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Can Brown convince the doubters?

Nick Robinson | 17:56 UK time, Friday, 4 September 2009

Losing the argument over Britain's continued involvement in Afghanistan is much more of a concern for Gordon Brown than losing the defence secretary's aide, Eric Joyce.

The two are, though, connected.

Today's restatement by the prime minister of the war's mission, his defence of the resources he's committed to it, and his outlining of an exit strategy was planned long before Mr Joyce resigned but his resignation highlighted why it was needed.

Downing Street has watched with concern as polls show only around a third of the public back staying in Afghanistan whatever the cost, whilst a third want withdrawal now, and a third to see it within a year. They've been anxious about a growing split with some in the military. They've disliked a campaign in the Sun newspaper under the headline "Don't they know there's a bloody war on?"

The prime minister is hinting that fewer British troops will be needed IF more Afghan troops can be trained fast enough. BUT, the military are warning him that - in the short run at least - that will actually mean sending more soldiers to do that training.

Today, once again, people lined up on the streets of Wootton Bassett to pay their respects to the two latest fallen soldiers to be flown home.

The test of the prime minister's speech is whether he can convince at least some of the doubters that the losses and the pain were worth it.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Nothing to do with keeping terror off UK shores and everything to do with keeping in with the Americans.

    It's an unwinnable war - always has been, always will be, and many have tried and failed before now.

  • Comment number 2.

    Can Brown convince anyone of anything, anymore?

    No!

    Unless of course they're completely stupid and have absolutely no understanding of the meaning of the words honesty and integrity.

  • Comment number 3.

    I am interested in the apparent focus on the currant bun.

    Maybe I am displaying real political naivety, but does it really matter what the Sun trumpets?

    If it does, then that would seem to indicate a pretty sad level of political understanding by that part of the electorate.

    It may once have been the case of 'it woz the Sun wot done it' but I would have hoped that the electorate might have become a tad more sophisticated in the interventing period.

  • Comment number 4.

    In answer to the Sun's question. No, I don't think they do.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    "Can Brown convince the doubters?"

    No.

    ". . . his defence of the resources he's committed to it"

    Should that not read

    "his defence of the resources he's NOT committed to it"?

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    In twenty years we may be able to look back and say whether our time in Afghanistan was worth it, but we are simply unable to say that at the moment. Brown does not have the luxury of waiting so long however, he has to say the right thing now to keep voters on his side this close to a General Election.

    We should have learned from Northern Ireland that terrorism does not simply go away when faced with soldiers. The end of the troubles only came with much political effort.

  • Comment number 9.

    It's a little difficult to know exactly what Brown's strategy really is.

    "Each time I have to ask myself if we can justify sending our young men and women to fight for this cause. And my answer has always been yes."

    That's the problem. If you truly believe that YOU are the one person who needs to be asked, you're likely to get the answer you want.

    - Brown should ask the Afghans exactly what they plan to do to help themselves.
    - He should ask - then respond to - the military about exactly what they can achieve given required numbers of troops and equipment.
    - He should check with Pakistan whether they can genuinely address the "Taliban problem".
    - He should thump the desk and ask what's the point of having NATO European forces mopping up costs but not allowed out after dark.

    And at least be honest enough to say that the "problem" won't be resolved for at least a decade.

  • Comment number 10.

    3. JohnConstable wrote:
    I am interested in the apparent focus on the currant bun.

    Maybe I am displaying real political naivety, but does it really matter what the Sun trumpets?
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Yes, apparently so mate.
    Just heard a Radio 4 interview with the Sun Rep who recons that he speaks for millions of people.
    Think the guy needs to go back & top up on his pils (sic).

    Ever seen the sketch with Jasper Carrot where he points out all of the errors in a Sun report about his family?
    He could rehash it now, pointing out that they wont have much of a chance reporting on Afghanistan.

    Then again, as a scouser, I wouldn’t believe anything the Sun has to say anyway.


    Brown & the Sun, Best Friends Forever.

  • Comment number 11.

    Nobody knows whether pacifying the Taliban will bring respite from terrorist attacks, either here or in Europe. Not because the Taliban are not dangerous to us, but because nobody can predict the future.

    But it's reasonable to conclude from their previous actions and current statements that the Taliban intends to remain a threat. Especially to newsworthy cities like London.

    Other European countries free-ride on the back of USA & UK efforts. If our efforts work, they will claim that an absence of attacks means our efforts were not worthwhile. If they suffer terrorist attacks, they will claim it's not their governments' fault. So it's not an easy win situation for the UK.

    My net assessment is that the risk of a Taliban inspired attack on Londoners is far too high for us NOT to be seeking the defeat of terrorism in Afghanistan. So press on!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Can Brown convince the doubters? The short answer is 'No'. For two reasons, one is that the argument that the war is necessary in order to keep the streets of Britain safe is completely unbelievable. The opposite is true, it's more likely to result in terrorist attacks seeking revenge. The second being that the public no longer listens to Gordon Brown. We know it's a political war, again fought on the coat tails of the Americans.
    It's a terrible tragedy that lives are being lost because politicians can't admit the war is un-winnable and would rather cling to power that face that fact. Ask the Russians.

  • Comment number 13.

    It was blatantly obvious Brown was reading a speech put together by some nameless and unqualified civil servant wholly lacking in military experience. I also wondered whether Brown had actually read the darned thing before he started reading!

    'We will send 200 EOD experts' became "we will at the same time remove 200 infantry soldiers to keep force levels and expenditure the same!" No one believes Brown anymore and Joyce jumping ship in an attempt to save his skin for reselection in Falkirk where he is detested will not save him or this rotten Labour government who ALWAYS put party first never country. Brown NEVER makes a decision unless he can gain party advantage from it and stuff the people who die as a result. In the olden days he would be charged with treason and sitting in the Tower by now.

  • Comment number 14.

    I don't think any of the "Man of the World" type reasons for being in Afghanistan stack up - in particular, I don't see how it's making us (or anybody) one iota safer from terrorism - quite the opposite, if anything - no, I don't buy any of that stuff - the much better angle (IMO) is a moral one - the Taliban, in their ignorant and disgusting treatment of women, have placed themselves beyond the pale - it's every bit as bad as apartheid South Africa - unacceptable, which means cannot be accepted - therefore the cause is a good and noble one, if we see it as a fight against the oppression of women - has particular resonance (or should have) in a country like ours which has made substantial progress in that particular area over recent years, courtesy of people like Harriet Harman - so I'd like to see our involvement "rebranded" along those lines - a war of liberation on behalf of Afghan women - trouble is, it's hard to see how we can win militarily without using so much brute force that the only thing we end up truly defeating is the object - I was a "troops home" person until just a couple of minutes ago, but now I'm not so sure - (1) ramp up and really go for it? (2) pull out? (3) carry on as we are? - it's such a difficult issue - not sure there's even a Clown consensus on this one

  • Comment number 15.

    I actually read the Sun with the headline "Don't they know there's a bloody war on" and I have to say that it was a very powerful piece of journalism.

    They are right to say that MPs and ministers are swanning around on holiday without a care in the world whilst our troops are dying. Far too many politicians regard this as an inconvenient difficulty happening somewhere far away. Most of them have absolutely no idea what is happening. Gordon Brown has indeed abdicated responsibility for the war to Bob Ainsworth! That's how seriously he is taking the war.
    The Sun were absolutely right to highlight these points, and to say that if Gordon Brown could not provide the leadership required for this war, then he should step aside and allow someone else to be PM who could.

    The issues regarding kit, helicopters etc are well documented, but appointing someone of the calibre of Bob Ainsworth as Defence Secretary is the final straw and an insult to the country. It's not that long ago that the role was being done part-time. Gordon Brown is hopelessly out of his depth here, where real leadership is required. He should resign, and I would go further and say that the Labour MPs who are keeping him in his position are just as much to blame. Shame on them all.

  • Comment number 16.

    How and why did the UK get drawn into the war in Serbia - How and why then did the US get drawn to the war in Serbia and save Blair's reputation?

    How and why did the UK get drawn into Afghanistan in 2001 and what were the war aims at that time?

    How and why did the UK get drawn into the 2nd war in Iraq - what was the connection?

    Why did Brown not clarify the UK commitment as part of a larger coalition force to the campaign, since the election of President Obama?

    It seems to me that the UK is still paying a very high price for satisfying egos and saving reputations.

    Sometimes when a decision/strategy is wrong - someone somewhere has to admit that and save unnecessary loss of life.

    The UK may be trying to be the world's policeman but millions of people, in the UK, do not feel reasonably safe walking, alone, down the street at night - even outside their own homes!

    A misplaced sense of priorities?




  • Comment number 17.

    Until the strategic objective changes to winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people and changing the cultuure that has managed to thwart every invader then and only then will the possibility of a peaceful country even come on the agenda.

    Most wars are lost not due to lack of military might, but lack of will of the people. Until the Afghan people want the West, Russia, anyone more than they want rid of their warring, tribal way of life this country will continue to be what it has for the last few hundred years.

  • Comment number 18.

    When Gordon Brown speaks nobody listens because the trust has long gone. Does he think that we have forgotten those words from John Reid a few years back about no shots being fired? If we are not careful Afghan will still be going years down the line. Perhaps he should ask the Russians for some advise on Afghan.

  • Comment number 19.

