British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, wants EU countries to up their efforts in Afghanistan. There’s a feeling by the Brits (and the Yanks) that our continental partners could lend more men to the war effort. As Miliband puts it,”Some countries are doing significant amounts but other countries have got either significant caveats on the deployment of their troops or they’ve got their troops in parts of the country where there isn’t the same level of insurgency.”
In other words, European armies don’t want to get shot at. And fair enough: not being shot at is pretty high up on my to-do-list also.
Ever since Carry on up the Khyber, Afghanistan has been a little sod to conquer. The British Empire failed to control the Mullahs, the Soviet Army got its arse kicked, and the Yanks are having a few probs with the Taliban too (who, it turns out, were supplied arms by Tom Hanks in the first place). So what are the chances that the 3rd Copenhagen Rifles or a battalion of the Luxembourg Light Horse will fare any better? It’s a scary place, the Hindu Kush, with a soldier’s life-expectancy only slightly higher than that of a diner at Heston Blumenthal’s Dead Duck.
No. Leave it to the professionals. The US did, after all, defeat Nazism single-handedly, having captured Enigma machine and deciphered Ultra, landed virtually alone on the Normandy beaches, forced Hitler to retreat from Moscow and all without a single bit of help from anyone else. Rock Hudson chewed on a huge stogey throughout the D-Day landings, Steve McQueen was the only man on either side not to have to wear a uniform, and only William Holden understood war’s cruelty and madness. In-between shagging nurses on beaches.
The Brits were buffoons. If you were British and managed to grab a line you either sounded like Sam Kydd or Donald Sinden (right). While GI Joes were challenging strangers with the rather cool “Thunder” to get the friendly reply “Flash”, the silly Tommies used the rather more clipped “Leicester” and “Square” (pronounced “squar”). Brits were rescued from Stalags and Bulges by the the Marines or the Airborne, were always depicted holding a cuppa or downing a brown sludgy pint though buck-teeth, and sported some of the finest moustaches seen in modern warfare. And every Man Jack of them was a complete Berk. Edward Fox deserves particular credit for this one.
Alec Guinness built bridges for the Japanese, Dirk Bogarde sent Gene Hackman’s Polish Brigade to be slaughtered at Arnhem, Gordon Jackson said “thank you” when he meant “merci” and poor old Donald Pleasance couldn’t see a bloody thing. Only Richard Todd, who stormed the Pegasus Bridge ( “Up the Ox and Bucks, Up the Ox and Bucks”) gave any help at all to Ike and co. (In fairness, the actor actually WAS in the invading forces at D-Day). Richard Burton was Welsh and is therefore excluded from this conversation. But the rest? :Useless Limey wankers.
No-one, for the whole war, ever stopped for a pee. .
So perhaps the British government’s initial reluctance to attend the 65th Anniversary of D-Day is completely understandable. Miliband is only about 12 so all the movies he would have seen on the subject would show him that the Brits were never there. (In Saving Private Ryan Ted Danson does mention Monty once, as the bloke who’s cocking up everything). I wouldn’t turn up either— if I didn’t even make the end credits.
So Mr Miliband, the next time Obama asks you or your EU pals to supply more troops for Operation Certain Death, tell him you want at least 2nd billing, more and better lines and a cut of the royalties. Dunno why they need us there in the first place. We’ll only bugger it up.