Published: 7:57pm,  23 Jul 2010

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Tony Blair sent British troops into Afghanistan in 2001, only weeks after the passengered bombs flew into the World Trade Centre. His response to that mind-boggling, televised atrocity was shockingly rapid: I remember well that the nuclear submarines HMS Triumph and HMS Trafalgar started shooting cruise missiles into “the Taliban frontline” which was vaguely “up country”, or “near Kabul”, in early October, because it was the same week that Jo Moore was having to apologise on camera for that very crass email about September 11 being a good day to bury bad news.

After which, there was a lot of Boy’s Own stuff in the papers about turbanned warriors with 19th- and 20th-century Lee-Enfields galloping through defiles and trying to escape drones – or were they frantically calling the Pentagon on their satphones and asking for drones to come and support them? One forgets. It was a decade ago.

After September 11, British involvement in Afghanistan seemed inevitable. Once Tony Blair had been to Ground Zero, once he had been greeted as a brother by George W. Bush, standing shoulder to shoulder felt like a perfectly reasonable thing to do, both in a national interest kind of a way (you can’t have beardie madmen knocking down a Western metropolis when they feel like it) and in a special relationship-y kind of a way. Since Bush was obviously going to have to go and get the self-proclaimed destroyer of downtown New York, and since our nifty special forces were going to be up for chasing Osama bin Laden through the Tora Bora mountains, a short deployment in Central Asia seemed OK to me.

What I never grasped was how very messianic Tony Blair would turn out to be, nor that he meant exactly what he’d said after the apocalypse: “The kaleidoscope has been shaken, the pieces are in flux, soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us reorder this world around us…”

He meant it literally about reordering the world; I thought it was an oratorical flight when I heard it (and committed it to memory, so as to remember never to trust the man again). But it wasn’t. There’s a bit at the end that I’d forgotten: “Let us reorder the world around use_SLpsand use modern science to provide prosperity for all.” Deary me. In Afghanistan? He wanted a nice suburban place with midwifery colleges, drop-in needle exchanges for heroin addicts, primary schools where every girl matters and all must have their five a day? They don’t have roads. Countries without roads are not easy to enrich.

A decade on, Woman’s Hour is getting extremely upset about Afghan women. Ever since Laura Bush and Cherie Blair came together on the evening news (on both sides of the Atlantic) to decry the forced wearing of burqas and the proscription of nail varnish by the vicious Taliban, we have all known that the Fifth Afghan War was being fought for women. “In Afghanistan, only the terrorists and the Taliban threaten to pull out women’s fingernails for wearing nail polish,” Mrs Bush (a woman with an immaculate manicure at all times) told America. Cherie Blair meshed her fingers over her face and mugged through them to camera, to indicate how oppressive the burqa was. That was in 2003. Perhaps women – or Woman’s Hour – did feel better about warmongering and war-making if they believed that women were being rescued from oppression because of it?

Well, the nail varnish angle has worn pretty thin. Woman’s Hour‘s concerns this week were about a report by Human Rights Watch: it is very sober reading, very worrying about how women’s rights will fare under that old mountebank Karzai, very anxious that “the world” will work to deal with child marriage, forced marriage, women’s access to justice and schooling (pretty non-existent, after a brief flowering) and violence.

“The world” may not be listening. Everybody wants to leave Afghanistan. Obama, Denmark, us, everybody in the Nato mission. Canada is leaving in 2011, which is in about five minutes’ in miltary terms; Cameron is promising 2015. It would have been better if we – and by “we” I mean you, Tony, obviously – had passed by on the other side of that conflict, frankly.

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