    No one buys the "keeping terrorism off the streets line" anymore - it is insulting to our intelligence to keep re-iterating this sort of drivel.

    However if we share Hilary Clinton's "responsibility gene" we must accept that by our actions we have changed the situation in Afghanistan and encouraged people to act against the practices of the Taliban on the basis that we will protect them. We cannot in those circumstances just turn our backs on the Afghanis and in particular the womenfolk and leave them to the mercy of the Taliban.

    As someone with little time for Brown, in fairness I have to say that the responsibility for much of this lies with Blair and I have never been convinced Brown has been fully behind the war.

  • Comment number 20.

    Afghanistan is the 30 million poverty stricken almost illiterate people. They are keen on finding their next meal and keeping a roof over their head. What I did not hear in Gordon Brown's speech was any reference to improving the lot of the people.

    Backing one unpleasant dictator over another is too redolent of Iraq (under Saddam), Vietnam (under Nguyễn Văn Thiệu) and Chile (under Pinochet) to be a viable strategy and that is my worry. Where is the talk of bringing education and jobs to the Afghan people, where are 'our' mullahs!?

  • Comment number 21.

    @14 Sagamix wrote:
    "I'd like to see our involvement "rebranded" along those lines - a war of liberation on behalf of Afghan women "
    I share your abhorrence of the way the Taliban treat women and you might even be right that such a cause justifies our involvement and loss of life. Unfortunately, if we rebranded our efforts as you suggest we would instantly lose 99% of the support we currently have from the only people (sadly) who matter in Afghanistan, the men. Just check out Karzai's record on justice for rapists and their victims.

  • Comment number 22.

    As was seen in Iraq it was a fairly easy job to defeat an army but very hard to beat terrorist organisations which have a never ending supply of recruits and drug funds. We are supposedly world experts after all the years fighting the IRA but there has been no sign yet of overall defeat of the Taleban. I object to hearing people say that we are at war with the Taleban. If we declare war on anyone we must , as in the last war, fight as a country with conscription etc and high production levels of the weapons needed to absolutely flatten the enemy. The current half hearted approach will never work and we shall continue to have troops killed albeit relatively low numbers compared to 39/45 when on some single days we lost more lives than all the years against the Taleban.

  • Comment number 23.

    Brown has lost all creditabilty and I doubt anyone now trusts him, his days are numbered. He will end up as a disgrunteled back bencher, if he is fortunate enough to get re-elected as a MP, Which I feel could be touch & go.

  • Comment number 24.

    I decided to read The Sun's piece 'Don't you know there's a bloody war on?" on the web.

    There is a veritable litany of complaints and I am certainly familiar with the one about the battlefield radio system (Bowman) as it was the last thing I was involved with in the military before I quit in disgust back in 1992.

    However, accepting that the MoD is 'not fit for purpose' and that the overall political direction is woeful, supports my assertion that our so-called allies in NATO/EU must get more involved in Afghanistan.

    We are simply do not appear have the military capabilities or the political will (sadly demonstrated in Basra) to do all that is asked.

  • Comment number 25.

    #20 - John_from_Hendon

    Not making light of you post, with which I am inclined to agree but how on earth did you get the bot to print those accents? - just once more please for we more simple minded:-)

  • Comment number 26.

    I find it odd that over the years Al Qaeda and the Taliban - originally separate - have become merged by those in the west . So much so that Al Qaeda is very rarely spoken of , it's all Taliban now. So what are we doing ? originally this war was against Al Qaeda ( to satisfy the US's desire for revenge - which we were 'requested ' to join) , the Taliban being merely a hindrance in this effort . So will someone please tell me where Al Qaeda is/are now? - if here it is because of the folly of the adventurism of Blair and Bush in this part of the world . The threat to this country has never been greater than since the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq . In that respect Brown is correct , because of the folly of this government since 2001 , we are a terrorist target and we have to try and eradicate it . Talk about shooting oneself in the foot!!!

  • Comment number 27.

    I suppose the thing really is, after all the dust settles from a speech which didn't carry much conviction, from a man who seems to have outlived his role as news broke that St Obama thought Brown was yesterday's man...and he "connected" with Cameroon...how long do we have to put up with no leadership

    I'm no great fan of The Sun, but at least they are standing up for our boys out there

    Even after the speech, are we any clearer on the "mission" or why our boys body count increases whilst Brown hides on holiday?

  • Comment number 28.

    I seem to recall the original mission in Afghanistan was to destroy the terrorist training bases supported by the Taliban after the 11 / 11 outrage. This war aim was rapidly achieved by the military power of the United States supported by the UK. Then political hubris took over, and we are now find ourselves in a terrible mess with no escape route in sight. I suspect the only real way out is by hard fighting, defeating the Taliban in the field and forcing them to the negotiating table. This means fighting, using such weapons as mines for area denial, air launched smart munitions, infantry assaults upon their camps, and even, God forbid, napalm, fuel air bombs and chemical weapons to kill them in their caves. And providing the manpower to do it. And providing the funds to do it. Then, negotiate a workable peace, and allow the Afghans to surrender without too much loss of face, and get out. The current political party leaders are incapable of doing this, we need another Eisenhower or Churchill.

    Once out, re-equip and refit, support our Armed Forces and Industry. Fund them properly, but not over generously, keep them lean and mean. In future, use a style of tactics used by the Israelis, find them, go in hard, kill them, get out.

    This is the true and shocking face of war, and those who commit Nations to it must be very sure of their intentions – they will one day have to answer to “He who is most Holy”.


  • Comment number 29.

    Intersting tha he asks himself if we are doing the right thing being in Afghanistan, and he answers himself with a " Yes" .
    He'll be chatting to God next and then he'll tell us that God will be his judge ,just like another despicable creature.

  • Comment number 30.

    14. sagamix wrote:

    "I don't think any of the "Man of the World" type reasons for being in Afghanistan stack up - in particular, I don't see how it's making us (or anybody) one iota safer from terrorism - quite the opposite, if anything - no, I don't buy any of that stuff - the much better angle (IMO) is a moral one - the Taliban, in their ignorant and disgusting treatment of women, have placed themselves beyond the pale.."

    =

    No place for archaic beliefs like theirs... but by that reasoning we would have to declare war on a few other Muslim countries. Granted not many are as extreme as the Taliban but a few of our 'allies' deny women their human rights.

  • Comment number 31.

    Diabloandco @ 29

    Mr. Brown says he is asking himself if we are doing the right thing by being in Afghanistan and answering himself in the affirmative.

    Maybe he should be considering a slightly different question along the lines of "Do our resources (in the very widest sense of the word) match our commitment in Afghanistan?".

    Then he should ask the military top brass (not himself) for their blunt opinion and if the answer is "No" and he should take immediate steps to scale back our commitment whilst simultaneously insisting that our so-called allies in NATO/EU pick up the baton.

  • Comment number 32.

    First Afghan War 1839 to 1842
    Second Afghan War 1878 to 1880
    Third Afghan War May 1919 to August 1919
    USSR Afghan Invasion 1979 to 1989
    Fourth Afghan War 2002 to Date

    That is a partial statement of history. The results have been the same many dead and withdrawl.

    Brown's view is to try the same approach as in Iraq, train up the locals then get out and leave it to them. Not quite sure how that will make UK any safer as we are then relying on others to do this for us. Pakistan on the other side of the border is also having problems and they have a more educated military.

    Brown is just trying to find shortterm solutions that will address criticism from the Sun ("The paper that won it"). Turning up in Afghanistan just after the article appears convenient.

    We need serious politicians to address this very serious problem. This Govt rules by soundbite and it just doesnt work.

    Who is paying the price; the military are and they are doing as they are told by a collection of spin doctors. They cant give a truthful straight answer to any question.

    Call an election. Let us get a government in that has the authority to govern which this current administration does not have. Then maybe some serious solutions can be found quickly.

  • Comment number 33.

    TBG @ 30

    by that reasoning we would have to declare war on a few other Muslim countries

    well I take a dim view of Islam (indeed most religions) but the Taliban is a cruel and unusual perversion - Turkey, for example, is a Muslim country and you can't move over there without tripping over a woman who's a senior executive in something or other - they're considerably more advanced than we are, in fact - and no, I certainly wouldn't suggest we start a new Rumble somewhere else just to maintain the internal logic of the argument - we are already, like it or not, involved in this one ... in Afghanistan ... and it's a special case for that reason - no easy answers though, that's for sure

  • Comment number 34.

    The problem is we made a mistake in the first place, the government will not admit to this so we are paying with our troops.

  • Comment number 35.

  • Comment number 36.

    3#

    To take each point in turn...

    1) Yes, unfortunately it does.

    2) Also, to our eternal shame, your supposition in this case is also true.

    3) Hah. I wish. (underlined 5 times in red pen). Chance would be a fine thing.

  • Comment number 37.

    "a safer Afghanistan means a safer Britain.." The premise is flawed, in fact it is probable that the opposite is true...The UK has been sucked into an un-winnable war...He should know with his government's experience in Northern Ireland that terrorists will never be beaten by war and in the end it will come down to negotiating with the Taliban.. and this could take 30 years.... how many more cortèges driving through Wooton Basset will the British public accept before withdrawal becomes politically necessary?

  • Comment number 38.

    I very much doubt it, he has lost direction somewhere,and so has the Labour Party, His intentions saeem good, as were his Party's, but everybody knows what the road to hell is paved with.

