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In Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser, Flashman, the disgraced bully expelled from Rugby School in 1839 by headmaster Thomas Arnold in Thomas Hughes’ novel Tom Brown’s Schooldays, lands on his feet again with a commission in a smart London cavalry regiment. But his snobbish commanding officer disapproves of his marriage to a Scottish mill owner’s daughter. So Flashy is dispatched to India, where he makes an overly good impression on the Viceroy who assigns him to Kabul in remote and restless Afghanistan. His first impression:

… the British government had invaded the country, if you please, and put our puppet king, Shah Sujah on the throne in Kabul in place of old Dost Mohammed, who was suspected of Russian sympathies.

I believe, from all I saw and heard, that if he had Russian sympathies it was because we drove him to them by our stupid policy; at any rate, the Kabul expedition succeeded in setting Sujah on the throne, and old Dost was politely locked up in India. So far, so good, but the Afghans didn’t like Sujah at all, and we had to leave an army in Kabul to keep him on his throne. … but it was having its work cut out trying to keep the tribes in order, for apart from Dost’s supporters there were scores of little petty chiefs and tyrants who lost no opportunity of causing trouble in the unsettled times, and the usual Afghan pastimes of blood-feud, robbery, and murder-for-fun were going full steam. Our army prevented any big rising — for the moment, anyway — but it was forever patrolling and manning little forts, and trying to pacify and buy off the robber chiefs and people were wondering how long this could go on.

 
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  1. Sean says:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_expedition_to_Tibet

    The British expedition to Tibet, also known as the British invasion of Tibet or the Younghusband expedition to Tibet began in December 1903 and lasted until September 1904. The expedition was effectively a temporary invasion by British Indian forces under the auspices of the Tibet Frontier Commission, whose purported mission was to establish diplomatic relations and resolve the dispute over the border between Tibet and Sikkim.[2] In the nineteenth century, the British conquered Burma and Sikkim, occupying the whole southern flank of Tibet. The Tibetan Ganden Phodrang regime, which was then under administrative rule of the Qing dynasty, remained the only Himalayan state free of British influence.

    The expedition was intended to counter Russia’s perceived ambitions in the East and was initiated largely by Lord Curzon, the head of the British India government. Curzon had long obsessed over Russia’s advance into Central Asia and now feared a Russian invasion of British India.[3] In April 1903, the British received clear assurances from the Russian government that it had no interest in Tibet. “In spite, however, of the Russian assurances, Lord Curzon continued to press for the dispatch of a mission to Tibet”, a high level British political officer noted.[4]

    The expedition fought its way to Gyantse and eventually reached Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in August 1904. The Dalai Lama had fled to safety, first in Mongolia and later in China, but thousands of Tibetans armed with antiquated muzzle-loaders and swords had been mown down by modern rifles and Maxim machine guns while attempting to block the British advance. At Lhasa, the Commission forced remaining Tibetan officials to sign the Treaty of Lhasa (1904), before withdrawing to Sikkim in September, with the understanding the Chinese government would not permit any other country to interfere with the administration of Tibet.[5]

  2. Mr. Anon says:

    If our military and foreign policy wallahs had read more George MacDonald Fraser than whatever it was they were reading at Westpoint and Harvard, we might have sensible military and foreign policies.

    By the way, Flashman, the first and best of the Flashman novels (although they’re all good), is a magnificent book. It is seldom the case that historical fiction rises to great literature, but Fraser’s books do. I would rank him alongside Robert Graves.

    • Agree: Hunsdon, ic1000
  3. PSR says:

    Speaking of Flashman, I read the series about ten years ago and decided recently to reread them but, what do you know, they’ve been removed from our local library.

  4. ” people were wondering how long this could go on.”

    I think “forever” would be the odds-on-favorite?

  5. Greatest book series ever. I’ve read them all at least twice and gotten one of my sons to read the first couple. Every one of the books is full of timeless wisdom like that cited by Steve.,

  6. Anonymous[292] • Disclaimer says:

    Seems to me this is, at best, a writer’s impression of Afghanistan from 1984. This is not evidence of what what Afghanistan was like in 1839.

  7. HenryA says:

    How many career State Department people have read Frazer’s Flashman much less the Flashman series? They should. It’s a good antidote to whatever fever causes bureaucrats and soldiers to go off on reckless overseas adventures.

  8. AndrewR says:

    Who has changed less in 180 years? The Afghans, who, on the whole, seem no less bloodthirsty than their great-great-great-great-grandfathers, or the WASPs, who seem to have learned no lessons from theirs?

    • Replies: @Kaganovitch
    , @Pericles
  9. Any Englishman seeking to rule
    O’er the natives of lawless Kabul
    Was too long in the sun;
    He should roll to his gun
    And blow out the brains of a fool.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  10. All the Flashman books are superb. Fraser really did outstanding background research on the actual historical events.

  11. Anonymous[215] • Disclaimer says:

    I wonder what the cultural background/vibrancy index is for the good Houstonian found to have been keeping this large house pet:

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/02/11/houston-police-find-tiger-vacant-house-anonymous-tip/2843799002/

    Probably a hardcore “Mean Streets” fan…

  12. syonredux says:

    but it was forever patrolling and manning little forts, and trying to pacify and buy off the robber chiefs and people were wondering how long this could go on.

    Max Boot has some notions on that one…..

    We need to think of these deployments as we thought of our Indian Wars, which lasted 300 years, or as the British thought about their deployment on the North West Frontier, which lasted 100 years. US troops are policing the frontiers of the Pax Americana

    • Replies: @BB753
    , @donut
  13. The Flashman novels are a good read and (aside from inserting Flashman into them) historically accurate. Fraser also wrote an account of his service in Burma in WW2 called “Quartered Safe Out Here”.

