DAILY MAIL COMMENT: How Foreign Office failed our Afghan allies
The full, horrendous litany of Foreign Office blunders during the evacuation of Kabul is laid bare today in a damning Parliamentary report.
As thousands of Afghans who had worked for Britain during the occupation begged to be brought out before the vengeful Taliban took back control, they were met with a wall of indifference.
On one afternoon during the crisis, there was just a single desk officer monitoring and processing a deluge of calls and emails.
Translators, aid workers, contractors and activists with UK links were engaged in a life-and-death struggle. Whitehall had gone missing in action.
Many were working from home, some were overwhelmed, and others simply buckled at being asked to make ‘hundreds of life and death decisions about which they knew nothing’.
And as the chaos unfolded, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was on a sunshine holiday on the Greek island of Crete.
No one in the evacuation team had detailed knowledge of Afghanistan, liaison with the Home Office was hopeless and too many emails were logged but not read.
Former Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab answers questions on Government policy on Afghanistan during a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee in September
Raphael Marshall (pictured), a junior civil servant, has claimed he was at times the only person dealing with thousands of emails from those desperate to flee the Taliban
As a result, whistleblower Raphael Marshall told the Commons foreign affairs committee that less than 5 per cent of tens of thousands of desperate people received any help. Some were later murdered.
So while the denizens of the Civil Service ‘blob’ were adjusting their work-life balance, people were dying.
As committee chairman Tom Tugendhat put it, they placed ‘bureaucracy over humanity’.
If lessons are to be learned from this utter shambles, every one of those responsible must be identified and called to account. They have blood on their hands.
Free speech in peril
Stirring up hatred against anyone is wicked. If it tips over into incitement to violence it is also a crime.
If this hatred is on the grounds of race, religion, disability or sexual orientation, that is an aggravating factor, and the guilty receive stiffer penalties.
Similarly, abusive and intimidatory language is unacceptable in civilised society.
And if the language is so aggressive that it constitutes threatening behaviour, that too is against the law.
But drawing the line between the threatening and the merely offensive has always been a thorny problem.
In this country, freedom to offend has always been a key plank of free speech.
The comedian who tells tasteless jokes or the feminist who believes only women have wombs are entitled to hold and express their views – however disagreeable some may find them. That’s what being a free country is all about.
So Law Commission proposals to extend the definition of hate crime to people who ‘stir up hostility’ on the basis of sex or gender, while well intentioned, are problematic to those who care about freedom of expression.
The commission says its recommendations would not ‘criminalise offensive comments’, but who makes that judgment?
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner caused controversy with her ‘scum’ jibe
Presumably deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner would not be arrested for publicly denouncing Tory MPs as ‘scum’, but could a male Tory MP be for saying the same about her because she is a woman?
And would those transgender activists who relentlessly harassed a feminist lecturer and tried to get her sacked for saying that sex was a biological fact face prosecution? Or do their rights take priority over hers?
The Mail does not seek to underplay the harm and distress caused by those who stir up hatred.
Everyone deserves the full protection of the law, regardless of gender, race, creed or sexual orientation. And they have a right to feel safe.
But freedom of speech is a precious and indivisible commodity. It must not be sacrificed on the altar of identity politics.