ANALYSIS | Arrogance and ignorance: why the West lost in ...

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ANALYSIS | Arrogance and ignorance: why the West lost in Afghanistan

Storming into countries without insight into their ways cripples the West’s cause before the first shot rings out

Max Hastings

There have been many dark moments in the two decades since 9/11, some of them in Kabul, Afghanistan, last month. I remain especially haunted by a snapshot from 2007 Iraq. British political adviser Emma Sky was riding a Blackhawk with US commander Gen Raymond Odierno. She mentioned to her boss over the intercom a glimpsed graffiti on a building wall in Baghdad: “THE HERO, THE MARTYR SADDAM HUSSEIN.”

Odierno responded tersely that the hanged dictator was a mass murderer. Sky, who liked to live dangerously, said: “We still don’t know who killed more Iraqis, you or Saddam, sir.” There was a deadly silence in the helicopter and even the diplomat wondered if she had gone too far. “General O”, as she called him, then shouted: “Open the doors, pilots. Throw her out!”

There are many layers to this story, recorded in Sky’s memoir of her Iraq service. Odierno deserves credit for taking the harsh jibe on the chin. Sky commands respect for never having told the military what they wanted to hear...

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