    If anybody has even a passing interest in 19th century British colonial history, any or all of the Flashman novels are worth reading.

    • Replies: @donut
  14. Anon[217] • Disclaimer says:

    Got out by the skin of his teeth, a saying inspired by William Brydon.

    • Replies: @Jus' Sayin'...
  15. It’s interesting, in modern Britain, “Flashman” is used as a synonym for bullying, a British preoccupation since all Brits were bullied in PE class. What it’s not used for is any kind of reflection of British mischief abroad, or how that’s relevant today. That stuff has all been pushed down the memory hole.

    • Replies: @penskefile
  16. syonredux says:

    The Young British
    Soldier

    Rudyard Kipling

    WHEN the ‘arf-made recruity goes out to the East
    ‘E acts like a babe an’ ‘e drinks like a beast,
    An’ ‘e wonders because ‘e is frequent deceased
    Ere ‘e’s fit for to serve as a soldier.
    Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
    Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
    Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
    So-oldier of the Queen!

    Now all you recruities what’s drafted to-day,
    You shut up your rag-box an’ ‘ark to my lay,
    An’ I’ll sing you a soldier as far as I may:
    A soldier what’s fit for a soldier.
    Fit, fit, fit for a soldier . . .

    First mind you steer clear o’ the grog-sellers’ huts,
    For they sell you Fixed Bay’nets that rots out your guts –
    Ay, drink that ‘ud eat the live steel from your butts –
    An’ it’s bad for the young British soldier.
    Bad, bad, bad for the soldier . . .

    When the cholera comes – as it will past a doubt –
    Keep out of the wet and don’t go on the shout,
    For the sickness gets in as the liquor dies out,
    An’ it crumples the young British soldier.
    Crum-, crum-, crumples the soldier . . .

    But the worst o’ your foes is the sun over’ead:
    You must wear your ‘elmet for all that is said:
    If ‘e finds you uncovered ‘e’ll knock you down dead,
    An’ you’ll die like a fool of a soldier.
    Fool, fool, fool of a soldier . . .

    If you’re cast for fatigue by a sergeant unkind,
    Don’t grouse like a woman nor crack on nor blind;
    Be handy and civil, and then you will find
    That it’s beer for the young British soldier.
    Beer, beer, beer for the soldier . . .

    Now, if you must marry, take care she is old –
    A troop-sergeant’s widow’s the nicest I’m told,
    For beauty won’t help if your rations is cold,
    Nor love ain’t enough for a soldier.
    ‘Nough, ‘nough, ‘nough for a soldier . . .

    If the wife should go wrong with a comrade, be loath
    To shoot when you catch ’em – you’ll swing, on my oath! –
    Make ‘im take ‘er and keep ‘er: that’s Hell for them both,
    An’ you’re shut o’ the curse of a soldier.
    Curse, curse, curse of a soldier . . .

    When first under fire an’ you’re wishful to duck,
    Don’t look nor take ‘eed at the man that is struck,
    Be thankful you’re livin’, and trust to your luck
    And march to your front like a soldier.
    Front, front, front like a soldier . . .

    When ‘arf of your bullets fly wide in the ditch,
    Don’t call your Martini a cross-eyed old bitch;
    She’s human as you are – you treat her as sich,
    An’ she’ll fight for the young British soldier.
    Fight, fight, fight for the soldier . . .

    When shakin’ their bustles like ladies so fine,
    The guns o’ the enemy wheel into line,
    Shoot low at the limbers an’ don’t mind the shine,
    For noise never startles the soldier.
    Start-, start-, startles the soldier . . .

    If your officer’s dead and the sergeants look white,
    Remember it’s ruin to run from a fight:
    So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
    And wait for supports like a soldier.
    Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .

    When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
    And the women come out to cut up what remains,
    Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
    An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
    Go, go, go like a soldier,
    Go, go, go like a soldier,
    Go, go, go like a soldier,
    So-oldier of the Queen!

  17. Jliw says:

    The Flashman books are the best books I’ve ever read — in the category of historical fiction and otherwise as well. Fantastic historical detail (beyond belief, almost — down to the newspaper articles and overheard comments), hilarious humor, edge-of-your-seat suspense! If only necromancy really worked, G. M. F. would be my first choice: I *need* more Flashman.

    • Replies: @Cortes
    , @Mr. Anon
  18. It can last for close to two centuries apparently.

  19. Thud says:

    A great author whose autobiography describing his time fighting the Japanese in Burma and Malaya is a must read.

    • Replies: @res
  20. anonymous[739] • Disclaimer says:

    We could use this British army pacification campaign in the neighborhoods to the South and West of Hyde Park, University of Chicago – the neighborhood where Barack Obama made it his base of operations.

    The Tribes are definitely “restless” and spilling over their murder and mayhem to our once quiet university of Chicago community.

    Here’s the #*$&# we have to deal with on a weekly basis

    5 Youths do armed robbery in Morgan Park, lead cops on car chase, crash on the Midway try to hide in U of C classrooms – busted!

    https://hpherald.com/2019/02/11/u-of-c-locked-down-after-robbery-suspects-scatter-across-campus/#comment-403037

    Parolled Black Disciples gangster tries to install top down, Mafia style corporate structure, street gang “youths” assassinate him

    https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/cpd-chicago-police-black-disciples-gang-leader-killed-lawrence-big-law-loggins-revenge-killings/?fbclid=IwAR36v13Y-O4Vq-KAfyiVtPlIflxqLhK2_yAP0Ce0W5YplOES442qiNhfz_8

    The best Chicago tell it like it is crime blogs are:

    Second City Cop
    Crime in Wrigleyville and Boystown
    Hey Jackass

    • Agree: MikeatMikedotMike
  21. Cortes says:
    @Jliw

    His stories about a Highland Regiment in North Africa (and Edinburgh) just after the end of WWII

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_General_Danced_at_Dawn

    are excellent as well.

