Sunday, November 15, 2009


It is sometimes best to let the statistics tell the story and the news from Afghanistan is that the death of a British soldier in Helmland this morning means that the number of British military personnel who have died in Afghanistan since the start of operations there in late 2001 is now 233However, the picture of what is really happening there only emerges on a closer look at how those statistics are broken down.

Only sixteen months ago we were lamenting the 100th fatality when three paratroopers were killed in one day in early June 2008. This means, of course, that in only sixteen months 133 have died and 96 of those 133, the 'Guardian' informs us have been killed this year, or in other words, in the last eleven months.

However, the dead are only part of a bigger picture that emerges through articles like the one in the 'Independent' on 30th of August this year: "Shortages of helicopters and surveillance equipment mean troops are only as safe as far as they can see with their rifle sights or binoculars. The Taliban also know it and are careful to lay their lethal mines and improvised explosive devices just out of sight. Soldiers work on the basis that every time they patrol there is a one in four chance one of them will die. Privately, senior British officers say they currently work on the assumption at least a "limb a day" will be lost." Furthermore, the same article claims that the number of those leaving the services with "neurotic disorders", including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), has soared and that "Successive governments have had a very poor record and have cut, cut and cut again the care for our service people. Having to rely on the NHS is not good enough. It has no capacity to deal with the extra people who need medical attention, and all this has been compounded by the reluctance of the MoD to admit how big the problem is."

Therefore, what we have are politicians who are not only content to send young British soldiers to their deaths for a lie but are also failing to support them both on and off the battlefield. Unfortunately, we live in a culture where they can actually do this with impunity. 

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