THE military was accused yesterday of presenting children with a whitewashed image of war by planning “family fun” events across Britain on Armed Forces Day.
Pacifist group the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) said that the military routinely portrays combat and weaponry as “clean and exciting,” which misleads youngsters about the nature of warfare.
Armed Forces Day on Saturday will be marked by performances by children’s entertainers along with live demonstrations and exhibitions of military equipment.
Events will be held in most towns and cities across Britain. The “national event” will be held in Cleethorpes, near RAF Waddington, from where the government’s drones are operated.
PPU co-ordinator Symon Hill said: “In previous years, Armed Forces Day has involved primary-age children being invited to hold guns and sit in tanks.
“At an early age, children are given the message that weapons and uniforms go along with fun and entertainment.
“War is not fun. Violence is not entertainment. Young people should be allowed to make up their own minds about the moral complexities of war as they grow up.”
The PPU said that events such as Armed Forces Day allow the military to portray itself in a positive light, despite evidence of a culture of brutality emerging during the latest Deepcut barracks inquest.
The inquest into the death of 18-year-old soldier Cheryl James, who was killed in 1995 by a gunshot wound to the head at the barracks in Surrey, concluded earlier this month.
Judge Brian Barker QC highlighted a culture of bullying and sexual harassment in the army and especially at Deepcut, where three other soldiers died between 1995 and 2002.
Human rights organisation Liberty has written to Tory Defence Secretary Michael Fallon on behalf of the soldiers’ families calling for a public inquiry into “toxic” barrack environments.
PPU claimed that the government is trying to present the army as a good career choice for young people as it is falling short of recruitment targets.
Mr Hill added: “No institution should be immune from criticism.
“With British involvement in wars having less and less public support, the government and the arms industry have ramped up the image of the armed forces with little regard to how they operate in practice.”
Britain is the only country in Europe that enlists 16-year-olds, in breach of international agreements, the anti-war group added.