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Friday, February 03, 2012 

The good war.

Simon Jenkins on Afghanistan:

All military and diplomatic experience, all the history and the scholarship in the world, did not stop this crude punitive venture being backed by conservatives and liberals alike in both the US and Britain. It was declared a good war. The drumbeats of battle stifled criticism. Any general got a cheer who could boast that the war would be over in weeks, and without a shot fired. Critics were met with the timeless, drear refrain, that their talk was defeatist, cowardly and lacked patriotism. Like Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, they were drowned by the lust for glory.

Nor were the lobbies idle. Bruised from its Iraq debacle, the British army wanted somewhere to walk tall. Helmand, with its echoes of Beau Geste and Lawrence of Arabia, was ideal. Behind the army lurked the call of money, an ever-burgeoning regiment of arms suppliers, security firms, contractors, NGOs and aid agencies, all fat on the war's staggering $500bn cost. Add to them Kabul's kleptocrats, politicians and aid recipients, and the war took on a self-sustaining quality. Even today few participants have an interest in its ending. Hundreds, then thousands, die, and no one can honestly say why.

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