Sunday, 23 August 2009

206 and rising...

Stop the War groups have held 'Naming the Dead' ceremonies this weekend, to commemorate the fact that over 200 UK soldiers have now been killed in the NATO occupation of Afghanistan. The casualty rate during July and August has been far higher than before, taking the tally of British military fatalities well beyond the total for Iraq. If this continues, with public opinion hardening in opposition, the British political and military elite face a serious crisis - not only on the frontline, but domestically in the form of a growing political backlash.

I helped read the names at the event in Newcastle and felt honoured to do so. It was a poignant experience, especially reading the ages (some as young as 18) of the soldiers killed. We also read the names of Afghan women, men and children - they aren't counted but we know the total runs into the thousands. I was reassured that BBC TV regional news turned up, as did the main local paper, and there was a sympathetic interview on local BBC radio with one of our activists beforehand. We know, of course, that the media response to recent events has been in many ways appalling - see Richard Seymour's article in this week's Socialist Worker on this.

The next task for the anti-war movement is building a big turnout on 24 October, the first national demonstration specifically focused on Afghanistan for eight years. We can't allow the generals and politicians, with their predictions of anywhere between five years and forty years ahead, to keep us bogged down in an awful, futile war.

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