  • Comment number 39.

    33#

    Yes, because Turkey is (nominally anyway) a secular democracy, rather than a feudal, tribal collection of provinces as is Afghan.

    However, TBG does have a point. Such a rebranding would put us at odds with a significant portion of the Islamic world, a number of which we rely on not only for our oil supply, but also for buying up our debt - Islam's position on female circumcision for instance, I would venture would be one particular element that certainly would make Hattie apoplectic - if you think what has happened over the last few weeks with Libya is distasteful, you'd be really cheesed off if that particular set of events was to end up facing us. Even you mate. You're probably right that there is not a conservative consensus on the subject either, but in truth, I'm not sure many of us really expected one. Not from anyone on any bench in this parliament.

    This next comment isnt aimed at you in particular Saga, but think about how the Taleb's came into being and what the circumstances were that led to their inception - ie, after the end of the Soviet invasion, etc. Whether anyone approved of what they were doing and how they did it was niether here nor there. They filled a political vaccuum. Bear in mind what the political situation has been in Afghan for most of the last century. The Talebs were not elected into power, they siezed it. Because they were not only largely unopposed by any reasonable credible force, but also because the warlords who had been running things in the meantime had not exactly covered themselves in glory. Not to mention the involvement of Pakistan's ISI. I heard it argued the other day that Afghan's borders and composition was effectively designed to be unstable to keep apart the former British Empire's Indian interests and those of the former Soviet Russia - with a inherently unstable entity keeping the two interests apart, it suited the interests of both nations. (I hadnt thought about it before, but I think it may have some validity, but I'll need to read more about it.)

    And, like other organisations before them, in other countries, they are not all they seem and neither are the countries that oppose them. Start googling things like protection being paid to the Talebs to ensure safe passage of convoys to allow schools to be built that they then blow up (similar things happened in NI in the 1970's). Look on Michael Yons blog about how despite us losing lives sending troops to the Kajaki Dam, rebuilding the generators there, that we dont have the troop levels to protect the other power stations further downstream - the Talebs control these totally and utterly and therefore have the local populace by the short and curlies. Afghanistan is about 500 years behind the rest of the planet and democracy is never going to take root there. Anyone who thinks it will is mistaken.

    If Gordon does have an exit strategy, I'll be intrigued to see what it is. All that will happen is that they will appear to train up the ANA and the ANP and then they will leg it.

    And when they leg it, what happened in Iraq will look like a chimps tea party. The Talebs will return and it will be a bloodbath. Scores will be settled and it will revert to being a failed state and it will remain as one. This particular genie is out of the bottle and is not going to go back in. The Afghans unfortunately cannot be helped unless they are prepared to help themselves and they do not have the individual or collective will to do so. Paying a blood price with our troops is not worth it.

  • Comment number 40.

    Good evening each & Nick.

    How now, Brown? Cow?
    Over the moon, cow?
    Magic beans, cow?
    Now Brown how?
    Milch cow now?
    Low brow now?
    Or just low.
    You low.

    The thin end of the wedge.

  • Comment number 41.

    #39 Fubar_Saunders

    You make a lot of sense (unlike the political leaders of the UK).

    Afghanistan is a state effectively constructed by the agression of the British and Russian Empires (and their failure to conquer large bits of it). While the Durrani Empire from 1747 was just as bad at subjugating peoples as the Brits and Russians were, there is a need to readjust the boundaries of imperially constructed states like Afghanistan and Pakistan to create homogenous national states.

    The Pashtun (the Taliban is essentially a Pashtun organisation) deserve to have their own state. If they choose to run it undemocratically, how is that different from the Saudis?

    Any state that hosts terrorists training camps is essentially an outlaw state, and I don't have a problem with bombing those camps - though I'm not sure wheo would have bombed America's training camps for the Contras!

    As to having UK troops in Afghanistan? It is palpable nonsense, and just another example of the Brits failing to realise that they are an irrelevance in the modern world.

  • Comment number 42.

    #9 fairly

    "Brown should ask the Afghans exactly what they plan to do to help themselves"

    The problem is, who are 'the Afghans'? And who can speak on their collective behalf? The country is made up of warring factions. Even the Afghan 'government' lacks credibility due to the flawed election process.

    "He should ask - then respond to - the military about exactly what they can achieve given required numbers of troops and equipment."

    To ask the military what they can achieve is difficult when the exact aim of the 'mission' seems to be uncertain and shifting. Some people say it's about installing a stable democracy. Frankly, that is going to be very difficult to achieve, particularly in the short term. A more realistic view is to assist the de facto government to exercise better control over the country - and in particular to prevent the Taliban from gaining any ground.

    "He should check with Pakistan whether they can genuinely address the Taliban problem"

    This is the crux of the matter. The Taliban operate in both Afghanistan and Pakistan - borders are of no real interest to them. Because Pakistan has nuclear weapons, it is even more important that the Taliban are not able to destabilise the country. If the Taliban or Al Qaeda were able to get their hands on those weapons, the consequences would obviously be dire.

    Afghanistan AND Pakistan both need support - they are not separate issues.

    "He should thump the desk and ask what's the point of having NATO European forces mopping up costs but not allowed out after dark"

    Of course you are right. The problem is politicians always keep their eyes firmly on the opinion polls. There is a mood amongst many voters that this situation is hopeless, it's not 'our' problem, why not just leave them to get on with it? So, realistically, how many NATO countries are likely to commit extra troops?

    After the Iraq war and all the warnings leading up to it regarding weapons of mass destruction, people are wary and weary. Understandably, civilised people just want all the fighting to stop - particularly when they see the coffins coming home. Now, when there are warnings about the Taliban and Al Qaeda, people don't take it too seriously. It's like the story of 'the boy who cried wolf'.

    But in that story, the wolf was real. As is the threat of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and not to forget Iran.

    People seem very ready to accept the dangers of Global Climate Change, but don't want to face up to Global Extremism. In the not so distant past, wars resulted when one country threatened another. But this isn't about countries or borders. It is a global issue resulting from a violent conflict of ideologies.

    I wish I knew the answer, but ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

  • Comment number 43.

    Nick:

    I have my serious doubts that Gordon Brown can convince the doubters on the reasons....

    =Dennis Junior=

  • Comment number 44.

    If we are fortunate the equipment needed will arrive in time for the soldiers to come home in.

    When the Government announced that helicopters and vehicles would be ready in a further 18 months, why didn't anyone question the time it was to take then and the apparent long term commitment made by this bunch of idiots.

    There has never been any intention of leaving this field of conflict any time in the future.

    The theory, I suspect being..keep Taliban busy in thier back yard and they won't be over here.

    In the meantime, keep blowing up and shooting the civilians is not the way to restore peace.

    GB always evades the truth and is constantly in denial about everything. About time we got a leader we can trust and I am not sure your man Cameron's one of those either.

  • Comment number 45.

    I'm slightly concerned about Gordon Brown playing questions and answers with himself. Its slighty "Yes Prime Minister" -ish, where Jim Hacker dicates his diaries into a cassette tape recorder. He found great comfort in this as the tape recorder listened uncritically to what he said, and when played back, the tape repeated his own thoughts and ideas back to him. He found this very reassuring.


    I'm sure that Gordon Brown similarly finds great comfort what he does - and from the fact he can choose the questions he asks himself - both in subject and phrasing - comes up with an answer, decides if the answer is correct and uncritically accepts the answer without having to explain or justify it to anyone.

    Given his performance at PMQs and TV interviews, it must be the first time he's actually answered a question from anyone.

  • Comment number 46.

    So many Comments leaping on to resigned Junior Minister Eric Joyce to back up their anti-Brown/Govnt/NuLb views!

    How many had even an inkling of the existence of Eric Joyce before his resignation?
    How many realise Eric Joyce had also quit the Army because he did not get a promotion he had anticipated?

    How many now place all their vitriol around the resignation of 1 man who frankly was not as Mr Robinson tried to allude of any significance except that he resigned at such a moment?

    So what Mr Joyce thinks the Government policy in Afghanistan is misguided: If you actually read all that he said it appears nobody is doing anything the way he wants them to, so he quit. Well, that is about the only substantive thing he has done.

  • Comment number 47.

    #42, DistantTraveller wrote:
    "#9 fairly

    "Brown should ask the Afghans exactly what they plan to do to help themselves"

    The problem is, who are 'the Afghans'? And who can speak on their collective behalf? The country is made up of warring factions. Even the Afghan 'government' lacks credibility due to the flawed election process."

    Distant,

    I agree. But that was already the circumstance before the invasion, so should have been no surprise to our political leaders after the invasion.

    The Taliban exercised political control by cooperating with tribal / regional war-lords, who appeared quite happy with a rather harsh interpretation of Islam.

    Taking out the central Talib administration didn't change anything else. But surely even the US and UK governments could not imagine that simply parachuting in a reasonably tame Interim (then formal) President would change the whole landscape?

    At the least they should have demanded wide ranging regular contact with the war-lords to attempt to broker some sense of pan-Afghan co-operation. Maybe it happens? But it doesn't look as though Karzai's power stretches far beyond Kabul.

    It's quaint (or rediculous) to assume a sudden jump from Taliban - essentially strictly religious - control to the type of secular democracy that the West has only really had for less than a century. (Arguably an inclusive democracy respecting different races, cultural variations, etc is still being worked on and is a post-WWII phenomenon!)

