This is a great read.
It's especially illuminating for those of us who were not warriors but sent others to die in wars. Every MP should be confronted by the horrors that we imposed on our soldiers. If Mercer is successful, his parliamentary work could transform politicians'
assessment of future military adventures.
The abiding core belief of a majority of MPs is that Britain should always strive to punch above our weight militarily. Why? It always results in dying beyond our responsibilities.
Johnny Mercer became an MP because he is haunted by the gulf of perception between the calm all-powerful Commons and
the screaming terrors of the Afghan Wadis where soldiers must obey. During the most intense period of the Helmand campaign that he describes with penetrating insights, the Commons was being soothed with reassuring faked optimism of military and political successes.
Mercer's portrait of war is unheroic and self-deprecating. We are spared no details of the sordid foul reality of the soldier’s life
and the inevitable dreadful injuries and deaths. The nobility is in the strength of the bonds of friendship and mutual loyalty that overcame rejection of the perils of the tasks imposed on the soldiers. All MPs who were in the Commons for the past 20 years will shudder with guilt at the fragility of equipment and our failures to drag out the ugly truth of missions that were unwise and sometimes impossible.
The arrogance of military leadership and the gulf between heroic fantasy of a politician’s war and the full reality of a soldier’s war has not changed. One MP recently described Passchendaele as a “wonderful battle”. Not to my father, my uncle and millions of others whose lives were damaged or ended by a futile WW1 that achieved nothing but WW11.
The author admires the courage of his fellow soldiers and writes with empathy on his grief at their deaths and injuries. He is angered by the the failures to care for those maimed in body and especially in mind. He appears to accept the need for the Helmand campaign even though it promised to be a pacific incursion without bullets flying. From a handful of British fatalities between 2001 and 2006, Helmand led to the deaths of 450 UK soldiers. He writes that the Taliban 'counter-insurgents' started the war. Did they? My understanding is that a PM wanted to score a specific victory in his name by eliminating the drugs trade in Helmand. It was suggested to him as an attainable goal. Parliament did not vote on Helmand. Ministers of two government swallowed and preached the myth that defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan would protect the UK mainland from terrorism. It was a comfortable lie to still consciences.
Mercer is a fine sensitive writer. The truth leaps from his pages, unadorned, brutal and funny. His early life in a strict Baptist family, his wayward ambitions and a splendid single-minded determination to achieve his political ambitions are revealed with startling authenticity. It's comforting to know that the apparatchiks in the Tory Party are as crassly arrogant and wrong-headed as they are in the other parties. Mercer's election is a triumph for the naive but determined political novice. All that effort must be rewarded by political progress with his ideals.
I would like to help.