Despite my never having gone there, nor known any soldiers, Afghanistan occupies an oddly large place in my thoughts.
I’m always watching those helmet-cam documentaries which shadow wide-eyed squaddies as they tip-toe past ticking rock piles, crawl along ditches in 50-degree heat and confront a tactically astute enemy who would be delighted to swallow a hand grenade, as long as he took a few godless heathens with him. And, like other morally compromised, pointless wars throughout history, Afghanistan trundles on, consuming son upon son, its crippling effect on all of us getting more blackly comic by the day.
Two stories this week reiterate the wretched folly of it and should, by rights, make us all grab flaming torches and march on Westminster. First, an MoD report said that the Afghan war was “unwinnable”. You think? So, that fact became impossible to ignore after 12 years, did it? Couldn’t just have phoned Moscow beforehand? Picked their brains? “Hello, Anatoly? It’s Smudger in London. Listen, old chap... Afghanistan… worth a pop? We fancy it. Thought with your prior knowledge... uh-huh… mmm… ‘unwinnable’, you say? ‘Total bloodbath’. Right-oh, not to worry. See you at Henley.”
In the other story, scientists at King’s College London reported that soldiers sometimes drink harder and commit violent crime when they come back from the frontline. Really? So troops might try to forget ghastly experiences by getting hammered and can sometimes exhibit violent rage? Next week’s report: “Rain... is it really still wet?”