We are posting the following two articles by Mike Small on the current situation in Afghanistan. They were first posted on bella caledonia at https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2021/08/20/global-britain-britannia-unchained/ and https:bellacaledonia.org.uk/2021/08/17/falling
1. GLOBAL BRITAIN, BRITANNIA UNCHAINED
1. GLOBAL BRITAIN, BRITANNIA UNCHAINED
Liberal media went crazy for the Tory back-benchers sticking it to Boris Johnson in Westminster yesterday. Ex-soldiers were a favourite but so too was the disastrous ex-PM Theresa May now resurrected as a principled back-bencher. Stumbling into an accidentally prophetic sentence she said: “We boast about Global Britain, but where is Global Britain on the streets of Kabul?”
But what we are watching in real time IS precisely Global Britain.
The gulf between unprocessed hubris and the reality of Anglo-Britain’s place in the world is now a chasm pockmarked by chicken-shortages pathetically incompetent ministers and a collapse of standard in public office.
Imagine being (nominally) in charge during the fall of Kabul and the most disastrous episode in modern British history and not just resigning. Imagine being caught in Dominic Raab’s position and not just immediately resigning in shame?
The Churchill Project reported: “MPs with stricken faces – some visibly shaking with rage, some seemingly on the verge of tears – were suddenly aware that they were living in an epoch-defining moment. Witnessing the decline of the West, its retreat from the world, & the consequences which follow from that.”
“The first was that the special relationship with the US is clearly a fiction & has been for longer than the UK foreign policy establishment cares to admit. The second was that Brexit had burned bridges with the other Western powers to whom Britain might now naturally turn.”
This is the Global Britain we’ve been led to. The joke about Britain’s military weakness is that we have at Faslane our very own WMD (with its newly boosted “killpower”) – a useless immoral symbol of our aggressive impotence.
Parliament was recalled, as if that would somehow do something; Raab and Johnson were chastised, as if that would somehow do something; Theresa May was lauded, as if she is interesting powerful or principled.
As Lewis Goodall – the Newsnight Editor observed: “MP after MP (from both sides) implored the government to provide an example of what global Britain now means. There was no answer, because right now there isn’t one.”
He misses the point. This IS Global Britain: impotent, incompetent, armed to the teeth, ruled by charlatans. Global Britain is Britannia Unchained. It’s worth remembering that Dominic Raab, who lay on a beach in Crete, was too lazy to make the phone calls that could have saved lives in Afghanistan, once accused British workers of being “among the worst idlers in the world”.
He and Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Priti Patel MP, Dominic Raab MP, Chris Skidmore MP and Liz Truss MP are co-authors of the hard-right ‘Britannia Unchained’ manifesto of 2012.
There is continuity here between the casual incompetence of the over-privileged and the complete disregard of human life which is a direct consequence of their (in) action.
The defence of Raab includes the idea of him “working tirelessly” but guests at a five-star resort in Crete have rubbished Dominic Raab’s claim that he worked intensely through the day as Kabul fell. One reported him swim and play ping-pong for hours. This morning Tory MPs are cutting and pasting tweets they have been fed to try and defend and exonerate the disgraced minister.
So this is it. This is what post-Brexit Britain looks and feels like. The ‘Special Relationship’ is broken because we are strategically unimportant and led by a man who has burnt his bridges with Democrat America; in trade terms we are marooned and adrift and militarily.
Raab’s contribution to the hard-right’s 2012 ‘Britannia Unchained: Global Lessons for Growth and Prosperity’ was unconsciously prophetic:
“Britain is at a crossroads which will define our place in the world for generations. We must learn the rules of the 21st century, or we face an inevitable slide into mediocrity.”
Here we are.
The parliamentary recall saw a chamber of people locked in mutual incomprehension. Theresa May seemed to be leading this bewilderment declaring: “We all understand the importance of American support, but despite the comments from [Boris Johnson] I do find it incomprehensible and worrying that the United Kingdom was not able to bring together not a military solution, but an alternative alliance of countries to continue to provide the support necessary to sustain a government in Afghanistan.”
