Monday 27 March 2017

Kevin Myers: Soldiers will pay with their lives as politicians call shots in war

A Canadian soldier uses his night vision goggles during a
patrol in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province in
southern Afghanistan yesterday
A Canadian soldier uses his night vision goggles during a patrol in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan yesterday

Kevin Myers

The emergence this week of the details of the death in Afghanistan of Ken McGonigle from Derry comes as a suitable reminder of the hideous morass in which the west is entangled there. Much of the lethality is created by the failure of western democracies to grasp the profound nature of the problem. And that, in turn, is exacerbated by the cowardice and political opportunism of the main governments with troops in the field: the US and the UK.

Ken McGonigle, an ex-RUC officer serving as a civilian consultant, gave his life protecting a US Marine general from a rocket attack last year. He opened fire on two insurgents as they aimed a rocket at the helicopter carrying the general. Two Marines -- whose names I also honour here: Lance Cpl Kevin Cornelius (20), and Pfc Vincent Gammone (19) -- were also killed. But what makes this affair so salutary was that the insurgents had just before been freed from allied custody, and then armed, by rogue-members of the Afghan National Army. This incident, one of many, tells us one thing: nearly 10 years into this war, the Afghan National Army is still not to be trusted. Yet the British government is determined to remove all its troops by 2015, regardless of conditions on the ground. If the British go, who will then stay alongside the US? And worse, what if President Obama decides that an exit strategy is the only policy for the US also?

If it is right then, regardless of conditions, it is right now. Indeed, it is better now, because at least thousands of young men and women who are alive today will remain alive and unwounded next year and the year after, instead of having been killed or maimed in the execution of an exit strategy which has no moral purpose whatever. Such a strategy of itself, would make it an immoral war, according to Thomas Aquinas's lasting dictum on military conflict. This declares that one can only fight a just war, which involves the taking of human life, when there is a serious prospect of victory. If there is no prospect of victory, then every life lost is lost immorally, and every death is murder.

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