And How Many More Body Bags Are They Sending? 91

The war of invasion in Afghanistan is being sustained on two things: the imbecilic argument that it is preventing terrorism in the UK, and on a feast of cod patriotism. Real deaths on the battlefield are not noble; they involve the smells of blood, sweat, shit and piss, and a lot of fear and tears. But this nation cultivated its Spartan myth for generations, and we mentally convert each terrible waste of young life into a tableau of the death of Nelson.

Or this, one of the most popular paintings of the Victorian era; the Last Stand at Gandamak, showing the sad end of the first British army to foolishly invade Afghanistan.


The ritual of Gordon Brown reading out the names of the latest British soldiers to die, is a key part of the patriotic hokum that sustains this dreadful war. But after MPs came back from their incredibly long holiday, it backfired spectacularly on Brown today as he read the names of the 37 young men who died in the hills of Afghanistan while the MPs spent months swigging Pinot Grigio in the hills of Tuscany.

So now we are sending an extra 500 men. That will finally kill off the fierce historic resistance of the Afghans to foreign occupation, then. How many more body bags are we sending?

91 thoughts on “And How Many More Body Bags Are They Sending?

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  • T

    The “cannon fodder” I have met have been young, terrified, desperate, bullied, lied to, in shock, or painfully in denial. Most of them were from deprived backgrounds. Calling them “thick” – well, I suppose it’s one way of refusing to see them as human.

  • anticant


    I suppose you’ve read Webster Tarpley’s “9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA”? He’s a bit obsessive and way OTT in some respects – not least his paranoia about us Brits – but I think his thesis is very persuasive. I’m not a knee-jerk conspiracy theorist, but I find the official account of 9/11 impossible to swallow (as I do that of the Kennedy assassination).

    In any case, the Project for the New American Century’s 1997 manifesto:

    and the fact that several of the signatories thereto went on to hold key positions in the G.W. Bush Administration is surely a smoking gun pointing towards some of the most likely instigators of a false flag terror attack intended to spark off the Middle East wars the protagonists desired.

    And it was highly effective. Ever since 9/11 the lunatics have been in charge of the asylum, and we all live in a looking-glass world.

  • tony_opmoc


    As strange as it may seem, I have never bought a book on the subject of 9/11. I have however bought a book by Webster Tarpley, but I don’t really like his writing style. He is however a brilliant analyst and did an excellent video about Obama before he was elected President.

    I also think Chalmers Johnson is a Wonderful Historical Analyst, and I have bought his latest book.

    I have also seen most of a video he did in 2003.

    His book makes me cry, such that I can’t finish it, because I have worked with lots of Americans who I loved and respected.


  • tony_opmoc


    By the way, I know you are only a young lad, but I still have enormous respect for you.

    My Mum was as bright as a button at the age of 79 and taking up paragliding…

    Her short term memory went a bit before she died at the age of 86, but she could remember everything about her childhood in intimate detail and have long completely eloquent discussions when visited by a relative at the age of 85 who she hadn’t seen for 30 years. Our two young kids wound her up something rotten – but really it was because they really loved their Grannie and thought of her as a playmate.

    My father-in-law is 86, lives in Lancashire and is complaining about a bit of backache after digging up an enormous tree, roots and all, and moving it to another part of his garden…

    And my real inspiration is the guy who taught me to fly. Through a process of sheer co-incidence, I know his nephew and his niece especially, really well. He is still flying – or was last weekend. If anyone deserves a knighthood it is this guy.

    I reckon he will still be flying when he is 100 years old.

    He will do the most amazing inverted loop 10 feet above the Earth in his Glider and just Fly Straight Upwards in a Thermal Into The Sun.


  • Clark


    for what it’s worth, a friend of a friend of mine was in one of the carriages in which an explosion occurred on 7/7. He was injured; lost his legs and his spleen, I believe, but I’ll check.

    Another friend of the same friend of mine was working in a London A&E department that day, and says they were warned to expect large numbers of casualties some minutes before the reported time of the first explosion.

