‘Mission accomplished’ in Afghanistan? No, just a diversion from Catherine the Great

Cameron could not say the Afghan war has been a brutal exercise in nihilistic futility

Share

When making a seasonal visit to British troops in Afghanistan, there were many things that the Prime Minister could not conceivably have said, and to his credit he did manage not to say most of them.

For reasons of both political expediency and courtesy towards his military hosts, David Cameron could not say what he would say in private if you tied him down and injected him with a truth drug: that the Afghan war has been a brutal exercise in nihilistic futility, in which thus far countless civilians and 446 UK troops have been lost, along with untold billions of pounds, for the primary benefit of the global heroin industry and manufacturers of choicest drones.

He might add that, when Nato withdraws and leaves that godforsaken land to its own devices, it will more than likely implode into civil war, if that isn’t too neat a term for a chaotic series of vicious struggles between warlords; that the Taliban, far from defeated, remains a major force; and that al-Qa’ida will return from the other side the Pakistan border.

Something else that he could not say is that, after a dozen years of hellish warfare, the Afghanistan abandoned to its gruesome fate will be barely distinguishable from the Afghanistan of 2001, with the exception that the poppy yield –  virtually eradicated under the Taliban – is now at an all-time high.

Given the above, and recalling an infamous precedent supplied aboard an American aircraft carrier six weeks after the invasion of Iraq, the thing he could least of all afford to say is what he in fact said. In the Prime Minister’s defence, he did not use the words “mission accomplished” in that order. But then George W Bush did not use them at all on the USS Abraham Lincoln on 1 May 2003, delegating that expression of vainglorious folly to the gigantic banner by which he was framed.

What Mr Cameron actually said, when asked if the final troops would come home next spring with their mission accomplished, was: “Yes … The absolute driving part of the mission is the basic level of security so that it doesn’t become a haven for terror. That is the mission, that was the mission, and I think we will have accomplished that mission …”

All of which is, of course, a meandering attempt to redefine the mission (to capture Osama Bin Laden and destroy the Taliban) as whatever he naively believes justifies that risibly deceitful claim of victory.

This statement, which will boomerang back to smack him in the chops if and when Afghan security forces are overrun by Taliban and al-Qa’ida insurgents, seems so incomprehensibly daft that we must flail about for a charitable explanation.

Has a bout of amnesia – possibly caused by a blow to the temple, from the Danish Prime Minister’s elbow, as he scrambled to insert his inanely grinning mug into that selfie – made Mr Cameron forget that “mission accomplished” defined the hubristic crassness of President Bush? Was he so jet lagged from all the recent long-haul flying that he had no idea what he was babbling? Or did he, feeling as bleak about that eternally failed state’s future as everyone else does, intend to express his despair in code through the medium of sledgehammer satire?

There is one other explanation. On the same day that he said the unsayable, the Daily Mail published on its website a portrait of Catherine the Great in which, it claimed, the Empress of All the Russias is the absolute spit of Mr Cameron. The Mail has a habit of publishing pictures of supposed dead ringers, and by and large these juxtapositions remind you of  the Madame Tussauds of old, when a waxwork of the Queen might easily have been mistaken for Frank Bruno. But in this instance, the likeness is striking. Catherine and Cameron are doppelgangers.

Assuming that he is not amnesiac, the PM will remember that Catherine the Great is best known, by those unfamiliar with other aspects of her remarkable life, for an alleged relationship with a horse. Mythology holds that she died when her equine lover slipped from the harness positioned above her bed to enable the act of inter-species love, and crushed the life out of her.

With the phone-hacking trial in the midst of its long run, the last thing Mr Cameron may feel he needs right now is a public reminder of his own troublesome, though platonic, relationship with the retired police horse borrowed on his behalf from the Met by Rebekah Brooks. Since the animal was named Raisa after a later First Lady of All the Russias – Mrs Gorbachev – one appreciates the sensitivity of any comparison with Catherine. On this basis, perhaps the PM drew the rival comparison with Bush  as a desperate diversionary tactic, to remove the spotlight from that uncanny resemblance to Catherine the Great.

I know this will strike you as a deranged rationale for Mr Cameron’s absurd claim of victory, and so it is. All that need be said in its favour is that it makes infinitely more sense than  “mission accomplished”.

Twitter: @MatthewJNorman

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
 

Politicians’ actions speak louder then words on a T-shirt

Boyd Tonkin
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes