Ten Years Of ‘Involvement’ In Afghanistan
Imagine Britain had been invaded and occupied by armed forces from another region of the world with China, for example, as a significant ‘partner’ in the ‘coalition’. Imagine tens of thousands of Britons had been killed, and millions had fled as refugees. This is how the Chinese state broadcaster might report the invasion ten years hence:
'It’s ten years this week since Chinese forces first became involved in Britain, and more than five years since they assumed responsibility for south-east England. So what's been achieved in that time?'
These were the actual words that presenter Fiona Bruce used on the flagship BBC News at Ten:
'It’s ten years this week since British forces first became involved in Afghanistan, and more than five years since they assumed responsibility for Helmand province. So what's been achieved in that time?' (BBC One, October 4, 2011, italics added)
This is BBC 'impartiality' in action. These words were a prelude to a piece by Paul Wood, the BBC’s Afghanistan correspondent, that was a model of Pravda-style propaganda which we will examine further in Part 2.
Meanwhile, in a shameful editorial, the Guardian burnished its credentials as a hand-wringing liberal supporter of the war. Readers were told that the war that had been ‘unavoidable’ and that ‘we’ had then stayed in the country ‘through all the twists and turns imposed by events’, struggling with ‘the incoherence of our own changing policies, for reasons which have become less and less understandable.’ The paper sighed that ‘an anniversary of this kind has a sobering effect’ in that ‘we hugely overestimated the capacity of our military, diplomatic and intelligence establishments to change other societies.’ This ‘hubris was most evident in the United States, but it was not absent in Britain.’
‘The trouble’, claimed the editorial, ‘was that, once in that obscure corner, whether Iraq or Afghanistan’, coalition forces ‘were confronted by shrewd and ruthless opponents.’ Historically, invaders do tend to be resisted by those ‘shrewd and ruthless’ people in ‘obscure corners’ whose land is being occupied, and whose lives, livelihoods and resources are at risk.
‘Some Afghans’, however, ‘were indeed “like us”, recognisably middle class or western in their beliefs and aspirations, and the effect of our intervention may well have been to increase that number.’
The white man’s burden is surely lightened by that happy realisation. Especially because some of these people ‘like us’ – yes, the Guardian really did say that – ‘may have a more important role to play’ in the future. Thus reassured, ‘we can hope we have planted seed that will bear fruit later.’
The tragedy of the Afghanistan war, asserted the Guardian, is that ‘we’ stumbled into an age-old conflict not of our making:
‘The problem is not that Afghanistan is unconquerable, as some claim. It is that we, like the Russians before us, joined an ongoing conflict between different ethnicities, between modernisers and traditionalists, between social classes, and between newer and older forms of religiosity.’
Now, ‘after 10 years of muddle and mayhem’, our ‘minimal common interest’ – indeed, 'our remaining duty’ – must be to aim at ‘a power-sharing settlement’ involving the Taliban.
There was no hint from this supposed vanguard of critical and liberal journalism that ‘our remaining duty’ should involve an immediate withdrawal of our forces. No hint that this country should make some attempt at restitution for the decade of ‘muddle and mayhem’ that ‘we’ have inflicted on yet more victims of the West’s grasping and destructive foreign policy.
The Independent’s editorial derived from a similarly tortured perspective of perplexed liberalism: ‘questions about what has been achieved yield far from encouraging answers’ and ‘what little progress there has been is looking increasingly vulnerable.’
However, the editors added, ‘it would be a mistake to overlook the real advances that have been made’ such as ‘democratic elections, a written consti