Death in Kabul 34

I contribute to this BBC Radio Scotland programme which goes out at 14.05 today. It tells the story of Alexander Burnes, of whom I am currently writing a biography. It will hopefully give you some idea of why I am so devoted to the project. I presume that outside Scotland you can listen to it online – can anyone give a link?

Given the appalling level of recent fatalities in our current doomed and pointless occupation of Kabul, I think you will find the story quite haunting.


I think you should be able to hear it live here

or on Sky channel 0116

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34 thoughts on “Death in Kabul

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  • Mary

    Pathetic woman. She should have resigned but didn’t want to lose the power and the perks esp the expenses,
    Iraq War

    MK: I wanted to move on to the war. Do you have any regrets about your actions before or during the war?
    CS: Well this question has been asked ten thousand times so it gets tedious I have to say. And I’ve written a book and said it all there, so you know. I said I would resign if we didn’t have a UN resolution then Tony Blair entered into a big negotiation with me and said, “What will stop you?” I said, “Get me a UN resolution – there’s no imminent danger from anything Saddam Hussein’s got, we should have made progress on Israel-Palestine peace before doing anything about Iraq. And, thirdly, if there is to be a war any reconstruction must be organised with international cooperation under a UN mandate.”
    So he then got Bush to say that he supported a Roadmap to the Israel-Palestinian peace and gave an absolute commitment and got Bush to say something about a UN lead on reconstruction. So it was two out of three. And then, also, Blair lied about the French position and the possibility of any UN resolution.
    So I was in enormous torment and dilemma but I thought: ‘I’ve got to harden to this’. It’s a terrible mess but if there’s an international reconstruction and if we really do make progress on Israel-Palestinian (under the Roadmap there should have been a full Palestinian state by 2005) the Middle East would be a lot better off. So I knew I wasn’t doing anything to make myself popular – I was well aware of that. But I thought that was the right thing to do. And the truth is that Tony was just lying in my face. I’m still shocked, you know, that the Prime Minister of Britain in the teeth of war will get the President of the United States to publicly say he will support the Roadmap – which is, you know, two state on the ’67 boundaries – and they were just saying it to, you know, to keep me sweet for a bit. I mean it is stunning.
    MK: Do you think he went into the war knowing it was illegal? Do you think it was illegal in the end?
    CS: Well we now know the shenanigans that went on over the legal opinion. I mean I think, what I said in my book, I think Blair is a peculiar kind of man. I think he is fundamentally a presentational person and he is superb at presentation and he’s very careful always to use language which leaves plenty of wriggle room and doesn’t tie him down too firmly and that’s what he is good at.
    I don’t think he is a person who looks at the merits and say, “Hmmm, we’ll have to be untruthful about this.” He thinks in presentational terms, he doesn’t do detail and he doesn’t think through merits. I mean that’s what’s terrifying about it. So I think he gave his word – well we now know from the leaks – really early on to Bush, therefore had no leverage and was really manipulating and misleading the House of Commons, the Cabinet, his party, the country, from then on.
    He was kind of squirming about to get us to war come what may and obviously hoping he could get Bush to cooperate in a UN resolution. But it wasn’t like using your leverage to say to America, “We’ll be with you if we do it properly,” and then working with the rest of the international community to say, “For Heaven’s sake, let’s all stand together and say we agree that sanctions in Iraq is imposing such suffering that we shouldn’t leave it like this, Iraq needs resolving.”
    But if Britain had used that role of being friendly with America to talk to everyone else and then said, “On these sort of conditions, the rest of the world will act with you, America.” That would have been a heroic role for Blair but he blew it by giving his word right at the beginning. And then engaging in all that he did. And look at Iraq now.
    A very infantile manner of speaking in this accommodation of her actions or rather the lack of them.

  • tigger1

    Mr Murray,
    Writing the biography of Alexander Burnes you are obviously familiar with Jan Prosper Witkiewicz (rusicized name Ivan Vitkevitch) who was sent as Russian envoy to Kabul.
    It was very unlikely that Jan could have any sympathy or respect for Russia. If he decided to cooperate with his jailors – maybe he tried to play his own game of building the distrust between Russia and UK. What do you think?
    There is short biography of Jan Witkiewicz on Polish Wikipedia (if you can’t read Polish I would be delighted to translate)

  • --goIn

    Short, has had more support from people for what she stood for
    She doesn’t stand for anything except her own self-interest and ego. Can you even tell if she’s standing and not sitting down? In which direction is she larger?

  • craig Post author


    Mowie po polsku – mieszkalem w Warszawe
    I should be very interested in any Polish sources on Witkiewicz – either manuscript or published.

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