  • tony_opmoc


    I don’t know what to believe, but one of my best friends is a Nurse, and an exceptionally highly qualified Nurse, almost to the level of my Sister.

    And her entire life has been seriously threatened over the last few months. She was doing her job completely normally, doing what Senior Nurses Do when they are Practicing Rather Than Teaching.

    Apparently so Claims The Direct Patient Claims No Win No Fee Merchant (We will sue the The Medical Profession on Your Behalf – and because The Judges are So Soft – We are Already Making Big Profits – and So Can You…You Get The Drift)….

    I mean – her whole life is falling apart. She has done absolutely nothing wrong, and the claim wasn’t even made until 10 months after the alleged incident.) But she still has to face a Medical Tribunal and Could Lose Her Job, Her Entire Livelihood.

    She is a Complete Angel and Wouldn’t Harm Anyone, But The Fascist Greedy Evil Bastards Even Go After Nurses Working For The NHS.

    I Mean For Fucks Sake.


  • Courtenay Barnett

    Trying to fathom this one:

    ” The fact is that though the Afghan war is being fought very badly & on the enemies terms we know that we are capable of easily defeating them because we did & we know that it is simply impossible for the Taliban to win because even before we were involved they were unable to fully defeat the northern alliance.”

    The steps into Afghanistan seem to be:-

    1. The then Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

    2. The Soviets were met by a resisitance of CIA orchestrated support and funding for the Mujahadin.

    3. The Soviets were defeated.

    4. The US invaded on the pretext of 9/11 and set out to build an oil pipeline and dominate as an invading and occupation force ( read: forces when NATO is addded).

    5. The invasion forces are sucked into a quagmire, as was Britain before (read: Kipling) and the French in Algeria and the US in Vietnam. If these examples from history are taken – I fail to see the historical evidence and/or contempoary facts to support the view:-

    ” we are capable of easily defeating them…”

    Over to you ….comments anyone?

  • Another Tony (not Blair)

    I think Courtenay’s analysis is where we are. In traditional style the Americans put the Taliban in power via US involvement in the Russian campaign. The Americans thought the Taliban would be controllable and a reasonable second best to some rotten dictator. When the Taliban demanded Sharia Law and turned out to be less compliant with US plans for Afghanistan, the US decided that they should really have gone for a compliant dictator – so now we have Karzai.

    The war in Afghanistan is nothing about keeping or making anyone free or safe, apart from enabling and protecting this beloved pipeline as a manifestation of American power as a colonial state. One the sidelines the policy of perpetual unrest in the region helps keep the Israelis happy, and also keeps pressure on Iran, Afghanistan’s neighbour whom the Israelis despise with a vengeance.

    This has nothing to do with 911 any more than Iraq did. If the US had invaded Afghanistan to root out the 911 perpetrators, they would not have done what they did, and they would not be doing what they are doing now.

    Gordon Brown is doing what he is told to do – the UK is a client state.

  • brian

    @Glenn, thanks the one that chimes with me is

    “- Why don’t they come here anyway? After all, all our armed forces are over there, so they’d have an easy time of it :)”

    If they wanted to come here then there’s nothing really to stop them, plenty of illegal immigrants seem to manage it at the moment. In fact I can’t understand why they’re not. Surely it would be the quickest way to turn public opinion against the war?

  • anticant


    I was 82 last week. I live on borrowed time. I am a Manchester man. My father’s mother was a Miss Gartside of Saddleworth, where the family roots go back hundreds of years.

    Anticant’s Arena is not a “public service” blog, like Craig’s. I blog as and when I feel like it, from the perspective of someone who grew up and worked for most of my adult life in an atmosphere of generally assumed public integrity. Yes, there were a few rotten apples in the barrel: now the entire public and political arena stinks.

    Webster Tarpley’s writing style is execrable – you have to force yourself to read it. But I think the things he says need to be heard and pondered on. He first became alerted to US intelligence false flag operations when he researched the 1978 murder of Aldo Moro – allegedly by the Red Brigades, but he says by CIA-instigated neo-fascists.

