Posts Tagged ‘Troubled Waters’
The allotments looked very like a scene from the Blitz this morning. The gale that roared had done its worst, and the storage areas looked like one of those Woollies sites in the days after their still lamented closure. As we set to work I noticed that Harry appeared to be in a particularly venomous mood and, in an attempt to pour oil on troubled waters, made a fatuous comment about global warming. But our havoc had nothing to do with his mood, he was fuming about Afghanistan. His grandson is out there on his second tour of duty and the family lives in a constant state of tension. This week has brought several more announcements of fatalities and, not surprisingly, those waiting at home continue to ask themselves what the war is actually about, and why we continue to gamble young lives on what is clearly mission impossible. Harry told me that often, in the dead of night, he asks himself over and over how the mindless slaughter can be brought to an end.
Now he has the answer and he is enraged. Some of today’s papers have told us what the government has failed to reveal. Millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money is being spent on paying the most violent of the Taliban killers £100 per month to stop fighting. All they have to do is complete a questionnaire explaining their reasons for joining the insurgency. They are then granted amnesty, allowed to keep their weapons, and encouraged to return to their local communities.
Of those already pardoned in exchange for a promise that they will undoubtedly keep only for as long as the pay continues to arrive, are at least 100 of the bomb-layers of Helmand, where nearly 400 Britsh troops have been killed and more than 5000 seriously injured and permanently disabled. Maj Gen David Hook is in charge of the programme of reconciliation. He previously served in southern Afghanistan and admits that he saw many horrendous examples of Taliban brutality which, he said, he would “personally find it difficult to forgive”. He goes on to remark that the programme will be difficult “for many British families to accept”. Some understatement!
The general has gone on to say that even if the insurgents who murdered members of the Grenadier Guards battlegroup at a checkpoint in Nad e’Ali in November 2009 come forward they will not be prosecuted. The idea of forgiveness is important, insists the general, and the UK has given £6.5 million to deliver peace in this way. In his interview the general draws an analogy with Northern Ireland and the policy of forgiveness applied there. It is a strange comparison for in Ireland British troops were protecting British soil, although even there forgiveness looked suspiciously like betrayal of those murdered.
Amongst the ‘great successes’ of the scheme previously hidden from us is the arrival in the Afghan governmnet of Maulawi Noor ul Aziz who proudly estimates that he ordered or took part in hundreds of attacks on Afghan and Nato forces. As a senior Taliban leader in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand many of his targets were likely to have been British troops. Yet he too has been granted amnesty. In an interview he talks as one might of a computer war game. He and his men had sown a field in Nad-e Ali with improvised explosive devices, planning to ambush patrols. In fact a Chinook helicopter landed nearby and he and his band detonated their bombs. He recalls that; “All the bombs went off and some of the foreigners were blown to bits and some were wounded. We were very happy with the result”. He sounds just the sort of man we should be paying wages to whilst he rests from his campaign!
To add insult to the injury that this scheme will cause to many a family’s spirits, we learn from Hanif Atmar, a former interior minsiter, that so far many of those being “forgiven and paid” are not genuine insurgents, and the scheme is “failing to undermine the rebels in their southern heartlands”. So not only are we paying leading murderers, but we are also giving rewards to people who have no influence on Taliban activities.
The truth of the matter is that, like the Russians before us, we are indulging in a lethal fantasy. The idea that the Taliban is a seperate entity opposed by the rest of the population is unreal. In many areas it is the community. Hard though it may be we have to accept we were wrong to become engaged there. Nothing we do will reduce the security threat to our island, indeed it is doing the absolute opposite.
There seem to be no depths to which our politicians will sink in their futile efforts to prove “victory” in Afghanistan. They continue to regard our young men as pawns in a game. But this is no game, almost 6000 families have already been sacificed to a greater or lesser extent. Generations will grow up and live their lives without the fathers they loved.
When the defence of our country is at stake our servicemen know that it is their duty to stand and, if necessary, die. The situation in Afghanistan is not in that category. Our troops should not be there and every month adds more blood to the hands of those that keep them there. And now we are handing over fool’s gold to those who delight in their murder!
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S WEEKEND QUIZ; 1. Alan Shearer 2. Play it 3. Judy Garland 4. Girls Aloud 5. Bart Simpson 6. Jose Morinho ( about Spurs v Arsenal) 7. Sydney 8. Terry Wogan 9. Lady 10. Radio Channels
SOME MEMORABLE QUOTES!!!!!!!!!!!! “Games are the kast resort of those who do not know how to idle”……Robert Lynd “Serious sport is war minus the shooting”…….George Orwell “The English football team – brilliant on paper, shite on grass”…….Arthur Smith “Well, either side could win, or it could be a draw”……Ron Atkinson “The manager still has a fresh pair of legs up his sleeve”……John Greig “Steve McCahill has limped off with a badly cut forehead”……Tom Ferrie “The sending off? Well, Jason McAteer would annoy anyone”…….Dave Jones “You’d think that if any team could put up a decent wall it would be China”……Terry Venables “Skiing? I don’t participate in any sport that has ambulances at the bottom of the hill”…..Erma Bombeck “I went to a fight the other night and a ice-hockey match broke out”….Rodney Dangerfield “It has been announced that Northern Rock has been sold to Virgin Mary”……Peter Allen on Radio 5 Live “We have to reduce our expectations and we have the players to do it”…….Steve McClaren on Radio 5 Live
This time last year we would have described this morning as cold. Everything is relative and, after the coldest December since Adam was a lad, we felt it to be quite mild. Just as well for today we were joined by Barry, who is new to the self-sufficiency lark, and so rare are new members that we have to hang on to them with might and main. Barry has been made redundant by the local authority and has decided to produce his own eggs. That sounds daft so I will rephrase it. He has decided to keep chickens. A few days ago his first self-assembly coop arrived.
