“Taliban Compounds” and the Great Gladstone 94

There is an article in the Sunday Times about yet more pressure being brought to bear on Wikileaks as they prepare to release another damning video of American massacre, this time in Afghanistan.

But what caught my eye was yet another example of the propaganda doublespeak with which our wars of occupation are justified.

American aircraft dropped 500lb and 1,000lb bombs on a suspected militant compound


People in Central Asia live in traditional courtyard houses, with rooms opening onto a central yard and an enclosing wall. This is because of the extreme heat of summer, and livestock are sometimes brought in to the yard in winter. Their homes do not look like our homes. But they are not “Compounds”. They are HOUSES.

I have lost track of the number of times I have seen television footage of somebody’s home being sprayed with bullets that pierce the mud and straw walls as if they did not exist, or obliterated by a bomb, while that disgusting servile MI6 propagandist Frank Goebbels Gardner or another of his ilk tells us it was a “Militant compound”, with all the James Bond fantasies that evokes. It is not a compound you fascist bastard, I scream in rage at the TV. It is a family home.

Time for more of the great William Ewart Gladstone:

Remember the rights of the savage, as we call him. Remember that the happiness of his humble home, remember that the sanctity of life in the hill villages of Afghanistan, among the winter snows, is as inviolable in the eye of Almighty God as can be your own.

Those hill tribes had committed no real offence against us. We, in the pursuit of our political objects, chose to establish military positions in their country. If they resisted, would not you have done the same? … The meaning of the burning of the village is, that the women and the children were driven forth to perish in the snows of winter … Is that not a fact ?” for such, I fear, it must be reckoned to be ?” which does appeal to your hearts as women … which does rouse in you a sentiment of horror and grief, to think that the name of England, under no political necessity, but for a war as frivolous as ever was waged in the history of man, should be associated with consequences such as these?

For those of you who ask why I rejoined the Liberal Democrats, the answer is it is my political home. I stand in the tradition of Gladstone, John Bright and John Stuart Mill. It is my

earnest desire to remind the party of that great tradition.

Please let me know every time you see an incident of the “compound” propagande trick.

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94 thoughts on ““Taliban Compounds” and the Great Gladstone

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  • Doug Allanson

    I was a bit unmoved when you announced you were rejoining the libdems. I was undecided myself. Having read Andrew Rawnsley’s books recently I realised that however much I objected to much of what especially Blair and Campbell did with regard to Iraq and subsequent systemic mendacity Blair had actually done some good and important things and remarkably had some fine qualities. Brown is also very competent in some areas. However I also feel that many things Labour have done are a step too far to make it alright to say ‘Well we can’t let the Tories get in and that would make it alright.’

    What particularly concerns me at this moment is that the financial crisis is yet another instance of proving Marx’s analysis of the problems of capitalism right. (I don’t agree with his solutions). Capitalism is out of control and the Labour party and the Tories are tidying up the deckchairs. Only ole Vince has come out and got angry and for that reason I will after all be voting Libdem.

    By the way I have just had Paul Murphy on my doorstep and I gave him a slighly fuller version of this argument and told him that your books were the only place I knew where it was possible to find the truth about the cynicism of New Labour. He did know what I was talking about!

    Keep up the good work Craig, you are a light in the darkness.

  • John D. Monkey


    Somewhat off-topic but as the most recent relevant posting was a while ago I’ll post it here…

    I see from the BBC and Wikipedia that former Brazil and Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari is currently managing Bunyodkor in Uzbekistan.

    Wikipedia is not always accurate but it says that “On 8 June 2009, Scolari revealed that he had signed an 18 month contract with the team. The contract made Scolari the highest paid football manager in the world, earning 13€ million a year.”

    Do you know where a small football club in Uzbekistan would get 13€ million a year to pay their manager?

  • Mervyn

    I was thinking when watching that video of the Americans in that Apache helicopter slaughtering all those innocent people, that these Americans were quite stupid individuals.

    It became clear though as the video progressed that these Americans were in fact just very evil men, as of course are those ghouls at the BBC who give them journalistic cover.


    Slaughter such as this would be very much the norm for our American and Israeli friends, but you wouldn’t know that from listening to the BBC.

  • dreoilin

    “Please let me know every time you see an incident of the “compound” propagande trick.”

    They are referred to as such constantly in the American media, and I have seen one journalist there so far, point out that they are houses. (It might have been Jeremy Scahill or Glenn Greenwald but I’m not sure.) I’ll keep my eyes open and post links.

