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Ignore new US war cry.

Byline: GEORGE TYNDALE

WHEN he stood to collect his campaign medal for fighting in Afghanistan Paratrooper Tom Neathway showed the kind of fortitude every soldier hopes he'll never have to summon.

Because the 25 year-old Lance Corporal from Worcester rose from a wheelchair to which he has been consigned by a booby trap bomb that removed his legs and his left arm.

Behind him - at the ceremony in Colchester - hobbled eight of his colleagues all moving with the aid of walking sticks.

In the carefully stage-managed emotion of the occasion - Prince Charles and Camilla handed out the metalwork - it was easy to forget one simple question.

Why?

For what purpose have young men like L/Cpl Neathway been mutilated or worse?

Nine members of 2 Para were not there because they are already in their graves.

Six other servicemen attached to the unit were also killed during the summer.

The total British dead in Afghanistan now stands at well over 120.

Just how many have been injured and maimed we are not told.

But what any senior military man will tell you is that this war is quite unwinnable.

In fact, they have begun an operation they call "lowering expectations".

Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, the commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, is the latest to explain that all we can hope for is to reduce the activities of the Taliban to such a level that the Afghan army can take over the fight.

And that is despite the fact that 40 nations now have 50,000 men and women fighting this misbegotten conflict.

Yet President-Elect Barak Obama is planning a major expansion of operations in Afghanistan.

And the Labour Government shows all its usual simpering submissiveness to a US call to arms.

Which means more young lives will be needlessly squandered.

And more admirable young people like L/Cpl Neathway will struggle to their feet to receive a medal for fighting in a hopeless cause.

And, of course, we will all be expected to feel proud.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Dec 7, 2008
Words:335
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