looking for a copy of the programme or im age from it to use in the new Leeds City Museum. Can you tell me where to find a high res version of it?