Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Oh What A Lovely War!

There is yet another new push in Afghanistan's Helmand Province, this time advertised as a 'final' push against the Taliban.

Bob Ainsworth, our bungling Defence Minister, has warned us all to expect more casualties. On the same day, we hear that British hospitals are struggling to cope with the growing numbers of seriously injured servicemen arriving back from Afghanistan. It really makes you wonder if anyone, anywhere actually talks to one another. Then again, different to the troops in Afghanistan, being in the MoD or Government is just an ordinary 9 to 5 day job with nothing to fear except not having your bonus paid.

On Radio Five Live this morning, Sheila Fogarty interviewed Mrs. Jane Hurry (I believe that was her surname) whose son Ross is a Lance Corporal in the Royal Engineers. Yesterday, Ross returned to Brize Norton to go back to Afghanistan for a second tour of duty after two weeks R&R. He will take part in Ainsworth's new campaign and the family shed tears on their return home after saying their goodbyes.

Ross' mum is not a political lady - she does not concern herself with why or how we are in Afghanistan but she does has great admiration for what our troops do and how they do it. She is clearly very proud of her son but equally fearful for his safety.

During his R&R, Ross visited his Captain who suffered terrible wounds and is recuperating in Selly Oak. Ross was deeply disturbed by what he saw, not just the extent of his captain's wounds but of the amount of others suffering from equally horrific injuries. I cannot believe that such thoughts and memories will not dwell upon him when he returns to duty and in the quieter moments before the battles he is about to face. Ross is a professional and he does his job to the best his ability, but there is only so much people can take in such conditions of fear and danger.

So it must not help when he reads of defence cuts, merging of armed forces and the stress on hospitals to deal with wounded. It cannot help when he looks at the Chilcot Inquiry and finds Ministers trying to justify their decisions with flawed intelligence and Government suspending democracy in order to make the biggest of decisions to follow different agendas. It cannot help him when he sees that Osama bin Ladin continues to taunt us with videos and messages. It cannot help him when he sees his comrades getting blown to pieces for the lack of armoured transport and the right kit or helicopters when we spend £1.3 trillion to save banks whose staff continue to award themselves massive bonuses which we foot the bill for.

If we are going to fight a war in such hostile territory, history shows us that you have at least to be fully committed even to stand a chance. Lady Elizabeth Butler's famous painting depicts the return of Dr. William Brydon as the sole survivor of a 4,500 troop of British soldiers after a battle - he was arriving in Jalabad after the retreat from Kabul (called 'Remnants of an Army'). The history of this region shows that no modern army has held it and yet we are fighting with effectively one arm behind our backs. An excellent blog on this is by Dr. Richard North.

Incompetence, hubris, lack of priorities, lack of plans, lack of strategy and lack of objectives have achieved only two things in Afghanistan - terrible casualties and a corrupt new Government.

We ought to hold our heads in shame - our brave soldiers on the front deserve more than the donkeys leading them from the staterooms and offices of Whitehall and Westminster.

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