Even those of us used to the perils of MFI kits tend to struggle for up to two hours with coops and we usually enlist the help of a friend. Not Barry. To our astonishment he had finished within 30 minutes. There was however a snag, he had several pieces left over and they happened to secure the floor section. Albert, not a candidate for the diplomatic service, was quick to rabbit on about more haste less speed. Bill poured oil on troubled waters by suggesting that Barry was no worse than the coalition.
When as a team we had eventually reassembled Barry’s prefab, we retired to the hut for the last of the Christmas sherry. Bill enlarged on the coalition bit. Unlike the rest of us he had read the front page of several of today’s papers and the unfortunate story of the much lauded ‘bonfire of the Quangos’ which warmed our anti-bureaucracy hearts soon after the election. You may remember the PR. Under Labour a zillion unelected Quangos had been created and the whole land was creaking under the weight of a million orders. Even worse the empire of the uneleceted was consuming billions of the national purse. They were all to be abolished within the first four months of the new Cameron/Clegg wonderworld. And before we read today’s reports of the Commons public admistration select committee that is exactly what we imagined had happened. The whole pile of red tape and waste had been hurled on to the bonfire, and good riddance.
But it seems that, as in many other things, the coalition acted with undue haste. The chairman of the committee which investigated the Clegg version of Guy Fawkes night is Tory MP Bernard Jenkin, and he had nothing good to say about what has happened. He says that “the whole process was rushed and poorly handled and should have been thought through a lot more. This was a fantastic opportunity to help build the big society and save money at the same time”. The whole project says Mr Jenkins “has been botched”.
And he hadn’t finished at that. He added that “in the short term the reorganisation will now cost more than it will save. This was put together on the hoof and needs to be much improved for future reviews”. Not surprisingly the Labour members were quick to join in the latest Clegg bashing. John Tricket talked of chaos and an irrational, unaccountable and expensive mish-mash of proposals which will do nothing to improve the quality of services.
Today’s report is profoundly critical of the Quango-vetting process used. It claims that the criteria used to test whether a Quango should survive were conflicting and inconsistently applied. An example quoted was the decision to make art funding independent of government yet film funding went the other way. This report won’t make good bedtime reading for the head muppets, the summary is best left until dawn. For it confirms the committee’s view that the project will not deliver savings or result in greater accountability.
At some stage of its work the committee called the head of the Civil Service, Gus O’Donnell, to clarify the supposed cost savings. Despite being given time to go way and organise an audit Mr O’Donnell was obliged to confirm that he coudn’t prdouce an analysis of any net savings which is probably Sir Humphfrey speak for ‘there ain’t any’.
Add this fiasco to the news that we are cutting up for scrap brand new ships and planes and it is hard to escape the conclusion that the deeds of government are straight from the script of Monty Python. And one cannot exclude the previous administration from that since they created the said Quangos, ships and planes in the first place. But we are now in a bigger mess than ever for we have work carried out by Quangos now lying unattended and we haven’t saved so much as a quid in the process.
The prime minister will probably respond to the select committee by ordering an Inquiry which wil take several years to reach a conclusion by which time the Miliband family will be ready to reinstate the Quangos. How else will they find jobs for their favourite uncles?
The next time there is talk on high of bonfires someone should perhaps suggest that they are checked for content before ministers strike a match!
ASHES TRIUMPH CHEERS THE NATION!
So excellent was the England performance down under that it is probably unfair to single out individuals. This was truly a team performance and bowlers and batsmen alike demonstrated just how far England have come under Flower and Strauss. Even the loss of Stuart Broad failed to derail the team and, by the end of the Sydney Test, the Aussies were lining up to describe the England standard as well above their own.
Sadly the series marked the end of Paul Colligwood’s Test career. And he went out on a characteristic note when he flung himself like a circus acrobat to snatch the edge that did for Ricky Ponting in Perth. Paul was a world-class fielder and a gritty performer with bat and ball. He is a man of great self understanding and has used his abilities to the fullest extent possible.
Of course we all realise that Australia are no longer the greatest, in fact they are way behind both South Africa and India. But we should relish the moment. England will surely never travel to those famous grounds again and come away so utterly triumphant.
FAMOUS CRICKET ‘SLEDGES’; Steve Waugh was arranging the field for Nasser Hussein who had just arrived at the crease. He placed Ponting at silly point and said “I want you right under his nose”. Ponting replied ” that would be anywhere inside a three mile radius”. Sadly Nassar laughed so much that he was dismissed the next ball.
YESTERDAY’S QUIZ ANSWERS; 1. The Cruel Sea 2. 1977
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1. Which British daily newspaper closed down in March 1971? 2. Of which country was General Yakubu Gowon head of state?