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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Bringing them all back home

We've got family friends whose son is a young army officer. Six months ago he was posted to Helmand province. I've only met him once as an adult although I remember him as a lad. It's pathetic that I should feel that this gives me some personal contact with what's going on in Afghanistan. Now that we know which battle group he's with, we pay attention every time one of those radio news items starts with the words "the army has confirmed...." One of our daughters wears a wrist band with 2 Rifles on it. None of us has the remotest clue what they're going through but I have a fraction of an idea what agony it must be for his parents and even that thought keeps me awake sometimes.

He's just finished his tour and returned and, as you can imagine, they're beside themselves with happiness. But it won't be long before they start to think about the chances of his being sent back. And if you've done any reading about this conflict - if you haven't, I'd recommend Anthony Loyd's piece in The Times or Patrick Hennessey's "The Junior Officers Reading Club", both of which are written by former soldiers who know whereof they speak - you'll realise that the men are often worryingly keen to get back, either because of ambition or solidarity with their comrades.

I'm not concerned about the rights and wrongs of how we got into this fight but I do feel increasingly soul weary about the idea of kids from leafy Surrey and not so leafy Govan being sent to be used as target practice by a foe that has only one simple objective, to kill a British soldier. And I know I'm not the only one. For once there doesn't even seem to be a newspaper beating the drum and there's a perceptible feeling in the country that these kids have been sent on mission impossible. Unless there's a radical, painful and no doubt embarrassing change of policy this will be still going on in five years time and some of the 20-year-olds losing their legs will be the same schoolkids you might see in the bus station tonight. Come the election I wonder if it will be a bigger issue than the economy.