“My son is 20 years old and I am his mother aged 43”, wrote Mrs Lauderdalle from Yorkshire to Prime Minister Clement Attlee in February 1948. She went on to say: “I appeal to you to let my boy come home from Palestine”.
Another mother sent a letter to the Prime Minister saying, “I am writing to you to demand my son to leave Palestine before he is slaughtered by the Arabs or Jews. I am enclosing this picture published in the Daily Mail today. Thank God! It is not my boy. As I saw the face, I thought for a moment it was him, and I was absolutely devastated. But they are some other mother’s boy. Why should our boys die for the sake of lousy Jews and Arabs? It is not our war”.
These are two out of hundreds of letters sent to Prime Minister Attlee urging him to withdraw from Palestine. And now we’ve got to do the same: to send hundreds and thousands of letters and emails to Prime Minister Gordon Brown to pile pressure on him to get British troops out of Afghanistan.
We must not, however, delude ourselves: our messages will not change the situation overnight, and it is likely that British troops will continue to patrol Afghanistan for many years to come. You see, it is relatively easy to invade a country, but it is always much more complicated to disengage. As a young captain in the Israeli army I was one of those who invaded Lebanon in an operation which was supposed to last between 48 and 72 hours; troops then stayed in Lebanon for 18 years. What eventually brings about disengagements (the US disengagement from Vietnam, the Israeli retreat from Lebanon, and so on) is a combination of blood and public pressure. And this is how we are going to get out of Afghanistan:
Although they do not know it yet, many British troops will be killed in Afghanistan and return to Britain in coffins. With the growing number of casualties, public pressure on the government to get out of Afghanistan will also increase, but ministers will repeat, like parrots, the mantra that Britain is a “safer place”, as long as British troops operate in Afghanistan, and that eventually “we will defeat the Taliban”.
Some ministers will utter this nonsense because they are expected to do so, others because they are ignorant – they either do not know history, or have learned nothing from history. And then more casualties (“Breaking News: 74 British troops were killed when a helicopter ferrying them was shot down in Afghanistan”) leading to even more public pressure on the government.
And then a new Prime Minister will be elected (well, as I write, the poor guy is probably still at school) and he will ask: “What’s the purpose? Why are we still there? We’ve already lost 2,744 young men …” He will then set up a committee which will report back that the entire Afghan affair is pointless, because you can not defeat the elusive Taliban and chasing them in the Afghan mountains would not turn Britain into a safer place. The committee will then recommend to get out of this hell-of-a place within 5, 7 or 10 years.
And yes – this is how it will all end. Then, we will all just forget about it, with the only ones to continue and live with this sorry episode being the mothers who, as I write, do not yet know that their world is about to be turned up-side-down.