Mark Dolan: The Taliban are unsurprisingly showing their true colours already
And Afghanistan is not a problem that's going to go away.
So how's it all going with the new look, touchy-feely “we’re nice now” Taliban? You know, “woke Taliban”, “groovy Taliban”, plant-based Taliban 2.0. Well the Mail newspaper are reporting the Taliban's so called 'Angels of Salvation' – God help us - are going door-to-door to round up suspected looters amid chaos in Kabul. Footage shows alleged thieves being dragged out of their homes at gunpoint and being shamed in the street. Robbers are having their faces tarred, and are strapped up to the backs of trucks to be paraded through the city.
Journalist Zarhi-Dulla Nazzir-Zarda was reportedly shot dead today for raising the Afghan national flag in Jalalabad. A young woman was shot dead by the Taliban in the north of the country, for reportedly refusing to wear a hijab. One man said he saw his neighbour being dragged out of his house, and the Taliban said he would hang tomorrow.
If that’s not enough for you, take a look at this video of a comedian - that's right someone who's only weapon is his jokes - being arrested and taken away for punishment. Watch how they slap him in the face for making remarks.
I am devastated to tell you that that poor man was shot later that day. The Taliban have only been in a week, and this is the level of barbarism we are now seeing. If that's what they're willing to do to the people of Afghanistan, what plans do they have for the wider world? Especially our part of the world, the West, with its values of freedom and democracy, equality and tolerance, values they despise so much. What you've seen with Joe Biden’s botched departure is appeasement, and there isn't great historical precedent for that policy.
In fact Joe Biden isn't even the new Neville Chamberlain. He makes Neville Chamberlain, look like Winston Churchill. This is a surrender of the highest order and America is rapidly losing its status as the world’s predominant superpower. And Afghanistan is not a problem that's going to go away. It's sadly going to get worse. The Taliban will likely reach out to terror groups like Al Qaeda and Isis, and will enjoy the tacit support of global bad actors like Russia and China. The idea of western allies getting back in and fighting the Taliban on the streets of Kabul just isn't an option. The bloodshed would be historic.
And yet the Taliban clearly cannot be negotiated with. They're already flexing their muscles about the 31st of August deadline. It's all on their terms now, we are the whipping boys of this murderous gang of thugs and there's literally nothing we can do about it. Now other Presidents have a case to answer – Bush, Obama and yes Trump. But this horror show has happened on the watch of Joe Biden, and history, as well as freedom loving people everywhere, will judge him harshly.
I think one of the worst aspects of the pandemic for me, notwithstanding the tragic and very sad deaths of those who lost their lives to Covid, is the treatment of children and young people over the last 18 months. Whilst countries like Sweden and more recently France, and US states like Florida and Texas, kept schools open, in the UK we turned our back on children and slammed the school doors in their face.
We will never quantify the amount of abuse that has happened behind closed doors as a result, the neglect, the malnutrition, the violence, the loneliness, the isolation. Even kids lucky enough to be in a happy, loving home with three square meals a day and access to technology have been glaring into a screen for the last year and a half, limited to joyless online learning and pedestrian zoom chats with their mates. Playgrounds were gaffer-taped up and gates locked. Slides, merry-go-rounds and soft play areas, all out of bounds.
Hormonal teenagers weren't even allowed to grab a beaten up old football and have a kickabout in the park. Facing scarce mortal threat from the virus, children should never have been the foot soldiers of this pandemic. Older generations are there to protect children and young people, not view them as vectors of disease and use them as human shields.
This is just my view, but I would never have closed schools in the first place. But now there's talk of doing it all over again. One of the most respected virologists in the world professor Sunetra Gupta told me in an interview that far from shielding children from the virus, healthy kids should not be prevented from getting it. And whilst I'm happily pro vaccine for adults, I’m double jabbed myself, there is some evidence that the immunity from catching the virus among healthy people is as good if not better than the jab. Which protects vulnerable people. Others take a different view. But just yesterday the positive Professor Karol Sikora told me that levels of antibodies in the UK are now likely to be over 90%. Which means that this autumn we must back to normal and that's especially true for children and young people.
We talked yesterday about the devastating impact of no face-to-face GP appointments and the moving story of Lisa King and her dear husband Peter who should still be with us today. But we've also got to bring back face teaching and keep it. Childrens’ mental health, their physical safety, their access to learning and ultimately their life chances have been curtailed as a result not of the virus, but of the measures with which to control it.
This coming school year, symptomatic kids must stay at home, of course. But no more school closures, no bubbles, no being sent home without symptoms, no more zoom lessons and absolutely no scientifically debatable face masks in the classroom, the potential harms of which were never evaluated. It's abundantly clear that children have paid far too high a price already in the course of this pandemic and it's payback time.
Let them learn, let them laugh, let them wrestle, let them play. Let them run around, climb, fall, chase. Let them live their lives and be children again. And do what children do. It's our duty as adults to make sure that happens. We’ve taken 18 months away from them, so now, let’s give them, the rest of their lives.
And we bring you the very sad news that Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones drummer, who provided the beat to one of the greatest bands in the world for nearly 60 years, has died aged 80.A statement from his London publicist said: “It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts.“He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family.
Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also, as a member of the Rolling Stones, one of the greatest drummers of his generation.”Well we have lost a true musical great. The Rolling Stones changed music and they changed the world. And they specialised in a uniquely British brand of rock. And Charlie was an integral part, of that incredible sound. RIP Charlie Watts