"If you want to read a blog to get a sense of what is going on in Hong Kong these days or a blog that would tell you what life was like living in colonial Hong Kong, this blog, WALTER'S BLOG, fits the bill." Hong Kong Blog Review
"In 2001, the war on terror began with people falling from the twin towers, and today's episode ends with Afghan kids falling from U.S. planes."
I've received my final copy of The Spectator magazine, having dropped a subscription. The decision to stop putting money their way came about, in part, through cock-eyed coverage of events in Hong Kong. Their inability or unwillingness to comprehend the true nature of the events here caused me to question the integrity of other articles.
A minor point, perhaps. But one that, in the long term, has clear repercussions for the way people absorb facts and understand what is happening in the world. In turn, that can drive unhelpful policies and actions by governments.
As I am reading this last edition, an article affirms my thinking. Former British intelligence officer Andy Owen asserts, "The war in Afghanistan will not end this year". That comment appeared in the 7th August edition; unfortunately for Mr Owen, the Taliban marched unopposed into Kabul a week later. The war is over.
In fairness, Owen did acknowledge the weakness of the Afghan Army, and he's not the only one to misjudge the situation — the entire Western political elite got it wrong. Further, Owen points out that the West doesn't understand the complexities of places it elects to 'modernise' with liberal democracy. On that, we can agree.
Karl Marx said history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. The West’s involvement in Afghanistan is now looking like a complete farce - Carry on Up the Khyber!
In 2001, the war on terror began with people falling from the twin towers, and today's episode ends with Afghan kids falling from U.S. planes. The sheer awfulness of that imagery is not lost on people no matter how much spin Biden seeks to put out.
And, as others have said — this is not comparable to the fall of Saigon; it's much worse. Today the women and girls of Afghanistan are at the mercy of the Taliban. Sure, the Taliban are seeking to project a more moderate image while openly talking of sharia law. That alone must make us shudder.
For now, the Taliban appear to cooperate with Western forces as the airport evacuation proceeds. That may not last.
Meanwhile, thanks to the U.S. taxpayer, the Taliban own more Blackhawk helicopters than most advanced nations. Biden's rushed departure gifted them 20 billion dollars worth of the most dangerous military hardware in the world. Yes, I know Trump cut the deal that kicked off the run-down of U.S. forces. But, that doesn't change the fact that Biden executed the plan - if there was one.
In the three months from April to June 2021, the U.S. handed over to the Afghan forces six A-29 light attack planes, 174 Humvees, about 10,000 2.75 inch high-explosive rockets, 61,000 40-mm high explosive rounds, 900,000 rounds of .50 calibre ammo, and 20,15,600 rounds of 7.62 mm bullets.
Add to that 151 helicopters (Blackhawk, MD-530s, and 56 Mi-17), 23 Super Tucano ground-attack planes, Hercules transport aircraft, C-208 utility aircraft, and assorted fixed-wing aircraft. Now, granted, some of this kit needs servicing, which may prove impossible now that the U.S. contractors have left. Further, a lack of qualified pilots means this expensive hardware is no immediate threat.
Are no lessons learnt from history? After all, this is the U.K.'s fourth war in Afghanistan since 1839, each ending in defeat.
Undoubtedly, Western politicians will continue to claim that girls got an education, as women enjoyed freedoms, and a fledgling democracy took hold. All true, but irrelevant now. It may all end up in the bin.
Concerning the last few days, the old rule of 'Hope for the best while planning for the worst' was ignored in spades...the U.S., U.K. and NATO all went on their summer holidays hoping for the best... and copped a nasty surprise which they are now saying wasn't their fault.
It must be clear now that nations cannot be bombed and coerced into becoming liberal democracies, primarily when operating on a different cultural voltage that does not align with so-called 'Western values'.
Afghanistan will likely revert to civil war as the various tribal factions jostle for power. That may provide cover for terrorist groups, especially many of those displaced from Syria. Back to square one.
The cluelessness about Afghanistan and Iraq (coming soon) is equally applicable to events and developments in this region. I often wonder if Western consulates reported with clarity on the 2019/2020 civil unrest here. Or did they pander to their political masters?
Was judgement coloured by confirmation bias — which happens when we believe or disbelieve evidence depending on what we think to be accurate based on preconceived ideas?
Likewise, the Western media elected to play down the protester violence — committed by a significant minority — to instead focus on and portray police actions to restore order as brutality. Few covered the 'burning man' or the attacks on anyone who dared to speak out against the violence. Did the foreign consulates provide honest assessments to counter biased media? We don't know.
None of the coverage I saw mentioned the xenophobic anti-Mainland sentiments at the core of the unrest. On that point, you could argue the events had a tribal element as Hong Kong people struggled for an identity fearing sublimation.
Instead, the West received a straightforward package narrative of peaceful protests and repression by the authorities.
Is it right to surmise that the unreliability of this coverage drove politicians in the West to make un-nuanced decisions? The West's reaction, in turn, led China to believe the West supported the feckless independence movement? Looks like it. Hence the robust national security law.
Once the West licks its wounds and digests the events of Afghanistan, what is needed is some candid reflection. That should include that you can't run around promoting 'values' that you have neither the capacity, will, nor a questionable right to impose.
Meanwhile, we all need to be ready for the bow wave of troubles that will follow this chaotic Afghan withdrawal. So on that score, the terrorist threat just went up.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.