Posts Tagged ‘Simon Jenkins’

The Guardian on the Failure of the West’s Occupation of Afghanistan

August 16, 2021

Simon Jenkins, one of the columnists at the Groan, has written a very interesting piece about the end of the west’s occupation of Afghanistan and the government it has protected. Jenkins begins his piece by stating that the invasion itself was absolutely unnecessary.

“The US had no need to invade Afghanistan. The country was never a “terrorist state” like Libya or Iran. It was not at war with the US; indeed the US had aided its rise to power against the Russians in 1996. The Taliban had hosted Osama bin Laden in his mountain lair through his friendship with the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar. At an immediate post-9/11 “loya jirga” in the southern city of Kandahar, younger leaders pressed the mullah to expel Bin Laden. Pakistan would probably have forced his surrender sooner or later. After the 2001 invasion the US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld demanded that George Bush “punish and get out”.

Yet neither Bush nor Tony Blair listened. Instead they experienced a rush of blood to the head. They commandeered Nato, which had no dog in the fight, and began “nation building”, as if nations were made of Lego. It would be an age, said the political scientist Joseph Nye, of the “velvet hegemon”. For reasons never fully explained, Blair declared a “doctrine of international community” and pleaded for Britain to be in the first bombing run over Kabul. He then sent Clare Short as the minister for international development to stop the Afghans growing poppies. Afghan poppy production soared to an all-time high, spreading from six to 28 provinces, probably Britain’s most successful farm product of all time. Opium floated the Taliban back to power.”

He goes on to describe the totally misguided optimism among the western forces when he visited the country in 2006, when he was told that the Taliban were all but defeated. Seven years later the Taliban had defeated us, and have now gone on to defeat the Americans. As a result, the soldiers, interpreters, academics, journalists and aid workers are seeing friends threatened and killed. The occupation has been colossally expensive. The Americans have supposedly spent a trillion dollars. It has cost Britain £37 billion.

He concludes that this demonstrates the complete failure of imperialism, and that the proper thing to do now is to establish good relations with the new regime in Afghanistan and its neighbours Pakistan and Iran. Even though Boris still wants to play at Britain being a great imperial power.

“How many times must it be drummed into British heads that the British empire is over? It is dead, finished, outdated, not to be repeated. Yet Boris Johnson has just sent an aircraft carrier to the South China Sea. Britain has no need, let alone right, to rule other countries, to “make the world a better place”. No soldier need die for it, let alone 454 British soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan. The best Britain can now do is establish good relations with a new regime in Afghanistan – in liaison with Kabul’s neighbours Pakistan and Iran – to protect at least some of the good it has attempted to do this past 20 years. The world is not threatening Britain. Terrorism does not need state sponsors, nor will it be ended by state conquest.”

See: https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/other/it-has-taken-20-years-to-prove-the-invasion-of-afghanistan-was-totally-unnecessary/ar-AANnrpv?ocid=msedgdhp&pc=U531

It’s a good article, but I’d dispute Jenkin’s assumption on the continuing popularity of imperialism amongst the British public. When Blair invaded Iraq a few years later, two million people in Britain marched in protest. I think it was the biggest public protest ever at the time in Britain. I even recall that the Spectator and various Tory politicos were against the invasion, even though Niall Ferguson had previously raved about the new western imperialism in Afghanistan in the pages of the Heil. The British public weren’t given a choice about either invasion. The invasion of Afghanistan was sold to Britain and America as the justified reprisal for 9/11. The west wasn’t there to occupy the country, but to transform it into a modern, democratic state governed by western notions of human rights. Ditto with Iraq. It seems to me to have been mainly the opponents of these ventures, who recognised what this was really about and described it as such. There was an article in the conspiracy magazine, Lobster, calling Blair a ‘Gladstonian imperialist’ for example. I think some Guardian or Independent journos also described it as a kind of imperialism, but were also in favour of it because of New Labour support for the neo-con agenda. But there was supposed to be a difference between this new kind of imperialism and the old sort. Britain and America were to act as the world’s policemen, preventing tyrannical governments from engaging in genocide and other human rights atrocities, just as the US had intervened in the war in Yugoslavia and there had been calls for western intervention during the genocide in Rwanda. This was supposed to be very different from the conquests, occupations and annexations that had occurred in previous centuries. This means that many Brits probably didn’t see the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as imperialist.

