The painting is John Singleton Copley, The Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar.

American journalists, and indeed many of that country's professional classes, do not take criticism well. Despite that, the most accurate criticisms of the said classes, come from people within the tent (as one would expect in healthy, proper professions). I was struck by the dispute that has begun over the 'Afghan minerals story' a few days ago.

For those of you who missed it, the story was quite clear. The Pentagon indicated that its experts had identified mineral deposits in the region of one trillion dollars in Afghanistan. The story emerged at a useful time, when Americans were considering budget cuts, and when President Obama was coming under criticism from the left. In a way, it anticipated and blocked an easy move to slip around some of the critics by determinedly withdrawing from the Tuetoburg forest that the North-west frontier threatens to become.

All was well, and the story stood as a good one, until the bloggers got at it, as you can read here. Bloggers deconstruct, often from the standpoint of a very deep and monomaniac knowledge of a subject, sometimes just out of a well informed curiosity. That's part of the appeal of a difficult forum in which abusive bully-boys are equally in evidence, and which sometimes encourages people to reinforce and shout out their prejudices in a basically recursive way.

It turns out that Afghanistan has actually been recognised since at least 2007 as being rich in minerals; that the US Geological Survey, and its British-backed Afghan counterpart always knew that; and that the 'confirmation' of the point is not new. Without the internet, we wouldn't know that. This specious imperial justification for a failed war would have passed muster.

Ultimately, what is of interest is how the arguments for the Afghan war are now shifting from the mortal--that the place is a danger to 'us' (because, I presume, we armed all the lunatics there and then refused at Tora Bora to finish some of them off),to the ideological and hegemonic, to the essentially colonial. Meanwhile, the Pakistani ISI have got away with things; the Indians and Iranians have taken stock of our weakness from the sidelines, and played their own games; and the vital Central asian bases for the war effort, and our future oil, have started begging for some sort of tsarist-soviet restoration, and not just in the form of the Eurasian Economic Community.

It's odd what a little blogging can illuminate.


PJMULVEY said… is always the case in political and military adventures that don't make sense to the common person......follow the money! The corruptness of the political classes rivals almost any period in history - Al Gore and Bill Clinton almost billionaires blowing a lot of hot air- and the Bushes up to their necks in oil and defense wealth......... Very best, Patrick