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Feeling the Afghanistan Blues

THERE was a policeman, a soldier, and a politician but iits a joke, its a blue one.Michael, the policeman, is sad. He used to be a soldier, anwishes he still was. He served eight years in the army, including tours iBosnia and Northern Ireland, but left when a woman came along. For Michael, tharmy was a loyalty of men. There wasnt room for another relationship.Things did not work out with the woman, however, and nohes a sad policeman. "The army is your life," says Michael, "but police woris just a job. They all go home at five oclock. The army is 24 hours a day.As a soldier, he never slept with fewer than 12 others in the room comradehe could rely on. And as he pounds his Essex beat, much of him wishes he wastill with those 12 in Helmand, Afghanistan.Captain Leo Docherty has been at the heart of things iHelmand, but has come out in open dissent at the conduct of the operation. Whawas called "a mission of reconstruction" has become a war and a war badlfought. "It is a textbook case of how to screw up counter-insurgency," he says"Weve been grotesquely clumsy. Weve said well be different from thAmericans, who were bombing and strafing villages and then behaved exactllike them."It was a politician, the Defence Secretary at the time, JohReid, who expected our troops to enter and leave Afghanistan "without a shobeing fired" proof of a leaked MOD paper that says: "The UK went intAfghanistan with its eyes closed." Troops are now six times more likely to dithere than in Iraq.Perhaps John Reid believed his words. Or perhaps the PrimMinister was on his back to follow the Americans. No matter. Who cares? For miracle has since taken place! A glorious if surprising ascension! BeholMr Reid, now enthroned in the Home Office, where we must hope his discernmenproves more compelling.It is the opinion of the military that we must choosbetween Iraq and Afghanistan. There are currently 7500 troops in one, and 600in the other. Reporters are kept away from the action, and so we rely osoldiers blogs for news. What they reveal is an intensity of fighting noexperienced by the British army in living memory. Some say that the last timit was like this was in Korea. And no one imagines we will win.And heres the blue bit. The colour ultramarine, from thlapis lazuli stone, literally means "beyond the sea"; for it came originallfrom Afghanistan. It was an expensive mineral to import, but how the Europeaartists loved its tones.Today, the policeman, the soldier, and the politician still think beyond thsea - and, in their different ways, feel the blues all over again.

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