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Multicultural Man: On betrayal

WILL SELF on the British government's betrayal of Afghanistan

British and Afghan troops standing side by side at Camp Shorabak, Helmand Province in Afghanistan to mark Remembrance together for the first time during a special parade. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Janus-faced, that’s me – writing to you from the bad old year, while
you sit there reading my words in the new one. In a way, this
temporal border stands proxy for all the physical ones that have
come to dominate our lives in the past half-decade.

There’s no Jeux Sans Frontières any more – it’s just one tedious
knockout after another: pity us poor Brits, eh, hemmed in by the
Channel rather than defended by it. Pity in particular those who,
sensing freedom in November, splashed out on a winter sports
break, only to have their schuss turn to scheisse once the Omicron
variant got going.

I suspect at least some of these frustrated Alpinists will have
been serving or ex-military personnel, because that’s the sort of
healthy, open-air activity, interspersed with ample opportunities
for boozing and collective nudity, that soldierly types enjoy.

Still, some of them have made it to the slopes, and I like to
imagine that on New Year’s Day, up at 1,600m, between
Bardonecchia in Italy and Claviere, close to the French border,
where skiers zigzag back and forth across both countries as if
checkpoints didn’t exist, they perhaps encountered some of their
former colleagues. Not pink-cheeked Sandhurst alumni, though –
but Afghans and Iraqis, their extremities turning blue in the
sub-zero temperatures.

For this comparatively low pass in the Alps is the favoured route
for those migrants attempting to reach their former allies’
homeland. They enter Italy from the Balkans – believing that once
they’ve crossed this icy border, the watery one to the north won’t
prove much of an obstacle. There’s something truly grotesque
about this: one person’s eight-minute adrenalised descent set
against another’s torturous and frostbitten eight-hour trek – and it’s
surely deeply sad that anyone from these benighted countries
should seek any succour from the nation that helped plunge them
into darkness.

But of course, it’s not just anyone who’s having to flee
Afghanistan at the moment – it’s those, specifically, who worked
with the British and American occupiers. It’s by no means clear
how many Afghans are at risk because of this association, and
therefore what proportion of them were successfully airlifted out
of Kabul in the dying days of the West’s puppet regime.

What we do know is that the British government is currently
reneging on its promises to the 15,000 who were: watering down its commitment to properly resettle 20,000 of them by including in the
total those Afghans who were already here before the Taliban took
power. Again.

It’s never an edifying spectacle observing second-generation
immigrants shutting the borders behind them – but that’s precisely
what we’re witnessing as the home secretary and the chancellor
put fiscal restraint (and their own stellar careers) ahead of any real
acknowledgement of moral responsibility for this colossal failure.

Not that the so-called left hasn’t been gifting huge quantities of
humbug as well over the Christmas break. In particular, we’ve been
treated to impassioned bloviating from one Gordon Brown, a
former chancellor of the exchequer who, during his incumbency,
signed off on some of the staggering sums we British taxpayers
sank into this futile exercise aimed at “exporting democracy
through the barrel of a gun.”

Brown was not a great cheerleader when it came to his erstwhile
partner’s self-aggrandising foreign adventures: while Tony Blair
strutted about the place, the very personification of a Britain
punching well above its weight in the international ring, Brown,
like some corpulent butterfly, floated behind him, waiting for the
right back-stabbing opportunity. But Blair fell so hard and fast he
took Brown with him: the latter’s wasn’t just a lame-duck
premiership, but a dead one.

Luckily, there aren’t just second acts in British political lives –
but third, fourth and fifth ones as well. Brown now basks in the
ascription United Nations special envoy for global education, which
presumably explains why he feels emboldened to lecture everyone
about the ’humanitarian disaster’ now unfolding in Afghanistan.

Why the perverted commas? Because this euphemism is just one
of the ways those who were actively responsible for this snafu
attempt to shift the blame: Brown says that a million Afghan
children are facing death by starvation this winter – and points out
that a fraction of the money spent on the 20-year ’intervention’
could save them. Perhaps, but no person or nation really wishes to
be dependent on charity, which exists – as the philosopher Thomas
Hobbes so pithily observed – to relieve the rich man of the burden
of his conscience.

So, while I may be Janus-faced, the British political class and
their khaki-clad accomplices are just hypocrites, pure and simple,
crossing and recrossing the border between truth and lies.

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