Thursday, November 5, 2009

One minute to midnight

The writing really is on the wall! Today, the 'Guardian' reports that the UN is  moving 600 of its 1,100 staff in Afghanistan to a secure location outside the country for at least three weeks and that a full withdrawal may follow. No reall illusions in the UN anymore and certainly none of the sort entertained by Washington and its allies.

The move is officially in response to the murder on the 28th of October of five UN workers in a pre-dawn attack on a Kabul guesthouse. However, five British soldiers being killed by an Afghan policeman a few days later must have gone a long way to compound the "international community's" belief that a strategy which is based on extra troops and civilian support is just not working. The Afghan government is corrupt and doesn't enjoy the broad support that is necessary to tackle the insurgency and we can only hazzard a guess at the extent to which Karzai's security forces have been infiltrated. Moreover, it doesn't take an Einstein to deduce that throwing more troops into a cauldron that is essentially the result of an on-going civil war is going to make Afghanistan safer. It is almost like throwing oil onto the fire and it would appear that the UN understands this. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that there are those in London who share this perspective. For instance, it was reported yesterday that Kim Howells, an ex-Labour minister and Intelligence and security committee chairman, has called for the "great majority" of British troops to be withdrawn.

Of course, the real problem is that there is no strategy for withdrawal and certainly none that will consider the well-being of ordinary Afghans even if Kim Howells gets his "properly planned, phased withdrawal of troops from Helmand province." For as far as the Whitehall mandarins and their political masters are concerned, this is about the "war on terror" and not about the people of Afghanistan. They will be dropped like a hot potato and, ominously, Kim's further suggestion that Britain use the money saved, not to build hospitals and schools, but to secure its borders and gather intelligence on terrorist activities inside Britain, will be taken to heart.

The future does not look rosy for the people of Afghanistan and in Britain the perennial "war on terror" will be accompanied by an even more omnipresent "Big Brother":
"It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen". In which Winston Smith questions the totalitarian system in which he lives. Big Brother is watching you." The gobbledegook, the newspeak, the killing of innocents, the manufacturing of consent, the surveillance, perhaps we can follow Winston's lead before it is too late but, believe me, it is already one minute to midnight.

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