Every human life is precious and sacred and killing one is like triggering a genocide. (Al Quran 5:32/33)
Source: The Guardian
When I served in Afghanistan I questioned Britain’s part in the war, but the scale of the human cost has made me fully reject it
- Clive Lewis is the Labour MP for Norwich South
I can’t speak for other veterans, but I was never certain of the legitimacy of our presence in Afghanistan. I wanted to believe I was there for the right reasons, namely to help the Afghan people and deter future terror attacks. But the doubts always remained, fuelled by witnessing civilians caught up in exchanges of fire, or seeing eerie ghost towns that had been abandoned after ceaseless violence.
For those who haven’t served in the army, it’s easy to assume soldiers are obedient and unquestioning. Yet as long as combat operations directly involve humans, doubt will always be part of the equation. Questioning the moral objectives of our mission was, for me at least, a necessary precursor to participation.
In the 12 years since my service, however, those doubts have become a full-blown rejection of the stated motivations behind Operation Herrick. Hindsight is powerful, and some will think me naive or deluded for going to Afghanistan in the first place. But there is a long history of veterans seeking to make sense of wartime experiences, uncovering deeper truths they were not conscious of before.
Initially, those truths manifested themselves in the sheer scale of the human cost of the war. A total of 453 British service personnel were killed between 2001 and 2014, alongside 2,600 who were wounded, 247 of whom had limbs amputated. The number of soldiers who suffered psychological injuries is unknown and will probably remain so. And yet, according to the writer Frank Ledwidge, not a single al-Qaida operative or “international terrorist’” who could conceivably have threatened our country is recorded as having been killed by Nato forces in Helmand.
In the parliamentary debate on Afghanistan last week, many of my colleagues rightly pointed to the deaths of UK service personnel. But there was hardly any mention of the human cost to the Afghan people. Ledwidge estimates that British troops alone were responsible for the deaths of at least 500 Afghan civilians and the injury of thousands more. Overall, the war is believed to have killed almost a quarter of a million people, a third of whom were civilians.
Many MPs have rightly highlighted the impending loss of Afghan human rights at the hands of the Taliban. But where was this concern over the past two decades? What of the human rights of those killed in a 20-year US drone attack programme, where an estimated 90% of victims were innocents? How did this square with “western liberal values”?
Categories: The Muslim Times