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Bring them back - alive


The cry is going up everywhere from Whitehall to the White House, from Herat to the House of Commons. "We didn't expect it to be like this. We didn't expect this kind of trouble. Why are they fighting so hard?"

Whether it's in Afghanistan or Iraq, Basra or Beirut – why won't Johnny Foreigner do what he's told? We're doing this for their benefit, not ours, bringing them democracy and all, and do they thank us for it? They jolly well do not!

Hang on though, weren't we told that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction? Surely in that case we should have expected a bit of a ruck? Unless of course our military and that of the US knew there were no such things, and so actually expected a pushover. That would explain why they're now surprised.

Either that or they don't read history. How many goes have the British army had at subduing Afghanistan, how many attempts to control Iraq (see p14)? For the past two hundred and fifty years our government has done little else with its army outside of world wars than try to control places far afield they consider to be within their sphere of influence. Or rather, speaking of the past 50-odd years, more often the US sphere of influence.

The present wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, were started by the US for what the Bush government regarded as its own imperial interests – we were then called in to try and create some semblance of legitimacy, and to provide cannon fodder.

It didn't work then, it isn't working now and it won't work in the future. Where next? Iran? Darfur? No, probably not that one – it doesn't have oil.

The reason the sun set on the British Empire was that we got kicked out of the countries we tried to govern. Britain didn't withdraw graciously like a benevolent uncle. It was beaten. And Britain is being beaten now, even as we tail ignominiously after the US, trying to prop up their Empire. On Afghanistan, General Sir Michael Rose, commander of the British forces in Bosnia, said, "Given the level of resources NATO has at the moment, and the strategy we are pursuing, we simply cannot win." British troops are dying for this.

It is not our job to bring democracy to anywhere else, just as it wasn't our job to bring Christianity or civilisation or whatever other name we gave the same thing before, to anyone else. Our job is to respect the sovereignty of other countries. That way they will respect ours.

Blair and the real respect agenda? Forget it.

Bring the troops home now – alive.