White Whine


Piers Morgan and a peace campaigner, Symon Hill, crossed metaphorical swords on Good Morning Britain when the campaigner went on to discuss Remembrance Day. Morgan asked him if he would like to remember Nazi soldiers and ISIS fighters and whether World War Two was justified. The segment was aired following a St Johns Ambulance decision to allow its volunteers to wear white poppies on Remembrance Day.

The argument itself was just a trite piece of television but it touched on a more important point. Coming up to Remembrance Day, is it right to honour the fallen without remembering all people who have been killed in wars and how far should a wish to end all wars be part of the mix?

The white poppy has been around since 1933 when it was first introduced as a symbol of peace. It has never really caught on but has been worn by a small number of pacifists. It has irked veterans who feel that it undermines the red poppy remembrance efforts.

It is worth thinking about the red poppy appeal first of all when thinking about the questions raised above. The red poppy appeal is a specific chance to remember the fallen. That is to say it is an opportunity to remember the sacrifice made by those who fought to preserve our way of life. It is not about the glorification of war. It is merely a recognition that at a time of war some people stepped forward and laid down their lives so that the rest of us could continue to enjoy the liberties we are used to. The red poppy appeal is an opportunity to give thanks for that sacrifice and to ensure that it is never forgotten.

No one on either side wishes to promote war. Those who wear the red poppy recognise that sometimes war is an inevitable consequence of human existence and that people do heroic things at that time. Those who wear the white poppy think war should never happen. Those who wear the red poppy hope war will never happen.

There has always been something rather strident about the decision to wear a white poppy. It was a reaction to the red poppy and the steps people went to in order to remember their war dead. There is something holier than thou about the white poppy that is designed to call attention to the wearer and suggest that their principles are better than those of everyone else. It is as if they cannot see that those who wear the red poppy don’t want any more wars either but simply want to remember those who laid down their lives.

Until peace campaigners can answer Piers Morgan’s question about whether World War Two was justified, their campaigns remain hollow. They are simply demanding that life should be better than it is. It would have been wholly wrong, in the face of the rise of Nazi Germany, to allow Hitler to do whatever he wanted without fighting him in order to maintain a principle that war is wrong. Pacifism of this kind is merely allowing free range to those monsters of history who cause war to be necessary. ISIS fall into this category. It is entirely wrong to allow ISIS free range to promote their dystopian world view when fighting them can stop them.

Jeremy Corbyn follows the sort of pacifism that would lead to the appeasement of any modern day Hitlers. He opposes military force in all circumstances. It is unthinkable that such a man should be in charge of making military decisions. Anyone who decides that war can never be a justified reaction to provocation should come nowhere near the highest offices of state.

In the end we are all pacifists to the extent that no one wants war if it can be avoided. We are not all pacifists when it comes to deciding what to do when war is inevitable. For those of us who recognise that some wars are justified, Remembrance Day provides an opportunity for us to remember those who make the ultimate sacrifice during war. We can wear our red poppies with pride giving thanks to those who did what we did not and laid down their lives. It is unusual that I agree with Piers Morgan but on this occasion I think he has a point. The white poppy is a step too far.