This would seem to suggest a state of complete denial about Britain’s place in the world. To be clear what we are witnessing is Global Britain on the streets of Kabul.
There’s a gruesome neat symmetry to the 9/11 Falling Man imagery and the doom-scrolling of the Kabul debacle; as people fall off planes leaving the airport. Remember it was the 9/11 attack was the pretext to entering Afghanistan – a war that has killed between 171,000 to 174,000 people and cost over $2 trillion – and at the time the US was boastful of its supremacy talking of “we will never forget nor forgive and will act at the time of our choosing”.
The entire “war on terror” fiasco is exposed and the US and Britain are utterly humiliated. This was never about ‘nation-building’ and always about ‘counter terrorism’. Framed like this, and understood like this, the military intervention was always doomed to fail, because the task was not the task it presented to be. We’ve seen this movie before. This is Suez for the West. This is not just a military defeat it is a defeat for the notion of international ‘order’, progress and universal rights.
As Tariq Ali writes: “The fall of Kabul to the Taliban on 15 August 2021 is a major political and ideological defeat for the American Empire. The crowded helicopters carrying US Embassy staff to Kabul airport were startlingly reminiscent of the scenes in Saigon – now Ho Chi Minh City – in April 1975. The speed with which Taliban forces stormed the country was astonishing; their strategic acumen remarkable. A week-long offensive ended triumphantly in Kabul. The 300,000-strong Afghan army crumbled. Many refused to fight. In fact, thousands of them went over to the Taliban, who immediately demanded the unconditional surrender of the puppet government. President Ashraf Ghani, a favourite of the US media, fled the country and sought refuge in Oman. The flag of the revived Emirate is now fluttering over his Presidential palace. In some respects, the closest analogy is not Saigon but nineteenth-century Sudan, when the forces of the Mahdi swept into Khartoum and martyred General Gordon. William Morris celebrated the Mahdi’s victory as a setback for the British Empire. Yet while the Sudanese insurgents killed an entire garrison, Kabul changed hands with little bloodshed. The Taliban did not even attempt to take the US embassy, let alone target American personnel.”
Talk of a different, more progressive Taliban regime is more liberal framing. An “inclusive” Taliban regime with better social media comms is like a medieval regime with brighter flags.
Media-friendly spook Rory Stewart, piped into your streams as the acceptable face of Toryism says: “He (Biden) embraced a policy largely indistinguishable from former president Donald Trump’s isolationism, leaving with no adequate transition in place, apparently indifferent to the horror in its wake.”
While that’s true it seemingly absolves the entire cadre of politicians that endorsed and pursued this policy for twenty years.
The chaos of the Afghan regime represents not just a military failure of NATO it’s a failure of Western imperialism and a complete failure of the “special relationship”. It collapses the distinction between neoliberal expansionism and liberal expansionism. It’s an epic humiliation and completely inevitable. But if the debacle is a moral failure it is also a security and intelligence failure of massive proportions. Tory ministers expressing “surprise” today is bizarre. As they line up to cry – as if some kind of performative act of male expressiveness counters your geopolitical imperialism – you are left shuddering with the level of dysfunctional stupidity of these people.
In the Green Zone
Now, in the next stage of brutality, the west is joining hands to exclude the people dispossessed by their actions:
On the same day that Afghans died clinging to planes, Macron says “We must anticipate and protect ourselves against significant irregular migratory flows”.
What kind of leader vows to set up a system to keep Afghan refugees out of the EU completely.
— Claudia Webbe MP (@ClaudiaWebbe) August 16, 2021
Open Democracy reveals: “The UK government has rejected more than 32,000 Afghan asylum seekers since the Western invasion of the country in 2001”.
The entire escapade is like a metaphor for western failure.
