Forgive the occasional excursion into seriousness but two recent stories from Afghanistan shock me into reflection - and comment.
The first was the deaths of the six British soldiers (five of them 21 or under) by a very large Taliban roadside bomb. Their relatives have paid moving tributes to their bravery which rightly have been reported widely and sympathetically. It may seem that this is not the right moment to ask the question (I'm not sure there ever is a right one) but I regularly wonder the following.
'What will be said to the parents, spouse, relatives and friends of the last British soldier to be killed in Afghanistan as to what the purpose of their sacrifice was?'
It seems to me that there is no answer to this question, save for the unpalatable one - there was no purpose served at all. The only legitimate objective of the original attack, namely to make it more difficult for Al-Qaeda was achieved pretty quickly. The rest is a hopeless - and doomed - exercise in nation building. Who seriously imagines the Karzai regime will last very long after the coalition forces are withdrawn? Or that it is of such merit - and has such a wide base of popular support that it seriously deserves to in basic democratic grounds?
It will last as long as the comparably corrupt South Vietnamese government did after the withdrawal of US troops. If that long.
The second story is the murder of 16 Afghan civilians including nine children by an - I assume mentally unstable - US soldier today just adds to the sorrow and the pity. It is not the case that some lives are more 'important' than others. All are precious and the loss of any diminishes us. No doubt conspiracy theories will abound and the revenge attacks begin. The mix is hopelessly - to use an overused word - toxic. This is more than enough. We must not 'cut and run' comes the inevitable cry. Let's cut and run - and bring the troops back for they can do no further good. And do it now.