  • Sinclair


    I too get mad when the term ‘insurgent’ is bandied about in news reports.

    You must have noted the recent upsurge in the mention of _’Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’_. This is a handy excuse for the increasing US interventions into North Africa.

    It was servile MI6 propagandist Frank Goebbels Gardner who, in the report of Wednesday, 3 June 2009 _Al-Qaeda ‘kills British hostage’_, told us that Briton Edwin Dyer had been ‘sold on to Algerian members of al-Qaeda in Mali.’


    Read what Professor Jeremy Keenan (School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) London University & Author of: The Dark Sahara: America’s War on Terror in Africa) has to say about the muder of Edwin Dyer here:


    Professor Keenan believes that the expansion of ‘Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)’ in the Sahara-Sahel has been largely orchestrated and managed by the DRS (the Algerian security services)

  • anno

    Massacre is the daily routine for US forces. But ask my mum if she believes that and she will tell you that it’s Islamic propaganda, and dangerous to disagree with the powers that be. I assume that most people’s mothers in this country are about the same as mine. Where’s the fact-finding journalism that we used to find in the Sunday papers and where are the anti-government M.P.s ?

    Frank Gardner is biased. His lower limb paralysis at the hands of angry Muslims in Saudi Arabia has not been met with humility and understanding in his heart, so he is a useful propaganda tool for our murderous government. He was spying and he was punished for what he was doing. Only the British public still believe that British citizens working abroad are there for anything but neo-colonialism. The level of world rage against the UK is running near to boiling point thanks to T. Blair and co.

    The issues in this election are twain. 1/Usury banking has to end. 2/ M.P.s who vote for war should be ostracised. We had an anti-war option in the LibDems at the last election. Why do we not have this choice now, when the need for such a choice is even greater. We have been completely betrayed by the LibDems and what are you going to do about it, Craig?

  • Sam

    Craig – great article as ever. If you can stomach it, there is a repugnant apologist piece on US foreign policy by Timothy Lynch and Nicolas Bouchet at CiF. Linked a lot more prominently than your recent article, no surprises there.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq


    I agree whole-heartedly. When David Cameron was asked the question, “Why are our troops in Afghanistan?” He replied, to protect us from extremist Muslim terrorism.”

    “..there is a small number of extremists and potential terrorists we need to find and deal with, that’s a real problem. We also have to stop the radicalisation of young people and that’s quite a targeted effort. But there is a broader issue that we have to address which is that there are too many people that believe myths like 9/11 was a Mossad plot. You hear it in too wider a circle, we need to address that. We have to knock down some of the myths that are quite widely believed, even by people who have nothing to do with terrorism. That provides a context. It’s a context that provides the sea in which a lot of these people swim.

    I was very struck when I visited to the Birmingham Central Mosque, where many people said things to me like ‘Well of course, 9/11 was really a plot by Mossad’ and ‘are you really sure that 7/7 happened’? All good, decent Muslims know that we have to address the issue and deal with it because it is very dangerous for our country.

    Vote Conservative – vote conflict, consternation and confusion.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    The ‘haveli’ is similar to the traditional Greek/ Roman house – central courtyard, rooms round in a square around the outside, few/ no windows to the street, open on the inside. Yeah, exactly, good point which I hadn’t thought of – they’re not ‘compounds’ any more than a tenement is a (vertical) ‘compound’. They are amazingly cool in hot weather and in winter it’s possible to close the doors and light a ‘sandali’ (under-table brazier) – much preferred, by me anyway, to the sputtering open gas-fired heaters and horrible neon tube-lighting (or now, ugly energy-saving bulbs that stick out from the wall like wounded elephants’ ears) which abound. Yeah, not ‘compounds’; Like tenements, they are abodes of souls.

    Anno, I guess mothers are as different as you, I and the next guy. My mother-in-law sees the hand of America (and Britain, and Europe; to her it’s the same hand, a synonymous hand, a koanic hand) in absolutely everything. Sometimes I think, don’t be silly, it can’t be that ‘their’ hands are in everything in that way but then I discover something new and think, oh, she was right after all and it was I who all this time was deluded. Maybe that’s the way with one’s mother.

    Unless, of course, we’re talking about the Mothers of Invention.

  • chris, glasgow

    Having done extensive work in the Helmand region you are absolutely right that most homes are built this way. Although having said that most buildings are built this way, not just homes. Offices and sometimes factories also have that same 4 to 6m high blockwork walls surrounding their perimeter. Some of the smaller offices are actually converted dwellings.

    Another point is that many militants used empty homes as a “compound” becuase there are a lot of abandoned buildings out in Afghanistan.

