Today is the day when the 300th young soldier died. This is not the day that he was injured, or the day his enemy intended him to die, but the day when the fight for life was too much. Heaven knows how many Afghans are dead, and that’s probably where that figure will have to stay, if one believes in such things, yet we know that 300 British citizens have been killed in a foreign land for a reason I’m not too sure of.
As I sit and ponder the removal of another body from a Birmingham hospital I wonder about all those that are left in there fighting. My Father was in the same Intensive Care Unit (ICU) as many of these young men, as the vast majority seem to be, and I recall watching their terrified, mournful relatives as they sat around waiting for the opportunity to be allowed to see these poor souls. I spoke to one lady in the waiting room and she explained to me how it was her daughter’s fiance they were there to see. Her daughter was barley sixteen and he was barely seventeen, yet they had pledged love and marriage to each other prior to his departure for Afghanistan. Her daughter now faced a life of hurt and pain much as did her fiance. He was now minus a leg, arm and an eye, with limited vision in the other. His other leg, at the time of talking to her, the doctors were trying to save; the battle was lost some months later.
The family originated from a small village and would be returning to it once he was well enough to go home, many many months hence. This brought to my mind a feeling of awful dread and sadness, not only for the young man, but more for his fiance. She was now as trapped in this relationship as he would be with the nightmares that were yet to visit him. How could she grow as an individual and come to the conclusion he wasn’t the man for her? How could he grow as an individual and see her as not his sort? They were trapped in a paradox. If she were to leave him for reasons other than his wounds and disabilities, she would become a pariah within the community. A lady to be vilified for leaving a poor brave man at his time of need. As for leaving him because of his wounds and disabilities that would be unthinkable even to her. A cross that I felt I wouldn’t want to bear. The constant care and attention she would have to place on him was going to put a strain on her young fragile mind.
Every morning the routine would begin and by the night time there would be only sleep to escape until the morning brought the routine back again. As a young couple, their life could be like this for the next sixty years, some days good most days bad and some the nightmares that only people in such situations can imagine and experience. Together in a never ending battle with love, hope, hopelessness, despair and feelings of utter loss.
It was as I was speaking to this girl’s mother that I first experienced the Thought Police. These men, in dark clothing, carrying briefcases and an imposing air watched us talk from the doorway of the waiting room. She was aware of them as I was, yet she pretended not to notice them. For my part I felt scared and intimidated. After a few looks and the odd mutter between themselves they walked away, not far away, only several feet, but far enough for her to relax a little and explain who the were. It transpired that they were part of the military propaganda machine, their objective, to filter any news to the press. To make sure that the story was consistent with the political line. PR for the army! Could anyone make-up such a thing? In fact they had. She explained that all relatives were told not to talk to the press without one of these individuals or the colleagues setting the agenda first, it was their duty to honour their brave children and the children of others by not talking to the press without being scripted first. How could any relative or parent not abide by such rules?
This is what leads me onto my point: 300 deaths. 300 deaths for what? How many more hundreds are we going to be giving change to on street corners? How many more will we imprison? How many more will end up in the same ICU in years to come because of Liver damage, kidney damage and all manner of other illness due to alcohol, substance and self-abuse? The mental health time-bomb is out there, it’s ticking and the ticking gets louder by the day. These young people are coming home brutalized by war and their actions within that war. They will have seen images that no one should ever have to see; they will have caused images that they were never trained to see. The television advertisement of lads having a laugh, pulling the girls and firing smoke bombs at each other like a stag weekend away, didn’t prepare them for the atrocities of war. It lied to them about comradeship and loyalty, that’s why we now have charities to raise money for ‘Our Heroes’ because the country for which they believed they were fighting had other things to pay for and couldn’t afford rehabilitation centres or one-to-one counseling. As for their mates, the lads, they’re trying to find work in civy street and finding that low paid work is the order of the day.
As for the war that they fought and the sworn enemy, it seems the head of the Taliban will be dining with the Queen and discussing new trade agreements with the incumbent Prime Minister. Afghanistan, it transpired had a massive reserve of precious metals and Capitalism needed it. Sorry about that community centre that you frequented we couldn’t afford to fund it, we have a lot of Export Guarantee Certificates (EGC) to support for new mining projects.
What, Mr Blair and Brown non-executive members of the largest mining company in Afghanistan? That’s the problem with this country everybody hates successful people, the go-getters, those with shrewd business minds. Of course we’re thankful to our soldiers for their sacrifice but we can’t keep living in the past, things have to move on. I mean they’re our business partners now, it’s their religion we don’t have a right to interfere. We’re not Communists, we believe everyone has a right to run their own affairs. What stoning women? We have sent a strongly worded message to their Ambassador explaining our disquiet about such matters. We had to cut the mental health budget, it’s a service that I feel people should be prepared to pay for themselves. Our soldiers get the best we can provide, and of course there is the charitable sector.
(I still don’t know why our soldiers are there but I’m dead certain they are not coming home until the mining rights have been sorted. I would love to be proven wrong,)