Liam Fox slapped down for ‘racist’ comments


10:23 pm - May 24th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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Defence Secretary Liam Fox was today ‘slapped down’ by Foreign Secretary William Hague again and forced to track-back on comments he made about Afghanistan.

The row started when Fox told the Times on Saturday:

We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy in a broken 13th-century country. We are there so the people of Britain and our global interests are not threatened.

Today the Times reports that Afghanis, rather surprisingly, did not take too well to being called a ’13th century country’, accusing him of ‘racism and disrespect’.

A senior Afghan government source said: “His view appears to be that Afghanistan has not changed since the 13th century and it implies that Afghanistan is a tribal and medieval society.

“Despite the sacrifices of British soldiers and the massive support of the British Government we do not feel that there is a mutual respect. His remarks show a lack of trust.”

The source added: “We see Britain as still a colonial, orientalist and racist country that they should have this view. Dr Fox really believes what he said, and he is not alone. London and Kabul must move on or things will be more difficult.”

According to the Daily Mail today, that comment prompted a humiliating dressing-down from Mr Hague on Saturday.

Fox was also slapped down over suggestions that Britain would try and withdraw from the country as soon as possible.

Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British troops in Afghanistan, told the newspaper: “It’s a good thing to see a more focused approach coming from the Government, but it’s a bad thing if mixed messages come out.”

More at the New Statesman blog: Liam Fox wages “war amongst the people” (…his people)

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


And so Dr. Liam Fox should be slapped down. Foolish and unhelpful comments.

Poverty and a lack of education is a major fuel for Taliban and Taliban sympathisers, most of whom are effectively forced by an “invisible hand” into becoming mercenaries, with no other source of income, they resort to being on the Taliban payroll.

Education is required to improve; farming methods, sanitation, building techniques, healthcare, therapy to all those widows and fatherless children, general social care etc.

He should be ashamed of himself.

@richardcompton

If Afghanistan is a 13th century country, it might have something to do with the west-funded mojahideen taking over, who evolved into the Taliban, or with the bombs we dropped on the country, decimating it.

I think he is right to suggest we get out of there asap, though, the longer we stay in the harder it will be to leave. And the war is as pointless and immoral as the Iraq war. Let’s face it, it was never about helping Afghans but about helping the US get revenge after 9/11. Now that whatever threat existed has gone, surely we need to get the hell out of there.

“A senior Afghan government source said: “His view appears to be that Afghanistan has not changed since the 13th century”

Ridiculous. Now they have firearms and a flourishing trade in opium.

” it implies that Afghanistan is a tribal and medieval society.”

Isn’t it?

In fairness, huge parts of Afghanistan are tribal backwaters.

This http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/05/afghanistan-shia-rape-law-scrap nearly became law. I expect its hardly racism that provoked his remarks, but maybe exasperation.

But…this man is the defence secretary, come on man, show some diplomacy. It works against any chance of winning hearts and minds, etc. Bad show.

@4 The Shia Family Law was passed without any significant change despite all the condemnation.

It was a foolish and offensive thing for a British Minister to say. The fact that it was essentially true doesn’t make it less foolish.

I wouldn’t mind if he said that as the last Hercules left the runway for Brize Norton ..

Spousal rape was outlawed in the UK in 1991, and Germany in 1997. But I guess ’20th century country’, while quite accurate in terms of demographics, political organisation, economy and so on, doesn’t really fit in with anyone’s agenda.

8. Shatterface

‘We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy in a broken 13th-century country. We are there so the people of Britain and our global interests are not threatened.’

Isn’t that precisely why we’re there?

Perhaps Sunny can remind us why we he supported the invasion. Either we are there out of self-interest – as Fox says or we are there because Aghanistan was a failed state run by warlords according to a medieval theology.

Seems a stupid thing to say, but I’ve got to admire his honesty about why were in Afghanastan

10. the a&e charge nurse

Well whatever Afghanistan is or isn’t, one things for sure, it is certainly a different world compared to most liberal democracies?

Even so Fox should know that certain expressions can prove rather dangerous given the endless capacity for injured sensitivities in the current climate.

Just read the article and I couldn’t see anything that could be construed as racist, in fact the article didnt even contain mention of the word.

Did William Hague tell Liam Fox that his remarks were racist and did he then slap him down for this? Because I couldnt find that part of the article either.

As an aside, can you imagine receiving a bollocking from William Hague?

I wouldn’t be able to keep my face straight.

Dave,

Racism here is used in the (inaccurate) sense of ‘anything that might offend someone, even if there is no intent to do so based on race’.

I think we should possibly remember the story of the boy who cried wolf, and restrict racism to actual racist ideas. Criticising a country is not racist just tactless and undiplomatic; also wrong – Afghanistan in the thirteenth century was possibly in parts far more liberal than it is today.

That said, has anyone asked the Afghans whether they would prefer to live under their current tribal and religion-dominated society or whether they would prefer more freedom in the western model? Because I am not sure the Afghans would rush to defend the preachers and the warlords who want to restrict their freedom.

It’s a bit of a joke that some Afghan government spokesman is talking about hurt feelings, when if it wasn’t for the lives of British soldiers he’d still be living in Pakistan.