    Yes, many Americans are lovely people but most of them are blithely unaware of how their crap government operates – especially abroad. They have this rosy delusion of themselves as God’s gift to suffering humanity. Another book worth reading is John Perkins’ “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”.

    For 7/7, read Rachel North’s August post:

    I was in hospital in central London when 7/7 occurred, and my partner was visiting me daily by underground. Luckily he escaped involvement, but it greatly heightened the trauma of succeeding days.

  • ingo

    Afghanistan will sink into civil war, it is, in a way, a capitulation of policies. To arm Dostum with whatever arms he wants is a receipe for doom, giving up the initiative to a one of the biggest heroin producer there is.

    I agree with Frazer, it is in the heroic psyche of Afghans that they are never to be governed by an outside influence and here lies the crux.

    Our apostolation over terrorism are so far fetched and their link with Afghanistan receiding by the day. Our problems are home made, the alienation of muslims, their targetting by rightwing groups and the intelligence services is militarising many young and professional classes.

    Pashtuns versus drugsmugglers is a scenario to come, despite the fact that Karzai is pashtun, his defense minister, banished to Turkey, though he didn’t go, has always kept his distance from Karzai and his clans, we knew this and are now allowing the ‘likes of BAE’ to make the deciding difference by selling arms to the worst kind.

    If Karzai had to cheat in tyhe election, he must have been quiet unpopular already, this will be amplified by the vaccum of our spurious political decision making, soldiers are not in charge of this calamitee, there are too many cooks in charge of an already spoiled meal, now we are serving scraps dressed up as the real thing.

    I can see Karzai being holed up in Kabul only, a few more attempts on his life are on the cards.

    My neighbours son is going to Afghanistan, she had to be briefed on publicity and such, he has top spend some 700,- he hasn’t got on extra boots, warm winter moleskins.

    He is very young and a good sharp shooter, he says he’s going to Masari Sharif, maybe, I dread the bad news.

    He’s undertarined in my view, having spent 8 years in the german airforce, he has not been climatised of any sorts, i.e. Cyprus or kenia and he will find it hard to adjust to the rough and tumble of that war.

    japan and Canada are having the right idea, they have gone down the ‘logistically only’ route, theri public pressure still works on politicians, whilst we are banging away at moronic chalk brains hell bent on making us all feel more unsafe and instabile by increasing the likelyhood of domestic terrorism.

    If they are not carefull they will get what they are asking for, they going about it the right way.

    Forgive my typos, I’m awefull I know…

  • Vronsky

    The ‘war on terrorism’ has from the outset reminded me of Fermi’s Paradox – his logical querying of the existence of extra-terrestrial life. Given the size and age of the cosmos (he argued) the first intelligent species should already have colonised all of our galaxy. So where are they? Why don’t we see them? The US/UK ‘terrorists’ have the same ghostly quality. If Al Qaeda is a global organisation, highly motivated and highly resourced, then why am I not sitting here listening to their bombs exploding in the street outside, and that on a daily basis? The IRA managed it, after all, and they were heavily infiltrated by the security ‘services’, and financed by passing the cap round in friendly pubs. Either these arabs are piss-poor terrorists, or they don’t actually exist.

  • Anonymous


    Strange, I always considered “thick” as applied to humans as being a very human label identifying their rather poor level of cognitive ability.

    Clearly then, in your eyes, joining an the Shittish Army for crap pay, to fight wars of lies, to kill kids, torture people, and face being killed in the height of intellectual achievement in your world, and signs of humanity.

    Shouldn’t you get back to killing some babies or something?

  • Rob Lewis

    Anti-military nonsense is not welcome here.

    I have friends that are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq right now, and years ago every nearly joined up myself.

    “The military is still one of the most idealistic societies we have… The interesting thing about them is that they really don’t care what my personal views are, whether I vote Democrat or Republican, or whether I like the war or don’t like the war, of if I’m a hawk or a dove. Even during the Vietnam War, what they cared about was whether I would get the story right and tell it right, work hard enough to do it and protect them in the process. And then they’ll talk. Then they’ll tell you what they think.” Seymour Hersh

    Serving members of the British forces who visit this site should know that their vocation is held in respect, despite what the odd internet hippy or anonymous troll might say.

