the Disillusioned kid: Deja Vu
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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Deja Vu

At Mayday celebrations in Nottingham way back when in 2003 somebody made the mistake of allowing me on a platform as a speaker. This was, as you may recall, around the time when large chunks of our glorious free press were heralding Bush and Blair's crusade as a life-affirming success, with conveniently toppled statues setting the intellectual scene. Given the context I spoke of the anti-war movement's need to ensure that Iraq did not fall from the public consciousness as the west's previous engagement in Afghanistan had done. I opined that if we hoped to prevent something similar happening again it behoved us to demonstrate that invasions were not the clean, easy, surgical operations which they were so often presented as, at least when conducted by the "good guys." History, of course, was to render my concerns irrelevant.

While the levels of violence in Afghanistan had remained sufficiently low for the nation's plight to be pushed towards the bottom of the news agenda, if not off it completely, the comparatively sudden emergence of widespread and effective armed resistance in Iraq meant that the cost to the occupiers prohibited similar whitewashing. The emergence of armed groups prepared to enage in "spectacular" attacks claiming many lives in a single strike was a further guarantee of media coverage, even if much of it could be easily manipulated to serve the interest of the occupiers. It would be a mistake to suggest that this unhealthy and arguably undue focus is entirely the fault of the mainstream media. Bloggers, all to often reliant on the media for material, have also paid much more attention to events in Iraq than in Afghanistan. Even I must plead guilty here.

While we've all been looking the other way, however, the armed groups in Afghanistan have been becoming increasingly effective (perhaps learning from their Iraqi counterparts). This is the context in which today's announcement (via) that British deployment in the country is too be increased, reaching a peak (albeit "briefly" if we can take the government at it's word) of 5,700 should be viewed. The deployment - part of a Nato mission - was bigger than expected and justified by Minister for War John Reid on the basis that it was neccesary to curb the booming narcotics trade (centred around opium) and provide security (the classic imperialist catch-all).

Anybody hoping that the "reinvigorated" Tory Party might be able to muster sufficient spine and/or principle to oppose or even seriously criticise any of this will be sorely disappointed. Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox claimed that the proposed deployment and the Nato mission of which it was part, embraced "noble ideas," but warned the government that his party would hold the government to account for any failures in policy, which sounds suspiciously like the hedging of bets to me.

Imperialism's mask is slipping. In Iraq the reality of the Emperor's nakedness is there for all to see and Afghanistan looks to be on a similarly dark course. If the anti-war movement gets its act sorted this could be a turning point. As it is, I fear this is little more than another landmark on a highway to hell. It'd be jolly nice if somebody could prove me wrong, though.

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