    In the West, we accept / tolerate central governments who garner taxes and promise to spend our money better than we could ourselves. What exactly is Kabul Central spending on behalf of the people? Do they see benefits from a new style of government investing to improve the nation's future? If not, when could they expect to?

    The Taliban reflect a way of looking at society (which I don't happen to like) and could decide to sit on their hands for years before coming back in to try and seize power again. Especially if a central government proves to be corrupt (and there are worrying comments about that in the press).

    Saddam was a dictator who used brutal power to maintain relative stability within Iran. There was no evidence that he would have tolerated an out-of-control Al-Qaeda disrrupting his control. Overthrowing his centralised structure was militarily quite easy. (Arguably should have been done a decade previously, post Kuwait...)
    Post-Saddam, all the inherent tensions between religious and cultural groups will take decades to work themselves out.

    Afghanistan was never remotely close to the state of infrastructural development that even Iraq had achieved. It will take a generation for the population to work out how to create and live within a functioning political structure they are prepared to tolerate.

    Pragmatically, some federalist approach, reflecting the reality of regional power bases seems the only short-term way forward. "Take out" the war-lords and you'll just have a mess of regional conflicts that would take another 100,000 troops to combat.

    The West complains about the economic damage done by drugs. So buy the poppies at a price competitive with/higher than the Taliban or others pay - and destroy what can't be used for medicinal purposes. Set up structures whereby part of those payments is set aside to invest in "stuff" the local population needs. (That could include defence against the Taliban, as well as infrastructure.)

    Savage, maybe, but put a bounty on the head of any incursors who attempt to disrupt local communities. We're not dealing with a bit of down-town disruption on the streets of London or Liverpool... This really is more like the Wild West. The USA was not built on fine words and promises - it was savagely won before becoming a relatively civilised place!

  • Comment number 48.

    The notion that Gordon Brown is anchored in reality takes yet another hit.
    Nick, if you and other commentators want to get a feel for the reality of life on the frontline in Afghanistan for British forces.....simples......read this
    http://www.michaelyon-online.com/michael-s-dispatches/

    Bash

  • Comment number 49.

    Brown's continuing assertion that the war in Afghanistan is necessary to prevent the spread of Islamic terrorism to the UK is a nonsense.
    Indeed if he doesn't stop the New Labour ruling class's ludicrous obsession with multi-culturalism and diversity, the troops may soon be on duty in places like Birmingham, Leeds, London and Manchester, never mind Helmand Province. Wake up, Gordon. Caledonian Comment

  • Comment number 50.

    Dear Nick,

    I would far more believe GB if he actually ment anything. His reguard for the military is none, and how many funerals has he personally attended?

    The military is a drain on his resorces and he does not like it.

    Xxxx

  • Comment number 51.

    oldnat and #41.

    Re, "...UK Armed Forces in Afghanistan... another example of Brits failing to realise they are irrelevant in the world.."

    Aye!?

    What!?

    Iraq and Afghanistan exercise immense Public concern and Government time - - rightly so, for they are that 'lives at risk' augmentation of State policy and therefore the rights and wrongs are hotly debated - - however, they are just 2 relatively minor affairs in the life and direction of the United Kingdom.
    The lives lost and damaged in UK Armed Forces and by those perceived as enemies and civilians that UK Government policy instructs they aggress can never be replaced: However tragic and costly in human terms, in terms of the UK's overall situation the casualties of war are not how any Nation is measured.

    How on earth could you write so knowledgeably on the creation of Afghanistan and then so palpably unrealistically on the UK just a paragraph later!?

    UK is Member of G8 and G20 Economic forums, Permanent member of the UN Security Council, major contributor to the World Monetary Fund, substantial World Economic contributor (depending on the statistic either 5th or 6th largest economy), in top6 of World Aid provision for Food-AIDS-Medicine/Health-Disaster Emergency Services, a Nuclear Weapons power, London Financial centre 1st/2nd/3rd (depending on volume/value type) in the World, 2nd largest contributor to the European Union, leading State of the Commonwealth of Nations, populated by a multi-cultural 60,000,000 people....

    The list goes on...

    One can only assume you had the 'English' planks in your 'nationalist' eyes again and thus came out with such a ridiculous "... irrelevance in the modern world.." statement.

  • Comment number 52.

    meninwhitecoats and #19.

    Re, "..no one buys the "keeping terrorism off the streets line" anymore.."

    I do.

    It seems to me patently obvious: There are Al Queda terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan (and no doubt elsewhere where Islamic fundamentalism has a grip, e.g. Somalia and Yemen).

    Correct me if I am wrong, but, when I read the Report on the USA September 11th and UK July 7th attacks they were carried out by dedicated Islamic fundamentalists who had all been to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    This is also true of the perpetrators of attacks on Tourists and high profile 'western' used sites in Kenya, Tanzanier, Bali, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, India, Pakistan and of course Israel.
    I am sure I have forgotten some.

    You may think everything started with the Twin Towers etc., but those of us who have taken time to to look properly at world affairs concerning 'terrorism' can quite clearly see all the evidence points to a concerted Islamic fundamentalist terror movement stretching back over 2 decades.

    It does not matter a jot if Bin Laden was once on the Americans side in a war in Afganistan against Soviet Russia - - the fact is Bin Laden is now an enemy of the 'west' whose aim is the overthrow of democracy and the imposition of Islamic Sharia law - - you would do well to remember the differing lifestyles the USA and the Taliban-Al Queda represent.
    If you prefer Sharia law applied to the Human Race do stand up and say so - - that is your right under democratic methods - - the Fundamentalist of course would not allow you or anyone that right of choice.

  • Comment number 53.

    The real question here is where is the money? and one thing is for certain it cannot come from the other services.

    If we wont fund this with new money then we should make a timely and orderly withdrawl. Its simply not worth destroying our present and future maritime and air strength in order to remain in ths campaign.

    And with regard to Mr Cleggs recent call for an increase in armed forces pay he must know that any such increase can only come at the expense of remaining or future military power. This of course is the trap.

  • Comment number 54.

    46. At 09:35am on 05 Sep 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:
    So many Comments leaping on to resigned Junior Minister Eric Joyce to back up their anti-Brown/Govnt/NuLb views!

    ===

    No different to those NuLab supporters jumping on comments made by Daniel Hannan to reinforce their anti-Conservative prejudices. Get over it. What goes around, comes around!

  • Comment number 55.

    Brown is a lost cause and the Afgan "problem" is just another example of his failure to understand the reality of the situation.
    So the answer to the question is a definitive NO !

  • Comment number 56.

    My no. 5 was moderated. Heaven knows why and I haven't been given the courtesy of an explanation. By the time I have or it gets reinstated it will have lost its impetus and nobody will be reading anyway (if in fact they ever did!).

    In essence: Nobody believes what Brown says. He is the corrupt leader of a corrupt government. Trouble is if we pull out now our boys will have gone to war in vain. Dreadful Catch 22 situation.

    There is a big cover up and it is all politically driven - as usual.

  • Comment number 57.

    56 flamepatricia

    The reason we are involved in Afghanistan - oil.

    The reason we were involved in Iraq - oil.

    The reason Megrahi was not excluded from a prisoner transfer agreement as promised - oil. As confirmed by Jack Straw today in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

    Can you see a pattern here?

    It also explains why we didn't get involved in other countries with equally appalling human rights records, such as Sudan/ Darfur, Zimbabwe and many others.

  • Comment number 58.

    What really infuriates me is the continuous use of the word “we” by various Secretaries of State, ministers, and the Prime Minister of this pathetic government. As in “we are doing so-and-so”, and “we are doing this” in Afghanistan.

    How dare these people in their comfy offices attempt to equate themselves with members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. It is not them or members of their families who are fighting and dying with sub-standard equipment. It is not them who are burying loved-ones. It won’t be their children growing up without one of their parents, killed on a foreign field. I could go on, but I am starting to get irritated, very irritated.

    “We”? Pah!

    Believe Brown? If he told me today was Saturday 5th September 2009, I would ask for a second opinion.

  • Comment number 59.

    41#

    I'm not sure I would have put it quite like that, an irrelevance.

    The one line in Joyces resignation statement that does chime with me is "the punching above our weight" one where he suggests that it could well be time for this to be re-assessed. That is significantly different from being an irrelevance.

    An irrelevance is what the UK may become, in time - and if that is what both its political leaders and its populace chooses, then fine, so be it... but, as another poster put it, there are many more factors on which that criteria could be measured in addition to the projection of foreign policy.

    And, answering Nicks original question, I think that if Mr Brown told me it was raining outside, I would have to go and check to make sure it was wet. The man is a pathalogical liar and megalomaniac and is unfit to hold public office, let alone an office of state.

  • Comment number 60.

    I am not convinced that the involvement of UK armed forces in Afghanistan has (or will have) any impact upon anything happening within the UK.

    Nor am I convinced that it has any positive result overall for Afghanistan.

    It follows that I would be happy to see all our forces return to their UK bases today.

    Then perhaps we could drastically reduce 'defence' spending and redirect taxpayers' money to where it can do some good.

    Ashill

  • Comment number 61.