  22. BB753 says:
    @syonredux

    Even Max Boot doesn’t believe his own crap! But it’s a living if you lack talent and scruples.

  23. @Anonymous

    FWIW, the book was first published in 1969. The books were all meticulously researched AND footnoted. How many works of fiction can claim multiple pages of citations.

  24. Flash Harry should be compulsory reading for young people in our increasingly multicultural society. It’s a perfect antidote to the crap they are hearing. Eyes wide open, GFM has Flashman assessing the many failings and virtues of all of the exotic cultures the British Empire introduces him to. And it’s hilarious.

  25. @Bragadocious

    The character Flashman first appeared in Tom Brown’s novel School Days published in 1857. Harry Flashman was a minor character – a drunken bully – who was expelled from Rugby School.

    GMF then took the character and imagined what happened to him after the exulsion. The novels are a series of purported “lost memoirs” which some initial reviewers took seriously

  26. istevefan says:
    @Mr. Anon

    If our military and foreign policy wallahs had read more George MacDonald Fraser than whatever it was they were reading at Westpoint and Harvard, we might have sensible military and foreign policies.

    Recall the late John McCain who bragged about graduating at the bottom,or near the bottom of his class at Annapolis. I believe he referred to that distinction as being the “anchorman”. Add to that his only military experience was about 25 hours of combat flying time and 6 years as a POW. And yet he exercised enormous influence on our strategic policy for years. He was one of the architects of our current mid east predicaments. With guys like him creating our policy, is it any wonder the shape we are in?

  27. syonredux says:
    @Anonymous

    Seems to me this is, at best, a writer’s impression of Afghanistan from 1984. This is not evidence of what what Afghanistan was like in 1839.

    The novel came out in 1969…..

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flashman_(novel)

  28. res says:
    @Thud

    Thanks. https://www.amazon.com/Quartered-Safe-George-MacDonald-Fraser/dp/0002726602
    From the first review on Amazon:

    Also valuable is Fraser’s opinion that today’s U.K. is not necessarily the U.K. that he and his mates fought for. He clearly disapproves of the direction in which the U.K. has been taken.

    • Replies: @donut
    , @Sergeant Prepper
  29. @Anon

    “Got out by the skin of his teeth, a saying inspired by William Brydon.”

    Brydon’s escape is covered in “Flashman”. The phrase “skin of my teeth” is from the Book of Job, King James Standard translation.

  30. Flashman was certainly a very nasty bit of business . . .

  31. Moshe says:

    Off Topic: Before I check Google News I check currency movements and can already predict the news.

    Here’s an easy one: USD v EUR . When the dollar goes up that is a signal that TPTB are unhappy. When it goes down it’s a signal that Trumpists are happy – or at least hopeful.

    I am making no comment regarding The Economy© here just offering you a glimpse behind the curtain. This has been trie from the moment Trump won the Republican Nomination until Today.

    I say this as someone who follows this and other currencies for sport for a while.

    The Lord in His wisdom decided that I shouldn’t have the cash or Executive Functional skills to do much with my special set of skills but I do have them and this is one very highly correlated finding that I think may be of interest to you Try it yourself. The more it looks like Amnesty the lower the dollar, the more serious the Shutdown Deman the higher the dollar.

    True Trumpists will be confused by this because Trump has even SAID PUBLICLY that he wants a cheap dollar, but Trump is different from Trumpism.

    Watch USDEUR instead of the news and you’ll know if any sort of wall is coming (and also unemployment figures, the DJIA, and the cost of gold and oil…).

    I’m a rich man trapped with a poor man’s credit rating.

    I think that means I can use the ladies locker room but I’m still not clear on the details. Updates to follow.

    • LOL: YetAnotherAnon
  32. Fraser’s second installment of the Flashman series, Royal Flash, features one of the more remarkable (and hilarious) specimens of that iSteve staple, the adventuress–namely, Lola Montez:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lola_Montez

    The arc of her life–from Ireland to London, to the court of Ludwig I of Bavaria, to disgrace and exile in Grass Valley, California, then to Australia, and at long last, to death from syphilis in Brooklyn, with scandalous affairs and mysterious deaths accompanying her every step of the way–is almost too amazing to be believed.

  33. Lot says:
    @Mike Zwick

    Woke Twitter will be the undoing of the left. Always angry, always on ultra-nasty attack mode, always demanding people be fired.

    While they hate Trump too, they can’t do anything about him. So they turn their furious wokeënergy on center-left institutions like Esquire, universities, fashion designers, the NY Times, etc.

    • Replies: @donut
    , @duncsbaby
  34. donut says:
    @syonredux

    ” our Indian Wars,”

    That f-ing POS . He’s no more an American than Ilhan Omar . They and all their kind are foreigners , it’s bad enough we have to put up with POC talking back but to be lectured and reduced to 2nd class citizens in the country our ancestors made while international section 8 parasites prosper is too much . As in any “melting pot” the scum rises to the top .

  35. Moshe says:
    @syonredux

    Awesome.

    I hate that they teach Kipling in school, same as I hate that walmart and bestbuy stole true blue and khakis.

    School is the devil and the very worst evil they can do is immunize you against astonishment by presenting it as Homework.

    And the Civilizers yea know they what they do. I was assigned Huckelberry Finn in 10th grade as a good amount of American schoolboys probably were. This despite the very first words Samuel Clemens painted onto his scroll.

