Friday, August 7, 2009

Afghanistan - A Forlorn Hope?

I sat down at my computer this morning, armed with kick-arse coffee and cigarettes to read through the British papers online. I do it every day, it's habit.

Anyway, I digress. The first item that caught my eye was the news that three more British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. Three more coffins that will be carried, in a heartbreaking convoy, through the town of Wootton Bassett, three more casualties who will generate more adonyne, meaningless expressions of sympathy from the British Government.

The whole sorry business of Afghanistan reminded me of two phrases that have been used in the past to describe military actions. To me, they're as appropriate now as they were when they were first coined.

"Lions led by donkeys" This was a saying that was bandied about a great deal during World War One. It referred to the sad fact that soldiers were being led by a pack of clueless, dithering Generals. Today, it seems appropriate to throw the British Government into the mix. A sad, telling example of this comes from a flurry of outrage in last week's British papers over the Ministry of Defence quibbling over compensation for wounded soldiers. Given the astronomical cost of keeping an army in Afghanistan, it is pathetic that the MoD was arguing over relatively small change. One of the soldiers, Corporal Anthony Duncan of the Light Dragoons, had his femur shattered in Iraq. He was originally awarded 9,250 pounds compensation. However, during a gruelling round of 11 surgeries and two years of rehab, he appealed because of the long-term effects of the injury , and received 46,000 pounds. It came out during the case that Corporal Duncan is in Afghanistan, back in action again. Outrage ensued and, mercifully, the MoD backed down. It's clear who the 'lion' is in this case. It takes some serious cojones to get back on a plane and back into the fray. Have a virtual pint on me, Corporal Duncan.

I plan to send the MoD mandarins some donkey-feed and a subscription to Donkey sanctuary newsletters. They can pick the sanctuary of their choice for their retirement home.

"Forlorn Hope" This one's been around for centuries. It refers to a military action where soldiers are chosen to take the lead in a mission where the risk of casualties is high. In my opinion that summarises the entire Afghanistan debacle. An operation borne out of a furious desire for revenge has turned into a morass of ambushes, IEDs, futility and pointless grind. As I've ranted before on this blog, history was ignored. You cannot impose a 'western' style of government on a society comprised of feuding tribes. It really is a case of trying to squeeze the proverbial square peg into a round hole. Unfortunately, the donkeys at the top are now too far into the maze and they either won't or can't find a way out. As long as they have soldiers to throw at the problem, it seems that this 'forlorn hope' will continue. As a friend of mine pointed out yesterday, the high unemployment rates must be of great comfort to the MoD. It means there's plenty of willing recruits who may have to take the Queen's schilling to support their families. Handy, that.

Anyway, that's my rant. Normal service will be resumed tonight when I get back to my writing. I sure as hell hope I don't come online tomorrow morning and find more bad news...but I think that's a forlorn hope too.

Have a good weekend, all. Have a pint or two for me. :)


  1. "When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail". Seems like another appropriate saying here. There definitely needs to be a better model. My country debates this too about, oh, every two weeks when we have another casualty. Then it's back to business as usual. :(