Afghanistan debate: the speech I would have given
Like many, I have been out in my constituency speaking with organisations who gave so much over the past year.
That includes the Salvation Army, and I was delighted to celebrate the opening of their new centre in my Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath Constituency where I reflected on being a good neighbour and the parable of the good Samaritan.
Parable, allegory or a teaching in ethics and humanity, its instruction is clear.
I now find myself asking: have we been good neighbours to the Afghan people?
Are we being good neighbours to the Afghan people today?
That remains to be seen.
It is a tragedy that the final act of Operation Enduring Peace consisted of President Biden’s clumsy and chaotic withdrawal.
A withdrawal that handed former President Trump, the true architect of this American humiliation, the perverse opportunity to demand President Biden’s resignation in disgrace.
Our own Foreign Secretary claims he didn’t see it coming – repeating this government’s one hit wonder: hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Of course, the real end game was indeed foreseen, not two weeks ago but twenty years ago. In the Commons debates of 2001/2, by Labour’s Tam Dalyell, as well as Peter Tapsell for the Tories, and of course by Alex Salmond, then of the SNP.
They all warned the Blair government of such eventualities – the danger of mission creep, and the long, hard history of military occupations of Afghanistan through the ages.
As I mentioned during my earlier intervention, this was entirely foreseeable and it was indeed foreseen.
But I worry these benches are now denuded of forthright voices. My own experience illustrates the political risks one takes of giving voice to contrary, yet valid opinions.
If dissident voices are to be replaced with Neo-Con ninnies begging for pretendy hawkishness, as a parliament we are truly at sea.
3,500 coalition soldiers did not return.
60,000 Afghani security forces are dead.
At least 200,000 civilians have perished.
That is the cost in human life.
The cost in dollars is also enormous.
According to Brown University, the United States has spent $978 billion, the UK $30 billion, and the Germans $20 billion on military operations alone.
A further 10 per cent was devoted to alleged reconstruction. An estimated $30 billion has been siphoned off through corruption in Western-backed regimes.
Members have had the opportunity to watch the Phil Grabsky film, My Childhood, My Country. Mir and his young family are no different to a young family in England, Scotland, anywhere.
If you can’t eat, you can’t learn; if you can’t work, you can’t live.
£2.7trillion may have brought some rewards, but as the film demonstrates, there was no proper long-term plan and so much was wasted.
For a fraction of these trillions, sub–Saharan Africa could have been freed from famine or countless millions lifted out of poverty across the planet.
Yet Mir’s young family faces a very uncertain future.
He’s not pro or anti-Taliban: he just wants peace so he can raise his young family, drive a car, take photographs, dance, go on picnics.
His wife, however, is very scared by developments.
The Afghan people were promised so much, but it is clear from Phil’s film those promises amounted to little.
Like the good Samaritan, we crossed the road to provide much needed help, but after 20 long years of mission creep, this chaotic departure has exposed us as nothing more than international rubberneckers.
Those who were good neighbours to us, those who lost their lives, they trusted us at our word, we have crossed back over the road and left them to a completely foreseeable and deeply uncertain fate.
When we abandon such friends and neighbours to perish, we also surrender our humanity.