Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Moment For Us To Say Thank You

A short post here, since it doesn't take long to summarise the issue.

When the nation hauls its ruling class into church to pretend that our dead soldiers from the Afghan War gave their lives for any reasons other than political expediency and the deranged idiocy of our lunatic former Prime Minister, we're not honouring anyone or anything.  What we're doing is lying to ourselves - imbuing our most terrible errors with a nobility that they absolutely do not merit and validating all future repeats of the same awful mistakes.

The urge to recognise great sacrifice is an understandable impulse and I'm fully in favour of people who have lost relatives commemorating their loved ones privately, however seems best to them.  Huge state memorials full of pomp and circumstance are another matter, however.  They have wider and less laudible aims.

We can honour our dead and wounded but as a nation, it's vital to our ability to come to terms with the reality around us that any public event relating to the occupation of Afghanistan prominently recognises that the entire operation was utterly needless and doomed before a single squaddie so much as set foot in the region.  The armed forces didn't protect the people of this nation from any threat in this enterprise, not because they failed, but because there was no serious threat in Afghanistan to protect us from, and no serious prospect that any action on their part could have made the world a noticeably safer place.

The men and women that we lost in Afghanistan were killed because we elected Tony Blair, a vainglorious fool who wrongly believed that he could impose the force of his own towering morality upon the world.  We owe these people a debt not because they defended us from danger, but because we hired a fantasist to command them.

I realise that some might feel that it's more complicated than that, but it is not more complicated than that.

I fully understand why people generally and the relatives of the dead in particular would like to think that it was otherwise, but it isn't and no stately pretence is going to make it so.


13 comments:

john b said...

Not sure I wholly agree. Taliban Afghanistan was the actual base of Al Qaeda back in the days when they existed, and managed to blow up New York quite successfully.

The distinction between "replacing an evil scumbag regime that backs bombing the west with an equally evil scumbag regime that doesn't" and "spreading democracy and freedom in the Muslim world" is important, but I think you're pushing it to argue that the initial involvement in Afghanistan wasn't useful in the former sense.

flyingrodent said...

I'd say that logic dictates that we should instead have bombed Hamburg.

john b said...

Um?

flyingrodent said...

The 9/11 hijackers, also known as "the Hamburg cell" due to them coming together in Germany.

Although curiously, not known as "the Saudi 9/11 hijackers", despite most of them being exactly that, rather than Afghans.

john b said...

It was pretty clear after 11/9 that there was a state that offered Al Qaeda explicit support and a physical base to do whatever the hell they liked, and there was separately a state that provided funding and support to Al Qaeda and also most of its senior people, whilst also being a gigantic trading partner of the US and UK.

Overthrowing the House of Saud is the single Middle Eastern war that I object to the least, which is to say that it's still a terrible idea.

But that isn't the same as literally having the biggest anti-western terrorist organisation with training camps on your territory. The fact that AQ have managed nothing major since 9/11 reflects the fact that AQ is now a brand, and not a training agency where Mujahadeen and Chechens get to train Saudi punks on how to kill people competently in large numbers.

flyingrodent said...

The fact that AQ have managed nothing major since 9/11 reflects the fact that AQ is now a brand, and not a training agency where Mujahadeen and Chechens get to train Saudi punks on how to kill people competently in large numbers.

While I don't mean to minimise the hysteria in 2001 (and probably couldn't if I tried), I do have to note that a few beardy idiots swinging on ropes and shooting targets in the arse-end of nowhere looks, in retrospect, fairly unthreatening to the rest of the globe. To note this again - most of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi via Germany, rather than Kandahar, and the UK and Spain bombings weren't hatched halfway up a mountain at Tora Bora.

If you offered me a return to the global situation circa 2001 right now, I'd take it immediately. It would be really shit for a lot of Afghans, but perhaps less so for Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis and so on.

More broadly, I can entirely understand why the US invaded Afghanistan, although I understand not at all why they thought it was a good idea to occupy the place for fourteen years.

And it seems to me that UK's involvement in the invasion was transparently political rather than militarily essential, since the US was well capable of doing all this without us. I'd say that the UK troop presence amounted to providing the local Pashtuns with some non-American targets to kill, in order to paint a veneer of international unity on the idea and to lessen the political pressure on the White House.

Meanwhile, other nations dropped a few hundred people into the conflict here and there, but few of them were daft enough to throw their lot entirely in with the Americans. We were, though.

Anonymous said...

Given that the basis of UK democracy is the delegation of powers - that is, that we elect people to take decisions on our behalf - I cannot see that we should not honour those who give their lives in that endeavour.

Of course I reserve the right to disagree with those decisions, but I cannot find it in my heart to disrespect those who in good faith died on our behalf.

organic cheeseboard said...

Off topic, but since there's no more Aarowatch I've nowhere else to say this - you might have noticed that our Ollie Kamm has a book out. Therein he makes the case, apparently, for grammar being a continually shifting thing, and thus goes against the Lynn Truss/other people idea that there are rules that should be followed.

That's nice, and it's broadly my position on grammar. But it does seem a really weird thing for Kamm to have done, given that fairly recently he was deciding that people were only worth paying attention to if their grammar was entirely correct, going so far as to write a weekly column called 'The Pedant' for the Times where he usually got the rules he was so fond of wrong. Also funny to see him being praised (by Nick Cohen among others) for referring to academic sources on linguistics - a while ago he was specifically denying any knowledge of linguistics and relying on others to have a pop at Chomsky over that...

flyingrodent said...

Of course I reserve the right to disagree with those decisions, but I cannot find it in my heart to disrespect those who in good faith died on our behalf.

That's why the suggestion here is that we could just apologise to them for sending them off to Helmand for no sane reason, so that Pashtun militiamen could take potshots at them.

That's as opposed to regularly getting all of the people who sent them there together in a room to solemnly agree that actually, it was all a grand idea.

After all, we've been doing the latter about WWI for about a hundred years and our belligerence doesn't seem to be getting any more rational.

you might have noticed that our Ollie Kamm has a book out.

I find the weird obsession with grammar and cliche a bit odd myself, not least because the errors that Kamm and e.g. Rentoul tend to commit are logical rather than linguistic ones.

Anonymous said...

"That's why the suggestion here is that we could just apologise to them for sending them off to Helmand for no sane reason ....."

If you read the books written by various generals, or stuff by think-tanks, or even read the press carefully, you can see that no-one knows who made the decision to send the troops to Helmand in 2006, or why, or what the ToR of the mission was.

"I find the weird obsession with grammar and cliche a bit odd myself, not least because the errors that Kamm and e.g. Rentoul tend to commit are logical rather than linguistic ones."

Yes indeed.


Guano

organic cheeseboard said...

well the grammar 'obsession' is a way around having to deal with logic, right? Kamm's blogpot on Hari is evidence of this - Kamm spends a paragraph detailing the gramamtical error Hari made, failing miserably to actually explain the error, but thus avoiding the need to deal with argument, fact etc.

Ditto discussions of 'banned cliches' - easy way of avoiding reading problematic things, surely. To whit the Decent aversion to sentences containing the word 'but', unless Decents produce them, of course.

ejh said...

Well if we're all thread-diverting to feed our pet obsessions, this is almost relevant to Kamm/Hari.

chris y said...

you might have noticed that our Ollie Kamm has a book out.

Good Lord is he still alive?