....Britain has been drawn into a deep sleep about war and nowhere is this slumber more pernicious than in the militarisation of popular culture.
Dedicated servicemen and women should be respected and those who suffer deserve the very best support and care. But it is our fault we allowed our politicians to send them to conflicts that served little purpose other than to cling on to some amorphous notion of national power. Now the debate about why they are still dying – and killing – in Afghanistan has disappeared from public life. Instead, an acceptance that the military is an agent for good has become the norm, and we are told to love our soldiers as if they are members of an extended family. This year, from the The X Factor to football, from Radio 2 to the tabloids, we have been encouraged to welcome the military into our homes and hearts. There are, potentially terrible, consequences for this love affair.
Tough questions about a conflict that has cost, at the time of writing, 344 British combat deaths have been replaced by an invitation to demonstrate our gratitude to the military (BBC3's Our War aside). But what we are supposed to be grateful for has rarely, if ever, been mentioned in 2011. It's as if, in a scary and bankrupt world, we've been invited to take consolation wherever we can find it. In this case our consolation is the last refuge of the scoundrel. It's easier than thinking about a decade of fighting that has cost billions of pounds and at least 30,000 Afghan lives, and let's not forget six years in Iraq during which 100,000 people died.
We have turned the reality of war into an emotionally nourishing theatre – this year the home-counties Valhalla, Wootton Bassett, was rewarded with royal patronage for its role at the vanguard of our delusion. A key part of this is the politically stultifying Help for Heroes campaign, which, of course, serves an ideological and financial function for a broke government....