    59 fubar-saunders

    I agree with the term punching above our weight. At this point in time the notion of implementing a western style democrarcy in Afghanistan is a pipe dream. Maybe if the full armed forces had stayed in 2001 it could now be a reality. A post above thought of a federal system of government could exist and that holds some appeal. The remote rural areas will always revert to type, and the country is vast but with a primtive communications system.

    I personally think that the endgame exit strategy should be downgraded to what would benefit the region. The border with Pakistan is porous (always has been) and is also causing instability in the region - Iran and to a lesser extent India are very worried. Perhaps this is agitation is causing Iran to hanker after a nuclear arsenal?

    A real tangible lasting legacy could be the creation of an effective border patrol force controlling all ingress to the country and egress out. This force could also help in cutting down the drug export trade. A further incentive to success would be UN endorsement, where the UN could enforce a wide no-go area near the borders. Any Afghan troops used wouid be paid by the UN directly i.e. real money bypassing the need to Karzai and his crooks syphoning off an other income stream.

    But no Afghan politician would allow or contemplate this. The NGO's and aid agencies would raise holy hell, as they are doing very nicely out of all this. Sometime altruistic motives can also be very profitable.

  • Comment number 62.

    I personally find the most worrying aspect of the debate surrounding the war in Afghanistan and the headline resignation of Eric Joyce is the fact that the main opposition parties have no alternative agenda.

    I watched Thursday’s News-night with incredulous disbelief when both Liam Fox and Nick Clegg appeared on the programme and could have almost been reading from Gordon Brown’s book of how to appease the voters in respect of this unpopular campaign in Afghanistan. The only time I’ve actually heard a real alternative set of aspirations discussed, were comments made by members from the government’s own back benches.

    I genuinely fear that since we had the expenses debacle, the main parties have some agreement that there is safety in sticking together and braving the storm. If so this will stilt the way politics opens up debate in this country and expose voters to an overwhelming apathy in respect of their perception of actually being able to vote for tangible changes in the way our government runs the country on their behalf.

    I firmly believe that a step in the right direction would be a far more honest approach. If politicians simply came out and told us that our involvement in unpopular areas of policy are vital for the UK and offered a few home truths to back them up, it would be easier for people to make sense of what’s going on. The constant use of smoke and mirrors and shifting objectives will only fuel widespread cynicism in many areas of current policy.

    It’s high time that opposition and current government made real use of the diverse range of mediums to actually take stock of what the electorate see as priorities going forwards. I am not so naïve to think that everything that might be desired is attainable, but at least let’s have honest and open debate where a potential government can give reasons for why something would be impractical or otherwise and demonstrate that their mandate is one that is driven by the vision of shaping the UK in way that actually reflects the aspirations of its citizens. Surely that is democracy in a truer sense than what we currently have?

  • Comment number 63.

    #60

    This year:

    NHS = 100 Billion GBP
    Welfare = aprox 163 Billion GBP
    Scottish subsidy = 20 Billion GBP

    Defence = aprox 35 Billion GBP.

    Banks = Not yet fully known, but it will be more than 50 Billion GBP (Northern Rock = 50 Billion GBP = almost the Defence and Scottish subsidy in TOTAL)

    The UK is in debt, we have a lot of money to pay back, just wait until the interest rates go up again.

    The UK has committed men and women to Battle abroad whilst the boys drink themselves senseless on their welfare money every day in the pubs. Some of them are smacked out of their heads on Heroin, whilst our incompetent Government boasts that it is sorting out the drugs trade in Afghanistan. UK druggies are actively supporting our enemies in Afghanistan! And those who are doing the fighting are paying TAX to support our welfare state. What a sick joke!

    We need to cut back on welfare dependency and get people to take responsibility for their lives. I am not saying do not help those who are down on their luck or genuinely disabled or ill, but I am sick of paying out money for a bunch of layabouts who will not get off their fat bottoms and work.




  • Comment number 64.

    I was in the military for 13 years 68-81,brown is not a military man,he hasnt a clue,the staff out there in helmand are doing a wonderfull job.lions led by donkeys.brownwatch 268 days[max]

  • Comment number 65.

    #59, Fubar_Saunders wrote:

    "41#
    I'm not sure I would have put it quite like that, an irrelevance.

    .... And, answering Nicks original question, I think that if Mr Brown told me it was raining outside, I would have to go and check to make sure it was wet. The man is a pathalogical liar and megalomaniac and is unfit to hold public office, let alone an office of state."

    Fubar,

    I wouldn't have been quite so blunt.

    This whole regime has been operating since pre-1997 on the basis that since "They" know best, it's far better to tell "Us" only those bits they choose to. Because obviously "We" wouldn't want to be made aware of, or be able to understand, the difficult bits...

    That's why any government announcement is crafted to deliver a sound-bite, TV-digestible comment, but it takes a couple of days for details of the reality to be dug out by politicians and journalists.

    You'd have thought that performances in the HoC would be relatively transparent, but even there, Ministers spout stuff that skims over the surface ice but ignores or hides the difficult stuff hidden in the unfrozen waters beneath. Even Budgets are full of opaque asertions that hide nasty realities. I've never heard Brown or Darling get up and state that by using indirect taxes for a decade, which apply to all, the true tax burden weighs much, much more heavily on poorer citizens than ever.
    I really don't like that!

    It's certainly pathological spin.

    What amazes me is that, even after 11 years, they haven't worked out that the information environment they thought they could manipulate has come back to bite their bums. It's much harder to hide things away, today. So we know that Brown red-pencilled GBP1.5BIL of Forces spend years ago, leaving us short of vital helicopters and other equipment...
    Hello. What have the Iraqi and Afghan troops been short of?

    (And there are well developed anti-mine devices that could flail/cover the road sufficiently ahead of a vehicle to prevent fatal losses to the occupants. It seems many are owned by the UK Forces, they are made in the UK, but the government hasn't actually bought the mechanisms to attach them to vehicles... It's a bit like saying I bought a great yoyo, but we'll have to wait for the string until we saved enough in future!)

    The Blair/Brown/Mandelson/Campbell etc group was/is like a truly dysfunctional family that tries to present a glossy image to the outside (real) world.

    I'd never expect a "consultant" from a company trying to flog an IT system to spell out why it's going to be far more expensive to deliver than the existing customer's budget, so they should be prepared to dig even deeper in future, once the customer has signed up. (Been there.) But you do expect a bit of understanding of the risks by the customer. There has been none of that understanding for a decade.

    I'm still trying to work out how an ID card will stop terrorism, reduce fraud, ensure personal integrity, while details from the card have already been cloned. (Especially when it's not mandatory and there are no evident plans to deploy reading/affirmation devices in every commercial outlet in the UK and even the border management services is not fully equipped!) Or how an NHS system, designed with minimal involvement from the users could ever work.

    Still trying to work out how building heavily subsidised windmills, with highly unpredictable output will save the planet. Sorry, forgot that Miliband Minor is in charge. Not quite sure which science based degree he brought to the assessment of the IPCC documents (developed and published in a political - NOT a scientific - context).

    The Brits have been involved in Afghanistan since the 1800s. With no success. I'm hopeful that somebody, somewhere, is working feverishly to grapple with the social and political manoevres needed to turn a disparate group of people into some sort of cohesive society. We didn't bother with that, before pulling out of Iraq.
    But since Brown is saving the world's economy (well as an historian who focused on some obscure Scottish Labour dissident, he would, wouldn't he?) all this other stuff must just irritate him. For goodness sake, it's so hot there, he had to take his jacket off...

  • Comment number 66.

    52 ikamaskeip

    Whatever the initial reasons were, I see no correlation between keeping terrorists off our streets and the current activities in Afghanistan.

    We are not prepared to throw sufficient resource at the problem to achieve what you would like and our half hearted efforts probably have the effect of radicalising more young muslims and creating more potential terrorists.

  • Comment number 67.

    57.yellowbelly1959 wrote:

    It also explains why we didn't get involved in other countries with equally appalling human rights records, such as Sudan/ Darfur, Zimbabwe and many others.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Sudan has substantial oil reserves in the South of the country.
    The Government has used much of the revenue to build up it’s arms.
    If I recall, much of the oil is sold to China, so we don’t want to go upsetting them do we?


  • Comment number 68.

    just be thankful this government were not incharge during the american vietnam disaster.
    sadly the present government seem to be willing to bend over backward to please the american's and in my humble opinion that is just typical of a weak inept british government that has lost the plot.

  • Comment number 69.

    60#

    Like where??

    If you are quite happy for your defence spending to be cut to the point where all you can do is basically look after your own coastline - not getting involved in humanitarian relief overseas, not getting involved in getting British citizens out of areas of conflict, etc then fine.

    But next time theres an earthquake or a tsunami or famine, or if we end up with another repeat of what happened in Lebanon a couple of years ago, or if Zimbabwe is about to implode, or Iran starts threatening to chuck nukes at Israel... dont expect us to get involved. Dont then tut at the tv from the comfort of your armchair and shout "something must be done".

    Not our problem anymore.

  • Comment number 70.

    No one believes PMs any more even those few who are good workers and do a good job because there are many who do not look at Straw man Jack does not know the truth when it jumps up and bits him. Brown was not chosen over Blair because the power that be could not make him do as they please now he wants to stay in power for ever like Golum he does what the USA says why because they know were the bodies are buried over the war in Iraqi and this war now we have the Sun doing the spin soon Brown will be topless taking drivel.

