Tony Blair flew into southern Afghanistan for a photo call with British troops this week telling them, “What happens here is the future of the world’s security in the 21st century.”
If that’s true, the global outlook is dire.
A week earlier international aid organisations reported to the United Nations that in the region where British troops are based, “the situation is not getting better, it’s getting worse”.
The World Food Programme is warning that two to three million people are “highly vulnerable” to famine.
One reason for this is climate destabilisation which has brought disastrous floods in some areas, drought in others. The Registan Desert is advancing westward, encroaching on agricultural areas.
But the main reason is Nato’s war against the Afghan people. Since June over 80,000 more Afghans have become refugees. Some 2.4 million Afghan refugees are already living in Pakistan, and another one million live in Iran.
Afghanistan remains mired in desperate poverty. About 600 children under the age of five die every day from preventable causes.
Despite the rhetoric from Bush and Blair about “reconstruction”, Afghanistan is part of a swathe of the world which has been effectively written off by international capitalism.
That’s the future Blair offers.
The shadow of class
The story of Farepak customers, who lost on average £400 painstakingly saved week by week for Christmas hampers, speaks volumes about free-market Britain.
One 80 year old Wiltshire pensioner explained she saved with the scheme “because I’ve got arthritis and get about on crutches I can’t get into town to do my shopping, so I was using Farepak because you get the goods delivered to your door”. She had ordered meat, lemonade and crisps for Christmas, plus presents for her grandchildren.
The Farepak scandal has such a resonance because it goes to the heart of class division. The poor get done over, the rich walk away with the profits.
Farepak had been in serious trouble since July when its share price collapsed. Trade secretary Alistair Darling expressed concern but did not intervene.
After all, deregulation and freedom for business are touchstones of this government. Farepak is not the “unacceptable face of capitalism”, it’s what capitalism looks like.
See Margaret Hendry's poem Sir Clive Thompson
Playing with a polecat
If the thought of home secretary John Reid winning the Spectator’s award for politician of the year is not sickening enough, picture him sharing a cosy joke at the award ceremony with veteran Tory bigot Sir Norman Tebbit.
The Tory peer helped Reid out by flamboyantly taking him his notes for the acceptance speech. Would-be prime minister Reid joked with the audience that he had employed Tebbit as his new speechwriter and so his speech would be “more left wing than usual”.
It is a sign of how far and how comfortably New Labour have moved to the right that Reid can joke so happily about being to the right of Norman “the polecat” Tebbit.