I wonder what the reaction of our soldiers out there would be to hearing of this little diplomatic tiff?

Who tipped off the Afghans so they could get annoyed? It’s usually some stirring little toad looking to create a story (like happened with Boris Johnson’s remarks about Papua New Guinea).

15. Nick Cohen is a Tory

Was he talking about his Northern Ireland.
No, that was for the sake of the education policy in a broken 17th-century country

” That said, has anyone asked the Afghans whether they would prefer to live under their current tribal and religion-dominated society or whether they would prefer more freedom in the western model? Because I am not sure the Afghans would rush to defend the preachers and the warlords who want to restrict their freedom.”
I think you will find quite a few would, no different from the fact that most of the UK public who would quite happily bring back punishments from the 18th Century for various crimes, racial groups and life styles

Nick Cohen is a Tory;

“” That said, has anyone asked the Afghans whether they would prefer to live under their current tribal and religion-dominated society or whether they would prefer more freedom in the western model? Because I am not sure the Afghans would rush to defend the preachers and the warlords who want to restrict their freedom.”
I think you will find quite a few would””

Well, I think it’s a fair bet that 50% of the population, ie the female 50%, probably wouldn’t, Nick. Of course, you’d have to ask them in private and out of earshot of any Afghan men and then guarantee their anonymity. That leaves the male 50%. I doubt all of them, or even a majority, would do as you suggest.

Madeup, but the 50% of Afghans who are women have no say on anything, so therefore are out of the equation.

There was people thinking I was called Slaphead Willie because of my bald head!


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Rosanna

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  2. David Butler

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  3. Martin O'Neill

    RT @sunny_hundal: Liam Fox slapped down for 'racist' and 'colonial' comments about Afghanistan: http://bit.ly/986Tb0

  4. Sean Court

    RT @sunny_hundal: Liam Fox slapped down for 'racist' and 'colonial' comments about Afghanistan: http://bit.ly/986Tb0

  5. Nick Warren

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  6. Fraser Fulton

    RT @davidbutler100: RT @libcon:Liam Fox slapped down for 'racist' comments http://bit.ly/986Tb0 >>and people are surprised why? #ukpolitics

  7. Paul Sandars

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  8. Damien_Ward

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  9. Suma

    Some people don't change! RT @sunny_hundal Liam Fox slapped down for 'racist' and 'colonial' comments about Afghanistan http://bit.ly/986Tb0

  10. Rachael Wardell

    RT @BevaniteEllie: RT @libcon: Liam Fox slapped down for 'racist' comments http://bit.ly/986Tb0 Bloody idiot!

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  12. JamieSW

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  13. earwicga

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  15. Peter Boyle

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  16. Tom Scholes-Fogg

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  17. johnhalton

    RT @libcon Liam Fox slapped down for 'racist' comments http://bit.ly/986Tb0 /// Tory internal tensions seem worse than Tory/LD. Projection?

  18. B Latif

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  19. Stephen Newton

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  20. Kristofer Keane

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  21. Dave Weeden

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  23. Ben Lyons

    This is really embarrassing… RT @libcon: Liam Fox slapped down for 'racist' comments http://bit.ly/986Tb0

  24. sunny hundal

    Liam Fox slapped down for 'racist' and 'colonial' comments about Afghanistan: http://bit.ly/986Tb0

  25. Dave Weeden

    RT @earwicga Liam Fox 'slapped down' for honesty http://bit.ly/cQIray < this is more right to me. Undiplomatic, true. We're there for us.

  26. luther

    RT @sunny_hundal: Liam Fox slapped down for 'racist' and 'colonial' comments about Afghanistan: http://bit.ly/986Tb0

  27. Sheryl Odlum

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  28. George Bernard Shaw

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  29. Simon Taylor

    RT @BevaniteEllie: RT @libcon: Liam Fox slapped down for 'racist' comments http://bit.ly/986Tb0

  30. Dale Cox

    RT @sunny_hundal: Liam Fox slapped down for 'racist' and 'colonial' comments about Afghanistan: http://bit.ly/986Tb0

  31. Steve Wood

    RT @johnhalton: RT @libcon Liam Fox slapped down for 'racist' comments http://bit.ly/986Tb0 /// Tory internal tensions seem worse than Tory/LD. Projection?

  32. Roy Michael Tapping

    RT @sunny_hundal: Liam Fox slapped down for 'racist' and 'colonial' comments about Afghanistan: http://bit.ly/986Tb0

  33. Ben Folley

    RT @sunny_hundal: Liam Fox slapped down for 'racist' and 'colonial' comments about Afghanistan: http://bit.ly/986Tb0

  34. Rogue

    http://is.gd/cnHaG < Liam Fox is a fucking idiot.

  35. Tracey Evans

    RT @Rogue_Leader http://is.gd/cnHaG < Liam Fox is a fucking idiot.

  36. Peter Jemley

    RT @sunny_hundal: Liam Fox slapped down for 'racist' and 'colonial' comments about Afghanistan: http://bit.ly/986Tb0

  37. PHILIP DAYLE

    Not good on race either: 2010 Liam Fox slapped down for ‘racist’ comments | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/bRlADVau via @libcon





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