    To wit:

    NOTICE

    PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

  36. donut says:
    @William Badwhite

    There’s plenty of US history too . “Flash for Freedom” , “Flashman and the Reskins” and “Flashman and the Angel of the Lord” . Flashy also mentioned his service with both sides during the American Civil War . Unfortunately he never followed up with those accounts .

    • Replies: @syonredux
  37. BB753 says:
    @Sean

    How likely was a Russian invasion of the Raj?About nil, I suppose.

    • Replies: @syonredux
    , @Sean
  38. donut says:
    @Lot

    Esquire back in the Stone Age used to be a pretty good magazine .

  39. …people were wondering how long this could go on.

    When the asphalt is worn away by modern traffic, the permanent kabulstones show through.

  40. @PSR

    Get all 12 on ebay for $66: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Complete-Set-Series-Lot-of-12-Flashman-Papers-George-MacDonald-Fraser-Lady-books/312033489199

    Funny, clever, and fairly accurate historically. Would make a great movie franchise. If it have been filmed 30 years ago, that is.

  41. There is a movie from 1988, “The Beast” about a Russian tank crew in Afghanistan. Worth watching.

    • Agree: Kylie
    • Replies: @El Dato
  42. @res

    Also valuable is Fraser’s opinion that today’s U.K. is not necessarily the U.K. that he and his mates fought for. He clearly disapproves of the direction in which the U.K. has been taken.

    To say that he disapproved is somewhat of an understatement:

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-506219/The-testament-Flashmans-creator-How-Britain-destroyed-itself.html

    I have all of Fraser’s books, right next to all of Peter Hopkirk’s books (e.g. https://www.amazon.com/Great-Game-Struggle-Central-Kodansha/dp/1568360223/ ). It is my favorite shelf.

  43. Deckin says:

    One of the better parts of the whole series is the cavalcade of adventuresses and remarkable women Fraser manages to get Flashman, uh hum, into. Ranavolana, Lola Montez, Jeendan, .. Fraser seems as much taken by these great women of the time as he is deservedly dismissive of the seriously flawed men who populate much of the series (Custer, Elphinstone…).

  44. Anon[321] • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Boing

    State of White America:

  45. Teleros says:

    At least when we Brits went to Afghanistan it didn’t bleed the Empire or our taxpayers dry. But the USSR & USA insist on sending their own people out & paying for it, whereas we had Indians to pay & fight for us.

    If anything, imperial strategy re Afghanistan has gotten *worse* since the 19th Century…

    • Replies: @Anon
  46. @AndrewR

    I forgot who it was that said ” Whereas Western children’s tales end with ‘And then they lived happily ever after’ , Pashtun children’s tales end with ‘And thus he had his vengeance’.

    • Replies: @AndrewR
    , @Graham
  47. “… but it was forever patrolling and manning little forts, and trying to pacify and buy off the robber chiefs and people were wondering how long this could go on.”

    Apparently as long as you can keep borrowing money and stealing resources from the rest of the world.

  48. @istevefan

    McCain also came close to sinking the first US aircraft carrier since WW2 … most dangerous man in the US Navy.

    • Replies: @donut
  49. The Graveyard of Empires, indeed.

  50. @syonredux

    I WENT into a public ‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
    The publican ‘e up an’ sez, ” We serve no red-coats here.”
    The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
    I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
    O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ” Tommy, go away ” ;
    But it’s ” Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it’s ” Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play.

    [MORE]

    I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
    They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
    They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
    But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ” Tommy, wait outside “;
    But it’s ” Special train for Atkins ” when the trooper’s on the tide
    The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
    O it’s ” Special train for Atkins ” when the trooper’s on the tide.

    Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
    Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap.
    An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
    Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
    Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul? ”
    But it’s ” Thin red line of ‘eroes ” when the drums begin to roll
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
    O it’s ” Thin red line of ‘eroes, ” when the drums begin to roll.

    We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
    But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
    An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
    Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
    While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Tommy, fall be’ind,”
    But it’s ” Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind
    There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
    O it’s ” Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind.

    You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
    We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
    Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
    The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! ”
    But it’s ” Saviour of ‘is country ” when the guns begin to shoot;
    An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
    An ‘Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!

  51. @Mr. Anon

    Is that the hint of a smirk I see on Flashman’s face as he is embraced by that half-clad Bedouin Beauty?
    Amorous Afghanette?

    Won’t that illustration trigger a micro aggression for Tiny Duck?

    Hope so!

  52. @istevefan

    He didn’t finish at the bottom of his class, rather something like 5th from the bottom. The person finishing at the bottom has traditionally received a $1 bill from each of his classmates. McCain couldn’t even pull that off.

    • Replies: @RobertTS
  53. The Afghan Campaign by Stephen Pressfield is pretty good historical fiction.
    “I told you we’d win, Mackey!”

  54. Yep!

    Or as the Frogs would say, “C’est plus change…” etc.

  55. kihowi says:

    I’ve often thought about reading Flashman, but then I realize there’s books with that kind of atmosphere from much closer to the era, like Captain Kettle and Bulldog Drummond. Preferable to a 1970s counterfeit.

  56. J.Ross says: • Website
    @Mr. Anon

    Imagine trying to convince a pinkhair to read it when xhe’s just learned that it has not one but two rape scenes, by the protagonist, and he’s really never punished for either. The move is toward early-model Socialist Realism, everything moralistic and made simple enough for the slowest kid to follow.

  57. Andy says:

    Interestingly the Flashman book was written in 1969 at the height of the reign of Zahir Shah, when Afghanistan seemed a peaceful if backward country. But perhaps it was clear to the author that the subsequent anarchy that gripped Afghanistan in the following decades was the normal default situation for that country

    • Replies: @fnn
  58. J.Ross says: • Website
    @Anonymous

    No, it is not evidence of anything, but it is a digested narrative account by a widely and deeply read historian-without-chair, so neither is it babble.

