Books, news, & views from Karen Traviss


How can the government stop the pesky British public objecting to the UK's involvement in more wars? Hide the flag-draped coffins, of course. And use disposable troops they think nobody cares about.
Not that you would have seen the story if you'd relied on the British broadcast media -- BBC, ITV, and Sky -- but at least Russia Today followed up on this Guardian piece. As I lived through the Cold War and all the guff about the wicked Russians keeping its citizens in the dark, I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I consider that I now have to get my TV news about the UK from the former Soviet Union.

"The armed forces should seek to make British involvement in future wars more palatable to the public by reducing the public profile of repatriation ceremonies for casualties, according to a Ministry of Defence unit that formulates strategy." (The Guardian)

The think tank also suggests offshoring our wars to private contractors, which, incidentally, is the background to Going Gray, as you'll see. (But when I wrote one of the epigraphs for the book, I had no idea the MoD would go even further than the political policy wonk in the novel who suggests it's a great idea.) Basically, the MoD report says that our wars should be fought by people the public won't care about or don't know about, which includes special forces, because Joe Public apparently doesn't care about them either (some ignorance about actual public reaction there, methinks, given the general adoration of the SAS and SBS), and certainly won't be told about their casualties anyway. So that's all right, then.

And then there's the bit about the government needing to ensure that the public understands why a war is necessary, presumably because we're so thick that we have silly ideas that wars are about oil, gas pipelines, and strategic ambitions, not conveniently discovered humanitarian concern. Which part of "We don't want any more of our troops' lives or anyone else's thrown away on half-arsed, ill-considered wars" does the government not understand? British public opinion has been overwhelmingly against more Iraqs or Afghanistans, not because they don't understand but because they do. The report shows a staggering disconnect with both the public and reality. Someone really doesn't get why the public felt differently about the Falklands War.

The other story being strenuously overlooked today by the BBC et al in favour of such vital issues as the National Trust taking on the Big Brother house is about the MoD still dosing troops with an anti-malarial drug that the US military has banned because it's been linked to suicide and violence:

"Drug that most GPs are reluctant to prescribe for their patients and that is banned by US military is putting thousands of British soldiers’ lives at risk." (The Independent)

Both these stories originated from newspapers at the opposite end of my personal political spectrum, by the way. Another irony that isn't lost on me.