  • T

    Yeah, I might even apply the word “thick” to someone who knows how to spell “cognitive” but keeps themselves sublimely unaware of the following facts:

    1.The British army recruits children. You can be signed up at 15 and 3/4. You can think you’re signing up for 2 years but owing to some devilish cunning on behalf of the recruiters, end up being bonded for up to 12 years. At Ease report recruits breaking their own limbs in attempts to get out.

    2. The British army actively recruit in poor and deprived areas.

    3. The British army actively recruit (abandoned children) from young people’s homes, where they are encouraged to join the TA (as punishment for minor misdemeanors, for example) And, as we all know, the TA are now being sent out to fight.

    They may not have had the benefit of your classical education, they may not have family to dissuade them, they may even have been under the illusion that they are heading for a fun time in the sun, thanks to the adverts and the media. I think “tragic” would cover it.

  • Clark


    my sympathy to your friend the nurse. Rules, rules, rules… They are a poor substitute for sound judgement.

    Tony and Cherie Blair are both legal-eagles with backgrounds in acting / public performance (what a dangerous combination!) so maybe it’s not surprising that our society has moved in this direction. I hope that good sense prevails in your friend’s case.


    the contrast between this new ‘terrorism’ and the years of the IRA is a point that has struck me, too.

  • Anonymous

    @ T above:

    Add to that the fact that the US military has a large proportion of people who couldn’t get jobs anywhere else; that citizenship was offered as a carrot to join up for a specific period; that I read not so long ago (2 years?) that in order to improve recruitment numbers, they dropped their standards to allow in people of lower IQ, less mental and emotional stability, and some categories of criminal background – and a pack of lies told to them about Muslims – and you have a dangerous mix of non-professional soldiers.

  • Rob Lewis

    There are many things the Army has to be ashamed of – Deepcut springs very quickly to mind. But there is an important distinction to be made between constructively criticising an institution and brazenly having a go at everyone who serves in it.

    This site isn’t a platform to espouse the insulting and inherently self-inflicted view that a) soldiers are thick murderous baby killers and b) we must help the poor little darlings.

    I know enough to say that young soldiers are granted far greater reponsiblity than most of their civilian peers, and while many come from “disadvantaged” backgrounds one of the attractions of signing up is that they will never be patronized by anyone again – save politicians and a certian type of liberal.

    I am intrigued by the claim that squaddies are “breaking their own limbs to get out”. I would be amazed if it was true.

  • anticant

    I agree with T and Rob Lewis – our serving soldiers deserve repect, and admiration, for their willingness to put themselves at risk on our behalf (as they believe and have been wrongly told). They may be “thick” in the sense that they come from underprivileged backgrounds, lack adequate education, and aren’t used to reasoning things out for themselves like most of the better educated folk posting here. But no-one is irredeemably stupid unless they suffer physical brain damage, and as T points out these lads have often been recruited by unscrupulous methods which are as immoral as 18th century press ganging.

    I certainly respect these poor young guys whilst having nothing but contempt for the thick politicians who intone “They will never be forgotten” before rushing off to the next champagne and oysters lunch and never give “our brave boys” a second thought.

  • T

    Well, be amazed then, Mr Lewis.

    Otherwise, I don’t know which bits of your post to put in inverted commas. There is too much. “Far greater responsibility” – it’s true, most civilians aren’t given a gun and told to shoot people, or perhaps, torture them. Have you read the recent reports on the case brought to the High Court in London by Khuder al-Sweady and other Iraqis? “Never be patronised again”? No, just bullied, drilled and brutalised into obedience, with a military prison waiting for those who disobey.

    You seem to be writing about the army from way back in the day, when the “enemy” was fairly clear cut, and official fantasies about the reality flourished. I don’t quite know why you are so insulting, but your lack of understanding suggests that you were a)quite a high ranking soldier (N Ireland?) and someone who enjoyed their time in the army, possibly before Iraq and b) have failed to talk to any recruits recently.