    So while I understand where you are coming from and know how indisciminate American soldiers are at attacking and killing civilians in Afghanistan you should also realise that some buildings that may look like homes could be in fact something else.

    “Only the British public still believe that British citizens working abroad are there for anything but neo-colonialism.”

    That’s not true most british companies that are working in Afghanistan are working direct with Saudi, Pakistani, Afghan and many other governments who are bringing in aid to develop the country. There is a lot of work that is going on there which you don’t know about because you only hear the shit from the media.

    The biggest problem in Afghanistan is there are not enough skilled workers to rebuild the country as most fled during the wars and haven’t returned. I tried to recruit afghan architects there for a project based in Helmand and it was impossible to get anyone that was qualified and willing to work outside Kabul so we had to go there ourselves. Most, if not all, of the work in afghanistan is creating a working infrastructure within the country and most of the ordinary Afghans want to see roads and powerstation being built asap and unfortunetly this can only be done with outside help.

    You can be cynical about the political motives of countries doing this but the reality is that most do it because there are international agreements that force them to.

  • Tony

    A timely reminder, Craig, of the cynical use of language by the militarist boneheads. The dehumanisation of the ‘compound people’ is a game they have been involved in for some years now.

  • barryr38

    Whereas your stand on many things, especially against torture and totalitarian governments, by being in the so-called Lib Dems makes you a traitor. You should read Daniel Hannan sometime about the EU and it’s corruption.

    And as for ‘I stand in the tradition of Gladstone, John Bright and John Stuart Mill. … ‘ . What do the present Lib Dems have in common with those giants of British history ?” absolutely nothing.

  • barryr38

    Sorry, my previous comment should read:

    Murray writes: ‘For those of you who ask why I rejoined the Liberal Democrats, the answer is it is my political home … ‘

    Whereas your stand on many things, especially against torture and totalitarian governments is laudable, being in the so-called Lib Dems makes you a traitor. You should read Daniel Hannan sometime about the EU and it’s corruption.

    And as for ‘I stand in the tradition of Gladstone, John Bright and John Stuart Mill. … ‘ . What do the present Lib Dems have in common with those giants of British history ?” absolutely nothing.

  • anno

    Chris from Glasgow

    Central Birmingham is full of Afghanis and my sister lives half her life with an Afghan family. We know what is going on in Afghanistan, and Iraq as well, thank you very much. The softly softly approach to colonialism through charitable deeds, was first started by colonialists who posed as archaeologists, botanists, explorers, map-makers over 700 years ago. In New Zealand they said that the missionaries brought the book and took the land. You can only fool some of the people some of the time.

    Suhayl. I was talking about non-Muslim English mums, not Muslim mums.

  • Arsalan

    Near anough everyone who is killed in Afghanistan is a civilian. That is how counter insurgency works.

    The zionists can’t hurt the Taliban because they can’t find them. So the zionists kill women and children, destroy whole towns and villiages.

  • Chris, Glasgow


    Fair enough but what you are talking about is completely different to today. There are international agreements that require richer nations to set aside some of their GDP for the purpose of rebuilding and supporting poorer nations. I am sure that the UK government would rather spend the £8 billion they set aside for this on people in their own country to help them get re-elected. Sometimes they waste a lot of money on corrupt governments, see DFID’s work in Sierra Leone, and sometimes they spend it well. However, as it is set up with the international community it isn’t for the purpose of colonialism.

    The British government still prefer to use the Army for that purpose just like the good old days!

  • glenn

    Anno – Suhayl is right, and mothers are by no means the same all around the country (whether Muslim or not!). Mine certainly detests the wholesale slaughter of innocents in these wretched wars perpetrated on foreign people who’ve never done us any harm. She considers Bush and Blair evil, and the plight of the Palestinians heartbreaking. And so on.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Here’s to mothers!!

    Unless we’re talking… Neil Reid (‘Mother of Mine’) or (the otherwise extremely talented) Barry Ryan (‘Mama’, a deranged, Oedipal tribute to Marion Ryan) or Daniel O’Donnell (anything). In which case, one is left cringing for eternity. Here is the Top Fifty:


    Apologies for lowering the tone in this way in the middle of a serious post. Just thought a bit of light relief, occasionally…

  • Howard

    This is all a bit silly. I mean, Jenny Tonge is a mum and she’s way way out there going against the grain.

    And good on her too.

    Pity the leadership didn’t have her balls.