But both were. And the real reasons were deliberately kept hidden from the British and American public. I’ve said before that the real reason for the Afghanistan invasion was the construction of a strategically important oil pipeline that the Taliban government had refused to build in collaboration with the US. William Blum, the late veteran critic of US imperialism, discusses this in some of his books, as does Michael Moore, the ‘capped crusader’, in his documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. The Iraq invasion was intended to acquire the country’s oil industry and reserves for the American and Saudi oil companies, and the country’s state enterprises for American multinationals. The neo-Cons also had the dream of turning Iraq into the kind of low tax, free trade economy they wanted for America. They lowered import tariffs, so that immediately the rest of the world dumped their excess products in Iraq. Iraqi business couldn’t compete, there was a wave of bankruptcies and unemployment shot up to 60 per cent. All this is described by Greg Palast in his book, Armed Madhouse.

I also wonder if the Guardian really wants the British public to know how Blair lied to them. As their demonisation of Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters showed, the Groan is thoroughly Blairite. One of the sources Private Eye used for its hit pieces on Corbyn and the anti-Semitism smears, according to the redoubtable Tony Greenstein, was a named Groaniad hack. The newspaper also wants to reassure the public that conspiracy theories are just fantasies and that governments, big business and other political actors don’t really engage in plots and secret plans. Hence David Aaronovitch has appeared several times in its pages to tell its readers that they don’t exist. I might, however, be wrong about this, and that Aaronovitch has published his views dismissing conspiracy theories in the Independent. Either way, what passes for the British left wing press has been extremely reluctant to admit that there was any kind of ulterior motive behind the invasions of these two countries.

But there was. The primary goal was to conquer them for the oil industry and big business. The result has been 20 years of war and chaos, and in the case of Iraq, the destruction of a whole country. The new imperialism of the neo-Conservatives has been a costly, bloody failure. It’s high time it was abandoned.

But I’m afraid that the same people who pushed these wars are still around and regrouping, as the speakers at an online left-wing Labour party rally against imperialism and colonialism described several months ago. I’m afraid they’ll come back, and push for another middle eastern war, most likely against Iran. All to protect Israel and liberate its people from the Islamic theocracy, of course.

And absolutely nothing to do with revenge for the Islamic revolution and the country’s nationalisation of its oil industry.

Radio 4 Programme on Welsh 20th Century Decline

March 11, 2020

This might be of interest to Welsh readers of this blog, particularly as Mike’s a long-time resident of mid-Wales. Next Monday, 16th March 2020, Radio 4 are also broadcasting a programme on how Wales declined during the last century. The programme, Wales: A 20th-Century Tragedy?, is described thus in the blurb on page 131 of the Radio Times:

Simon Jenkins looks at the fortunes of Wales over the past century, asking how it might be possible to restore some glory to its valleys and mountains.

Rather more information is given in the short piece about the programme on the opposite page, 130, by Chris Gardner. This says

Simon Jenkins is passionate about Wales, the land of his father. His 2008 book Wales: Churches, Houses, Castles showcased the beauty and majesty of Welsh architecture, but the author and journalist is now worried for the nation’s future, citing among other factors the rise in the poverty index, while counties just over the border, such as Cheshire, have become richer. Examining Wale’s illustrious cultural, political, industrial and intellectual heritage over the last century, Jenkins uncovers historical reasons for this comparatively recent decline.

I think the major reason for this decline has been decline of the major Welsh industries during the last century – coal mining and iron working. There have been various history programmes on the Beeb that have shown that Swansea and Cardiff were major centres of the copper and iron industries from the 19th century onwards. I think Swansea was the world centre of copper production at one point, so that it was nicknamed ‘Copperopolis’. But this all gradually vanished due to competition from cheaper, foreign products. And this has continued into this century under the Tories, as we saw a few years ago with the proposed closure of one of the last surviving steelworks in the principality.

