Afghanistan (Force Protection)

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 3:33 pm on 17th September 2012.

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Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham 3:33 pm, 17th September 2012

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question, which has allowed the Secretary of State to make a full statement. Since last the House met, as the Secretary of State has recorded—I exchanged some words with him about my question before asking it—two men from the Yorkshire Regiment and one from the Grenadier Guards have died.

My question is simple: why, why, why are we still allowing our soldiers to be sacrificed to no evident purpose? Just after the Prime Minister entered No. 10, he went to Afghanistan and reported to the House. I urged him then, and I think he agreed, that elected Ministers had to take back command and control from the unelected military-Ministry of Defence nexus that had dictated policy. Since then, 146 British soldiers have died, more than one for every week for which he has been in office. They have died in an unwinnable conflict for an unattainable end, to no strategic benefit for our country. It does no honour at all to those who have sacrificed their lives to heap more bodies on the funeral pyre. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori—or pro Britannia mori—is, again, the old, old lie.

I am not urging scuttle. I am urging a drawback to a position in which our men will no longer be killed before they can come home. We have done all the good that we can do. It is time to say, “It’s over.” Frankly, if any more of our brave young boys of barely 20 die, their mothers, fathers and families will ask, “Why, why, why?” The Secretary of State is an honourable man, as are my Front-Bench colleagues. None of us wants to be where we are, but it is over, and we will have no answer if any more of our people are sacrificed.