Death is awful. Death meted out by humans more so.
I imagine myself on the battlefield, shivering, having signed up thinking I would be part of a show of strength, something proud, against darkness and evil, and I would come home. Realising that my 'fight' - a competition to see who can throw away more warm, living, loving bodies - is against an enemy just like us, doing what they believe to be right, and the only way I can get through this is to throw more bodies down in front of me. Bodies that were men and women, bodies that had favourite foods and hopes and loves, it's them or me. If I believe enough in what I was told I mow them down like meat; if not I roll over and die. Those are the choices.
I don't know how you come out of that human. I would melt down in that situation.
So I have time and comfort and support and love for conscripts, for people who didn't know what they were getting into, for people who signed up and regretted and ran. People who did dark things, trapped in those dark places and tormented after, throughout history and now; those people I feel for so much. For them I would wear a poppy, if it helps the dead at all. I have always felt that the most relevant part of the 'glorious dead' was the 'dead' part.
But not all soldiers are forced, not here, not now. Some come to it voluntarily, some enjoy it, some don't question or realise what they are doing. It's a profession that attracts bullies and sadists. People who choose to kill people. I cannot support that. Those people are the willing arms of those who lead us into war, they are the muscle that lets them do it, and every body sent home is another reason to fight more, because they dared attack our brave lads. (Our brave lads who firebomb them nightly.)
Enlisting soldiers are, at best, a tool for governments to play at popularity, at machismo, at aggression. And the cost of using these tools - of psychiatric care, of rehabilitation, of physiotherapy, of funds for dependant wives, husbands, children, parents - should fall to charity? Governments have little in the way of morals - an organism reborn every 4 years has little time to develop a conscience - but the need for a cold hard line of cash to repair their toy soldiers might make them more cautious about breaking them. But no, a shaking donation bucket and a white feather shame campaign is the way to support children without fathers and fathers without legs or sleep.
We have sent our soldiers - all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds signed up for all kinds of reasons - into war based on misinformation, lies, and reputation; lacking intelligence, weapons and resources. They killed tens of thousands of civilians - the Iraq Body Count alone stands at more than 115,000 civilian deaths. We murderered and we created murderers and a paper poppy is not enough to staunch that wound.
A red one won't even show the blood.
('But what about the World Wars?' 'Those soldiers died to keep us free!' 'You can only say that because the soldiers keep you safe'..
1. It's impossible to establish what would have happened if we hadn't gone to war, or if we'd fought differently, or smarter and with less deaths. Noone can know what would have happened.
2. The fact that you need to go back to 1945 to cite a war that is commonly accepted to have justification does not inspire my confidence in military policy and practice over the last 70 years.
3. If my country can go to war based on no evidence and without a democratic mandate I'm not sure how free I am.)