    And if anyone thinks Cameron will be different think again as they brown nose as well. the USA will implode and take us with them so much for a special relationship. You reap what you sow.

  • Comment number 71.

    #47 fairly

    "The Taliban exercised political control by cooperating with tribal / regional war-lords, who appeared quite happy with a rather harsh interpretation of Islam.

    Taking out the central Talib administration didn't change anything else."


    Yes, I think that's tight - although it could be argued even if the war-lords were 'happy' with the Taliban, it doesn't follow that the long-suffering population were. But simply removing the Taliban without anything in its place just leaves a vacuum.

    But I think it is a mistake to think of the Taliban as merely an Afghan problem that doesn't affect anyone else. They have already made considerable headway into Pakistan, a country with nuclear weapons (unfortunately).

    The extremist ideology behind the Taliban and their brothers-in-arms, Al Qaeda, is not restricted to just one country. It is in essence a blueprint ready for world-wide export and is the motivating force behind Al Qaeda's brand of international terrorism.

    Those who say "it's not our problem, let them get on with it" are unfortunately burying their heads in the sand.

    It's a timely reminder this week that appeasement seldom works as Neville Chamberlain eventually realised 70 years ago. Most people are rightly against the idea of war and armed conflict. But the question is, what should we do when we are faced with this kind of global threat from people who do not share our values?

    I don't have the answer, but I think doing nothing is simply postponing the the problem. Meanwhile, whilst we would sit and watch, they regroup and build up their forces. And continue brutalising the population.

    Regarding drugs, you say: "So buy the poppies at a price competitive with/higher than the Taliban or others pay - and destroy what can't be used for medicinal purposes. Set up structures whereby part of those payments is set aside to invest in "stuff" the local population needs. (That could include defence against the Taliban, as well as infrastructure.)"

    Yes, I think this is an excellent proposal. At least that way, less drugs would make their way onto our streets. Perhaps in time, if the farmers were free of the Taliban, they could eventually be persuaded to grow some other crops, more useful to the local community.


  • Comment number 72.

    71#

    The buying up the opium idea has been mooted before. Unfortunately, one underestimates the lobbying capabilities of the major international Pharma firms. What, buy up all that opium and push the price of legitimate opiate drugs down even lower? Less return for the shareholders?

    Yeah, they'd all vote for that..... Not!

  • Comment number 73.

    We rushed into Afghanistan with the US in 2001 as a reflex response and without thinking it through properly. We did the same with Iraq in 2003. On both occasions Brown was a reluctant participant because of the financial implications which has resulted in continuing under-resourcing because of his reluctance to fund the armed forces properly. There is no clear evidence that either action makes our streets any safer from terrorist activity. We need either to agree a gameplan and resource it properly or to pull out. Our troops do a fantastic job but they do not get the support they deserve from the government and take too many casualties as a consequence.

  • Comment number 74.

    yellowbelly1959 and #57.

    With no 'oil' in Afghanistan worth meantioning.... No, I can't see the pattern you're referring to?

    If you have other details of some mysterious oil find that we've all missed do let us in on it.

  • Comment number 75.

    Afghanistan is war without end. A war in which there are no limits to british dead. How many more processions of union flagged draped coffins have to go through wootton bassett before the people of this country say ENOUGH. End this carnage. END IT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!. r.i.p TO THE 392 combined total is iraq and afghanistan

  • Comment number 76.

    meninwhitecoats and #66.

    Sorry, but as I've already made claer I do see a correlation between the campaign in Afghanistan and safety on the streets of GB and every 'western' nation.

    That you and I disagree on the perspective is how it will have to remain: Suffice to say I support the lamentable PM Brown Government's Defence policy and you do not. Come the next General Election who will you vote for as Cameron and Clegg have expressed exactly my view that our first line of defence is currently in Afghanistan (and probably Pakistan in the near future).

  • Comment number 77.

    #72, Fubar_Saunders wrote:

    "71#
    The buying up the opium idea has been mooted before. Unfortunately, one underestimates the lobbying capabilities of the major international Pharma firms. What, buy up all that opium and push the price of legitimate opiate drugs down even lower? Less return for the shareholders?

    Yeah, they'd all vote for that..... Not!"

    Fubar,

    The pharmas make the delivery of medicines to the NHS extremely expensive. I rather expect a GOVERNMENT to take sensible decisions, regardless of the commercial interests of particular companies.

    They may not vote for that - so what? I don't believe that any major pharma would drag itself away from the NHS teat - do you?
    OK, one of their own (who negotiated a very good sole-distributor deal just before the UK government bought massive quantities of stuff) may raise objections. But I rather think that, as the NHS is told to prepare for significant income drops, somebody has to get a grip.

    Naive? Yep. But if any decent government, with a teeny-weeny bit of commercial understanding, told the pharmas that they would no longer be able to rely on rubbish negotiators from the Ministeries to deal with, I'm still optimistic that costs would drop like a stone.

    Why are drugs supplied to US commercial health companies bought in the UK at many multiples of their local prices?

    This rediculous back-scratching co-operation between Ministries and companies is simply reflected in the number of former ministers who end up with (surprise) jobs or consultancies with the companies who supplied their departments.

    I'm really pro-business. But there is a completely "unreal" commercial attitude within the Westminster village. If sensible people couldn't cut at least 5 percent of cost from central government, they shouldn't even pass a Business Studies A Level..... I'd aim for 10 percent as a realistic and very short-term target, with reductions over the next decade. It's going to have to happen anyway, as the UK doesn't have the money to continue spraying cash around like a drunk on a Saturday night. Even if Blair believed that a 24-hour drinking culture would "change the attitude" of the people!!!!

    Funny that he works for a Bank now. Odd that he never bothered to properly regulate them.


  • Comment number 78.

    Just to add to earlier comment #71, the discussion about whether to intervene or not to intervene is of course nothing new.

    Talking about threats to Czechoslovakia in 1938, Neville Chamberlain described it as "a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CAAqfS8lUQ

    Understandably people do not want war. However, there is a moral dilemma when facing a brutal, extreme ideology. Do we intervene, or do we do nothing and hope the problem will go away? In the case of Czechoslovakia, the Czechs were left to their own fate. It was only after Poland was invaded that Britain decided to act. As we now know (and was understood by many at the time) ignoring or appeasing evil does not work.

    The situation today is very different, although the moral questions remain the same. The Taliban and Al Qaeda do not have huge armies as the Germans did in 1938. Global extremism is exported through terrorism rather than armies fighting on battlefields.

    For those who think the ideology is based on relics from the past, they should understand the methods of delivery are very much 21st Century.

    How should we respond to the threat? I wish I knew...

  • Comment number 79.

    #72 Fubar

    "What, buy up all that opium and push the price of legitimate opiate drugs down even lower? Less return for the shareholders? Yeah, they'd all vote for that..... Not!"

    Given the billions spent on the conflict, attempts to destroy the crops, as well as the cost to the home economies of dealing with the huge illegal drugs trade, arguably western governments could fund this and probably still save money. I wouldn't expect individual pharmaceutical companies to negotiate with Afghan farmers. The West could just buy up the crops and destroy them. Not ideal, but it would be a pragmatic approach.

  • Comment number 80.

    74. At 4:39pm on 05 Sep 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:
    yellowbelly1959 and #57.

    With no 'oil' in Afghanistan worth meantioning.... No, I can't see the pattern you're referring to?

    If you have other details of some mysterious oil find that we've all missed do let us in on it.

    ===

    Glad to help, obviously you haven't heard of the TAPI gas pipeline, Unocal or Centgas? I have posted some links for you to bring you up to speed. Hopefully knowledge will then outweigh sarcasm!

    http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/679670

    http://www.atimes.com/c-asia/CK24Ag01.html

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2017044.stm

  • Comment number 81.

    74. At 4:39pm on 05 Sep 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:
    yellowbelly1959 and #57.

    With no 'oil' in Afghanistan worth meantioning.... No, I can't see the pattern you're referring to?

    If you have other details of some mysterious oil find that we've all missed do let us in on it.

    ===

    A little tip for you, try reading people's posts properly. I never said Afghanistan had its own oil and gas reserves, I said the reason for the invasion by the US with us on their coat tails was oil.

    "America has wanted a new government in Afghanistan since at least 1998, three years before the attacks on 11 September 2001. The official report from a meeting of the U.S. Government's foreign policy committee on 12 February 1998, available on the U.S. Government website, confirms that the need for a West-friendly government was recognised long before the War on Terror that followed September 11th:

    "The U.S. Government's position is that we support multiple pipelines...
    The Unocal pipeline is among those pipelines that would receive our
    support under that policy. I would caution that while we do support the
    project, the U.S. Government has not at this point recognized any
    governing regime of the transit country, one of the transit countries,
    Afghanistan, through which that pipeline would be routed. But we do
    support the project."
    [ U.S. House of Reps., "U.S. Interests in the Central Asian Republics", 12 Feb 1998 ]


    "The only other possible route [for the desired oil pipeline] is across,
    Afghanistan which has of course its own unique challenges."

    [ "U.S. Interests in the Central Asian Republics", 12 Feb 1998 ]


    "CentGas can not begin construction until an internationally recognized
    Afghanistan Government is in place."
    [ "U.S. Interests in the Central Asian Republics", 12 Feb 1998 ]"

  • Comment number 82.

