One of the things I find coming between me and writing these blogs is annoyance at the topic. I read of the proposal to impose some sort of censorship on the news of Afghanistan during the period when electioneering is officially in play. This struck me as wrong on so many counts and I wanted to find some way to express this. But, I know that whatever I do will have zero effect on what it is that annoys me.
The ban will only involve British journalists and our forces. The embed system will be put in abeyance. This really achieves little; there are a number of significant reporters who are capable of living with Afghan forces and who do not rely on being fed the sort of pap that the Forces PR outlets brief. The announcement is quite mealy-mouthed
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "During the period between an election being called and taking place, communications activity across government is restricted in order to be fair to all political parties. Rules are issued by the Cabinet Secretary and this has been the case for many years.
"It is acceptable during purdah to continue to provide factual information. The MoD recognises that it is vital to continue to tell the public about the efforts and achievements of our forces in Afghanistan during this period and has agreed principles with the Cabinet Office that allow this.
There is very strong feeling that the Government manipulates what is published so as to put things in the best possible light. Even on very minor threats. The Op Together was announced well in advance and in detail that would normally be regarded as a breach of security. The official excuse was that the new departure was intended to allow the good guys to separate themselves from the terrorists. Their choice was to disperse, surrender or be killed. Given that there is no readily discernible physical or dress difference between an terrorist and a non-terrorist it was clear that those who wished could fight until near to being overcome and then put their weapon away and - instant good guy. Much was made that we were likely to sustain heavy losses in the attacks.
The terrorists who did disperse seem to have migrated Northwards to around Sangin which has been a very significant stronghold for Taliban. Sangin is the most challenging area in which British troops operate and is where we have taken many of our casualties. We had mounted a campaign to drive them out but, like clearing flood-water with a rake, they just flowed back in again. We are sustaining heavy losses in the area. The MOD is very concerned to avoid any suggestion that these are attributable to the Together initiative. Casualty reports contain the mantra "not connected with Operation Together" So - what is the reason for the increase in activity? We knew that some would drift away and Sangin was a natural draw. This smokescreen of the MOD is just another reason why we need eyes and ears of journalists wide open and unfettered.
Do they really think that anyone who opposes the current Government's actions in Afghanistan will suspend their belief whilst the politicians exercise their dreamland presentations and put up their best faces.My view of Brown's opportunist visit yesterday and that of his toad Aintworth today will not change or moderate before we have the election. The damage is done; they have cooked their own goose.
That typifies the dilema I have when writing this sort of stuff. As one ties together the reports and comments that there are on the 'net it is easy to see just how cynical the idea of a truth ban really is. They must know what sort of stuff is available and how it can be presented without regard to the Everything Is Wonderful official mantra. Colonel Blimp will never die.