Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.
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Thursday 2 February 2012


WHEN something takes the lives of up to 37,000 civilians, something is usually done.

When 2,882 soldiers are killed, someone raises concerns.

When somebody spends around £500billion on something that didn't work, questions are normally asked.

And when those in authority were warned all those things were going to happen before they even began, governments fall, people get locked up and there's a big old public inquiry.

So I'm sitting here waiting for the announcement that the White House and Downing Street, and Dubya and Blair, Rumsfeld, Rice, Cheney, Robertson, Hoon, Reid and all the other people who thought war in Afghanistan was a fabulous idea are going to be hauled in front of a panel of pissed off people, debt-ridden citizens, bereaved relatives and limbless soldiers to explain themselves.

I expect I'll be waiting a while.

But just for the record, the 11-year war which was launched purely and simply to find and punish the relatively-small number of people who planned the 9/11 terror attacks has so far killed thirteen times more people than died in the Twin Towers and in financial terms cost 38 times as much.

And that's without counting the 12 journalists killed for reporting it, or the veterans' medical bill, and the decades of welfare payments.

In return for our input Afghanistan has seen small but not-to-be-sniffed at improvements in terms of immunisation programmes, public education, roads, transportation, women's rights and some almost-democratic elections which means its parliament has one of the world's highest proportions of female representatives in the world, at 28 per cent.

It also has the fourth most corrupt government on the planet, three quarters of the civilian casualties were killed by their own countrymen, and things like this still happen:

So it's not exactly an unqualified success.

Now a leaked report for US military commanders, compiled from prisoner interrogations, reveals the entire thing was a waste of time. The Taliban will regain control when troops finally leave in 2014, the population prefers the certainty of fundamentalism - emphasis on the mentalism - to the vagaries of a corrupt elite installed by the invaders, and the new Afghan army and police force we've been busy training were in fact Taliban all along.

Oh, and the whole insurgency has been funded, backed and arranged from Pakistan from whence, students of history might like to note, the earlier Afghan civil war from which the Taliban emerged was also masterminded.

Worse, none of this was a surprise.

Experts in Afghan matters were lining up to point out the problems of an invasion, but because this didn't fit in with "HOO-AH! HUT HUT HUT" they weren't paid much attention to.

If only George 'What's a Dubya?' Bush had taken time to read the predictions of Professor Paul Wilkinson of the University of St Andrews, who wrote a book called Terrorism vs Democracy in 2000. It mentioned the possibility of suicide plane-jackers, and when interviewed by an enterprising journalist six days after 9/11 Prof Wilkinson went on to say that war was a bad way of dealing with these particular fanatics.

He said: "There is no simple military panacea for dealing with this phenomenon. It is a much more subtle, sophisticated mixture of political, diplomatic, criminal justice, intelligence and other activities such as sanctions. Intelligence in a free society is at the heart of a successful strategy to defeat terrorism.

"The general strategy has to be a multi-dimensional one. It cannot depend entirely on military force. That has never worked in the whole 30 year history of modern terrorism."

(Only that didn't happen.)

In case anyone had trouble understanding, he went on: ""Sending troops into a country like Afghanistan with its very hostile terrain is a dangerous task. These people know their mountains and their valleys, every rock and every cave... The death of innocent civilians... would decrease international support for America and increase support for bin Laden."

(That did happen.)

And finally Prof Wilkinson pointed out: "A powerful democracy like the United States, with its strong underlying principles for the rule of law and upholding human rights, should not desert the moral high ground."

(Well that didn't... oh.)

Perhaps the powers-that-be took no notice of Prof Wilkinson because the above interview appeared in the Birmingham Post. Maybe they ignored every other expert saying exactly the same things in their own departments and to other news organisations because they were all a bit deaf, blind, dim, or just as fundamentalist as those they thought they could defeat with bombs rather than brains.

But I suspect the main reason they didn't pay any attention was because they were too busy cock-waving to do any damn thinking.
War costs, words don't.