Afghanistan: truth leaks out

If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you may have noticed a paucity of posts over the past week or so — a result of the esteemed author’s temporary unavailability for duty. Fortunately, we’re now in a position to resume normal service … and what better way to do that than with a tale of calculated cynicism and an attempt, on the part of the Ministry of Defence, to stifle the public release of detailed information about events in Afghanistan?

Dead Men Risen, by Toby Harnden, tells the story of what he describes as the ‘real story’ of British intervention in Afghanistan. It’s a story that includes a lot more instances of incompetence and neglect than the MoD usually likes to release into the public domain, so they took it upon themselves to buy a reported 24,000 copies of the book (the entire first print run) at a cost of £151, 450. Apparently there’s always public money available when it comes to protecting the government from embarrassment.

‘What did the MoD do with this hefty quantity of reading matter?’ we hear you ask. Did they, as any sensible ministry might, distribute it to members of staff for their education and edification? Those responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the ministry could surely learn a lot from flicking through the pages of a book exposing the true consequences of their behaviour.

Sadly — and perhaps less than surprisingly — they chose instead to pulp the lot. So that’s the resources used in printing the books, plus the resources used to pulp them, plus the financial cost, all to create a big vat of papier mâché. The whole situation causes us to wonder what has the MoD so determined to prevent the publication of the truth? What, or whom, are they seeking to protect?

Harnden, who has now seen Dead Men Risen successfully published, wrote this article for the Daily Telegraph detailing the egregious ways in which the MoD attempted to justify meddling with the freedom of the printing press. He’s also promised to reproduce excerpts from the book that the MoD objected to specifically. We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled.

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