    Otherwise, I completely agree with Seymour Hersch. There is no gap between his experiences and my own.

  • dreoilin

    It was suggested to me that I visit an American website whose writers and commenters are mostly ex-American military (with a few ex-IDF thrown in, apparently). I have never seen a more vicious, bloodthirsty, or heavily racist site in my life. They loathe Obama, but *far* more to the point, they consider the Palestinian people to be sub-human and only worthy of extermination. They don’t imply this, they say so.

    It’s not in isolation either. Because it’s quoted and re-quoted on other sites.

    I’ve had many dealings with British soldiers as I travelled regularly on business through Northern Ireland all through the 70s and later. Checkpoints were tense and dangerous places to be, especially after an “incident” or alert.

    On one occasion I caused sirens to go off, barriers to go down, my car was surrounded and weapons pointed at my head, because I did something innocent and accidentally silly as I approached a heavily armed checkpoint. I was a woman on my own, but not above suspicion because of that.

    From my personal experience — and compared to SO much that I’ve read about American soldiers — there is no comparison between standards of discipline in the British military and those of the USA. As a civilian, I’d prefer to deal with British soldiers anyday, although I have to admit that I haven’t dealt personally with the Americans – just done a lot of reading.

  • Jon

    On the topic of the intelligence of the soldier, or lack thereof, I am quite torn – the bulk of the blame needs to go to the politicians, and the policitised security services. But I sometimes stop and think why there is so little internal backlash within the army – antiwar groups in the UK are hardly inundated with war resisters willing to go public. I wonder why it is that soldiers on the ground seem to be so susceptible to patriotic propaganda, and often so lacking in understanding the atrocities of “our own side” and how the flag-waving media (The Sun) uses them for its own policy ends. Furthermore, I wonder to what degree I can hold the same soldiers responsible for these apparent gaps in thought (whilst still reserving majority blame for government types).

    I had a conversation with a serving soldier once while I was leafletting a city centre about the Iraq war, and it firmly underscored these thought processes. He’d been to Iraq recently, and started off by saying he supported our stance, and that Iraq was a terrible place to have to have gone to. He’d seen body parts of children strewn on the ground, and he was clearly shaken by the experience (something that reminded me of the horrors witnessed by Americans in Vietnam, I thought, and the long-term psychological consequences of the same).

    But the soldier then changed conversational tack, and insisted that “he had to have a job” – directly implying, I believed, that fighting an illegal war in which children are killed and maimed satisfied his definition of “a job”, and that anti-war protesters didn’t care about his employment situation. I was privately angry at this perspective, but the guy was clearly suffering, and it would have been cruel to have been rude to him. My gentle response, which pointed out that there are many professions that society prohibits out of a professed desire to improve conditions for people, had little impact as we parted company.

  • T

    “Teenagers in the army are one and a half times more likely to commit suicide than others of the same age in the general population”

    Ministry of Defence report July 2003

    “More Gulf War 1 troops (107) killed themselves after returning than were actually killed in conflict (24)”.

    Ministry of Defence figures

  • T

    Jon, they get put through this and told they’re doing the right thing, and then they have to live with themselves. They are hung out to dry when they return.

    “Returning armed sevices personnel often end up on the streets or with severe mental health problems. Thousands live rough or in sheltered accomodation”

    Mental Health Foundation report, June 2003

    See above.

  • glenn


    Tarpley’s book is definitely worth reading, agreed, but he does have a few whacked out views (particularly while being interviewed by the publicity-desperate, unprincipled liar Alex Jones).

    As far as the Red Brigade and so on is concerned, try reading “Nato’s Secret Army” by Daniele Ganser. It’s not a work of fiction. Much of the supposed left-wing terrorism since WW2 has been caused by NATO’s ‘stay-behind’ units, which were supposed to resist a USSR takeover from inside, should western countries be taken over.

    They practiced assassination, sabotage and disruption – blaming it all on left wing forces.

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