Tag Archives: Iraq

Innocence Lost

The moving image of a five year old Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh, sitting bloodied and dazed in the back of an ambulance has been widely circulated on social media. It highlights the desperate plight of the citizens of Aleppo, caught in the crossfire of an increasingly violent and vicious civil war.

The image has been compared with that of Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Bodrum beach and has renewed calls for the West to do something to stop the bloodshed. But the question is what?

Migrant boat accident in Turkey

Images of children wounded in NATO airstrikes resulted in widespread condemnation for the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which have proved disastrous for the citizens of those countries.

Injured Afghan boy

Painful images of innocence painfully lost have communicated the horrors of war in a way that words could never describe since Vietnam. Despite having witnessed lost innocence firsthand in the Balkans in the 1990s, I was still moved to tears in 2004 by the image of a bloodied Aida Sidakova climbing through the window of her school gymnasium in search of her mum following the Beslan school bombing by Islamist terrorists.

Beslan School Massacre

Our reaction to these images is instinctive and transcends religious or cultural divides but sadly does not endure. Tomorrow, or the next day, we will return to our lives of comfortable consumerism and forget about the difficult question of what to do in Aleppo – at least until the next image of innocence lost pricks our conscience.

Vietnam napalm girl

Chilcot Report or King James Bible?

Helmandi Politics

At 11.35 today Sir John Chilcott’s long awaited inquiry into the Iraq War is released to the public. It is expected to be critical of a number of high ranking officials.

Commissioned by Gordon Brown in 2009, the report has been subject to long delays and runs to some 2.6 million words. Many family members of British soldiers killed in Iraq fear a ‘whitewash’ and point out that we don’t need an enquiry to see that ‘Iraq’s actually worse than what is was before we went in’.

Colonel Tim Collins, made famous by his inspirational eve-of-battle speech at the outset of the war in 2003 also believes ‘we shattered Iraqi society’ the very opposite of the instructions he gave his troops to ‘tread lightly there’.

The utility of a report of such magnitude is debatable and it seems unlikely that it will ever be read in full.  To give it some context the King James bible runs to 783, 137 words, the Qur’an is a comparatively slender 77, 934 words while War and Peace weighs in at 587, 287 words.

Sir John Chilcot now hopes that ‘many lessons’ can be learned from his report but had it been shorter, had it been delivered sooner could the lessons of Iraq been applied to Afghanistan?

He has said that future, military action should only be embarked on, if ‘really careful challenge analysis and assessment’ is applied to it. This sounds so extraordinarily obvious it hardly warrants a further 2,599,994 words but the implication – and the evidence – is clear. Britain entered the Iraq  war without careful analysis and both Britain and Iraq have paid a heavy price for this folly.

The evidence also suggests that precisely the same mistakes have been made in Afghanistan. Like Iraq,  Afghanistan is spiralling into civil war with violence and  corruption endemic. Helmand Province is now a battleground between Taliban and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) – a battle the insurgents appear to be winning – and where poppy cultivation and opium production continues unchecked.

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is available as an Amazon Kindle e-book

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is the unauthorised, unvarnished and irreverent story of one man’s midlife crisis on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan where the locals haven’t forgiven the British for the occupation of 1842 or for the Russian Invasion of 1979. Of course, all infidels look the same so you can’t really tell them apart.