100 British soldiers killed in one year – for Afghanistan
Looking at this sea of faces, one cannot but wonder at the grief of the families of the fallen; the widows who have had their hearts ripped apart with grief; the children who will grow up without fathers; the eternal loss to the world of their love, their vibrancy, their humanity.
The 100th soldier to die in the Afghanistan campaign is, we are told, a ‘grim milestone’, a ‘bloody milestone’, a ‘stark reminder’, a ‘dreaded landmark’, an ‘important moment’. He makes front-page headlines across the newspapers, and is the BBC’s lead story for the day.
The truth is that the 100th death is no less tragic than the 99th, and the 99th no less worth remembering than the 100th. And let us not forget the eminently forgettable numbers 47 and 29. Real people occupy those places, and they were no less loved and their lives promised no less hope than the (presently) unnamed soldier who died in the 100th place.
And that is just this year. The total British loss since 2001 is 237. Each gets his or her mention in Parliament before normal service swiftly resumes. We are assured by our political leaders that their thoughts (and occasionally prayers) are with the family and friends of the latest British fatality. But it is a transient thought, a momentary vision, an ephemeral eulogy to someone who gave their lives so that we might be free. The passing of Ivan Cameron was marked with greater heartfelt respect.
We repeat each year that we will remember them.
But we do not.
As the families and friends cry themselves to sleep and wander aimlessly as their empty rooms are filled with grief, the dead are but numbers and statistics to the politicians; pawns in politics of power play.
Of course, one should not judge the justness of a war by the magnitude of its fatalities. In historic terms, 237 British dead is but a drop in the ocean of the millions who died in two world wars. And they are now just numbers, statistics. Their names may be inscribed in marble or bronze on a monument, but our war memorials crumble just as memories fade.
We are told that the mission in Afghanistan is vital to our national security. We are assured that the Taliban regime must be taken out in order that Al Qaeda cannot use the country as a base from which to plot terrorist attacks against Britain.
If that is true, Cranmer does not quite understand why our forces are not in Pakistan.