VETERANS ARE BEING THREATENED AND SILENCED BY THE US AND UK MILITARIES
By Joe Glenton
After this month’s Remembrance Day parade, I repaired to a central London boozer with fellow veterans to stew my brain in ale. Pinned to chests all around me were glinting banks of medals. A statistically improbable number of airborne maroon and commando green berets were on display. Groups of veterans bunched together, slurring war stories.
The soldierly clique is cultural. While trained to be aggressive we are also taught to be quiet, keeping dark deeds and informed opinions “in-house.” If spoken aloud to outsiders, our stories would make us appear—and for some, leaving the heroic fantasy intact allows one to continue living at the center of it. To break that tribal silence carries risks.
Many people say we have fought for freedom and democracy. Given this consensus one might think veterans are as entitled as anybody to contribute to the political discourse, as serving senior officers regularly do. Not so.
The American and British militaries clamped down on social media in the mid-2000s—on the grounds of security, they claim. The Canadian military currently is trying to stop wounded veterans from criticizing the military in public. There is only one hymn sheet in the military, and it is decided upon on high.
I was gagged by a military court in 2009 even though I had spilled no secrets. All I did was claim the Afghanistan occupation was an illegitimate, shambolic disaster. The keenest soldiers I know say the same, but I said it on television rather than in the regimental bar. I spent five months in a military jail over a banality. Others have faced similar or worse treatment.