The testimony of Raphael Marshall, a whistleblower who worked as a desk officer during the British evacuation of Afghanistan, has revealed a despicable level of cynicism and incompetence on the part of the British ruling class and its representatives.
The relative decline of US imperialism means that it is now unable to play the role of the world policeman as it did in the past. This was seen last August when the United States carried out a chaotic withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
After a war that lasted 20 years, the US military was forced to rapidly evacuate. All of the US’s allies, including Britain, then had to rapidly follow suit.
Once the Taliban had taken over, it was thought that they would look to punish any of those who had worked with or for the UK government. Reports of targeted killings seem to indicate that these fears were well placed. Those most at risk were thought to include members of the armed forces, activists, civil servants, and aid workers.
It is common in Britain every November for many politicians to wear poppies, allegedly to commemorate all those killed in war. The most vociferous supporters of this practice tend to be those from the Conservative Party, who will decry those unpatriotic individuals who refuse to support ‘our brave troops’ by not doing so.
You would have thought, therefore, that these individuals would care a great deal about looking after those who had assisted in Britain’s military engagements abroad.
However, as an estimated 75,000-150,000 desperate people applied for evacuation, Raphael Marshall pointed out that, at some points, he was the only person monitoring the email inbox these applications would be sent to.
Tory politicians invest almost £50 billion a year on the most advanced weapons available to ensure that working-class kids can blow up other working-class kids abroad in the most efficient manner possible. However, when it comes to evacuating those tangled up in these imperialist adventures, they can spare only a single pen pusher.
What this meant was that a large number of emails were never read, despite the fact that those applying received a false “automatic response that the request for assistance had been ‘logged’.”
Of those emails that were opened, the details of many were not recorded due to a “lack of time.” The purpose of this system, Marshall reports, was “to allow the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to inform MPs that there were no unread emails.”
Here we have the reality of the situation. Rather than British ‘national interests’, what Boris Johnson and his Tory mates care most about is keeping up appearances.
The government created a body, known as the Special Cases Team, which was supposed to deal with the evacuation. This team was, however, stocked with junior officials, none of whom had “studied Afghanistan, worked on Afghanistan previously, or had a detailed knowledge of Afghanistan”.
Despite this, they were tasked with making hundreds of “life or death decisions” about which “they knew nothing”.
Marshall, whose only knowledge of Afghanistan appears to be a book he once read by the former MP Rory Stewart, attempted to persuade these officials to carry out this unenviable task by pointing out that if no one did it, then the emails would not be read by anyone, “which would be worse.”
Even when an application made it through all of these hurdles, it would come up against the then-Foreign Secretary for the British government, Dominic Raab.
Raab, who spent the entire day sunning himself on a beach in Greece when Kabul fell to the Taliban, demanded that “all the [applications for evacuation were] set out in a well-presented table” in order for him to be able to make a decision.
This was, as Marshall points out, when there was very little time for people fleeing the country to actually make it to the airport. Whilst rank-and-file soldiers were working without food or sleep for hours on end, and desperate people were attempting to flee death, this pampered Tory was complaining about the layout of applications.
Prioritising cats and dogs over people
This completely chaotic situation meant that, according to Marshall, only about 5 percent of those who applied received any assistance at all. Boris Johnson did, according to Marshall, personally intervene in the situation, ordering the Foreign Office to use “considerable capacity” to ramp up the evacuation.
But what was meant was that the evacuation of 200 cats and dogs was to be ramped up! While every effort seems to have been made to evacuate these animals, the Foreign Office’s crisis centre in London was becoming “frustrated” at the UK ambassador, Sir Laurie Bristow, who had made a personal promise to evacuate the guards at the British Embassy. It was thought that these 130 guards and their families would “‘swamp’ the limited available capacity.”
What this amounts to, therefore, is the prioritisation of evacuating animals “at the direct expense” of evacuating human beings at risk of imminent murder. Clearly, to the Tories, working-class and poor people around the world are worth less than dogs.
At one point, soldiers were drafted in to help with the effort. However, these soldiers, many of whom seemed to be using Microsoft Excel and Outlook “for the first time in a professional context”, had to share one laptop between eight people.
During a changeover of shifts, the password to log in to the system was lost, so Marshall began contacting British embassies around the world.
So disbelieving was the British Embassy in Washington, that they reported the email to security, believing it was a “Russian phishing attempt”.
All of this reveals the true nature of the British state. The incompetence is not accidental, it is a reflection of the degeneration of the crisis-ridden capitalist system they serve.
Happy to send young working-class men and women out to die for the interests of imperialism, the ruling class and their representatives in Britain make only a cursory, bungling effort to pull them out of the fire when their military adventures go south.
They then show nothing but callous disregard. One Whitehall official was quoted as saying, in response to the outcry at the safety of animals being prioritised over that of human beings, that people were becoming “too emotionally attached with the situation.”
This is the real, cold, sneering visage of the British ruling class. The lives and health of ordinary people – whether in Afghanistan or Britain – mean nothing to the capitalists and their representatives. These individuals have given up their right to rule.