Friday, January 20, 2006

Mystery guest spot

Somebody close to me is currently serving in the British Armed Services in the Middle East. This person's tour of duty is almost up (in fact, their military career itself is almost over, so jaded have they become by the general experience.) Every now and again I get an email giving an insight into the conflict. Here's this week's one. From Kabul...

"The armed forces from the land of the free continue to astound me in their general ignorance and lack of subtlety. Worse still, they nearly interfered with my lone night of luxury.

"Let me explain.

"For the last few days we have been gun running across the Pakistan boarder from Islamabad to Kabul. This morning I was setting off to work before you guys had even watched the News At Ten and had the great pleasure of watching the sun come up over the Khyber pass. The red morning light reflecting off the bowl of the snow covered mountains that surround the west of Kabul was magnificent and enough to hold me outside in -12.

"I mumbled a very unwarlike comment to the American refueller about the beauty and inspirational nature of the whole scene.

"He replied that it was good news indeed, since the snow over the last few days had prevent the transport aircraft from the USA landing, and so the dining hall burger supplies were at a critical level. The Americans, you see, fly all their food in from the USA to prevent any poisoning by Bin Liner or his friends. We, of course, make do with what we can scrounge up from the local markets.

"But I digress. During our shuttling, we managed to wangle a night in a hotel in Islamabad.

"Now, I have never stayed in this city before and was slightly anxious that we could end up in the Pakistani version of a TravelLodge since accommodation is at a premium in the city (Islamabad is the control centre for the Kashmir earthquake relief and many buildings in the city were damaged by the tremors.) Luckily for us the British High commission had booked us into a hotel that it uses. It was a throw-back to the days of Empire; my somewhat low opinion on the British Empire is of course based purely on what I have read, but the service was excellent and the rooms were palatial. The old boys certainly knew how to live.

"But once again disaster nearly struck! The Americans, thinking they had located one of Bin Liner's deputies, bombed a whole village. This village happened to be in Pakistan as opposed to Afghanistan, and in their excitement they forgot to ask permission to enter Pakistan let alone the bombing of the unfortunate locals. Then they refused to apologise blaming the war on terror.

"The effect on me? The British high commission were worried that there might be a backlash against Europeans and we would have to cancel our trip. Thrown out of our palace!

"However, I bravely, even courageously, locked myself in my room. And ordered a curry on room service.

"We left at 3am local time feeling pretty sure that we were safe since by then, any aggrieved Pakistani would have found an American (who were still walking around in their uniforms, blissfully unaware of the situation in their ignorance) to take their annoyance out on.

"If only they spent more on a good cause such as the earthquake relief, rather than chasing Bin Liners around the mountains, then maybe the world might like them a little more. But then thinking about it, as Pakistan is an Islamic country, the hamburgers they fly in probably don't go down too well either.

"I guess the refueller in Kabul doesn't need to worry about his burgers ending up in north Pakistan."