Tea with the Taliban
Cranmer has no time for Nick Griffin and his acolytes, yet he has even less for Mullah Omar and his global jihadist ummah. And while the BNP is a legally-constituted, democratically-elected and peaceable political party, the Taliban is none of these. Unless, of course, you subscribe to their creed that all who oppose them are infidels and that their law is The Law.
But even as the bravest and best British soldiers are paying the ultimate price in the course of their duty for Queen and country, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband wants to chat about reconciliation with the more warmongers over tea and cake.
No doubt he would obligingly ensure the cake was halal.
Since Cranmer does not wish to misrepresent the Foreign Secretary, he wishes to clarify that Mr Miliband’s invitation is extended exclusively to the ‘moderate’ Taliban: the ‘extremists’ are not invited to tea.
But this is a curious strategy, and one wonders how there can be any credible negotiated settlement with the ‘moderates’ when the ‘real’ Taliban are ostracised. It is rather like inviting ‘moderate’ Sinn Féin to Downing Street, ensuring that the extremist terrorists Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are excluded from the peace talks.
It seems doomed to failure.
The ‘senior Taliban commander’ Sirajuddin Haqqani is reported to have already rejected Mr Miliband’s overtures, noting in his polite RSVP that ‘the British only want to talk because they are feeling the pain from heavy losses’. He said: "Those struggling to liberate their homeland from occupation forces... will never talk to US or British forces when we are winning on the battlefield. We have a clear-cut stance on negotiations. The Taliban will stop fighting and talk when the US-led forces and the British government announce they are leaving Afghanistan."
And he rejected any suggestion that there might be ‘moderates’ in the Taliban. The brotherhood are united: they are all as convicted as Nick Griffin; as devout as Gerry Adams. There are no divisions, no factions, no sub-groups or schisms.
But the Foreign Secretary insists on drawing a distinction between the extremists who are ‘ideologically committed to a global jihadist viewpoint’, and the moderates who simply want a parochial tyranny and a local jihad.
The British Government can do business the latter because they ‘just have a particular view of how their own locality should be governed’. This, according to the Foreign Secretary, is ‘a critical distinction’.
It is a curious ‘ethical foreign policy’ which distinguishes between the indistinguishable. Did not Saddam Hussein just have a particular view of how his own locality should be governed? Robert Mugabe does not appear to have global ambitions. Even Gerry Adams and the IRA only had ‘a particular view of how their own locality should be governed’: they were not interested in imposing their Irish nationalist jihad on London.
If communicants are puzzled by the juxtaposition of Northern Ireland with Afghanistan, it is only because International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander, insists that the British experience of Northern Ireland shows that jaw-jaw and war-war may be complementary; that talking to terrorists makes sense in the long run.
Cranmer begs to differ.
Kabul is not Belfast.
Hamid Karzai is no Ian Paisley.
The Pashtun nationalists are not the SDLP.
The Masajid of Helmand are not the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.
The Good Friday Agreement was only possible with humiliating concessions (mainly) from the Unionists, not to mention the sacrifice of David Trimble.
Irish unification has no political equivalent in Afghanistan.
The Taliban has no political wing.
The Christian culture of Northern Ireland comprehends liberal democracy and yearned for it: the Islamic culture of Afghanistan does not.
The people of Northern Ireland on both sides of the sectarian divide were united in their desire for peace: the people of Afghanistan are not.
The Son of God who rejected the sword cannot be equated with the Prophet who lived by it.
Sinn Féin were given a taste of power sharing in advance of a final settlement: Mullah Omar has no desire to share power with anyone, least of all the ‘moderate’ infidel.
Still, it is axiomatic that yesterday’s terrorists are tomorrow’s statesmen.
One thinks of Nelson Mandela, Yitzhak Shamir, Colonel Gaddafi, Yasser Arafat, Gerry Adams...
One may yet see Mullah Omar shaking hands in Downing Street, and Prime Minister Miliband declaring ‘Peace in our time’.