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Graham Stringer MP: Afghanistan Was A Mistake

The MP for Broughton and Blackley doesn’t know what to say to a ten year old boy

Published on October 15th 2012.

Graham Stringer MP: Afghanistan Was A Mistake

WHO ARE the toughest interviewers? Who do politicians fear being interviewed by most? Jeremy Paxman, John Humphreys or Andrew Neil spring to mind, they are certainly tough cookies.

The cold statistics about the war underline this. In the Twin Towers 67 British citizens were killed; to date 433 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. As the war has lost focus the costs have increased exponentially.

Paxman might win a public ballot; his recent reduction of Chloe Smith, the then Treasury Minister, to a gibbering wreck having gone viral on the internet. But most politicians agree that Paxman and Co are not to be nearly as feared as a class of ten year olds.

Their questions invariably get right to the heart of the matter.

Any Member of Parliament who can’t give a clear, straightforward answer to a question in two or three sentences immediately loses all credibility with obvious and dire consequences. Ten year olds have in-built, super tuned bullshit detectors. It is not just the MP who is tested during these scary ordeals but the policy being discussed.

So I knew when asked recently by a ten year old boy ‘why have we got lots of soldiers in Afghanistan?’ that if I trotted out the bipartisan policy of the Labour front bench and the Government every ten year olds' bullshit detector within hearing range would be triggered.

So why are they here?So why are they here?

It is simply impossible to explain and justify a war that has lasted longer than the Second and First World Wars combined, taking place more than 4,000 miles away. This is presumably why the justification for having nearly 10,000 soldiers fighting in Afghanistan has changed annually.

The initial justification given by the USA and UK to the United Nations was as an act of self defence in response to 9/11 that would include ‘measures against Al-Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installation of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan’.

Put bluntly, to find, capture or kill Osama Bin Laden. Enduring Freedom was the military operation to achieve these aims, launched on 7 October 2001. Bin Laden escaped through the Tora Bora mountains two months later. He was finally killed in Pakistan in May 2011.

Other reasons had to be invented for the continuing deployment of troops in Afghanistan. This list is by no means exhaustive; to keep our streets free of heroin, to educate girls who had been excluded from education on punishment of death by the Taliban, to reduce the chance of terrorism in the United Kingdom, to build democracy, to help improve relations between India and Pakistan, to bring stability to the region.

Two minutes thought shows each of these reasons to be comprehensively bogus. Of course the real reason apart from inertia is our political parties lack courage. How can you tell the grieving family of a dead or seriously injured soldier that for more than a decade there has been no justification for this military adventure?

The cold statistics about the war underline this. In the Twin Towers 67 British citizens were killed; to date 433 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. As the war has lost focus the costs have increased exponentially.

The net spending on military operations in Afghanistan in 2011/12 was £4.1 billion which is five times the amount of money spent during the first six years of the war. While nobody has a crystal ball it is unlikely that the corrupt regime of President Hamid Karzai will last more than weeks after the withdrawal of NATO soldiers. 

The honest answer to the school boy’s question is that adults make mistakes and this mistake has cost northwards of £21 billion and many more lives than were lost in the Twin Towers.

Graham StringerGraham StringerIt is better to be honest about this now and say sorry rather than wasting more money and lives. There is a real political and financial dividend for any government or potential government who are brave enough to take this stance. It is a shocking indictment of our politics how weakly the case for peace and withdrawal has been made when the supporting facts are so strong.

Ed Milliband’s speech to the Labour Party conference in Manchester was a tour de force, but it wasn’t comprehensive. The applause in the hall would have been longer and louder had he announced that there was to be a bigger cut in the defence budget; he after all won the election as leader by claiming he had opposed the Iraq war.

How much better to decry the £30 billion wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan and explain that now is not the time for this country to support a defence budget larger than Russia’s.    

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15 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DavidOctober 15th 2012.

No doubt now Labour is no longer in government,it is save for Mr Stinger to court the anti-war vote on the left.But this was a war Labour took us into and I don't remember Mr Stringer doing ANYTHING to oppose it.Just like his now now conversion to rail nationalisation this happens after his government has left power.
Mr Stinger has never had any convictions,that could not be conveniently forgotten about.He has never put his career on the line for anything,he is just a cynical opportunist who can finds it convenient for electoral reasons to announce his ant war sentiments.He accuses Lib Dems of sacrificing principles when in coalition government,but he is just the same really.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
the Whalley RangerOctober 15th 2012.

Blair Bliar Labour Libor David Daftid - do you remember Robin Cook's resignation speech? A man of integrity, no matter what party he represented.

Jonathan Schofield - editorOctober 16th 2012.

David, please stop the personal attacks. Argue the points not the person. Thanks

AnonymousOctober 16th 2012.

JS, as Stringer is a politician holding public office its legitimate for people to question his convictions or lack there of. This is particulaly true if as most people would assume hes writing for mancon to help him connect with his electorate.

the Whalley RangerOctober 15th 2012.

Graham, I am beginning to like your stuff, but here you are just too PC.

'In 2007, 92% of the non-pharmaceutical-grade opiates on the world market originated in Afghanistan' (source: UN on drugs and crime 2008).

What are supplies like in Eton nowadays? I must assume the good stuff does not get to Salford.

Mike AOctober 16th 2012.

Agree that politicians need to say it as it is, I'm quite bored of the same characters, from the same universities, speaking the same elaborate political diatribe. Well done Graham, It is well beyond time to end the human suffering associated with this war, yet alone the cost.

AnonymousOctober 16th 2012.

Just a few things that the author as chosen to ignore:

Ed was elected not because he oposed iraq but because he won the union vote.

The women of afganistan are safer and enjoy more freedom than they did before (education being just the tip of the iceberg for the women of afganistan).

Terrorist Groups are not free to train people so that they can attack us here.

UK Heroin prices have increased as suppiles have been more dificult to come by

An imperfect (even corupt) democracy is better than a totaliterian state that murders its own citizens and subjagates all women on account of there gender.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
the Whalley RangerOctober 16th 2012.

'UK heroin prices have increased'

Thanks for the data, I would not know this as I choose to be a sportsman instead (not the Lance Armstrong type).

So on balance and when looking at your 'market research', is this an argument pro-Taliban?

TimbucOctober 16th 2012.

Could we see some sources please? I've never seen any reference in anything I've read in the last ten years or more that said anything other than heroin prices are unaffected by the war on drugs, including the war in Afghanistan.

AnonymousOctober 17th 2012.

google UK heroin prices and read theres a 2011 BBC article acounting for price rises due to shrinking suply.

the Whalley RangerOctober 17th 2012.

...a laudation for UK (pharmaceutical) manufacturing?

Don AllwrightOctober 16th 2012.

I agree with your article Jonathan, but my reason for writing is to ask why you allow 'anonymous posts'?
If people are ashamed of their opinions, let them keep them to themselves.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Isabella JacksonOctober 16th 2012.

and your true name is Don Allwright is it? Have you, by the way, done alright?

AnonymousOctober 17th 2012.

An anonymous view is valid on its merits, the inclusion of a name is neither here nor there.

Poster BoyOctober 17th 2012.

There is nothing wrong with being wise after the event.

The country however, needs politicians to be wise at the time of the event -and the government at the time, together with its back-benchers, were 'missing in action'.

And what point is Stringer making exactly? -is it an apology, an admission of failed government, a call for a cut in the defence budget, or merely a sub text party political for the Comp Boy's 'tour de force'?

Stringer is usually erudite. The above reads like beer talk in the City Arms, at something gone 11...

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