Grantham Journal letter: Being a cadet is not like being a soldier

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Last week the Journal informed us that ‘Cadets call for community projects’.

We read how young Maryann Wydra has been in the army cadets for four years. Apparently Maryann has always wanted to join the army, and that her parents “thought it was a good idea for me to get some experience of what it would be like”.

Well, apart from dressing up in pointless camouflage clothing, doing some parade ground drill, and enduring boring kit inspections, being in the cadets is almost nothing like real army life – especially today.

The fundamental fact about being a soldier is that your first job is to kill people. When I did my army training, many years ago, our lecture room had the word ‘kill’ emblazoned in big letters on every wall, to help transform teenagers into killers.

If our military were being used today solely at home in defence of British people, or abroad as part of a properly authorised UN peacekeeping force, I would probably wish young Maryann all the best, and hope she enjoyed her time in the army as much as I did mine – because I did enjoy it most of the time. But that is not how our military are used. Far from it.

For about three decades our armed forces have been engaged in mostly illegal foreign adventures. From the Balkans to Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria, our military have been complicit in countless war crimes by killing tens of thousands of harmless, defenceless civilians – casually dismissed in the jargon as ‘collateral damage’ – to strengthen American business interests. In theory, many members of our armed forces could be charged with committing war crimes, as well as the politicians who gave the orders.

It’s a bleak commentary on the economic landscape that 40 years of unrelenting capitalism has created, when about the only career open to many young people is a life in the armed services. For many youngsters today, the stark choice is between a life of dead-end zero-hour minimum-wage jobs, or risk becoming a war criminal. Some choice; but if I had to make it I’d go for the dead-end job: at least it’s honest work.

If young people want activity and teamwork they should join a sports club; and if they want to help make the world a better place they should join the Green Party, and start fighting for our dying environment. No one should join the army until our government starts obeying international laws, and stops providing killers to fight for the US Empire.

John Andrews, Marratts Lane, Great Gonerby