    The way the country is feeling at the moment, there must be votes in telling the real truth. If we’d a decent electoral system we could consign dictators like Blair and his money-grubbing ilk to history, once and for all.

  • meinus

    What the Afghan/Iraqi/younameit people need to do is build their homes in the shape of the World Trade Center. Then maybe we’d get it, we have become terrorists, except (noncowards that we are!) we send unmanned bombs.

    — me in us

  • KingofWelshNoir

    Mark Golding

    When David Cameron referred to people who believe 9/11 was a Mossad plot was he talking about former Italian President, Francesco Cossiga, and former West German secretary of state for defence, Andreas von Bulow?

  • writerman

    Dear Craig,

    I understand your attitude to men of Gladstone’s caliber. Unfortunately, today, men like him; with his courage, honesty and sense of honour do not exist in politics.

    What concerns me about you is that your sense of decency and honour, whilst close to your heroes, sets you appart from the leadership of the modern Liberal party, which is populated by individuals who are virtually indistinguishable from New Labour and the Conservatives. When you find this out I’m worried that you will take this harsh lesson too much to heart and pay a heavy emotional price for your “naivity.” You should prepare yourself for profound disappointment and a sense of betrayal, which for obvious reasons I hope you are steeling yourself for.

    The world and society, the values in public life, that produced men like Gladstone and other radically minded Liberals, when Liberal actually meant something; is gone, shattered, and it won’t return anytime soon, unfortunately.

  • chrisentia

    I have lived in Nigeria where people live in compounds, and they are always called compounds. They would never refer to their compound as a house, which refers to a standard western style house.

    So the use of the word compound may be more innocent than you suppose.

    Apart from that, I agree with everything you say.

  • dreoilin

    “I have lived in Nigeria where people live in compounds, and they are always called compounds. They would never refer to their compound as a house … So the use of the word compound may be more innocent than you suppose.”

    Unfortunately not. Because it’s not Nigerians or Afghanis who are being discussed here. It’s the US/UK media. And we all know that in the UK and US people don’t refer to living in compounds, irrespective of where they live.

    “Suspected militant compound” in Afghanistan gives you carte blanche for just about anything.

  • writerman

    Propaganda. It’s all propaganda. The truth is very powerful, but what’s, in practice more powerful still, is the power to ignore the truth and pretend it never happened and isn’t really there at all. It never really happened.

    For example Obama has, when he isn’t threatening to nuke Iran and North Korea, has signed an order giving the CIA the right to assassinate, or murder, an American citizen who is thought to be in Yemen, and who is regarded as a terrorist threat to the United States.

    This isn’t just imprisoning men without trial, or using torture; this is Obama crossing a line that Bush didn’t even cross publically, the President’s “right” to order the murder of an American citizen.

    This is Obama setting himself up as judge, jury, and executioner, and not of some pesky foreigner but of an American citizen born in New Mexico. This is a massive violation of the US Constitution and US law on a grand scale, but the smooth, silky, smiling, Obama gets away with it, why?

    And what’s next, how long before a President, in his role as commander in chief, thinks he has the right to order American citizens killed inside the United States? Today it’s Yeman, tomorrow it’s Chicago… or Boston.

  • Andy

    Interesting blog by Adam Curtis.


    “When you look at footage of the fighting in Helmand today everyone assumes it is being played out against an ancient background of villages and fields built over the centuries.

    “This is not true. If you look beyond the soldiers, and into the distance, what you are really seeing are the ruins of one of the biggest technological projects the United States has ever undertaken. Its aim was to use science to try and change the course of history and produce a modern utopia in Afghanistan. The city of Lashkar Gah was built by the Americans as a model planned city, and the hundreds of miles of canals that the Taliban now hide in were constructed by the same company that built the San Francisco Bay Bridge and Cape Canaveral.”


  • anno

    My mum detests US UK IS violence. It’s just that she doesn’t believe it’s happening, because it’s not on the 10 o clock news and she would like me not to be thinking about such things.

    This country is in deep shock to find itself led into these appalling wars with no means of redress or popular sanction. This recession is not just financial bankruptcy, but also emotional bankruptcy that so much evil has been done in our name in such a short time.

    If someone writes off my car, I put up with it, but if a hundred cars get floated downstream in a flash flood, one expects there to be some soul-searching and hand-wringing. The po-faced, artificial regret we get from the media chattering classes about our genocides is deeply chilling. Abscence of chatter is supposed to indicate sincerity? What about jumping up and down with rage from INSIDE the television. Oh, sorry, if you do that you don’t get asked again. Our savvy media class is so cool the way they never fall for that one!

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