Sunday, October 19, 2008

Battle Lines Drawn Over Afghanistan

The hopeless and unwinnable war in Afghanistan is under fire again, as the government prepares to spin its way out of the Iraq frying-pan and into the Afghanistan fire. It is no coincidence that foreign secretary, David Miliband writes in today's Sunday Times with a weak case for keeping troops in Afghanistan, while new defence secretary, John Hutton, makes a "surprise visit" to Iraq. 

The UN mandate for US-UK led occupation of Iraq runs out at the end of the year. And the timetable for withdrawal has already been agreed by Baghdad and Washington, as part of Bush's legacy. 

The troop numbers game still has to be played out though, as the government here continues to use the Iraq troop numbers as a political tool. Brown's sudden appearance in Iraq during last year's election that never was, with a troop withdrawal announcement that never was, still leaves a bitter taste.

Miliband in the Sunday Times begins with the classic schoolboy device so beloved of spinners to capture an argument. 

"Christina Lamb is an excellent journalist. But...". He then goes on to try to rationalise why UK troops will continue to be sent to the killing fields of the new Vietnam. 

Lamb, a seasoned corespondent, made a powerful case for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan "What a Bloody Hopeless War" in last week's Sunday Times, backed up today by Simon Jenkins, once a lone voice, in what is called today this "mad war" in Afghanistan.

If Miliband had stuck with just praising Lamb as "an excellent journalist" and stopped there, he would have been right and his case for war demolished. 

The Orange Party has made no secret of its distaste for the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, warning back in July, that this was a war that could never be won and was developing into the new Vietnam

Fighting a Bush-Blair war on two fronts will go down as one of the most expensive and politically disastrous follies of recent decades and the most outrageous loss of life and human suffering since pompous generals and politicians ordered Tommy over the trenches at the Somme.

Troops will be withdrawn from Iraq, leaving a small historically traditional base, to that tightly controlled timetable, to coincide with when the government feels it will give them the best political advantage. 

Switching troops to Afghanistan will continue to escalate, until ministers stop copying Blair and his "taste for war". 

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