IWM’s ‘War Story’ – The Story?

IWM London’s ‘War Story’ Exhibition – iwm.org.uk

The Imperial War Museum says that it seeks to “draw on the experiences of people from all walks of life and try to reflect the total nature of war.” And, yet, repeatedly, the Museum’s actual exhibits side-line the voices of the victims of conflict and those who speak up against it.

The latest example is the Museum’s “War Story” project, supported by the Ministry of Defence and the arms manufacturer, Boeing. A current recent IWM promotional flier for the project states that “War Story” is an attempt to “record the story of the war in Afghanistan”, which commenced in October 2001. Flip the flier over, or read their website, however, and you see that the project is actually about telling the British armed personnel’s story of the Afghanistan War – only.

IWM is inviting British armed personnel and their families to send material to the Museum that sheds light on their experiences of “Operation Herrick”, from photos to diaries to bits of kit. IWM wants “to build a collection of the experiences of war in Afghanistan, which we will use in our research, publications and displays to tell your story both now and in the future.” The MOD has already donated a war trophy in the form of a motorbike allegedly apprehended from Taliban fighters.

My most pressing concern – which is a concern for anyone who cares about historical accuracy – is why the voices of the Afghani people impacted by Britiain’s involvement has been excluded from this project. The Imperial War Museum’s remit is to cover British and commonwealth involvement in conflict since WW1 – but by its own admission, it cannot do this in a scholarly and true way unless it reflects the “total nature of war” – and the voices of the victims, especially civilians, is paramount to such a venture. The Afghani people’s country has been bombed, invaded and occupied for over a decade since the 2001 attack, with tens of thousands directly killed by the violence.

Then, there is the voices of Afghani security forces and translators who supported the invading forces. Will they be heard in this project? Certainly, the project’s literature does not seem to target them. Given the involvement of the MOD and weapons supplier, Boeing, will the dissenting voices of British servicemen and women be given a platform in “War Story” – those who disagree with the war and occupation?

Britain’s story in the Afghanistan war cannot credibly be told solely by British armed personnel voices, let alone, solely by those British voices cherry-picked by the MOD. The remit of IWM’s “War Story” project must expand if it is to be a credible historical record. The most pressing need to is to incorporate the voices of Afghani civilians into the project.

I have put these concerns to IWM via warstory@iwm.org.uk.



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