Chilcot - the saddest truth

By Bernadette Meaden
July 6, 2016

As the Chilcot report was released, bereaved relatives of soldiers who died in Iraq uttered terrible truths. Reg Keys, whose son Tom was killed, said, “Unfortunately and sadly my son died in vain” as he was “deployed on the basis of a false premise”. Another relative said their loved one had died, “unnecessarily and without just cause or purpose”.

This realisation, that in a democracy young men and women can be wrongly sent to die and to kill for their country is heartbreakingly sad, but hugely significant. And it has profound implications for our attitudes to war and remembrance.

Until it is widely acknowledged that lives lost in war are sometimes simply squandered, not just in history but in modern conflicts, we will fail to see military action as at best a grave last resort, and always a sign of failure.  

If we are to learn from the disaster of Iraq, future remembrance events really need to reflect the fact that whilst every person killed was a precious human being who can never be replaced, whilst they gave their lives in good faith and with courage, whilst their deaths leave a pain that can never be healed for their families, their lives were not always sacrificed in a just or glorious cause. Sometimes their lives were sacrificed because of the hubris of a politician, or the incompetenceof an administration. Remembrance, if it is to be true, needs to acknowledge that.

A more honest style of remembrance will help to give us a more realistic and questioning attitude, and perhaps save future generations of young people from wrongly believing that if their government sends them to put their lives at risk, they must always be doing so with just cause.

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 © Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden

Keywords:War | remembrance | Peace | Iraq | Chilcot
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