    #69, Fubar.....

    After Mumbai and the way the Artic Sea slid through the English Channel without anyone noticing whilst under control of pirates I would be careful to suggest we even control our own backyard, the UK is wide open to a maritime attack.

    If we want to protect our coastline we need a Royal Navy that is configured to do it and at home!

  • Comment number 83.

    yellowbelly1959 and #81.

    And here's a little tip for you: Try reading your own Comments:

    Quote from your #57 "..the reason we are involved in Afghanistan - oil.."

    Nowhere in #57 do you mention the USA!

    In #81 you have 3 or so lovely, interesting quotes of your own - - none of which refer to #57 - - all of which fail to actually uphold your 'oil' is why UK is on US 'coat-tails' in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    The oil pipeline route is an issue that has been under discussion at national and international level for 2 decades: It would seem eminently straightforward that a pipeline through a Taliban governed Afghanistan is about as sensible as one through Saddam Hussein's Iraq would have been.

    Why you would think quotes about a preference for a 'democratic government' was somehow shocking or cynical eludes me!?

    Here's another tip: When you see a precipice ahead apply the breaks and divert to another course.

  • Comment number 84.

    83. At 6:25pm on 05 Sep 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    "The oil pipeline route is an issue that has been under discussion at national and international level for 2 decades: It would seem eminently straightforward that a pipeline through a Taliban governed Afghanistan is about as sensible as one through Saddam Hussein's Iraq would have been."

    ===

    Thank you for confirming my point that the reason we are in Afghanistan, as lap dogs for the USA, is oil.

    ===

    "Why you would think quotes about a preference for a 'democratic government' was somehow shocking or cynical eludes me!?"

    Because neither we, nor the USA, have the right to impose our values on other nation states. If imposing democracy is OK, why have we not invaded Saudi Arabia yet?

    ===

    "Here's another tip: When you see a precipice ahead apply the breaks and divert to another course."

    Here's another tip, try proof reading your rants. Did you mean "brakes" by any chance?

  • Comment number 85.

    In answer to Nick's question, 'Can Brown convince the doubters?" - the answer can only be no. This is nothing to do with the merits of the case, but because Brown and his wretched government cannot be trusted on anything and no one believes what any of them say any more.

    For example:

    As reported August 22: Mandelson says there was no deal over Megrahi, and any suggestions that the release of the Lockerbie bomber was linked to a UK-Libya trade deal are "offensive".

    Reported September 5: Straw says said trade was "a very big part" of the 2007 talks that led to the prisoner deal with Libya.


  • Comment number 86.

    77#

    FOM, I completely agree with you. Your analysis and prognosis - pharma's making drugs expensive because they know the NHS will pay the price and then ration the issue of such drugs to the patients - hey, they dont care, so long as they get paid - is spot on.

    Vested interests, as you rightly point out. We could, I firmly believe, have had both a cure for the common cold and the electric car, probably 50 years ago. However, the big international oil and pharma conglomerates have a significant amount of influence. They are not going to do anything to interrupt those revenue streams.

    You are right that there should be a political solution. Unfortunately, that requires both altruism, a sense of public service and most absent of all, qualities of leadership. As you're no doubt aware, companies, particularly those who supply governments, exist purely to make money.

    There is not a shred of altruism, ethics, doing anything for the greater good - if a requirement for something the government is going to buy is not specified properly, a prospective supplier isnt going to say during negotiations "oh by the way, that sub-clause about building widgets for the army to Standard ABC is a bit woolly... dont worry, we've tightened it up a bit for you... and we'll throw this extra thing in with it"... Their attitude is "the negotiator on the customer side is a bit wet behind the ears... this is our chance to get away with murder".

    And they do it. Every day. And they get away with it. The likes of EDS, BAe, BT Global, et al; Its the customers money (ie the governments, so its taxpayers money) and they are entitled to waste it on whatever they want. So long as they pay the quoted price. The company exists purely to make money for the shareholders. Nothing else. Nothing else whatsoever.

    And the chumps in procurement in the civil service buy it. Time after time after time. Not just MOD, but MOJ, HMRC, DFID, DFWP and definately the NHS - they're all completely clueless.

    You are very right that someone should get a grip of it. Unfortunately, certainly not within NL and I seriously doubt it within the conservatives as well, no-one is going to have the spine necessary to go and shake the whole thing up. It needs that kind of "right, you cant deliver what we want at the price we want it. Stuff you, we'll buy it from China instead" attitude. The only time I'm aware of that happening was when AEW Nimrod was cancelled and that was twenty odd years ago, because Thatch got to the end of her tether and went out and bought the E3 instead. BAe and Marconi were not best pleased.

    But if these suppliers are given licence to wag the dog, they will do it. And it is allowed to happen. No-one in the civil service has got the backbone to stand up to them. Also, as you say, the revolving doors between ministers and organisations that are suppliers to central government must be having an influence. And, although we are not alone in doing it, it affects all our NATO partners as well, we always insist on trying to make stuff in our own countries under licence, which takes longer to deliver solution, so that it keeps jobs in the marginal constituencies of politicians and keeps the unions off their backs... despite the product being manufactured under licence frequently being inferior to what was originally asked for. Just look at Apache Longbow and the Chinook scandal, not to mention the A400M. Westlands should have been allowed to go bust in 85. But, lord above, redundancies? When the troops/NHS/Police/whatever need product Y? Out comes the "British Jobs For British Workers" soundbites and the collective political backbones turn to jelly and what is good for the country suddenly takes 3rd or 4th priority.

    Until the political class start to develop qualities of leadership, making difficult decisions that impact beyond one parliament, I'm afraid on that front, we're stuffed. And bear in mind, that even if you do try and get rid of a significant element of the drugs trade in this manner, there would be significant NGO/Quango resistance - all of those people employed in the war on drugs, providing rehabilitation, SOCA, the Bureau Of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco in the US - all these empires that people have built up, suddenly with nothing to do? Again, turkeys voting for Xmas. They arent going to let it happen.

    IMVHO, nothing short of insurrection will change it. But, because the Brits and certainly the English, have been neutered by being embarrassed about their history and had any fight, any national pride sapped out of them in the last 20 years... nothing will change. We will just grumble on forums like this, take it on the chin and do nothing about it. And it will get worse. We should be apoplectically mad about it and taking to the streets demanding change. Fat chance of that. Most of us cant be bothered to vote, despite millions giving their lives in two world wars so that we can do just that. I'm ashamed of what we've become in such a short time.

    71#

    As a follow up; The whole rotten mess in Afghan has become self perpetuating. There is potentially an undesirable result if we were to unilaterally pull out; It would give a huge shot in the arm to the Islamic Fundamentalists that the western infidels do not have the stomach to fight for what they believe in - just grind them down for long enough and eventually they will give up. The effect on organisations like PIJ, Hamas, HizbAllah, and Gordon's "Alky-Ada" not to mention Iran, would be an enormous filip. And, it would encourage the likes of the 7/7 mob as well. What would be to stop them?

    You could also potentially see NATO unravelling. Some people might not necessarily see that as a bad thing, but NATO has played a front row part in keeping the peace in Europe for the longest amount of time in its history. Dont forget that. I for one think it would be incredibly bad. And lastly, for those who have died so far, if we walk away now, what the hell have they died for?

    Dont get me wrong. I'm of the opinion that we should not have gone into Afghan in the first place. But, that doesnt change the fact that we are there. And for us to leave there has to be a political solution, however fleeting.

    What is completely inexcusable is sending your young into danger and not equipping them properly for the task in hand and trying to do it on the cheap. It is also completely inexcusable not to provide them with the aftercare that their sacrifices deserve. If we can save Northern Rock and RBS and allow the financial sector to go about its business unreformed within a year, after having taken us to the abyss, then we can provide for our forces to do the job properly that we are askng them to do.

    Regrettably, the chances of this government doing any of those things is likely to be zero. All they are concerned about is staying in power for their own ends. There is no concept whatsoever of public service any more and I firmly think that if a lot of the fallen of the first and second world wars could have seen what their blood price has bought - they'd have had second thoughts as to whether they should have bothered.

  • Comment number 87.

    82#

    Completely agree. Look on the BBC site, the news article isnt that old... do you know how many naval ships we have protecting the UK coastline at any one time? The whole of the UK coastline?

    The answer is Six. Six ships. My flabber was well and truly ghasted when I read that.

    And you dont want to know how bad Air Defence has got over the last 12-15 years. You really dont.

  • Comment number 88.

    yellowbelly1959 and #84.

    "...thank you for confirming we are in Afghanistan as 'lap-dogs' for the USA.."

    Sorry, have you lost all touch with your own thread of argument?

    'UK in Afghan..'? 'lap-dogs'?

    UK along with 9 other NATO nations following a unanimous Resolution by the UN Security Council inc. Syria (oh yes, well-known to be in dubya's pocket) took action in Afghanistan to oust the Al Queda supporting and brutal Taliban regime.

    Just love reading your increasingly illogical extremes to back-up a lost argument: E.g. "... neither we, nor the USA, have the right to impose our values..". Hang on, I will just check on the reason for opposing Adolf Hitler and the Soviet Union in the Cold War and the even more basic UN Charter with its quaint little phrases about Freedoms...

