Harry Leslie Smith: I agree with the 'world's oldest rebel' on poppies and war

The late Harry Leslie Smith
The late Harry Leslie Smith

You may have seen this week that the self-styled ‘world’s oldest rebel’, Harry Leslie Smith passed away at the ripe old age of 95.

I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of the redoutable Mr Smith before now - but having checked him out in the meantime I find myself bowled over by his straight talking, no-nonsense approach to life.

He is best known it transpires for giving an impassioned speech at the Labour Party Conference in 2014 - mainly focusing on the damage being done to the NHS by the then Cameron

government, but also perhaps more famously (or infamously) for a letter he wrote to the Guardian in 2013 saying he would no longer wear a remembrance poppy as, in his view, this had become thoroughly politicised and increasingly was being used to somehow justify war in a broader sense.

Quite something for a Second World War veteran to say.

This struck a chord with me. I too have become increasingly uneasy over the last few years about the message being conveyed (rammed down our throats more like) regarding how we should remember past conflicts.

I would make it very clear that I have nothing but enormous sympathy for the poor souls who ‘gave’ their lives in the First World War for example (as if they had a choice), but I find phrases like ‘lest we forget’ more and more insufferable - ‘lest we forget’ as if we (ie. the great unwashed) are in any way responsible for the millions killed in wars ?

Of course we aren’t. So stop trying to make us all feel guilty about this.

I would be rather less agitated if at least some attention were being paid to how wars start in the first place. Don’t forget that wars are one of the most lucrative possible enterprises for those controlling the purse strings, those supplying arms and weapons, those who get to decide how countries are carved up afterwards.

I suspect many millions either simply don’t believe or seriously question the official 9/11 narrative. Many more believe that Bush/Blair lied through their teeth about WMD in Iraq. Yet, these two events have led to non-stop wars in the Middle East ever since all justified by the so-called ‘war on terror’.

Every bomb dropped here puts money in someone’s pocket, every dollar ‘loaned’ to ‘rebuild’ these countries comes with interest pre-attached. Every regime changed benefits someone and it ain’t you or I.

Bottom line here is that war is neither big nor clever. It is ugly and brutish.

It is not something to be glorified or revelled in. It is always the innocent who suffer and die - never the string-pulling elite who simply use and exploit human lives to enrich themselves.

Time we stood up to them.

Tim Kennedy

Via email