The country also hasn’t been helped by the fact that we haven’t had a Welsh prime minister, or one whose constituency was in Wales, for a long time. I seem to recall that Cardiff became the great city it is, housing Wales’ national museum, partly because Lloyd George wanted to turn it into a great national centre for Wales, like England and Scotland had London and Edinburgh respectively. The Labour PM, Jim Callaghan, attempted to do something for Wales, from what I recall, by diverting money that was earmarked to go to Bristol’s Portbury Docks to Cardiff. But his tenure of 10 Downing Street ended with Thatcher’s victory in 1979. And the Tories made it very plain that they weren’t going to help ailing industries, so that coal pits, and iron and steelworks up and down Britain were closed. This was partly because she wanted to destroy the coal industry so that a Tory government could no longer be overthrown by the miners, as Ted Heath’s had in the early ’70s.

I don’t know why Cheshire should have become more prosperous, unless it’s connected to the success of Liverpool FC. A friend of mine from that way told me that there’s a district in the county, which has become the country home of rich Liverpudlians, including footballers. Perhaps that’s part of the explanation.

If you want to listen to it, the programme’s on at 8.00 pm in the evening.

 

Vox Political On Simon Jenkins Lies About Corbyn and NATO

August 24, 2016

Mike also put up an article a few days ago correcting another mendacious article about Jeremy Corbyn, penned by Simon Jenkins in the Observer. According to Jenkins, at the leadership debate in Solihull last week Corbyn had answered ‘No’ to the question of whether he would go to the defence of another NATO country if they were invaded by Russia. Other Blairites had also got the same impression, it seems. One of my friends told me that he had received an email from a Blairite friend telling him in very coarse terms that Corbyn had stated that he would submit to Putin and let the Russians rule us.

But Corbyn didn’t say that at all. He said he would go to war to defend a NATO ally, but explained at length that he would do everything he could to make sure it didn’t come to that. Mike has put up a full transcript of that part of the debate, pointing out that Jenkins’ article, and his conclusion that Corbyn wants us to leave NATO, is a lie.

As for Jenkins’ own personal politics, Mike has a photograph of him speaking at a meeting of Policy Exchange, the ‘intellectual boot camp of the Tory modernizers’. Which shows you how left-wing he is.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/22/no-simon-jenkins-its-your-lie-about-jeremy-corbyn-that-is-a-step-too-far/

In actual fact, it’s not unreasonable to ask what NATO’s real purpose is. William Blum in issue 22 of his Anti-Empire Report, has an article entitled ‘Why Does NATO Exist?’ It’s a fair question. NATO was formed to protect Europe from the threat of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, the military pact formed by the countries of the eastern European Soviet bloc, with the exception of Yugoslavia. Blum points out that neither the Soviet Union nor the Warsaw pact exist any more, both having collapsed about 1991. He asks

If NATO hadn’t begun to intervene outside of Europe it would have highlighted its uselessness and lack of mission. “Out of area or out of business” it was said.

If NATO had never existed, what argument could be given today in favor of creating such an institution? Other than being a very useful handmaiden of US foreign policy and providing American arms manufacturers with billions of dollars of guaranteed sales.

See: https://williamblum.org/aer/read/22

But there are voices demanding that NATO be disbanded because of the threat it poses to peace. The New York director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and member of the council of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, Alice Slater, two years ago published an in article in Counterpunch stating that with 16,000 of the world’s 17,000 nuclear weapons in the West and Russia, the US should not be working its way towards starting a new Cold War with Russia over events in Ukraine. Instead, she argued that it should honour the agreement it made with Gorby not to expand into the former Soviet bloc in return for his agreement not to block the reunification of Germany, and the entry of the former East Germany into NATO. She goes on to state that we should be working to disband NATO, and remove the US’ weapons from Poland, Romania and Turkey. She also states that the US should agree to the proposal to ban space weapons, made by China and Russia, reinstate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was scrapped by Dubya in 2001, and take up Russia’s offer to negotiate a treaty against cyberwarfare.

She briefly discussed the article in the Washington Post by Jack Matlock, who was the US’ ambassador to Russia under Reagan and Bush, and who described how it is NATO that is provoking Russia with its conduct in eastern Europe. She states that it is ironic that Obama is holding a third ‘Nuclear Security Summit’, without planning to cut back on America’s own huge nuclear arsenal and the $640 billion it plans to spend in the next ten years on two new nuclear bomb factories and new delivery systems – submarines, missiles and planes.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/03/25/time-to-disband-nato/

This is far more radical than anything Corbyn said. And Corbyn’s statement that he would work to stop a war before it got started is plain commonsense, given that such a conflict could, if not almost certainly would, lead to nuclear Armageddon.