Forgive me while I go off-piste today but I really cannot help myself. I know I’m supposed to be writing about the peaceful, bucolic life in rural France, but for some time now I have been deeply, passionately opposed to the war in Afghanistan.
Many people struggle to see the point of this war. As I understand it, the British and other forces, are fighting a corrupt, wicked regime (the Taliban) and terrorism at source. At least that’s what we’re told.
But it’s a bit hard to swallow coming from a government that has itself been proven to be a corrupt, wicked regime. (Full disclosure: I write as someone who once voted for them; but please don’t send me hate mail).
I’m not comparing the British government to the Taliban but it’s hard not to contrast the self-serving arrogance of a ruling elite so shamelessly ‘on the make,’ with the brave, selfless service of British troops on the frontline of a war in another country.
And Afghanistan really is another country. I'm no expert on geography, but from what I've read, it's wild and ungovernable, riven by religious in-fighting and tribalism. Other countries have tried to tame it over the years - Russia included - and failed. Why does this government think it can do any better? There is nothing to win in Afghanistan, only limbs and lives to lose.
But from our safe, comfortable sofas in the UK (and or rural France) we see only a deeply sanitised version of the war. When Hugh Edwards announces another anonymous ‘casualty’ in Helmand Provence, there’s no hint of the unspeakable horrors involved. Little footage of coffins carrying poor, battered corpses back to airbases in the UK under the cover of night or of grief-stricken loved ones. (The British government doesn’t even have the decency to send a minister to meet these death planes.) No scenes of those battling on the bloody frontline to sew limbs back onto the bomb-shattered bodies of boys barely out of their teens. No pictures of horrifically maimed soldiers to remind us of the horrible reality of this phoney war.
The even bigger atrocity is that having embarked on this unwinnable conflict, the government has done so without giving the forces the necessary equipment - perhaps because the money has been spent on buying patio heaters for Margaret Beckett or a second home and 'sustenance' for Ed Balls (who doesn't exactly look like he needs it). Meanwhile, ministers with horribly bloated egos appear on Question Time to tell us that British troops have everything they need, when all evidence points to the contrary. What kind of idiots do they take us for?
The bottom line is that the Taliban represents an ideology. And you can’t fight an ideology by sending in the troops. So let’s leave this godforsaken country to its in-fighting (as latest piece of treacherous butchery shows, there doesn’t seem to be much appetite or gratitude for the attempt to impose democracy). And after all, the British government is happy to turn a blind eye to the atrocities being committed in Zimbabwe. As for fighting terrorism at source, well here’s a thought: how about starting closer to home with more efficient border checks to weed out potential terrorists?
I’ve only been on one march in my life - against apartheid, many years ago. But how I wish someone would organise a march against the war in Afghanistan. I for one would fly back from France to take part. In the meantime, may I suggest that we send all members of this cheating, lying government - with or without expenses - on a month-long ‘fact-finding’ mission to Helmand Province.