The disastrous deployment of the British army in Sanguin is ending in an entirely predictable defeat. The incompetence and futility of these operations has been remarked here for the past three years. This has been an engagement of ignominy in which lives on all sides have been wasted for absolutely nothing. It will end with the British army retreating under a covering fire of spin.
Britain’s hopeless, careerist generals and dim officer corps are to blame as much as the politicians who dispatched them. The Americans will now take over and they will probably do better, since unlike the British, they learn from their mistakes. But it is now too late. The battle in Sanguin, like the wider war, is entirely unwinninable, as not even the criterion for victory seems available.
The Defence of the Realm blog has as good an analysis as any.
Peter Galbraith says Hamid is a smack head.
Calais – 22 January, 2010
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset hates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lighting, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
-“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus
He is saying the attack on Kabul will fail. But it succeeded. The Taliban are saying that 20 of their fighters – the number believed responsible for this morning’s operations – are equal to 20,000 foreign soldiers. I wish I could say they were equally delusional.
The Greatest Empire the World has ever Known
Today’s Times newspaper speaks of British forces handing ‘control’ of Helmand to the Americans in March. This is dishonest so many ways. In a story that is transparently briefed by the MoD and informed by the usual suspects, we are asked to believe that the British are in control of anything at all, when it is obvious the British Army is not in control, but has been soundly defeated.
Britain has already previously suffered imperial defeat in Afghanistan so it takes a government of special genius to come back for a second helping and an especially stupid and/or craven media not to notice when a tiny little event comes along to ruin the good war narrative – like we lost.
The full stupidity and horror of British Army operations in Afghanistan has yet to be fully documented but it began with promises from the government that maybe not a shot would be fired. Then, a million bullets later, British officers were boasting how many Afghans they were killing. Then, the British were unable to move, because Gordon Brown had cancelled the helicopters, as the Taliban drove the soldiers back to bases from which they would emerge only to be immediately killed and maimed by mines.
A number that must now be close to 2,000 British soliders have been maimed, killed and driven mad and thousands and thousands of Afghans have also been killed, maimed and ruined in Helmand. Only for the situation to be worse. Thanks to us.
With at times no helicopters at all, the vainglorious, counter-productive operations of the Bitish army are entirely consistent with the press-on-regardless, even if it’s not working tradition of a fighting force that has been entirely incompetent for much of the past century, and with a long-time proven track record of failure against Muslims. That brave young lives have been wasted is to the shame of not just the politicians but also the senior leadership of the forces who value their careers over candour.
The result of the Bitish operations in Helmand is a place where far from there being any evident progress, everything is measurably worse, and a military-media-industrial complex has emerged to ensure that the truth about this is concealed. I am not reading about this in The Times.
The big stories like Afghanistan show how the important media in Britain and the United States are now almost entirely unreliable. The Times, a flagship of the Murdoch empire, a global media brand, is merely one example of the institutions that have become ethically and professionally diseased, their pages given over to stories invented by people whose motives and agendas are undisclosed.
Media studies is derided but every young person must be taught that they are being lied to. Academic media studies normally ignore this point.
Content analysis of media always fails because it neglects the problem of what isn’t published. It is what is not said that is really important. What is not said is what counts.
As it was not said in The Times that Obama’s insane re-launch of the failed Afghan War is not even being delivered – because after capitulating to his generals, the Pentagon is finding it not so easy to deploy 30,000 soliders to Afghanistan, where every drop of fuel must be flown in, or fought for.
Surging all these soldiers into Sanguin by March! The Times as usual is sourced from Whitehall and so none of this seems to have occured to anyone, unless I have missed it. Doubtless someone at the Times could point me to various sceptical comments but it is the position of The Times, consistent with all Murdoch media, to support the extension of wars.
The Times has refused to report that the British Army has lost its bloody war in Helmand and is now getting ready to leave while buglers sound the advance, as they did in Basra. In Iraq, too, the Times pretended a false narrative. It was obvious for months or a year that the British had been defeated – but in The Times, they pretended that we were handing ‘control’ of the City to the Iraquis!
Spasmodic efforts by the Times that might have revealed the truth have been systematically gutted as with Anthony Lloyd’s series in which a lot of this was hinted at before the conclusion was reached that with one more heave everything might be alright. So there are passages of passable journalism – but with a conclusion that is consistently perverse.
The Times failed in Iraq and it is failing again in Afghanistan.
It is not just the Times – Sky and the BBC broadcast fantasy stories from the war zones every day. The Guardian is hated most of all by its own readers. The American mainstream media is equally psychotic. But the Times, where I once briefly worked, a long time ago, is a special disgrace. If it is not Rupert’s exclusiveplaything, it is only because it is now also the sandpit for James.
Why cannot journalists tell the truth? I intend to explore this question further.
Journalists are dangerous and unscrupulous foes. I know because I was/am one. I have made more than my fair share of mistakes in the past but what I do not ‘get’ is how a newspaper that ought to be kicking down the doors (as Murdoch would have done, when he was young), has now become a satrap of government and corporate spin doctors. Murdoch is losing money on this paper and who can be surprised.
The dead hand of the print unions has been replaced by the almost-dead hand of a Rupert Murdoch and his gruesome minions building a palace to a dead religion by the Thames.
I do not know Obama but I know someone who does. One degree of separation! I know that in private, the president is funny, self-deprecating, smart. Very much you wouldn’t mind if he married your daughter. At the very least, he’s someone you’d like to invite to dinner. I heard Michelle speaks French.
But I come to bury Obama, not praise him. I think he is too nice, too rational, insufficiently ruthless, overwhelmed by the incompetence of the entire corrupt Washington polity, leader of a nation in decline, and through no fault of his own, the victim of an utterly ruthless opposition that has never accepted his election as president.
I can’t see in the health reform anything but confirmation that American congressional politics is utterly corrupt and for sale.
But it is in Afghanistan that Obama is most helpless. He has failed to control his generals and has now made his own a policy that will make everything worse. The strategic miscalulation is epic. Obama’s best hope was that he could inspire his enemies to accept that there was a better way. But they have either rejected his story or not heard it. Obama is at least not an idiot but neither is he Cicero.
How to end this spreading, insane war is now the only question.
The slough of despond
Afghanistan is a fail. Obama and his lickspittle (G. Brown) are digging deeper, pouring oil on the flames.
What will it take to admit that we have lost? Must there be pictures of helicopters evacuating the chancery staff off the roof of the American embassy?
Afghanistan is where empires go to die. After Greeks, Indians, Persians, Mongolians, British and Russians have all been defeated here, it is the turn of the Americans. If history does not exactly repeat itself, at least it often rhymes.