Yet another bishop puts his foot in it by saying: “The Taliban can perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith and their sense of loyalty to each other.” Sadly this bishop, The Rt Rev Stephen Venner, is the new bishop for the armed forces.
I had to think a bit before deciding why I was offended, and it should be said that the bishop apologised for his remarks, but criticism of what he said is still valid.
It’s not the fact that the man is bishop for the armed forces, and that his remarks may damage moral, although I suspect they will, and I have no doubt that our enemy will use his statement against our troops.
It’s not the fact that he calls for understanding. Maybe he has little understanding of our enemy, but the Armed Forces are not stupid. They have no illusion about who we are fighting; a hard core of skilled insurgents fired up with Pashtun nationalism and a vicious, intolerant God, and a broader mass of young, bored, Pashtun men, many of whom would be reconcilable if they saw progress in their country. They fight because they are paid, because they are bored, because they are indoctrinated, because tribes come together at the approach of an outsider, regardless of whether that outsider is the Afghan state or the British army.
I think what is objectionable about the bishop’s thoughts are: his ignorance about our enemy, his self-defeating self-hatred, an overfondness for humanising those who hate us, and a moral relativism - a sometimes useful tool for understanding the complexity of the world - taken to absurdity.