  59. Pretty OT but on British history – I had no idea that the British WW2 defeat at Tobruk was made possible by the interception between December 1941 and June 1942 of all the US Cairo Embassy transmissions by Frank Bonner Fellers. The Brits shared their information with him, as Military Attache, and he unwittingly shared it with Rome and Berlin.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonner_Fellers#Italians_and_Germans_access_Fellers’_reports

    He’d warned Washington that the codes might be compromised, but they didn’t change the codes until the Brits learned via Ultra that Fellers’ reports were being read in Germany.

    Fellers went on to become the architect of the plan by MacArthur not to prosecute Hirohito (despite strong evidence) for war crimes. He got the Japanese defendants to co-ordinate their stories so as to exonerate the Emperor (which they were doubtless happy to do). An amazing contrast with the US insistence in WWI that the Kaiser had to go.

    • Replies: @Tyrion 2
  60. istevefan says:
    @Lot

    Venezuelan anti-communist opposition embraces Israel, thanks it for its support.

    It’s no surprise since Venezuela was friendly with Iran. Israel could care less that Venezuela is socialist. They just want to isolate Iran. That also is a big reason why US neocons are so caught up in regime change in Venezuela.

  61. Lot says:

    Newsome:

    LA to SF high speed rail won’t happen. But we’ll do a migrant farmworker express from Merced to Bakersfield.

    https://amp.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article226151030.html

    • Replies: @Lot
  62. J.Ross says: • Website

    NPR is “interviewing” a diffferent Parkland Player every single day, proving that they are pre-organized activists without grief claims. There is of course no mention of then-Sherriff Scott Israel deliberately not enforcing existing law to fudge his crime statistics.

  63. AndrewR says:
    @Kaganovitch

    Well, those aren’t mutually exclusive statements.

    • Replies: @Kaganovitch
  64. @Eustace Tilley (not)

    “Kabul” rhymes with “hobble”. And bobble, gobble, squabble, and wobble.

    They all seem to fit.

    We’re told that “Qatar” is pronounced like “gutter”, not “catarrh”. And this is the best Arab country.

  65. @Sean

    “but thousands of Tibetans armed with antiquated muzzle-loaders and swords had been mown down by modern rifles and Maxim machine guns while attempting to block the British advance”

    Explains the expansion of the British Empire in one sentence.

  66. @PSR

    From what I’ve seen, local libraries have purged the classics and replaced them with post-modernist, minority and gender grievance claptrap.

    • Replies: @Pat Wreck
    , @Pat Wreck
  67. @Reg Cæsar

    If the poet indicates he wants you to pronounce it ka-BOOL, is that too much to ask? This rhyming stuff ain’t easy. I make up words. I used the word fukted in a limerick once, to rhyme with unreconstructed and obstructed.

  68. Pat Wreck says:
    @ThreeCranes

    I tried to check out “Camp of the Saints” from my university library (I’m a late blooming grad student). The book appeared in the online library catalog and I placed a request for it to be delivered to the main campus branch for me to pick up. A few days later I got an email cancelling my request because the item “could not be found”.

    • Replies: @ChrisZ
    , @Jim Don Bob
  69. Pat Wreck says:
    @ThreeCranes

    On the bright side, my local public library has many Flashman novels – perhaps all – in both print and audiobook. I checked out a “Flashman” audiobook today!

  70. martin2 says:

    The Afghans take great pride (I presume) in the fact that they resisted the British (and subsequently the Russians) but look at the state of their country now. It is still tribal and extremely poor. The rest of the Indian subcontinent, that had the good fortune to be ruled by the British for a couple of hundred years or so, has reasonable institutions and a halfway decent polity. Without doubt Afghanistan would have benefited greatly if they had become part of the Empire too.

    • Replies: @Anon7
    , @Hibernian
  71. Tyrion 2 says:

    Flashman is hilarious – some of the most enjoyable books I’ve ever read. The cricket one is a bit dull though, at least the first half. 9.5/10!

  72. Tyrion 2 says:
    @YetAnotherAnon

    Proof that the US government can learn from its mistakes.

  73. RobertTS says:
    @William Badwhite

    In a contest to find out the Best Runner-Up of all time, McCain would still have finished runner-up.

  74. donut says:
    @The Alarmist

    If you’re referring to the USS Forestfire , I think he was cleared of that .

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1967_USS_Forrestal_fire

  75. dearieme says:

    WKPD suggests to me that British policy in Afghanistan went as follows.

    (i) Invaded. Cost: one army lost. Assessment: utter failure.

    (ii) Punitive expeditions followed by withdrawal. Assessment: success.

    (iii) Eventually Afghanistan invaded India. Response: defeat the buggers and drive them out. A bit more punishment dished out but did not attempt to occupy. Repeat, did not attempt to occupy. Assessment: success.

    By contrast US policy has been:

    (i) Stir up trouble for the USSR. Assessment: huge success.

    (ii) Mount what appeared to be a punitive expedition but morphed into a war of occupation. Assessment: utter failure.

    • Replies: @syonredux
  76. @donut

    The Forrestal fire was investigated closely, I imagine. I don’t think it was physically possible for McCain to have caused it. But it’s just another example of his amazing bad luck around airplanes.

  77. ChrisZ says:
    @Pat Wreck

    After searching fruitlessly for a copy of “Camp of the Saints,” I finally managed to buy one on the cheap—when my local library was going through one of its periodic purges.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  78. fnn says:
    @Andy

    I think the hippie bus trips (Istanbul to Kathmandu?) were stopping in Kabul in those days.

