Sunday, 15th August, 2021

[Day 517]

Another Sunday has come round again and, as always, I went off to collect our newspapers early. Normally, I get back before 9.00 in order to watch the Andrew Marr show but today it was watching the events unfold, hour by hour, in Afghanistan – more of this later. After we had breakfasted and got ourselves turned around, we were off to the park where there was an open session of the Bromsgrove Literary and Philosophical Society– Meg and I brought the numbers uo to four where we were regularly inspected by the local dogs and their owners who stop by for a chat. I think this morning the subject that engaged us was interesting films we had see recently as well as the news story which lead the Sunday Times in which it is argued that the Chinese had effectively nobbled the World Health Organisation and ensured that a full investigation of the origins and history of COVID-19 will now never be known. After we got home for lunch, we cooked ourselves a chicken dinner (made easy by Waitrose where you merely pop the tinfoil container into the oven) After lunch, I needed to gird my loins and get the lawns cut – postponed from yesterday. When I started off, the weather was a little cloudy but as I was finishing off about an hour later, it started smattering with rain. Fortunately, it was nothing much to worry about and did not hold up the proceedings at all.

Throughout the day, we have following the fall of Afghanistan (or more accurately the fall of Kabul) to the Taliban which seems to have happened with the most extraordinary rapidity. It is not as though the Taliban have forced a victory – rather whatever opposition there might have been has just melted away so they seemed to have into walked into provincial capital after provincial capital (and eventually Kabul itself) with hardly a shot being fired. First thing this morning (UK time) we learned that the Taliban had entered the suburbs of Kabul, then that they had actually entered the presidential palace and eventually that the President himself had fled leaving only his generals behind who were no doubt wondering what to do. The whole speed of the take-over rather reminds you of the fall of Saigon all of those years ago – The British and Americans are sending troops not to fight but to oversee the evacuation of their nationals as fast as they can. The reaction of the British government is interesting and quasi-comical – Parliament is being recalled next Wednesday but by that date everything will be a ‘fait accompli‘ so what is the point, I ask myself? The Foreign secretary is actually on holiday at the moment but is making his way home (as I suppose he feels he ought to be at his post given the circumstances). I seem to remember standing in the basement of a stately home somewhere and reading some archived documents which detailed how badly British army had fared in Afghanistan in the 19th C. If we go back to 1842, of course, we can read about the ‘1842 retreat from Kabul‘ which ranks as one of the worst military disasters in British military history. In total the British army lost 4,500 troops, along with about 12,000 civilians: the latter comprising both the families of Indian and British soldiers, plus workmen, servants and other Indian camp-followers. It does make you wonder if our policy makers have read any of this history and one suspects that the Americans have certainly not done so. I am also noting that the Americans do not like losing – hence all kind of blame is being thrown about at the moment and Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw from one of the USA’s longest wars in history, being some twenty years, may lose him a lot of popularity in the American opinion polls. Of course, once the Americans withdrew, then the British had no option but to follow suit, appearing as always as nothing more than the lapdog of the Americans. How one must feel if one had a son or a daughter who had lost their life during the Afghanistan conflict, one must inevitably ask the question whether it was remotely worthwhile – and whether such a young life had been lost in vain. Being of a particular age, I can remember how Harold Wilson when he was the Labour Prime Minister skilfully kept the UK out of the Vietnam conflict, although the Australians and the Canadians contributed forces. And in case you happen to be wondering, Donald Trump successfully evaded the draft on at least five occasions, four of them whilst he was at college and on the fifth occasion arguing successfully that he had ‘bad feet’ caused by the growth of bone spurs. There is some talk that this last medical condition was not verified and could have been entirely fictitious.