Sorry, that was a long break from blogging because of another visit to Ghana on energy projects, an appearance at the Edinburgh Book Festival, commitments at Dundee University and agreeing contracts for my next three books. I am also just finishing a play.
The Mail on Sunday is today carrying another one of my blasts.
As I have said before, I think the Mail deserves great praise for the range of opinion it is prepared to cover, more so than any other British mainstream newspaper. Strangely, the Mail website doesn’t mention who wrote it. You can see the full article from the link, but to whet your appetite:
After the First World War, Stanley Baldwin surveyed the House of Commons of which he was soon to become Conservative Prime Minister. He was filled with disgust, dismissing the MPs as ‘a lot of hard-faced men who looked as though they had done rather well out of the war’.
He had hit upon a universal truth.
To you and me, the Iraq and Afghan wars may look like unmitigated disasters. Hundreds of our young soldiers have died, as have untold thousands of local civilians, but to what end? Even the minority who supported the invasion of Iraq are inclined to agree that the subsequent occupation has been catastrophically handled.
Iraq is more than ever a failed state, with an abysmal decline in the most basic water, energy and health services for the majority of the population. Armed militias control their little fiefdoms, sometimes actually constituting the laughably named Iraqi security services. Nowhere is that more true than in Basra, now controlled from Tehran, while our troops hunker in ditches under mortar fire and take casualties whenever they venture out on patrol.
Last month, for the second time, the Iraqi governor of one of the provinces we had declared secure and ‘handed over’ to Iraqi forces was murdered, almost certainly not by Al Qaeda but by the very warring factions to whom we have handed control.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the drugs warlords we promoted to the Karzai government preside over massively increased opium harvests and busy heroin factories. The United Nations has just announced that this year the opium harvest is up 30 per cent, after a massive 60 per cent increase last year. Heroin production has increased more than tenfold since our invasion, while there are more men in arms against us than at any time since the conflict began.
It is hard to believe anybody can think our policy is a success.
Yet there are those who have indeed, in Baldwin’s biting phrase, ‘done rather well out of the war’. It has been waged at a great cost, not just in young soldiers’ lives but in cash.
When we talk of the vast sums that have been spent ‘ more than ‘250billion by the United States and at least ’30billion by the UK – the eyes tend to glaze over. Strings of noughts, such as those in ‘30,000,000,000, look surreal, but it is very real cash indeed, taken from your pocket and mine. And very little of it goes to the poor bloody infantry, who get pitifully little extra pay for their daily heroism.
Their value in the grand scheme of things was well illustrated this week by the campaign for Ben Parkinson, the 23-year-old Lance Bombardier who lost both legs and sustained permanent brain damage from a landmine last year in Afghanistan. The Government valued the ruin of his life at a pathetic ‘152,150. Parkinson’s mother denounced the compensation as ‘contemptible’, and she was absolutely right.
But his plight neatly illustrates an important truth. Even in the most extreme circumstances, our highly professional servicemen see only a minute fraction of the vast sums of money spent.
More than 90 per cent of it goes to private-sector firms who benefit from war, including arms manufacturers.
The Baldwin quote was pointed out by one of the commenters on an earlier post here, for which thanks. Keep commenting – I can recycle your comments and make money out of you!!!