  79. syonredux says:
    @dearieme

    “Butcher and bolt” is pretty reliable.

  80. @donut

    “If you’re referring to the USS Forestfire , I think he was cleared of that .”

    Yep, the Admiral’s son was cleared of that. All the tapes of him on Hanoi radio have also been “proven” to have been apocryphal.

  81. syonredux says:
    @donut

    Frazetta’s cover for Flash for Freedom

  82. Anon7 says:
    @martin2

    I believe in HBD and you should consider the possibility that the Afghans like the place where they live (more like tribal lands than a country) EXACTLY the way it is.

    And if a large mass of them moved somewhere else, they would recapitulate ther culture.

    As the Afghans say “Five fingers may be brothers but they are not equal”.

    As Anon7 says “One man’s shithole is another man’s paradise.”

  83. @Steve Sailer

    The bad luck seems to have passed to the USS McCain. Descriptions of the chaos on the bridge – with the captain in full command orchestrating the mayhem – would be funny if they hadn’t killed 10 sailors. It’s worth reading – what an absolute shambles.

    https://www.defensenews.com/breaking-news/2017/11/01/navy-crews-at-fault-in-fatal-collisions-investigations-find/

    I bet the Chinese are quaking in their boots as the USN piles into cargo vessels all across the South China Seas. Certainly a novel way of interdicting Chinese trade – ramming cargo ships. The USS Fitzgerald didn’t have their radar on, and only had lookouts on one side of the ship – not the side where they hit a ship.

    https://features.propublica.org/navy-accidents/uss-fitzgerald-destroyer-crash-crystal/

    The Fitzgerald’s captain selected an untested team to steer the ship at night. He ordered the crew to speed through shipping lanes filled with cargo ships and fishing vessels to free up time to train his sailors the next day. At the time of the collision, he was asleep in his cabin.

    The 26-year-old officer of the deck, who was in charge of the destroyer at the time of the crash, had navigated the route only once before in daylight. In a panic, she ordered the Fitzgerald to turn directly into the path of the Crystal…

    Sixteen minutes after the collision, at 1:46 a.m., Benson staggered onto the bridge. Adrenaline, fear and anger shot through him. The ship was listing, wheeling in the dark uncontrolled. The electricity was out. The screens were off. Only emergency lanterns and moonlight illuminated the bridge.

    Benson found the officer who had been in charge of the ship sobbing.

    “Captain, I fucked up,” she told him.

    Then the captain, who has hypothermia and a brain injury sustained when the other ship ripped open his cabin and shoved it 20 feet (he’s been rescued by crew with sledgehammers and come close to falling through the hole in the side), keels over! Again, it’s black comedy, but not funny for the dead and wounded.

    • Replies: @J.Ross
    , @J.Ross
  84. @Will

    Thanks for the link. Wonderful.

  85. Fiction can be good but history is better. Just finished Winston Churchill’s first book, “The Story of the Malakand Field Force” from 1899. Hard to find but superb. He was just over the border but dealing with the same sort of tribes. He tells the story in the good old fashioned way. Before getting to the action he describes the geography, native Flora and Fauna, and the history and character of the natives. Without that what follows would hardly make sense.

    Can’t recommend it strongly enough. Nothing important has changed.

  86. Alfa158 says:
    @PSR

    I have every book Fraser ever wrote, but the prologue alone of his 1994 Flashman novel, Flashman and the Angel of the Lord would get every thing he has ever written removed from library shelves. I still quote Flashie from that: “Call ’em what you like, my son. It’s nothing to what they’ll call you.”

  87. Anonymous[427] • Disclaimer says:
    @ChrisZ

    Get all your friends to request titles on interlibrary loan and then usually they’ll buy one. make sure to check it out every so often and turn it in. I always check eight books or more out of the library and return most of them immediately as they rerely purge materials that circulate. They need the numbers for state aid and value the revenue more than they hate political incorrectness, usually.

  88. Bill B. says:
    @Mr. Anon

    My memory of the books is that they declined as the series went on because Flashman was more interesting as an outright cad. Later on he became more sympathetic.

    • Replies: @Mr. Anon
    , @Jonathan Mason
  89. Anonymous[132] • Disclaimer says:

    Johnny got his gun in Badakhshan to prevent enable China’s exploitation of rare ores and minerals.

    USA waisted almost two decades, and all we got is this lousy sand-vibranium.

  90. @AndrewR

    Not strictly logically perhaps. But they say lots about the respective cultures, no?

  91. Anonymous[427] • Disclaimer says:
    @syonredux

    We should have left the Sovs alone in Afghanistan, to drain their resources and tenderize the locals.
    They were doing ok until we gave the Afghans Stinger missiles.

    As Covington says, one of the fine arts of revolution is knowing when to leave the ostensible enemy alone, when he’s such a nincompoop that he damages himself more than you.

  92. Anonymous[427] • Disclaimer says:
    @Steve Sailer

    At worst McStain was a traitor, but more likely he’s a human Bad Luck Schleprock. Some people are that way.

    There used to be a guy named Walt who was that way as an aircraft mechanic at the old TWA overhaul base: they found him a “Raiders” (do-little, get it) position where his screwups did not endanger life or property after he destroyed a few expensive items. When the base closed, BNSF hired him at the Argentine Yard, where he terrorized the place until he caused a near-fatal, over $2 million dollar wreck. They still call that switch “Walt’s Junction” to this day but he was finally, with the very grudging acquiescence of the union, kicked out a decade ago.

    McStain was a Walt, is the most charitable explanation, and since he’s dead I am okay with that.

    The question is not why some people are Schleprocks, but why we elect them to be Senators. We are dysfunctional in that regard.

  93. Colin says:

    Conan Doyle also brings the Afghan wars to fiction.

