Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

RECESSION, SCANDAL – AND AFGHANISTAN

In Editorial on February 18, 2010 at 8:45 am

For many of us, 2009 was dominated by the continuing recession. Unemployment rose relentlessly, whilst who still had work to go to found that their jobs were becoming more precarious. The housing market almost dried up, and companies that had seemed a familiar part of the landscape either went out of business or struggled to survive.

Meanwhile, those banks whose actions had been a major cause of the economic crisis were bailed out to the tune of billions of pounds – whilst those who were largely responsible for the collapse of market capitalism continued to draw fat salaries and even fatter bonuses.

The past year also revealed the way in which many MPs had manipulated their expenses to line their own pockets. Of course, the worst offenders were only a minority of our elected representatives, but they were a symptom of what happens when “success” in society is measured in terms of money and greed. And their actions helped to drag the reputation of Parliament further into the mire.

AFGHANISTAN:

As a backdrop to it all, the Afghanistan conflict intensified and the number of casualties amongst those serving over there began to escalate. Now more and more people are beginning to ask the questions, what are our troops doing out there? Isn’t it time we brought them home?

Unlike Iraq, our intervention in Afghanistan was authorised by NATO, and was thus more broadly based than Bush’s pathetically named “coalition of the willing” that followed America’s coat tails into Iraq. Those countries that have sent troops into Afghanistan include many who wouldn’t have touched the Iraq invasion with a bargepole – like Canada, Germany, and other European countries.

But, like in the UK, many of them are now questioning their role. Indeed, Canada (whose troops have suffered proportionately greater losses than those from Britain) now plans to pull out in 2011.

So why did we invade Afghanistan? Did we go in to “restore democracy” to the Afghan people? Or was it an exercise to get rid of the Taliban? Or (as Gordon Brown claims) to prevent terrorism spreading like a plague to the UK?

Any claim that we were there to plant democracy in the arid Afghan soil was surely shattered by this year’s elections there. To call it a farce is an understatement. Abuses were so blatant that it could only be seen as a distorted caricature. Votes just vanished by the million, whilst others found themselves transferred to the winning candidate like a rabbit in a conjuror’s hat. And through it all, NATO soldiers were killed and maimed to ensure that it could take place. There is no way that this could be seen as building democracy in Afghanistan.

As for “getting rid of the Taliban”, there are few if any signs that their hold has been weakened by the current offensive. And in what way can anyone claim that our presence in this unhappy country prevents the spread of terrorism? History surely suggests otherwise. Events in Afghanistan merely become a focal point – a rallying cry for those who commit their acts of terrorism elsewhere.

GOING TO THE POLLS:

The coming year may well be a crucial one in Afghanistan. Here in Britain it could also usher in a new government. And this could well effect us all.

It is difficult how people will vote in the coming General Election. The betting is on a Tory victory – which would leave us all facing a very uncertain future under David Cameron. Of course nothing should be taken for granted until the votes have been counted. There is a sense of disillusion with politics and politicians as a whole. Certainly, if the Conservatives do win, it won’t arouse much enthusiasm amongst the electorate as a whole. But the very possibility of a Cameron government should be enough to concentrate our minds!

Indeed, for many, the phrase “out of the frying pan into the fire” may well spring to mind.

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