Document:The Red Poppy is Not About Remembrance
The Red Poppy is Not About Remembrance, It Has Become a Symbol of Militarism
“Politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organizing nothing better than legalized mass murder.”
"Irrespective of the uniforms we wore, we were all victims"
These are words which should appear in bold print and be accompanied with clear voice-overs for the blind and signed prominently for the deaf and hard of hearing, on every single news programme and politics show for the 18 days which lead up to the 11th of November every year.
News readers should inform the viewers at the end of every show that these are the words of a man called Harry Patch and the reason his words deserve prominence and repetition at this time of year every year is because he was the last living survivor of the war which has been grotesquely dubbed, The Great War of 1914-18, which stuttered to an inglorious end on the 11th hour of the 11th day of 1918 after consuming the lives of some 37 million civilians and combatants.
There is in truth nothing ‘Great' about that horrible and unnecessary war that pitted man against man the world over for nothing more than the right of the rich in each country involved to have greater access to and control of markets to reap even greater profits to feed their insatiable greed. There was no glory in a conflict that saw conscripted men on all sides slaughtered by their thousands day after day suffering horrific deaths and writhing with agony in European battlefields like the Somme and Ypres.
Harry Patch was typical of the ordinary men conscripted to fight that futile war which is why his words should be given so much attention and prominence now. He lived to the age of 111 and became not just the last British survivor who fought in WW1 but the last survivor across Europe. He became known as ‘The Last Tommy' in reference to the nickname associated with British soldiers for several hundred years. His book ‘The Last Fighting Tommy' is a searing condemnation of the brutality of WW1 and the cruel, cold and callous loss of life it caused.
For many years Harry refused to discuss his memories of the First World War as they haunted him so deeply. But after several years of being cajoled, he eventually opened up and made many speeches and visits across Europe to promote peace and reconciliation. He received 8 honors for bravery during WW1 and a Defence Medal for service in WW2.
A particularly poignant passage from his book was read out at his funeral service in his Somerset place of birth on 6th August 2009 before the Wells Cathedral bells were rung 111 times from 11 am in his honor:
"We came across a lad from A company. He was ripped open from his shoulder to his waist by shrapnel and lying in a pool of blood. When we got to him, he said: 'Shoot me'. He was beyond human help and before we could draw a revolver, he was dead. And the final word he uttered was 'Mother.' I remember that lad in particular. It's an image that has haunted me all my life, seared into my mind." 
It is passages like this and recollections of the very real consequences of wars which should adorn our screens and occupy our city center streets at this time of year, not General Haig associated red poppys.
That poppy has been kidnapped by the military and the politicians as a symbol, not of remembrance, but of justification for every bloody war and militaristic campaign regardless of cause. It is a symbol of military might and imperialist plunder. Most wear it to show respect for the fallen but the truth is it represents the hypocrisy and cynicism of the ruling classes who couldn't care a jot about lives lost in conflicts across the world.
World War Two veterans like Harry Leslie Smith refuse to wear that poppy any longer in protest at how bastardized the message it portrays has become. Politicians with the blood of illegal and immoral wars and conflicts on their hands stand at Remembrance Ceremonies without a flicker of contrition and lay wreaths that used to be about ‘Never Again' and ‘Lest We Forget' but are now about ‘support us whatever conflict we get involved in' and ‘don't question just obey'.
Harry Leslie Smith served with distinction in WW2 as an RAF pilot and used to wear a red poppy every November in memory of his fallen comrades in that war and all the fallen from WW1. He vividly recalls a time in history when an actual invasion was belived to be a real threat across the UK and how determined millions were to defend their homes and communities against it. Now he rejects the jingoism and hypocrisy associated with the red poppy. He believes it is used unscrupulously by politicians eager to manipulate the populace into supporting arms trading and unnecessary conflicts in our name. Writing five years ago in 2013 he said;
"However, I am afraid it will be the last time that I will bear witness to those soldiers, airmen, and sailors who are no more, at my local cenotaph. From now on, I will lament their passing in private because my despair is for those who live in this present world. I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one's right to privacy."
With perfect precision Harry later blasted the rank hypocrisy of the politicians who insist on uniform conformity to red poppy wearing while they insult its supposed meaning when he said:
"Almost immediately after November 11 (2014) the Tower [of London], which had been used to mourn our dead, hosted a dinner for the arms merchants of the world which shows not only poor taste but the sheer hypocrisy of the government that commissioned the commemoration." 
The same politicians who jostled furiously to be in the pictures commemorating the 100 years since the start of the First World War in 2014 with their bright red poppies on display were within days back to the same venue to sell armaments to any rogue nation or tyrant with the money to buy them.
To the issue of the good causes which the red poppies raise money for I answer: If a government is going to send men and women into conflicts at their behest it has a legal and moral duty to care for them afterward. The idea that veteran soldiers should have to rely on charitable donations for welfare and housing is utterly abhorrent.
For me, the red poppy is too closely associated with the blood-soaked history of British imperialism, in Ireland and across the globe. It is not a symbol of peace and remembrance but of war and militarism. Like an increasing number of others, I will remember the victims of all wars and oppose militarism in pursuit of peace by wearing my white poppy again this year.