Rather than reinforcing the same-old lies from the military and the state, now would be a good time for the British media to demonstrate some of the freedom over which it has been shedding crocodile tears at the Levenson Inquiry
Do you know what is the plan? It’s the plan to which we must stick. It’s the plan which guides the work which must not be derailed. It is something to do with broad and general goodness. But what is it?
It’s the Fairytale of Kabul – that we’re in Afghanistan doing good for the people and keeping Britain safe. Good for the people means all the usual things Western intervention has come to mean; that the many horrific experiences to which the population has been subjected is both unavoidable and necessary and is justified by the vaguest of indicators that ‘progress is being made’. Terrible things that the ‘other side’ is doing shows exactly why we must stay there, but handily the terrible things that we do are also a rock-solid reason to stay.
The phrase ‘fog of war’ became particularly prominent in the Bush years to suggest that when there is a war then simultaneously (almost as if by coincidence, one might conclude) climactic conditions result in such a broad and general guddle that possibly bad things can happen but, well, shrug – that’s the fog of war. What is never foggy or in doubt is the Absolute Certainty Of Purpose.
In fact it is of course all the other way round. War is clear – it is brutal, it brutalises everyone involved and in as far as any good comes from it the argument has to be that ‘the existing state of violence or repression was worse’. There is no doubt about what happens in war, much as it is hidden and disguised. War is not foggy – war is the fog that descends on those involved. The reasons for war, on the other hand, are much harder to get a grip on. They have a habit of changing shape and slipping though your fingers. A bit like fog even.
OK, so far so routine anti-war rhetoric. The question which is pressing down on my mind today is what exactly our media thinks it is for? As far as I can tell the primary aftermath of the stomach-turning murder of children in their beds by a drunk American psycho-soldier is (once more) overwhelming self pity. Poor us – trying our best and then this comes along and happens. The real worry here is that British troops might be put at risk or our long-term presence in Afghanistan imperilled. And then Cameron states that it is essential to stay in Afghanistan because of womens’ rights/terrorists/drugs/Sauron the Evil Wizard. Which the media prints as though it has been lobotomised.
So once and for all, the human rights defence is feeble and does not stand up to the evidence of witnesses to what is actually happening in Afghanistan (especially outside Kabul). The ‘prevention of terrorism’ argument has been so widely discredited that to hear it out loud again is beyond curious. The drug argument is the most mendacious of all, the Taliban being the only group ever to have cracked down on the opium trade. And Sauron was finished off by Gandalf and Frodo.
This fairytale must have a happily ever after, and that can only come if we stop using it. We simply have to stop accepting the reasons that are given for war because they are not reasons in the technical sense but are rather excuses. So long as we keep up the fairytale, so long shall there be poor young uneducated and damaged boys murdering children in their bed.
There is only one remaining patriotic thing to do. Only one remaining human thing to do. And the responsibility lies with the media. We have to start reporting what is actually happening. Not in Never Never Land or in the magical kingdom but where we send our killing apparatus. Until that happens, could any journalist thinking of making a tear-stained defence of ‘the freedom of the press’ at the Levenson Inquiry please hold their tounge.