LONDON (Dispatches) -- The most senior clergyman in the British Army has revealed that mental scars from the Iraq War left him in “the valley of the shadow of death, a place of utter desolation” for years after returning from the war zone.
Clinton Langston, the outgoing chaplain-general of the Army, said he became “sick with fear” after writing letters to his wife and children that were to be opened in the event of his death during a six-month deployment in 2004.
More than 10,000 troops have been discharged because of mental health problems over the past 20 years, according to official figures.
Another 500 quit last year after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other disorders.
Langston said he decided “to do my best for my soldiers”, but in order to do so “had to dial down all my emotional connections to my family”.
The 59-year-old added: “I remember getting on the aircraft into theatre [the war zone] and deciding I had already died, because then I would have no feelings and no fear.
“I returned home six months later. Both the immediate days after and the years since have been dominated by my inability to dial my emotions back up.
“I have remained, as have so many of our soldiers, in the valley of the shadow of death – a place of utter desolation where our shadows yearn to feel and love and live again but where our families find only the shell of who we were.”
Padre Langston, who also served tours in Bosnia and Northern Ireland and is set to retire in May, made the candid remarks during the Thought For The Day segment on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, which was guest-edited by General Sir Nick Carter, the UK’s former Chief of the Defense Staff.
Military mothers in the UK have described Tony Blair’s knighthood as the “ultimate insult” while social media users have branded the former-prime minister a war criminal and more than 100,000 signed a petition for his honor to be taken back.
The mothers, who lost their children in Afghanistan, have spoken out against Sir Tony’s knighthood and have threatened to return Elizabeth Crosses which are given to bereaved families to show their disgust.
One military mother, Carol Valentine, told the Mirror that Sir Tony’s knighthood is the “ultimate insult”, after her son Simon was killed while he cleared land mines in Afghanistan in 2009.
And Hazel Hunt, whose son Richard died in Afghanistan, was pondering sending back the Elizabeth Cross that her family had received as a mark of protest.
Another military mother, Caroline
Whitaker, who lost son Gareth after he was shot dead by an Afghanistan police officer in 2012 said she felt the establishment was “making a mockery” of hers and other children’s deaths.
On Twitter, many made their feelings clear following the ennobling. Political commentator Liam Young wrote: “The man should be in the dock of The Hague. What a shameful day.”
Another said: “The contempt in which Britain’s elite holds the public has never been more eloquently expressed than in the decision to award Tony Blair the highest order of knighthood. One million Iraqis dead, three million dispossessed, a trail of blood to 7/7. Rise Sir Tony!”
The appointment of Sir Tony in the Order of the Garter on Friday night also led to a petition being launched on Change.org by Angus Scott shortly after he was knighted which has now reached 100,000 signatures.
Furious members of the public have rallied against his appointment and signed the petition since Friday.
In an explanation in his petition, Scott wrote: “Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society. He was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent, civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts. For this alone he should be held accountable for war crimes.”
Backlash occurred as the ex-prime minister has faced criticism for many years for sending troops into Afghanistan and Iraq and many branded him a “war criminal” who they did not believe worthy of a knighthood.
Blair has faced years of criticism over the Iraq War, culminating in the devastating report by Sir John Chilcot in 2016, which found that the former prime minister overplayed evidence about Saddam Hussein’s weaponry and ignored peaceful means to send troops into the country.
In a devastating set of conclusions, Sir John found Blair presented the case for war with “a certainty which was not justified” based on “flawed” intelligence about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Blair then said he would “take the same decision” to invade Iraq again if he was presented with the same intelligence as he set out a defiant defense after being savaged by the Chilcot report.