Captain Hindsight and the Woeful Neoliberal Response to Afghanistan

Parliament was recalled from its near-endless summer break for MPs to discuss the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and every blue tick journalist on Twitter went into meltdown, telling us how they didn't want to hear from one of only four serving politicians who voted against the Afghanistan War. Jeremy Corbyn.

Here was the politician who called Afghanistan right every step of the way for 20 years, and they were livid because they knew it, but they could not eat humble pie and give the man the credit he so rightly deserves. They did not want to listen and learn because that would mean admitting the ideology they've pushed throughout their careers was built upon lies and greed. Neoliberalism is bankrupt, both morally and economically, and the complete inability of its proponents to self-reflect is now painfully on display for all to see.

We're not going to focus on the wise words of Jeremy Corbyn today though, because the blue ticks, in their wisdom, would rather learn from those who got things so badly wrong and their ideological successors.

So let's take a look at the current Labour leader...

Sir Keith Starmer, fresh from saying we should embrace Tony Blair's legacy, seems to be implying our troops should return to Afghanistan to help with the "humanitarian effort", or at the very least that troops should not have left.

"We do have an obligation here to step up and lead and support the Afghan government," Starmer said in a recent interview, refusing to clarify whether he wanted to commit more British troops, but calling for an urgent meeting of NATO and saying we can't "turn our backs on Afghanistan".

Does Keith seriously think the occupation should have continued indefinitely? That the role of British and American troops is to prop up foreign governments forever? Well, no, he doesn't, apparently, but he said the "timing of this is in question", failing to explain how the situation would've been any different in three months, six months, a year... 

Starmer appears to be all over the place. He is quite happy to point out things have gone badly, but is rather reluctant to say what he would've done differently. He is certainly strong in his condemnations of Joe Biden though:

“I was deeply concerned that he didn’t recognise the wider consequences of the action that he’s taken in withdrawing the way he has withdrawn,” Starmer said. Not sure if he was told to say that by his focus groups or his financial backers, but either way, good grief.

Starmer had many more words of condemnation for Joe Biden and attacked him more fiercely than I've ever seen him attack the Tories. It seems the only people Starmer is not attacking on this matter are the far right crackpots who want to send the troops back in. They are Starmer's audience now. The Labour leader has found himself to the right of not just Joe Biden, but even Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. It's like we've stepped into the Twilight Zone.

The problem is Starmer's had confirmation since April, the US was going to withdraw troops before September 11th and he's been completely silent up until now. Bizarrely, he's even resorted to criticising Boris Johnson for Joe Biden's actions, accusing the prime minister of "complacency over the Taliban threat". 

Now, I'm obviously no fan of the prime minister, but this is not a valid line of attack, Keith! You can't blame Johnson for the actions of the US president, but perhaps you think the UK should've maintained a military presence for a while longer (something you've not previously suggested). I suspect, in actual fact, you're doing what you falsely accused Jeremy Corbyn of doing - bleating from the sidelines without any intelligent input on how things could've been done better.

And it's particularly worrying to see the Labour leader attacking known war hawk Joe Biden from the right. Biden has always loved military intervention and now Keith is telling us he's clearly to the right of the Democrats on this issue. So much for Mr Anti-war lawyer.

But to be fair, the worst recent input on Afghanistan has not come from Keith. No, his MPs have managed to outshine him in that regard with their breathtaking ignorance.

Let's take Blairite MP Stella Creasy, for example, who demonstrated she doesn't have the slightest clue what she is talking about, when she suggested the Taliban could end up harbouring ISIS. 

Twitter users were quick to point out ISIS and the Taliban have been actively fighting each other, prompting Stella to deny she'd ever said this, using the most absurd semantic argument. Note how she switched the wording from "the Taliban" to "Afghanistan", once she'd realised the absurdity of suggesting mortal enemies could be working together. To be clear, she originally said: "We need to get agreement by the UN and NATO that if the Taliban provide a safe haven for Al Quaida or ISIS, we will not stand for it."

She, of course, played the victim, implying she was being bullied, simply because she'd been fact checked and held to account. However, it gets worse because she appeared to U-turn again, standing by the original statement she'd previously denied making on the basis she'd consulted experts who've spent years studying the matter. She truly tied herself in the most spectacular knots!

We could all have a good laugh about this, but the sad fact is these ignorant individuals are involved in life and death conversations and they are clearly just winging it. If you've ever wondered how we find ourselves in such disastrous foreign interventions, it's precisely because we elect such morally and intellectually vacuous careerists.

These galaxy brains were complaining in parliament that: "If there was a vote today, the government would have lost." 

As Aaron Bastani pointed out on Twitter, a vote on what? Britain's role in Afghanistan ended a long time ago! This was an American decision to withdraw American troops. In what alternative universe would parliament get a vote on that? The ignorance on display was truly next level stuff.

And if there was any doubt Labour is now the party of the military industrial complex, we have Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy saying the Afghanistan war was "absolutely right" but there are "lessons to be learned."

Yes, there truly are lessons to be learned, Lisa, but clearly you've learned the exact opposite lessons to the ones you were supposed to learn. I mean what exactly are you suggesting here? That the initial invasion and quarter of a million casualties was the good part? That's the part we got right? The part which caused over a million serious injuries and left 5-10 million people destitute? 

What lessons do you think need to be learned exactly? That the US should've done a better troop withdrawal? Or should have stayed longer? Perhaps you think they should've stayed and hunted down every member of the Taliban who was lying low and making themselves indistinguishable from any other member of the Afghan population. I mean what could you possibly mean from "there are lessons to be learned"?

Does Lisa Nandy seriously think next time, we simply need to do our military intervention a little more efficiently? Tweak it here and there so it's more effective? My God!

The only lesson to be learned is that western military interventions end in disaster for everyone, apart from the western corporations who make huge sums of money from them. Iraq was a disaster. Libya was a disaster. Syria was a disaster. Our interventions created ISIS, for fuck's sake. How did you miss this?

You can't just kill a quarter of a million people to bomb some democracy into a country you know nothing about. Remember when Blair and Bush told us the Taliban had been defeated and we'd ushered in a new era of democracy? Well, they failed spectacularly on their own terms. They did not, and could not, defeat the Taliban.

And if you think for even a microsecond the logical next step is to send British troops into Afghanistan, you truly terrify me. The Taliban have captured state of the art US weaponry now. A return of British troops would not mean peace keeping, it would mean another quarter of a million dead. You don't save people by killing them.

For God's sake, please just stop. Neoliberals are dangerous, incapable of humility and self-reflection, and utterly pathological in their desire to control other countries. How could any self-respecting person on the left vote for this lot? Blue Labour is a cess-pit.

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  1. An excellent piece Mr Hale! It truly is amazing how bereft of ideas both government and opposition are regarding the Middle East. It's like a golfer that has 100s of clubs in his bag, but always picks the biggest, longest wood even in the putting green.


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