Continued war in Afghanistan result of self-deluding optimism

Paul Flynn explains why he was glad to be expelled from the House of Commons this week

Something was certain to blow. Seven days of hot churning emotion led to my expulsion from the Commons on Tuesday for the first time in 25 years. Last Thursday, Minister Justine Greening demeaned and insulted the Commons with a saccharine flavoured quarterly report on Afghanistan. It was stuffed the culpable self-deluding optimism that has led to the deaths of hundreds of our soldiers. Justine sweetly looked forward to a happy-ever-after corruption and drugs-free Afghanistan.

Green on blue attacks? Sorted. Rampaging corruption? No worries. Mass exit of the troops of our allies? Never heard of it. The UK’s exit from the hell of Afghanistan is being delayed so that it can be spun as a victory for politicians.

On Sunday I attended the Merchant Navy memorial service. One in four of them died in World War II – a higher proportion than any other service. Admiral Lord West was there. No Government Minister or royalty turned up. Ingrates.

By Monday three more British soldiers had been killed. Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond was dragged to the House by a backbencher’s urgent question. He patronised and postured. He would never fall for the Taliban’s trick of trying to divide the International Security Assistance Force from Afghan trainee soldiers. Not our Philip. John Redwood and I urged him to bring our troops home by Christmas. The Dutch and Canadians have already pulled out of the mission impossible. France and New Zealand are leaving earlier than planned.

Hammond offered a despicable justification for more war. “Four hundred and thirty British service personnel have given their lives, and we intend to protect that legacy by ensuring that the UK’s national security interests are protected in future by training and mentoring the Afghan national security forces,” he said.

To justify the waste of 430 lives by foolish politicians, more lives should be lost. Since the expulsion of Al Quaeda there has been no threat to British Security from Afghanistan. The Taliban attack us because we are occupying their county not because they plan terrorism on the streets of the UK.

Later Monday afternoon I began to read the list of the fallen in Afghanistan. Twenty five of my Early Day Motions have filled 13 pages of the Common motions paper for the past two weeks. I previously sought an arrangement for the full lists to read in the Commons. The Speaker courteously stopped me:

“Mr Flynn raised with me his view that there should be a formal oral recording, periodically, of lives lost, and asked me to look into the matter. I said that I would, and I am doing so, and I think it wise to proceed on the basis of consultation. I intend to speak very soon to the Leader of the House, the Shadow Leader of the House and various others about the matter, and then to revert to the Hon. Gentleman.”

I was delighted with that assurance and ended the reading. Tuesday dawned with the news that ISAF had fallen for the Taliban trick that Hammond said he would never fool him. Humiliated, he was dragged back again to the Commons. I asked:

‘The role of our brave soldiers is to act as human shields for Ministers’ reputations. The danger to our soldiers has been prolonged by those on the Front Bench who have the power to stop it. Other countries have removed their soldiers and are not doing, what we are doing, arming and training our future enemy. Is this not similar to the end of the First World War, when it was said that politicians lied and soldiers died, and the reality was, as it is now, that our brave soldier lions were being led by Ministerial donkeys?’

The Speaker asked me to make clear if I was saying a Minister was lying. There was only one possible answer. My head was full of the deceptions of vain ministers since 2006, the avoidable 430 deaths and 2,000 soldiers who have returned home broken in mind and body.

“Yes, ministers had lied’ I said. Exclusion was inevitable and a price worth paying. The total number of British deaths in Afghanistan now number 430.

Paul Flynn is Labour MP for Newport West.

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