Author warns government over ‘fool’s errands’ in global conflicts

The writer of War Horse has called on the Government to stay out of global conflicts – branding UK contributions in Iraq and Afghanistan “fool’s errands”.

Michael Morpurgo, 70, whose book was turned into a Steven Spielberg movie, says politicians need to heed the lessons of the Great War, which cost upwards of 16 millions lives.

He believes Britain should abandon its attempts to be a leading military power and says our troops faced an “impossible task” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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The Devon-based author said: “If they knew their history then they would know that this really was a fool’s errand – and the fools were not the ones who went there.

“We should be content with being a significant European country making its contribution to the world. I was very struck when Blair and Bush were doing their thing that we were following on the shirt tails of the people who did have the power.

“The more you interfere in things you only half understand, the more dangerous it is.

“We are now beginning to comprehend that you cannot solve the problems of the world simply by sending in armed forces and boats – it doesn’t work that way.

“We should be as grateful to those hundreds of people who died in Iraq and Afghanistan as we are to those who died in World War One and World War Two.

“They did job that they were sent to do by the Government. But it is always, is it not, young men, and these days young women, who do the job of older people. ‘You go and fix it’ they say.

“It has taken us a long time in this country to shake off the empire. I think, somehow, we have this longing to be as powerful in the world as we once were.”

“People of my generation really did grow up in school with assumptions that we were pretty big cheeses. But by then we were already past our prime and what put us past our prime was World War One.”

Mr Morpurgo has set many of his books against the backdrop of conflict, including War Horse, his story of a young farm boy and his beloved horse, Joey.

He wants all British children to visit war graves in France and Belgium so they can also learn about the grim cost of the First World War.

He told the Western Morning News newspaper: “You can’t talk too much about the millions of people who died on both sides because it’s impossible to grasp.

“But what you can do is to create a character that they can get to know and to care about.

“Caring about the character is really important. The story of one of those millions of soldiers is a way to remember them all.”

“It would be wonderful if schools in Devon and Cornwall could make some sort of real effort over the next four years to get their kids to France and Belgium to see the grave.

“And when they go, to go and see the German graves too, and there are more of them, because they lost twice as many people.”