Wednesday, July 08, 2009

How Many Deaths Will It Take?

The government is pulling out all the stops with a shamelessly spinning charm offensive to con the public as troops are sent to their deaths in the Afghan killing fields. But that comes with a stark warning that more lives will be lost in the hopeless, unwinnable war. How many bodies will it take to force war-mongering ministers to stop the senseless slaughter?

Another soldier has been killed in Afghanistan bringing the total number of dead to ________ .

Death by numbers. Dutifully recorded by the media and graphically underlined when the names of those killed in the past week are solemnly read out in the commons.

A soldier from the Light Dragoons is the latest to be killed. That death is the seventh in a week. That brings the number of UK service personnel killed in Afghanistan to 176.

Few bat an eye lid. That's left to the grieving families. Now the public is being told by the government more lives will have to be lost. More poor souls will have to be sacrificed. More lambs to the slaughter.

The new Vietnam is living up to its legacy. In the end the US wasn't defeated by the Vietcong or North Vietnamese. It was defeated at home on TV when night after night an endless parade of boxes and body bags, finally turned public opinion.

As the government tries to face up to increasingly tough questions in the face of an increasing death toll, lowly new jobsworth defence secretary, Bob Ainsworth, has been given the hapless task of justifying this hopeless, bloody and unwinnable war.

Already dubbed by military chiefs as Bob "Aintworthit", he's way down the cabinet pecking order as he tries to win over hearts and minds for the new Vietnam and tries it on with another round of spin.

How on earth can anyone justify an unwinnable war against an invisible enemy with a meagre number of ill-equipped troops, struggling with woefully inadequate numbers of helicopters and properly armoured vehicles?

But justify it he will have to, as cheap-skate Brown is saddled with a mounting legacy as he begrudgedly funded Blair's wars and a mounting cost in both lives and equipment as he comes under fire from all directions.

One the one hand he's getting the flak for sending a paltry number of ill-equipped troops to their deaths on the one hand. On the other trying to justify another bloody war to the grass roots true Labour party members and increasingly sceptical public, who question what the hell he's doing sending troops out there in the first place.

There's little consolation even from commanders on the ground. Things will have to get worse before they get better, apparently. That cuts no ice with grieving families left to suffer a relentless round of spin and cuts no ice with an increasingly questioning public.

Every death brings renewed demands from the military top brass for a big increase in troop numbers, more helicopters, well-armed vehicles and better quality kit. Every death brings grief. Every death raises more questions. Every death brings fresh demands for a fresh approach.

All have their hands dirty. No one will come clean. But with no full defence spending review until after the election, Brown can neatly brush it all under the carpet and set a trap for the Tories to sort out the mess.

What is the purpose? Eradicating poppy fields, protecting gas and oil pipelines, propping up the huge US defence industry, halting the rising tide of fundamental Islam, propping up a corrupt regime or bringing rigged pro-US 'democracy' to a country which puts tribal loyalties well above an artificial state?

Current flavour of the month is "the front line battle against terrorism". Winning the fight against the shadowy Taliban is apparently "in the UK's national interest".

But time and again opinion polls show the public hasn't got a clue why the UK is in the country at all and have real doubts that this war is winnable. Political commentators and some MPs are starting to openly question what we are doing in Afghanistan and whether we should pull out now before being sucked in further to a bloody, hopeless unwinnable war.

It took a long time for the US to come round to the harsh reality that the Vietnam War could never be won. Here in the UK and in the US some politicians are starting to heed that dreadful lesson.

But if you are going to invade another country, then put your money where your mouth is, instead of the current New Labour spin trying to wage a piecemeal war on a peacetime budget in a country crippled with debt.

The Orange Party has long drawn parallels between the war in Vietnam and the current bloody mess in Afghanistan. The parallels are deeply disturbing. But so far there has been no great 'troops out' movement as there was with the Iraq war.

Perhaps people don't understand or don't care about the true massive scale of the conflict and the bloodshed, or prefer to bury their heads in the sand.

Families of the dead and the wounded deserve better. What a sad state of affairs when only a mounting tally of the dead will force that change in the tide of public opinion and force politicians to sit up and listen.

Top picture: The coffin of Major Sean Birchall of 1st Battalion Welsh Guards is carried during his funeral from the Guards Chapel of Wellington Barracks in London today.

No comments: