“Constructing a Humanist Politics”


Issue No 20 Friday 23 January 2009






This week


  • ·        The Lie Used By The British Government To Justify The Afghan War




What is happening now of interest to Civic Republicanism





  • ·        The Lie Used By The British Government To Justify The Afghan War


Everyone, except perhaps ex-prime minister Tony Blair, now accepts that the New Labour government deliberately lied to the country when it took Britain to war in Iraq. In this action it supported a United States lead by President George W. Bush. The British people and its Parliament were assured that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that were capable of reaching Britain’s shores. This was the justification for the invasion of Iraq at the time. No trace of WMD’s were found anywhere in Iraq.

It is a commonly stated view that somehow the war in Afghanistan is different from Iraq. Iraq, we are told may have been a “bad” war. But Afghanistan is a “good” war. Iraq may have been a war where complete victory was impossible, but in Afghanistan we know we can eventually win. Furthermore, whereas the reasons for all the sacrifices in Iraq may have been lies, the reasons for going into Afghanistan were sound and honourable.

But why did we go into Afghanistan? The action was prompted by the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers in New York in 2001 on the basis that that action was masterminded by Osama bin Laden, leader of al Qaeda, from the territory of Afghanistan. Bin Laden was never caught and his presence in Afghanistan never proven and the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks were found to be mainly citizens of Saudi Arabia. The presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan has not prevented terrorist atrocities ascribed to al Qaeda occurring in Madrid, London, Bali, Mumbai and elsewhere.

Does anyone, seriously believe that the operations in Afghanistan are having the slightest effect on the ability of al Qaeda to create terrorist incidents? The government claims that the Afghan war is necessary to make the streets of London safe, but is this assertion any more credible than the assertion that Iraq had WMD’s?

In an interview by John Humphries on Today on Tuesday, 19th January 2009, with Defense Secretary, John Hutton, Hutton went out of his way to identify the Taliban against whom we are fighting with “terrorists”. Humphries referred to “insurgents” but Hutton repeatedly used the expression “extremists and terrorists” to force on the listener the idea that the Taliban can be identified with international terrorism. Of course, they may have links to al Qaeda but this does not mean al Qaeda is dependent in any sense on the Taliban.

Hutton repeats, no less that four times, that we need to defeat the Taliban for reason of “national security” but never offers a shred of evidence for this linkage. Here are some extracts from the interview. The emphases are mine

John Humphries I asked [John Hutton] how he could justify the deaths of so many British soldiers in what was an unwinnable war.

John Hutton We are here in Afghanistan    acting in a way which is vital to UK national security because we have to make sure that Afghanistan does not fall back into the hands of the extremists and the terrorists. If that were to happen we know we would see terrorist violence, more terrorist violence, on the streets of the United Kingdom so given that that this is a national security priority for the United Kingdom it is right and proper that we are making the kind of contribution that we are in Afghanistan. That is not just my view. It is also the very strong view of the men and women in uniform that I have met here today because they know this is necessary to defend the United Kingdom

John Humphries There are those that take the view that our presence in Afghanistan aids the insurgents. We are the invaders

John Hutton …this stage of the operations where we are able to reduce the influence of the extremists and the terrorists and allow the Afghan government the proper space to develop its various economic and social programmes

John Hutton We have got to be prepared to make an effort now to deal with this problem. If we fail in Afghanistan, we going to cede this space back to extremists and terrorists, we know precisely what the consequences of that would be for our own national security and our friends and allies around the world. This is vital to the security of our friends and allies around the world and we must not make the huge mistake of walking away from Afghanistan to leave al Qaeda and the Taliban to take control here

John Hutton We have got very considerable forces committed to this campaign. We need to do this because this is vital for UK national security and this is what the forces provide

John Hutton There is no sense here that the mission cannot be successfully prosecuted. It is the armchair generals who tend to take that view back home.

John Humphries Armchair generals who say we don’t want to be sucked into another Iraq

John Hutton We got a very simple choice we can walk away tomorrow from here but we leave behind a country that would be taken over by extremists and terrorists. The question we have got to ask ourselves: do we want that to happen?

The non-existence of WMD’s in Iraq was proven when the country was opened up. The non-existence of the terrorist threat from Afghanistan will be proven if or when we eventually concede defeat and abandon the country to the Taliban. Of course, if this happens it may be possible to find some technical connection between Afghanistan and some future terrorist outrage but this would not be evidence that a Taliban controlled Afghanistan would be necessary to mount such an attack. In fact, strategically it is difficult to imagine anywhere more unsuitable. As for training terrorists we know that already takes place mainly in Pakistan.

Meanwhile NATO lead by the new President Obama administration has promised to continue the Afghan war for the foreseeable future. One advantage for NATO leaders of continuing the war is that the lie that justifies the war can be obscured as long as the war continues.

John Hutton was clearly briefed by Gordon Brown’s government to repeatedly hammer home the lie on the Today programme.

But a lie it is, just as surely as WMD’s in Iraq was a lie. And it will remain a lie no matter how many times you repeat it in a six minute interview.

Just as the lives of our fighting forces were sacrificed to a lie in Iraq so they will be sacrificed for years to come in Afghanistan to a lie.


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……. …….until next week