    John Watson is an army surgeon lately returned from Afghanistan where he suffered wounds.

    In the reimagined BBC version Sherlock, set some one hundred and ten years later, the modern Watson has lately returned from a war in Afghanistan where he suffered wounds.

    PS The Burma campaign brought forth two accounts one by a private soldier and one by the commander of the campaign which are unparalleled.

    Quartered Safe Out Here by MacDonald Fraser is a work of genius as is Defeat Into Victory by Field-Marshal Slim.

    • Replies: @Nachum
  94. Hibernian says:
    @martin2

    I was there for a year; if there’s a more desolate place, except Antarctica and the Sahara, tell me what it is. I think it’s only value is as linkage between other places and/or buffer zone between one empire and another. There was talk of a pipeline at the time (2004-2005.)

  95. Mr. Anon says:
    @Jliw

    Fraser also wrote the screenplay(s) for The Three Muskeeters and The Four Musketeers – the Richard Lester version made in the 70s.

  96. Mr. Anon says:
    @Steve Sailer

    I have read some (informed) speculation that McCain – although he didn’t cause the accident – may have exacerbated it by causing one of his bombs to drop on the deck. Or rather, he was believed by many of the crew of the USS Forrestal to have done so. I think it is a matter of record that one of his bombs did drop on the deck and later cooked off, killing a lot of the fire-fighting team. It seems like a stretch to me to blame him for part of an accident when all Hell is breaking loose, and he was just trying to get out of his aircraft. However, the fact that he was transported off the ship soon after seemed suspicious to many and lent creedance to the idea that he was viewed as some kind of Jonah.

    There were three major accidents on US carriers during the 1960s, of which the Forrestal fire was the worst. There were a lot of contributing factors.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  97. Mr. Anon says:
    @Bill B.

    The earlier ones were better. My personal favorites in descending order are Flashman, Flashman and the Great Game, Royal Flash, Flash for Freedom, and Flashman at the Charge. But they are all – even the later ones – pretty good.

  98. Moses says:

    Our army prevented any big rising — for the moment, anyway — but it was forever patrolling and manning little forts, and trying to pacify and buy off the robber chiefs and people were wondering how long this could go on.

    Weird. Sounds just like what the US Army is doing today in Afghanistan. That, and getting young Americans’ limbs blown off by roadside IUDs.

    But totally, endless and pointless foreign wars is Who We Are. Especially if it’s good for Israel.

  99. Hibernian says:
    @donut

    From the above it appears that quite a number of officers should have been court martialed, not including LCDR Mc Cain. The incident didn’t prevent CAPT Beling from being promoted to RADM! He was eventually punished by new CNO Zumwalt via assignment to Iceland, after previous CNO Moorer had protected him. He seemed to have a distinguished service record previous to this fire, perhaps explaining the attitude of Moorer. Another example of military intelligence being an oxymoron!

  100. Anonymous[427] • Disclaimer says:
    @Mr. Anon

    Son of an admiral or not, he should have been assigned somewhere where screwups can’t cause damage then eased out after his obligation. People with this kind of cloud over their heads do not belong in the US Navy, damn sure not flying its airplanes off its carriers.

  101. @J.Ross

    Aka Punish the Innocent and Promote the Guilty. Disgraceful.

  102. MBlanc46 says:

    It can go on as long as the American people suffer it to go on.

  103. Anon[399] • Disclaimer says:
    @Teleros

    At least when we Brits went to Afghanistan it didn’t bleed the Empire or our taxpayers dry. But the USSR & USA insist on sending their own people out & paying for it, whereas we had Indians to pay & fight for us.

    Nope. Not much has changed. The people advocating for, managing, and profiting from these wars are not sending their own people. They are using the children and taxes of the disposable caste. Same as it ever was.

    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
  104. J.Ross says: • Website
    @YetAnotherAnon

    I don’t have the link but recently a new Norwegian ship helmed by chicks managed to ram a tanker by screwing up a universal evasion protocol.

    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
    , @Graham
  105. AKAHorace says:
    @istevefan

    Best line from Flashman, he is explaining to a fellow officer in Afghanistan that he was expelled from Rugby (a public school where Tom Browns schoolday was set) for drunkeness

    “Expelled for drunkeness !!!, they will be expelling for rape next”

    • Replies: @Jan Banan
  106. My favorite Afghanistan story is the National Geographic cover girl from 1985 who they found 17 years later in a refugee camp.

    https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:KpwFOvkoNc4J:https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2002/04/afghan-girl-revealed/+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=safari

    Webcache link because the National Geographic is paywalled. She is chronically ill. She never went to school. Her assessment of the troubles, or whatever they call them there:

    “It is God’s will”.

  107. Pericles says:
    @AndrewR

    Who has changed less in 180 years? The Afghans, who, on the whole, seem no less bloodthirsty than their great-great-great-great-grandfathers, or the WASPs, who seem to have learned no lessons from theirs?

    One thing that’s changed is that now they’re coming to us.

  108. Nachum says:
    @Colin

    The first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, was published in 1887 but set in 1881. Watson was just back from the *Second* Anglo-Afghan War, 1878-1881. In fact, Conan Doyle originally intended to set the story much earlier and make Watson a veteran of the *First* Anglo-Afghan War, 1839-1842. And yes, there was a third, in 1919.

    One of the producers of the BBC series Sherlock, set in contemporary times, recalled realizing that Watson was *still* coming back from Afghanistan- “The same unwinnable war.”

    In the first episode of that series, Holmes leads Watson on a wild goose chase around London. They come back to Baker Street out of breath and collapse against the wall. “That,” Watson gasps, “was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever done.”

