Monday, October 16, 2006

Devil in the Detail

Read an interesting magazine article in the Guardian at the weekend about life as a British squaddie in Afghanistan.

It's a colour piece from a war torn land, the sort of copy journalists love to bash out while dreaming of Ernest Hemingway.

But with direct quotes from the mouths of shaven headed squaddies, it mines a rich seam of authenticity in what has been almost a total media blackout. British troops are currently involved in the fiercest fighting since the Korean War but you wouldn't know it from mainstream TV.

Newspapers have been a little better but because the battlezone is so dangerous most of the information is squeezed through an MOD filter.

But ask a squaddie a question and he'll give you an honest answer. After reassuring the population that the Brits were there to "develop security" the Paras went unmolested while on patrol, at ease with the locals they could get away with wearing soft hats.

That was until there was a secret 'special forces' operation.

Says Lt Andy Mallet: "The civvies in Sangin started to say, 'Well, who was doing all that, all these explosions and noise?' and we just had to say, 'Well, it wasn't us.' All over Helmand Province, all over Afghanistan, there's special forces ops going in left, right and centre... you just learn to live with it. Just on that one occasion, that was the catalyst which turned the Afghans against us."

It's just mentioned in passing, a splash of colour before the nitty gritty of the hardcore fighting. But you've got to ask if there isn't a hard news story here?

How about "Botched special forces op puts troop's lives at risk?" or "Spook terror campaign stirs Afghans to arms."

You wont hear these headlines being chimed out on News at Ten. In fact, the only reference to special forces in the mainstream media is usually in relation to their great skill and bravery in saving us from the swivel-eyed Islamofascist fanatics.

Their actions are shrouded in the secrecy of "national security" and any investigation into their proper role and function as part of a democratic state is left to obscure leftist journals and late night talk radio.

In fact, who exactly is in charge of these licensed to kill operatives? (the British army on the frontline obviously have no idea what they are up to)

Thankfully, we have the UK's brilliantly conceived 'unwritten constitution' which means that, should these special agents cause murder and mayhem across the globe, they'll have to answer to the wrath of Margaret Beckett.

James Bond must be shitting his pants.

No, special forces found in Arab clothing with a car boot full of bombs, unexplained explosions, orchestrated terror campaigns are but a trifling side show in the theatre of war.

Worthy of a mention in a colour piece on page 25 of a weekend supplement maybe.

But serious hard news. Never.

Full article here.

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