You voted for this ridiculous war, Reid. So go fight it

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Skynet, Aug 21, 2007.

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  1. From The TimesAugust 21, 2007

    You voted for this ridiculous war, Reid. So go fight it

    As the architect of Helmand dozes safely at home, my challenge Martin Samuel
    The Israeli airline El Al famously provides the most comprehensively tight security in modern travel. Passengers are told to arrive at the airport three hours early, and can be interrogated for 20 minutes in the case of low-risk travellers and anything up to two hours for those that cause concern. There is unapologetic racial profiling and each bag is screened twice before being loaded on to an aircraft that will have anything from two to five armed marshals on board.

    Double doors separating the pilots from the crew and passengers are shut before boarding begins and do not reopen until the plane has been cleared at its destination. Reinforced steel surrounds the cargo and luggage hold and El Al is the only passenger airline to employ anti-missile counter-measures. As a result, despite being a prime target, it last suffered a successful terrorist attack on one of its planes 37 years ago.

    Yet, despite all this, the world’s most safety-conscious airline still has a final trick up its sleeve. At random, it will select one of the personnel involved in the security process and hand them a ticket, too. You say this plane is safe, Amit, you get on it. Now wouldn’t that keep you focused on the monochrome television by the X-ray machine? No dozing off, no glazed looks or mumbled did-you-pack-the-bag-yourself when flying from Tel Aviv. No wonder those guys are switched on.

    We should try that with politicians and wars. You backed the war, pal, now share the experience. Select a minister at random to pop across and see how it is going for himself. Not one of those air-brushed trips, posing in a flak jacket and barely venturing beyond the presidential palace now converted to a Nato HQ, either. I’m talking your very own foxhole and set of binoculars for close inspection of the situation. Pass that law and we would no longer be steeling for another three decades in Helmand. If ministers had to accompany the troops, we would be back home by Monday week, tops.

    The British Army in southern Afghanistan is now consuming bullets like at no time since the Second World War. The casualty rate is even higher, considering the small size of the force. Captain David Hicks, killed in action this month, became the seventh member of the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment to die in four months. And this was the mission that John Reid, the former Defence Secretary, brayed might be completed without a shot being fired when he committed 3,700 troops with a stroke of his pen in 2006. He should have gone, too, shouldn’t he? He should have got that random tap on the shoulder and his fare to an ant-infested crater in a desert, with a one in 36 chance of an early transfer to a body bag. “Give us a call from time to time, John Boy. Tell us if it living up to expectations. Is that gunfire I hear in the background? Well, fancy. Still, best push on. Next time you want to make any judgment calls on military strategy, you know where we are.”

    In the way that Peter Cook was the comedian’s comedian, so Reid’s Helmand campaign is the foreign policy disaster’s foreign policy disaster. It is one for the purists; one for those who thought the Iraq war was close, but no cigar. From its humble beginnings as a justifiable mission to find Osama bin Laden, overthrow the Taleban and rebuild a nation in 2001, it has moved on to various scattergun targets including reconstruction, defeating the drugs trade, winning hearts and minds, combating insurgency, mentoring a new Afghan army and police force, building another new nation (we left that last one half-finished, like all bad workmen), redirecting local agrarian policies and providing Afghan women with education. Most consistently it has been a terrifying fight for survival.

    As it stands, this is the British Army in the centre of some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet, saying, for reasons that have long ceased to be understood: “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.” And come they do: from Pakistan, from Iran, from Chechnya, even from the budding martyr community of Britain. There is a jihadists’ convention taking place in Helmand valley, and British soldiers are hosting it.

    Politicians pop in and out and lay smokescreens and rationalise the insanity of another unfolding catastrophe (and there really is no excuse, because we walked the same road so recently in Iraq), but far from nearing a solution, the predicament worsens. Any hope of winning in a recognisable way faded in 2002 when the focus of the fight against al-Qaeda was diluted by the distraction of Iraq. Returning to the country in numbers in 2006, ministers drastically underestimated the strength of the Taleban – “the remnants, a dwindling force”, Mr Reid called it – glibly sending some 4,000 men into a region where the Soviet Union lost 120,000.

    Since then we have traded in contradiction and falsehoods. Kim Howells, a Foreign Office minister, said that Britain was there to “defeat the drugs trade”, the link between Helmand’s poppy fields and the funds for insurgency freely admitted. By July 2006, Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, was calling the Taleban response “unexpected” (although plenty had advised against the occupation from the start, given Helmand’s reputation as a graveyard of colonialism). Most recently, while talking blithely of a turning point against a background of record poppy crops, Mr Browne claimed: “Our forces are not a narcotics police and never have been.”

    Government statements on Afghanistan rely on the population suffering a collective memory wipe. As the purpose of the mission becomes clouded, so its justification becomes contrary. There was a time, post-9/11, when this was a winnable war with simple objectives. Now everything is in retreat: the end and the aims. Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British Ambassador, says that it will take 30 years to make a significant difference to the region; or 40 million bullets at the current rate of use. A few more than predicted by Mr Reid, who has now retired to the backbenches, where he can doze off safe in the knowledge that the ticket to ride that should be his reward for this calamity will never come.

    If ministers had to accompany the troops, we would be back home by Monday week, tops
  2. This man may have a point!
  3. That's a very interesting article. I wonder sometimes why there aren't more articles like that in the press.



    Global perspective -

  4. Yeah but the difference is that 'Amit' is probably an ex-military or intel type and an expert in weapons and unarmed combat.

    John Reid on the other hand would be too sozzled to even stand most likely!
  5. I did enjoy that article. Thanks for bringing it to my attention Skynet.

    Now, fine article that it is and embarrassing as it would be to you or I - should we be in "Doctor" Reid's shoes - what makes any of us think he would be in any way concerned by it? The man is a hack and moreover the sort of hack that gets into harness and then leaps out of the traces, just as it gets awkward.

    He apparently sleeps nights and didn't even feel compelled to take up asmoking again after this debacle. Just because he has resigned himself to the bank benches, it should not mean we all cease from criticising him and making charges of incompetence and worse moral deficiency against him. Oh and his master and colleagues too...
  6. You're right,best send John Prescott.
  7. John Reid, This is the same man who used to sing in republican pubs and clubs in and around his constituency of Motherwell and beyond.He would sing the rebel songs of Ireland and sing about getting the troops out of Ireland before he became a politician.That is the same
    John Reid Hypocrite Extraordinaire folks.
  8. Most of the baggage inspectors and first-cut interviewers are young women just out of their conscript service, some of whom are bound for a career in the security services.
  9. Biped

    Biped LE Book Reviewer

    What a nasty, unpleasant fcuk he is then. Why doesn't he fcuk off to the Vatican and become a citizen, fcuking c0ck-jockey.

    Tsk tsk, there I go again, ranting and a-raving.
  10. Hmm... interesting point about the Israeli baggage handlers but I thought the rest of the article was pretty poor...

    Soldiers are taking risks but 1 in 36 chance seems unlikely? the 'scattergun' objectives he mentions all seem interrelated to me? and the central point that in a democracy one group of people take decisions (politicians) that affect others (soldiers) is a little immature.

  11. I remember the El - Al crew getting hit in central London many years ago and I guess they have never forgotten it.

    In the early eighties I did protection work outside their embassy. You would finish clearing the area, then their people would come out and do it all over again.

    I'll say one thing for them, they are committed to the task.
  12. Why don't you go, Martin Samuels, you big, fat, pompous c*nt??