    “You invaded Afghanistan,” Holmes replies. They both crack up. “That wasn’t just me,” is all Watson can answer.

  109. orionyx says:
    @PSR

    Libgen is your friend for this as for so much else that has been rabbit-holed.

  110. Jan Banan says: • Website
    @AKAHorace

    “No! Well, damme! Who’d have believed they would kick you out for that? They’ll be expellin’ for rape next. Wouldn’t have done in my time. I was expelled for mutiny, sir – yes, mutiny! Led the whole school in revolt! Splendid! Well, here’s your health, sir!”

    The officer who says that was https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willoughby_Cotton

    • Replies: @AKAHorace
  111. @J.Ross

    https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/navy-ships/a25383135/helge-ingstad-ts-sola-crash-report/

    “The sinking of the Norwegian frigate Helge Ingstad was caused by confusion among the ship’s crew, leading them to think that an approaching commercial tanker was actually a stationary object. “

  112. @Anon

    ” The people advocating for, managing, and profiting from these wars are not sending their own people. They are using the children and taxes of the disposable caste. Same as it ever was.”

    I’m not sure that was always the case. The British upper classes routinely sent their sons to war – Churchill was not atypical except in his lust for glory, considered pretty poor form by his peers.

    Harrow School’s WWI memorial contains 648 names. That’s a huge death toll for a school which then only had about a thousand pupils. Young officers on the Western Front, mostly public schoolboys, had a higher death rate than the privates – because they led by example and were usually at the front of an attack.

    http://www.harrowschool-ww1.org.uk/authenticated/Browse.aspx?SectionId=1

    It’s much more recently that the people advocating for war have made sure their kids were kept out of it.

  113. Graham says:
    @Kaganovitch

    Have a look at Kipling’s book of school tales, Stalky & Co. Revenge is one of the main themes, and it is enacted rather sadistically in at least one case.

    • Replies: @Kaganovitch
  114. duncsbaby says:
    @Lot

    Back in the 80’s I used to read Esquire quite avidly. It was in many ways a great literary history of the 20th century. It was an education. Now as far as I can tell they seem to think Hollywood liberals are the great intellectuals of our time.

    • Replies: @J.Ross
  115. @Graham

    Oh, I don’t doubt that, human nature being what it is, a basic desire for vengeance/ payback is found in just about every human society. Nevertheless, i think it is still significant that some societies will incorporate vengeance as the central motif in children’s tales, while others will incorporate everlasting happiness. Don’t you?

  116. @Bill B.

    My memory of the books is that they declined as the series went on because Flashman was more interesting as an outright cad. Later on he became more sympathetic.

    I agree that the first book of the series was the best, because of the sheer amusing audacity of the idea that Flashman, the bully of Tom Brown’s Schooldays, had lived to a ripe old age without mending his ways, and because of the level of historical detail in the book that gave an amusing picture of Victorian England and the Empire.

    The later books declined because they became formulaic and predictable and it was evident that they were increasingly an exercise in teaching nineteenth century history from a somewhat jaundiced twentieth century point of view as Harry Flashman arranged his entire life and travels so as to pop up in interesting historical situations, such as being with John Brown at Harper’s Ferry (a blatant attempt to appeal to the US market). Still they were (are) a lot of fun.

    • Replies: @J.Ross
  117. Anon[250] • Disclaimer says:

    I really liked Flash for freedom, as it pointed out in a way that no actual true accounting did, how messed up and bound to fail John Brown’s mission was at Harpers Ferry.

    The messianic aspect of John browning is kind of clear and considering what a deep rifle it caused between north and south, which blew up a year and a half later.

    A later reading of the first had accounts on the raid backed up MacDonald’s account as pretty much correct, less the addition of Flashman. It is a very thought provoking book, again in a way that no “dry historic account” can master.

  118. J.Ross says: • Website
    @duncsbaby

    One of the “ones I let get away” in my years of browsing used bookstores was a set of anthologies from Esquire or GQ, from the period when their writers were some of the best writers in American letters. Great classic line illustrations too.

  119. @Sean

    Think of what the Kilted Devils must have gotten up too.
    With the Yaks.
    No wonder the Tibetans fought too the last man!

  120. J.Ross says: • Website
    @Jonathan Mason

    Gore Vidal observed somewhere that Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels were highly enjoyable even though Burroughs clearly ran out of ideas around the dozenth. Burn Notice had such a solid cast that it is fun to watch even though every episode follows the same plot. When I heard as a plot-worshipping kid that Japanese theater worried more about execution than plot I thought it was some kind of travesty, but the fact is that there are only so many plots.

  121. @Anonymous

    Funny that, but no. The book was written in 1969. As it happens many who have read British history in India, and the accounts of the day – this was a pretty widely held view of the North West frontier

  122. BB753 says:
    @syonredux

    “Napoleon had proposed a joint Franco-Russian invasion of India to his Imperial Majesty Paul I of Russia”

    Napoleon was a crazy bastard!

  123. rufus says:

    Alan wells was a badass. deserves, at very least, but doesnt need it, some reference in the repeateded sailer 100 meters dash data point

    He was badass

    • Replies: @sb
  124. AKAHorace says:
    @Jan Banan

    “No! Well, damme! Who’d have believed they would kick you out for that? They’ll be expellin’ for rape next. Wouldn’t have done in my time. I was expelled for mutiny, sir – yes, mutiny! Led the whole school in revolt! Splendid! Well, here’s your health, sir!”

    The officer who says that was https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willoughby_Cotton

    Thanks for the correction.

  125. sb says:
    @rufus

    Alan Wells , like most sprinters of his time and for that matter every British sprinter of consequence , was a doper

    Is there any doubt about this ? He did “win ” a very soft and drug ridden Olympics in 1980 though.

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