Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Afghanistan v Iraq + Great Fire

In the grim competition to establish which is the greater disaster area, Afghanistan today forged briefly ahead of Iraq, as at least 23 people were killed by a suicide bomb at a mosque in Mehtar Lam, east of Kabul. Just a week ago, a massive truck bomb in Kandahar killed more than 40 in the biggest attack in a year.

Last year, Afghanistan looked for a time as though it might grab the title, ending with 436 people killed in suicide bombs – just 27 fewer than the total for Iraq (see my blog of March 28th). Now, though, Iraq is once again establishing its unenviable lead, with 393 civilians killed during last month alone.

Whoever wins the grim contest, our experience of both countries is likely to reinforce the old saying – “invade in haste, repent at leisure.”

In the early hours of this day…343 years ago, the Great Fire of London broke out in Pudding Lane, just north of London Bridge. Roused from his bed, the Lord Mayor took a quick look at the blaze, declared: “a woman might piss it out,” and went back to sleep. Five days later it had devastated 436 acres of the City – more than the Blitz managed. (For the full story, see The Disastrous History of London.) How wise Sam Goldwyn was when he advised: “never make forecasts, especially about the future.”

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