Thursday, 3 January 2013

New Year, Old War

Every Christmas we sing the same sweet words, "Peace on earth, goodwill towards men," and every January we wake up to find that the war is still going on. Nobody takes a blind bit of notice. I wonder how many of us can even name one serviceman or woman who has been killed in Afghanistan in the past twelve months.
The war seems to serve only one useful purpose. Whenever Prince Harry does something particularly disgraceful he is sent out there to do a stint at the front as penance. Now that he is once again serving in Helmand province, an Afghan warlord has launched a bitter verbal assault on him, but oh dear, most of what Gulbuddin Hekmattyer says is true, at least it is hard to deny.
"Britain dragged herself into this unjustified, useless but cruel conflict to please the White House. The British did not gain anything, instead they lost blood and treasure." Well, he's got a point hasn't he?
"I do not understand how the British public accept their children being sent to certain death in order to please American generals." Hmmm, although it's not certain death, it's got a lot of deadly risk in it.
Mr Hekmattyer boasts, "Today the scenario of Afghanistan is like that of one year before the withdrawal of Soviet Union. The Americans and their allies are tired of fighting. They can neither bear the casualties nor the expenses of this war any more. They are left with no other option except withdrawal." Well said, Gulbuddin, if you could only desist from base personal insults towards our soldiers, I think you would merit your own TV channel.
Afghanistan has become, as Nigel Farage once said, our Vietnam. The targets of killing Osama Bin-laden and wiping out the Al-Qaeda training camps have been met and now we linger on in the futile hope of establishing a friendly democracy. The Russians are not the only great power to have found that Afghanistan is impossible to conquer. The British Empire and Alexander the Great found the same thing.
We are there because of Labour's stupidity, which the Coalition government is determined to surpass. And this is not just a problem of one nasty, pointless war generating limbless veterans and grief-stricken bereaved families. There is a lack of coherence and consistency in our policies. We expect our troops to serve in a series of dangerous foreign wars but we do nt have a realistic force that could defend this country. Defending ourselves is the only moral justification for having troops and we are neglecting it. Seasoned veterans come back from serving at the front and are given redundancy notices, because we are cutting down our defence spending. Then we advertise for army recruits. Why? Without the army to take over security duties, the Olympics would have been a fiasco. Yet we are dumping skilled, trained soldiers on a stagnant job market and leaving them homeless. The Americans are bombing Pakistan yet we imagine we can win the Pakistanis as allies by giving aid to their tyrannical government. To fight the Taliban in Afghanistan is pointless. We should concentrate on stemming the spread of their ideas here in the UK.
I only hope that by this time next year, January 2014, we are not stuck in the same rut and that something will at last have changed.
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