Been there – done that By William Bowles

11 July 2006

In 1881 British Redcoats got their arses well and truly kicked in Afghanistan and had to withdraw. It was one of the worst defeats British colonialism had experienced. The similarities don’t end there least of all the real reasons for being there in the first place. In 1881 it was, according to the government of the day, to guarantee access to India. Today, it’s oil of the Caspian Basin and the strategic locations of the former Soviet states that is the real reason for USUK presence. Forget all that crap about the Taleban, the Taleban government was supported by the US up until it became expedient to dump on them just like any and all so-called US allies when the circumstances warrant it.

And, as with the Soviet ‘invitation’ to support the regime in Kabul in 1979, the current occupation is creeping toward ever greater involvement by the West and with the same predictable results.[1]

One hundred and twenty-five years later a spokesman for the British Ministry of Defence described its military presence in Afghanistan as “overstretched” and as a result an extra 900 troops are to be sent to the ‘lawless’ Helmand province following the loss of six soldiers in a couple of weeks. This will bring the total UK presence to 4,500. By contrast, the Soviet occupation had an estimated 118,000, well short of the estimated minimum number it needed to ‘pacify’ the country, around 150,000[2]. By contrast, the US had at its highest point 500,000 in Vietnam and still lost.

Back in April 2006 a BBC report told its readers:

“In many ways it’s the mistakes and the lessons the British learnt over the centuries in this region that will, they hope, make the new deployment of UK troops better equipped than any other international force to deal with what follows.” — Afghan history’s warning to UK troops

The same report said:

“… [T]oday’s British soldier is almost unrecognisable. Their leadership has been a lot more thoughtful about this new deployment than some of their predecessors.”

Thoughtful perhaps but no less deluded than their forebears. The story asserted that the current situation is all down to the US failure to ‘follow through’ on its invasion of Afghanistan and that somehow 4500 or so British soldiers will make all the difference with its experiences gained “over the centuries”. It had after all, suffered two disastrous defeats trying to colonise Afghanistan and according to the ‘pundits’, learned all the appropriate lessons, except it seems, the most basic one of all.

And in the same BBC story we are told that:

“… their [the British army’s] political masters have already made what many see as a good start by refusing to move into Helmand until the worst examples of mis-governance in the province – by people like the former Governor Mullah Shermohammad Akhund – were ended.

“The newly-appointed governor of Helmand, Eng Daoud, is considered to be clean and against the drug trade.”

But back in September 2005, this is what the BBC was telling us in another story:

“A recent reshuffle of Afghanistan’s powerful regional governors was widely seen as cosmetic and insufficient to reduce the influence of the warlords.” — Afghanistan’s security challenges

As per usual, the BBC speaks ‘with forked tongue’, dutifully carrying out its mission of pushing the official line, which changes like the wind, from day to day.

Amazingly, given the uncritical support the BBC has given the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq the story goes on to blame the Americans for the current situation:

“The American resources that could have transformed Afghanistan and secured the whole country from a Taleban resurgence were instead diverted into toppling Saddam Hussein and then trying to deal with the terrible mess that followed.”

Initially, we were told that the upgraded British involvement in the occupation of Afghanistan would be about ‘winning hearts and minds’ and would be focusing on “reconstruction”, a position that lasted about one month. The BBC story repeated this deception:

“The British troops are deploying in much larger numbers and with much more interest in winning hearts and minds.”

Interest is an odd choice of word but then to say otherwise it would have to admit that the British occupation has nothing to do with ‘winning hearts and minds’ but in propping up a corrupt as well as ineffectual narco-government. What is clear from this story is that BBC coverage of the situation in Afghanistan is in absolute lockstep with the British government’s propaganda.

Reinforcing the collusion between the BBC and the state, in its sidebar under the heading ‘Related Internet Links’, all we get in the way of a ‘broader picture’ are two links to the Afghanistan government’s website and to the US defence department.

Curiosity made me look at other BBC stories on Afghanistan and see what other external links the BBC considered useful to ‘broaden the mind’ of the inquisitive reader. Guess what? It’s more of the same.

Thus a story dated 8 December 2005 has the following external links, US Department of Defence, Afghan government and the US Navy Seals.

Another story dated 17 April 2005 lists the UK Defence Ministry, the Afghan government and Combined Forces Command.

In fact, after looking at half a dozen stories on Afghanistan, the only non-state links I could find was one to ActionAid and one to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. So much for the BBC’s commitment to the ‘bigger picture’ and its legally mandated Charter to inform the public.[3]

So what does the BBC have say a couple of months later? Not an awful lot. Today (11/7/06) the BBC’s website has only one story headlined ‘Rumsfeld praises Afghan mission’ full of all the usual nonsense about fighting the ‘war on terror’ and how successful the US was in killing ‘terrorists’.

Toward the end of the report we read that:

“On Monday, UK Defence Secretary Des Browne told MPs that reinforcements, which will boost UK troop levels in Afghanistan to 4,500, would head for the Helmand province to help security and reconstruction efforts.”

There’s none so blind as those that refuse to see as the BBC coverage of the (third) disastrous British occupation of Afghanistan so aptly illustrates.

It’s pointless to ask the BBC to fulfill its mandate and supply truly independent news and analysis to its readers but at least dear reader, be aware that when the BBC speaks, it speaks with its master’s voice.


1. Index on Afghanistan

2. The Soviet Occupation

3. The BBC Charter

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