The Curmudgeon


Monday, November 20, 2006

Good News, Challenging News

The Vicar of Downing Street has given a special, one-off sermon to his soldiers in Afghanistan, informing them that, like the rest of the civilised world, they are engaged in a "generation-long struggle".

His reverence found the desert extraordinary: "Here, in this extraordinary desert, is where the future of world security in the early 21st century is going to be played out," he said. Thanks to Tony and Tony's best friend, of course it is just possible that world security might be played out already; but his reverence does not recognise bad news: "There is challenging news and there is good news," he insisted. So when five British troops were killed in Afghanistan over five years, that was good news; now that seven times that many have been killed in the past five months, that's a challenge. Although his reverence claimed that he does not expect British troops to remain in Afghanistan for the entire generation of the struggle, he did give them some useful advice in case matters should become worse: "If your enemy is fighting you - and they are our enemy - then you fight back with more energy and determination." For our soldiers' sake, we can only hope that the Taliban lack sufficient Britishness to take this slightly sub-Churchillian rhetoric to heart.

His reverence made some observations on the state of mind of various key players in the playing out of world security: the folks back home, being the main beneficiaries in terms of political paranoia, trigger-happy police and the occasional suicide bomber, are "very proud of what [the soldiers] do, regardless what they think of political leaders". By golly, the feeling is mutual. His reverence, dressed in an open-necked blue shirt and navy-blue blazer to symbolise his transcendence of party politics, was spontaneously buttonholed by a Sergeant Chris Hunter, who spontaneously informed him that "The lads ... all want to be here. It is a point that is often missed back home that the lads are proud to be here and proud to be doing our job." Perhaps Tony and the lads are unacquainted with Proverbs 16 xviii; or perhaps, like most Christian soldiers, they believe that such things apply to those with purposes less exalted than their own.

His reverence also bestowed his insights into the humble psychology of the liberated. Asked whether the Taliban might simply wait for us to leave, Tony said that "the Afghan people have also got time. They are not going anywhere", no matter how easy we have made it for them; and "they are not going to be intimidated out of a better future", particularly now that they know it may be only a generation away. Tony also noted that "opium production was up in areas of Afghanistan, but insisted it was down in others"; which is certainly quite an achievement after a mere five years. Better yet, "The Taliban thought they could retake Helmand this year - and they haven't." Well, there's good news and there's challenging news. Tony thought he could take Iraq in 2003 - and ...


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