War (in Afghanistan)! What are we fighting for?

It would be little exaggeration to say there’s only one story in town right now: Afghanistan.

Well OK, there’s the business of the insanely fast “Lightning Bolt” (forget that old joke about languorous Jamaicans dahn at the beach), and the odd mortar crump in the transatlantic war over how great/miserable the NHS is, but really it’s all about Afghanistan.

It’s the story that’s dominated the summer so far and with the mounting death toll ministers seem to be fighting a rearguard action in their insistence that: THIS. IS. ABOUT. THE. SECURITY. OF. THE. UK.

Did you get that? Our security. Ours. Bob Ainsworth and any member of the government worth his or her salt likes to spell this out. Repeatedly. Our security. Our security. Our security. Ours, ours, ours. (Yes, we get the message).

Yes, heaven forfend that it might be about anything else. Like human rights for example. Except didn’t that nice Mr Blair say the following back in 2001:

Look for a moment at the Taliban regime. It is undemocratic. That goes without saying.

There is no sport allowed, or television or photography. No art or culture is permitted. All other faiths, all other interpretations of Islam are ruthlessly suppressed. Those who practice their faith are imprisoned. Women are treated in a way almost too revolting to be credible. First driven out of university; girls not allowed to go to school; no legal rights; unable to go out of doors without a man. Those that disobey are stoned.

There is now no contact permitted with western agencies, even those delivering food. The people live in abject poverty. It is a regime founded on fear and funded on the drugs trade. The biggest drugs hoard in the world is in Afghanistan, controlled by the Taliban. Ninety per cent of the heroin on British streets originates in Afghanistan.

The arms the Taliban are buying today are paid for with the lives of young British people buying their drugs on British streets. That is another part of their regime that we should seek to destroy.

I may have cloth ears, but I’m hearing more than security in this. See Heather Harvey’s excellent article on Comment is Free for further discussion along these lines – and by all means add your 15-pence worth, the comment thread’s still open as I write.

Meanwhile, Amnesty’s Afghanistan researcher Horia Mosadiq is also writing about women’s rights and Afghanistan in tomorrow’s Independent. Look out for that. Finally, tonight Panorama reports on the disturbing incidence of Afghan women setting themselves alight to escape abusive marriages. Given that they could be arrested and imprisoned for the supposed crime of “running away” from violent marriages (see Amnesty’s briefing for this and other human rights issues), I reckon the programme is going to give you a horrible glimpse into a horrible world for many Afghan women.

Oh, but I’m straying off the point. Afghanistan is all about security, not women’s rights. Sorry.


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