    Of course any responsible 'democratic government' will use its Armed Forces sparingly and against those nations that are a clear and distinct threat to National security - - now with Iraq you may have some sort of case, but, even that has to presuppose the WMD was all an invention by dubya and Blair (which may suit your perception of things but your guesswork is a long way from proof) and not very poor intelligence - - in Afghanistan, you have no case at all.


    And finally, spelling corrections! Hmm, well as I have not made any sort of 'rant' on this topic and stuck firmly to fact as opposed to your preference for opinionated delusion I can see how it is irritating you!

  • Comment number 89.

    #76 ikamaskeip

    We agree on one thing - there is little difference between the major parties, although I suspect the Tories might support the armed forces better.

    My earlier post does not say we should cut our losses, I merely object to the "keeping our streets safe" argument as it seems to be an extension of the "45 minutes to weapoms of mass destruction" claim - intended to instill fear with the aim of getting people to rally round the cause.

  • Comment number 90.

    88#

    Lets not get hung up on UN Resolutions though. The UN talks a lot and achieves for the most part, nothing unless whoever has decided it is in their interests to act.

    Had there not been a UN Resolution, America would still have piled in. Just like they did in Iraq in 03. Just like no-one has done anything about Zimbabwe. Just like it took an eternity for anything to happen in Dharfur. Just like the long list of UN Resolutions that Israel has thumbed its nose at over the last 20 years. Just like the much vaunted UN "Safe Havens" in the former Yugoslavia resulted in the massacres at Srebrenica while Dutch UN peacekeeping troops stood on and watched. Just like in the last spat between Israel and HizbAllah, while Nigerian UN troops stood and watched the HizbAllah rockets sailing over their heads.

    The UN is a paper tiger. Yugoslavia was solved by NATO and the Dayton agreeement. Even the former Secretary General of the UN's son was caught up in alleged sanction busting in Iraq. It has, unfortunately become nothing more than a talking shop for expense claiming bureaucrats and has outlived its useful purpose.

  • Comment number 91.

    Winston Churchill said that you could always trust the Americans to do the right thing ... once they'd exhausted all the other possibilities.

    So, US General McCrystal has now mapped out a strategy for Afghanistan which probably will work, with a few provisos regarding the other significant 'local' regional players e.g. Iran, Pakistan, Russia, China.

    Taking a global perspective, there really isn't much choice other than to try because the Islamo-Fascists have shown that they will kill thousands of innocent people if given any opportunity.

    Our problem is that our politicians still like to think that we amount to more than a hill-of-beans in geo-political terms, and that is not the case and has'nt been for a few decades.

  • Comment number 92.

    #86 Fubar

    "What is completely inexcusable is sending your young into danger and not equipping them properly for the task in hand and trying to do it on the cheap. It is also completely inexcusable not to provide them with the aftercare that their sacrifices deserve. If we can save Northern Rock and RBS and allow the financial sector to go about its business unreformed within a year, after having taken us to the abyss, then we can provide for our forces to do the job properly that we are askng them to do."

    People may agree or disagree on the rights and wrongs of intervening in Afghanistan, but what will be remembered long after the dust has settled is the mismanagement and total incompetence of this government. Our political leaders are not fit for purpose; you can't win battles with spin.

    The army top brass are in a difficult position because in a democracy it isn't done for soldiers to criticise ministers. However, some have spoken out, albeit in muted tones, presumably because they feel they have no choice.

    Today a report in The Times claims that a minister was attempting to smear General Sir Richard Dannatt over his expenses. How disappointing for the minister it must have been to discover that unlike sleazy politicians, the General has behaved with honour and integrity at all times. His legitimate expenses apparently included meals from a discount supermarket at £5 per head, and wine at £1.49 a bottle! What a difference from all those politicians with their snouts in the trough! According to the report, the minister denies the allegation, saying "it's just not true", but the Times published the story anyway.

    "All they are concerned about is staying in power for their own ends. There is no concept whatsoever of public service any more"

    I agree. For the good of the country and our troops, the general election cannot come a day too soon.

  • Comment number 93.

    Can I go off thread for a minute
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/Afghanistan/article6806249.ece

    Mandelson says that any suggestion of a Trade deal with Megrahi is offensive.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/8239572.stm

    Straw admits trade link.

    Is this joined up government, is Straw talking to Mandelson, are they even on the same planet?

  • Comment number 94.

  • Comment number 95.

    Nauseating Brown has not got the balls to do anything except watch UK service personell get killed and injured. He has not got the balls to say to the Americans or anyone else that the strategy is wrong and this is not working.

    You've got to listen to the millitary - they know best. Afghanistan is a large country and to secure it as per current allied mission would need several millions of top grade troops - no exaggeration according to those with experience of Afghanistan.

    The best that can be achieved is to seal off the border rat runs for drug and arms smuggling and set up safe areas for those Afghans who wish to live in a semi-civilised fashion. The rest of the country can be left to its own fate - that is realisticially all that can be achieved without massive casualties fighting a dirty war when our troops are denied a dirty war strategy, equipment, fair pay and accomodation,troop numbers and freedom to organise and lead themselves on the ground.

    This is a dirty war - if you have not got the political will, strategy, tactics and resources to fight it then you (we) must pull out. This is what ex-millitary personnel are saying if someone listens to them.

    This is a dirty war, Brown - for goodness sake listen and admit your government gooning mistakes and save some lives!

    It's not so much that Brown must convince the doubters - he is such an ego tripping devious lying megla-maniac - he needs to convince himself that he has intelligence, integrity, a sense of responsibility, humanity and basic common sense.

    Brown has a lot of blood on his hands but he still does not see it!

  • Comment number 96.

    #51 ikamaskeip

    Sorry to take so long to get back to you. I've been earning my bed and board here in the US by putting up what seems like acres of shelving!

    I'll accept that "irrelevant" was an overstatement. However, I was thinking purely in terms of military intervention in another state, where the UK is simply a bit player, doing the bidding of the USA and without the wherewithal to deliver the exaggerated role it pretends to deliver.

    More broadly, however, your examples of the UK's important role actually confirm my view of the British as a nation who still have not accepted their diminished role in the world, and continue to glory in the trappings of their old status, despite being unable to afford it. Penelope Keith in "To the Manor Born" seems an apt analogy.

    For example, "Permanent member of the UN Security Council" - that depends on having nuclear weapons (which are actually American) that have no real purpose other than to continue the status of permanent member of the Security Council. Quite what that delivers to the people of the UK, I don't know, but it does provide the US with a normally compliant puppet.

    G8 - Set up by France in 1975 as a meeting place for the 8 (originally 6) largest economies in the northern hemisphere - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (with the EU represented , but never hosting meetings). So just how many of these G8 states have significant troops in Afghanistan in significant numbers, with significant numbers returning in body bags? I have no wish to see troops from these islands dying - not for their country - but for Gordon Brown or David Cameron to posture as world leaders.

    And you forget the need for a state to be able to fund military adventurism and the consequent hardware. The UK has only been able to do that by squandering a one off resource in oil (Norway, Canada and most other states with oil as a resource sensibly invested much of the revenue instead of just spending it), and simultaneously running a fiscal deficit (fine in part of the economic cycle, but insane as policy).

    What seems to me define the Brits is that they want to be part of an "important" country, as opposed to the English, who would be an important medium level country such as France or Germany, ore the Scots, who would be a small country, simply running its own affairs like Denmark or Norway.

  • Comment number 97.

    #69 Fubar_Saunders

    "If you are quite happy for your defence spending to be cut to the point where all you can do is basically look after your own coastline - not getting involved in humanitarian relief overseas, not getting involved in getting British citizens out of areas of conflict, etc then fine."

    That's the Irish and Swedish position BUT they do "get involved in humanitarian relief overseas, they do get involved in getting their own citizens out of areas of conflict".

    Quite why any nation wants to gert involved militarily in much beyond that, has always been a strange concept. The Brits are, however, a strange nation.

  • Comment number 98.

    #97 oldnat

    You say "Quite why any nation wants to gert involved militarily in much beyond that, has always been a strange concept. The Brits are, however, a strange nation."

    If everyone had only peaceful intentions, the world would be a much better place. But the moral dilemma arises when other people, who are not peaceful, seek to subjugate or kill those who think differently. You could take the view that 'it's not my problem' and leave them to their fate. But can we absolve ourselves from responsibility by choosing to be bystanders and doing nothing?



    "First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew.
    Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up, because I was a Protestant.
    Then they came for me
    and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me."


    Martin Niemoller (1892 - 1984)

  • Comment number 99.

    Brown has no chance of convincing voters to do anything.The sad part is that his credibility has sunk so low that any correct strategy would be rejected because he identifies with it. Why has it taken so long to realise there should be a diplomatic hearts and minds straetgy ? We seem to forget the Irish guy from the UN who was kicked out because he actually talked to Taliban leaders in order to understand them !

  • Comment number 100.

    #98 DistantTraveller

    I look forward to your advocating that the UK simultyaneously invades every country that doesn't match the UK's particukar version if democracy,

    While I dislike the social organisation of the Pashrun, I don't see that attacking then does anything to change that society. You may see some moral superiority in supporting a regime which allows men to starve their wives if they don't submit to sex on their husband's insistence. I don't suscribe to the idea that UK troops die to uphold such a vision.

    But it's a free world. If you want our troops to die supporting a concept of marital rape, then no one is stoppimg you. If you are a married man, have you asked your wifr?

 

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