Monday 21 June 2010

The Valley of Death

I have before me the words of the Reverend G. R. Grieg, an army chaplain writing about his experiences in Afghanistan. Of our presence in that benighted country he says;

A war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and stupidity, brought to a close with after a suffering and disaster, without much glory attached either to the government, which directed, or the great body of troops, which waged it. Not one benefit, political or military, has Britain acquired with this war. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembled the retreat of an army defeated.

Wait just a moment; there is something odd about this. Reverend Grieg seems to be writing from a future perspective when our troops are still there, dying by slow and awful degrees. Ah, but the thing is, you see, the Reverend Green’s future is long passed; he is writing here in 1843, writing of the first Anglo-Afghan War.

Still, the elements are there, the elements of a possible future. Why are we there, what are we doing, why are our soldiers dying? Do you know the answers to these questions, because I most certainly do not? I no longer believe the lies we were told about this operation being vital for our national security. If anything it has made matters worse.

Although he was out of step with official government policy, I completely agree with the sentiments of Liam Fox, the British Defence Secretary, that Afghanistan is a broken thirteenth century country; it will always be a broken thirteenth century country. The only thing it’s good for is opium and fanaticism.

I don’t think most people in Britain and the United States realise how bad things are, worse, even, than the later stages of the Vietnam War. I described the conflict once as the war of the Elephant and the Ant: the Elephant kills in great quantities but is overwhelmed by the Ant’s multitudes.

We don’t hear so much now about General McChrystal’s much vaunted ‘surge’ for the simple reason that no sooner had he ceased surging than the Taliban ants regrouped. Now, according to Pentagon reports, the government of the corrupt Mohammed Karzai controls only 29 out of 121 key strategic districts. We have been here so many times before: most of the countryside is controlled by the enemy while heavily-armed western troops are restricted to large towns and other strongpoints. Our soldiers are dying to prop up a puppet in Kabul, not even a particularly grateful puppet.

Yes, I feel sorry for the women who will have to live under the rule of the appalling Taliban, feel sorry for the girls who will have to grow up illiterate and ignorant, feel sorry for all of those who will have to descend back into darkness and obscurantism. But that is not our business. Afghanistan belongs in the thirteenth century, a time from which it will never emerge. This place is the anus mundi; it always has been.


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  3. Oh why, oh why, I hear you cry.
    Same here actually. I can't swallow the "breeding ground for terrorism" explanation, especially since the Pakistan border region was where this activity took place and had ideological backing. So what are we doing there? Is it for the smack?
    One theory that floated around was that the allied forces are there to keep an eye on the Russians, who have become quiet powerful of late and may be considered a threat.
    Who knows. But I agree with you, bring the boys and girls back home, where they belong!

  4. Cameron has willingly made this rod for his own back and he deserves everything he gets for it.

    Why did he big up his NSC before the election if policy was going to be "do what the last lot did"?
    He cant even claim the weak defence of "yeah, the men are dead because I was too busy fixing the economy", He held a meeting and agreed this was his ideal policy. Madness!

    There are mistakes in the Chaplians writings, we had a reason to invade the first time, and we had a reason to invade the second.

    Our first invasion was hampered by the fact that we didnt understand the realities in Kabul till we arrived with an army, the Ruler of Kabul had no power in the south and little power in the North.
    Our second invasion was launched to punish the Taliban for 11/9, and by God that we did, it was then for Blairs Vanity that we tried to transplant secular democracy and Wimmins Rights.

    But what can we do, Cameron has said its essential to British security that we create a secular democracy that respects wimmins rights.

    Another 50 men will die this summer, and come next year, nothing will have changed, but victory will be declared, and home the survivors will come.

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  7. Unfortunately It was one I had already used.

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