There is a good piece by Magnus Linklater in The Times entitled "The Army must go into schools" (i.e. to talk to pupils about careers). It's prompted by a perverse vote condeming such visits by - who else? - the National Union of Teachers at their annual conference. Linklater comments:
If teachers cannot understand the difference between political opposition to the war in Iraq and the role of the Army in the defence of the realm, then pity the pupils they claim to teach. It is one thing to grandstand at an NUT conference about the so-called iniquity of an illegal invasion. It is quite another to undermine a profession, which is an essential pillar of the State, in front of a class of impressionable youngsters.
And that, you might think, is all that need be said on the matter. But there is one thing more. Take another look at the Times report, which I've linked to, about the NUT's vote:
Paul McGarr, a delegate from East London, said that the union did not want to undermine servicemen and women but that the Forces were turning to schools to fill a recruitment shortage.
Mr McGarr said: “Let’s just try and imagine what recruitment material would have to say were it not to be misleading. We would have material saying, ‘Join the Army and we will send you to carry out the imperialist occupation of other people’s countries. Join the Army and we will send you to bomb, shoot and possibly torture fellow human beings. Join the Army and we will send you probably poorly equipped into situations where people will try to shoot or kill you because you are occupying other people’s countries. Join the Army, and if you come home, possibly injured or mentally damaged, you and your family will be shabbily treated.'”
McGarr is a maths teacher from Tower Hamlets and a former council candidate in Millwall for the Respect party. He is not being entirely open in disclaiming a wish to undermine our armed forces. In fact, he's lying. This is what he wrote in Socialist Worker, 23 March 2003, just before the military campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein:
Socialists have done and continue to do all in our power to build the movement to prevent war and to stop war when it starts. But if war starts the very worst outcome would be a quick victory for the US and Britain.
The best response to war would be protests across the globe which make it impossible for Bush and Blair to continue. But while war lasts by far the lesser evil would be reverses, or defeat, for the US and British forces. That may be unlikely, given the overwhelming military superiority they enjoy. But it would be the best outcome in military terms.
In short, and given the fact of the Iraq War, Paul McGarr and Socialist Worker wanted Saddam Hussein to win and our armed forces to be defeated. This is not what I say: it's what they say.
Christopher Hitchens typically refers to such people as not anti-war but pro-war on the other side. I do too, and I think I started doing it before Christopher. (John Rees, National Secretary of Respect - the non-Galloway part of it - and a member of the Politbureau of the SWP is someone I've described this way in debate.) It's not a figure of speech: it's the literal truth.