Tariq Ali again: “The brilliantly lit Green Zone was always surrounded by a darkness that the Zoners could not fathom. In one of the poorest countries of the world, billions were spent annually on air-conditioning the barracks that housed US soldiers and officers, while food and clothing were regularly flown in from bases in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It was hardly a surprise that a huge slum grew on the fringes of Kabul, as the poor assembled to search for pickings in dustbins.”
Remember too this is a NATO project. For all the blaming and shaming that should be remembered. This is the NATO project the SNP are committed to. We should reject everything about it.
This sense of cycles of tyranny and imperialism is palpable – with nothing but a forthcoming film proposal to act as remembrance. In the film the American’s will no doubt be both the victims and the heroes.
Little of this is new. Way back in November 2001 Alan McCombes reported for Scottish Socialist Voice from the Afghan exile communities and refugee camps just over the border in the North West Frontier Province:
“This was a journey from the Third World to the Fourth World, from the poverty-ridden slums of Peshawar in the heart of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province to the desolation of the Afghan refugee camps an hour’s drive away. I set out from a sparsely furnished house in the backstreet slums of this teeming city. Half the population of Peshawar are Afghan refugees. Millions fled the country during the Soviet occupation. More ed in the 1990s when the warring mujahideen ripped Afghanistan apart. Then came the Taliban in 1996, and a new wave of refugees flooded across the border.
Some left Afghanistan seeking to escape the tyranny of the new regime, with its ritual Friday evening amputations and executions in the football stadiums. Most left the country because they were starving. During 24 years of war, the economy had collapsed, and the country had been brought to its knees. Across the border in Pakistan, life is only marginally more tolerable. On the streets, women with tiny babies in their arms beg desperately for a few rupees. Little children, barefoot and in rags, scavenge among the market stalls for scraps of food.”
Now, to add to the brutal tragedy we are joined with a combination of victim-blaming:
NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg said: “What we’ve seen is a military and political collapse which was not anticipated…because ultimately the Afghan political situation failed to stand up to the Taliban. This failure of Afghan leadership led to the tragedy we’re seeing today.”
… and narrative shifting.
Very quickly we’re being told how heroic the US is in “protecting Kabul airport” and just how much WAS achieved by the British.
While now we’re being told the mission was all about ‘nation-building’ not so long ago the British government was a bit less sanguine about our real motivations. This from 2009 tells a different picture:
“Phil Woolas provoked fury yesterday by claiming British troops are fighting in Afghanistan in part to keep immigration under control. The gaffe-prone Home Office Minister told MPs the number of asylum seekers coming to the UK would ‘significantly increase’ if troops were withdrawn.The Taliban would take over and large numbers of Afghans would flee to Britain to claim refugee status, he said.
During a meeting of the home affairs select committee, Mr Woolas said: ‘If this country and others were to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan and the Taliban were able to take control of Afghanistan our evidence is that the number of asylum seekers coming to the EU would significantly increase.”
Idrees Ahmad has noted that “as long as the west’s engagement with the Muslim world is defined exclusively in terms of threats—specifically migration and terrorism—it will merely perpetuate the crises by ignoring people in favour of crisis managers. In two statements, the perennially tone deaf Emmanuel Macron illustrates the problem: 1) By seeing Afghanistan exclusively as a security problem 2) By treating ordinary Afghans as a threat. This is why after 20 years and billions of dollars, the west failed to generate any goodwill.”
This is correct. But also we should not be surprised that going to war doesn’t create peace, that armed invasion doesn’t solve conflict and that alliances with the US doesn’t end well. We’ve seen this movie before.
1. Isolation at G7. chaos in Ireland sees British retreat on Brexit border – Socialist Democracy (Ireland)
2. The Guardian – a liberal defender of the imperialist world order – Media Lens
3. The Democrats won’t save democracy -Jason Koslowski , Left Voice (USA)
4. Biden is, and always has been, a champion of Zionism and imperialism- Otto Fors, Left Voice, USA
5. Brexit Britain -a new police state? – Socialist Democracy (Ireland)
6. The stranglehold of the hard right is tightening – Mile Small, bella caledonia