IssueJune 2006
Comment by Ippy D

May's cabinet reshuffle and, reportedly, tearful sacking, can't hide the fact that the Labour government is in freefall, with an increasingly desperate and messianic-looking Blair at the helm.

Out went Clarke - for all the wrong reasons, and out went Straw - the loyal functionary who stayed the course as foreign secretary during the most unpopular conflict Britain has ever perpetrated. “Two-jags” Prescott kept his perks, but lost some of his official power - this parody of authentic class struggle will no doubt to be wheeled out occasionally as needed, when all the fuss has died down.

But while the political pundits are busy getting into a lather over a future Brown-Cameron play-off, for now the wheels of government keep turning at a relatively comfortable cruising speed. Business as usual.

Hearts and minds

Away from the shenanigans in Whitehall, May saw renewed deployment of British troops to Afghanistan and their first “engagement” with the Taliban. The bodies of more British troops killed in Iraq were flown back to Brize Norton, and Blair muttered on about a fantastic “new start” for the blood-drenched country.

While the British military presence in Afghanistan may be less contentious to some than their ongoing deployment to Iraq, it's a miracle that anyone still wants to join up. In fact, while both the British and US militaries are on the offensive in their battle to attract new recruits, the war for hearts and minds at home was lost a long time ago. In March the MoD admitted that they were 50% down against recruitment targets.

Capitalising on this, an effective counter-recruitment campaign in Britain, bringing together soldiers, military families and antimilitarists - an odd sounding mix, granted - could have a big impact right now, with long-term “wins” for all concerned: it's one of the things that will be discussed at the daytime PN birthday event in London on 17 June.

Reality whitewash

Sticking with the recruitment theme ... the US the military has come up with a new wheeze to try to attract new cannon fodder for the bosses - a game! Released this month, America's Army includes the avatars of real troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and is supposedly intended to show new recruits the “realities” of war.

Luckily for these troops, they themselves are still in one piece, and it's a safe bet that they are depicted neither bored out of their brains on base, nor listening to death metal while off their heads, steaming along their tanks. Better yet, they probably don't even have to kill civilians, or perform any other unpleasantries (except for killing the “bad guys”).

What lucky chaps these were, to have such an enriching combat experience. The “realities of war” - amazing. Sign up today!

Full circle

If the government is in disarray and few citizens are prepared to do their most dirty work, how come the wheels keep turning?

Well, the majority of people keep paying their taxes for start - and war is a costly business. Then there is the daily collaboration of going through the motions of school and work, consumerism, and watching mind-numbing drivel the telly.

Gandhi was right, in part, when he said something along the lines of “The only devils in this world are those running around in our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought.” He was talking about confronting ourselves and finding courage.

All change comes at a price and involves risk. Finding the courage to think for ourselves and to act on our convictions, to create the world we want to see, is a perpetual personal and collective challenge. But it's one we must find the strength to rise to.

Topics: Afghanistan
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