Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hell in Brussels (continued)

Excerpt from The War Diary of ISAF's Media Operations Centre NATO Headquarters Blvd Leopold III 1110 Brussels, Belgium Friday, October 15, 2010 9:30 AM Au Repos de la Montagne Montagne de Saint-Job 39 Coffee en route to work. More bad news from the front. Seventeen ISAF soldiers killed in three days and many wounded, although of course the wounded are not significant in strategic communication. Nevertheless, ISAF faces a significant media challenge. 11:00 AM SITREP with ISAF and SHAPE. Significant progress is being made in Operation Dragon Strike. We don’t know what it is. There are continued and reliable reports that the Taliban are negotiating with the Afghan government in Kabul. This is encouraging news, but absurd on the face of it. Why would the Taliban start negotiating when they’re winning? This is like the Paris peace negotiations over Vietnam: it’s all about the shape of the table. Meanwhile, Supreme Commander, SHAPE, authorizes emergency focus group (EFG) sessions on the weekend to best determine subsequent policy. 3:00 PM Informal discussions. Le 19ième Bar, Hotel Metropole. Stirring speech from the Chief, only slightly slurred. We are in a public relations crisis similar to Dunkirk, and the same selfless sacrifice is required. Staff will be expected to work on the weekend. Saturday, October 16, 2010 Noon. Really, one wouldn’t think there’s a war on. The Emergency Fan-Out List from the Media Operations Centre (MOC) has produced many opportunities to leave messages. Direct action is required. Chief, ISAF MOC is apprised of emergency, and proposes further emergency executive meeting in the bar of the Hotel Metropole at 3:00 PM. 4:00 PM, The Bar, Hotel Metropole Working for the greater good can be a very lonely experience, particularly on the weekend. Quorum finally assembled of The Chief, Secretary to The Chief, Manager (Emergency Fan Out Procedure), and Recording Secretary. Difficulties of assembling a focus group in Brussels at the weekend discussed in detail. Alternatives considered. Moved: that an ad hoc focus group be assembled from the bar patrons. Carried. A standardized list of questions was evolved. 1. What image do you have of playgrounds in Afghanistan? 2. Which of the following do you associate with the term "quagmire"? a. Saigon, 1963, b. Dienbienphu, 1954, c. Algiers 1962, d. Delhi, 1947, e. Rome, 387 BC, f. Boston, 1773. 3. How do you feel about pomegranate gardens? 4. If you knew that the Sarpoza Central Prison in Kandahar had suddenly misplaced all of its clients, would you: a. feel personally threatened? b. feel concern for your loved ones? c. feel the need to travel to Afghanistan? d. write to your Member of the European Parliament? e. buy an AK-47? Attempts were made to assemble an actual group, but proved futile. Individual patrons were approached, cautiously. Participant Peter Mandelson: What is Kandahar? I feel personally threatened by you asking me these questions, and I'm now a Lord. I'm very relaxed about the prospect of arms dealers getting filthy rich in Afghanistan. I think you should sod off. Participant Tony Blair: These are tremendously interesting questions that I hope to address in the context of the European Union, particularly as its head. I certainly acted in good faith while I was Prime Minister, and I would be more than happy to answer all questions in private. Meanwhile, you should sod off. Participant Anna Chapman: Do you always come on to women like this? I've heard more interesting lines in the Post Office queue. Sod off. Participant Gordon Brown: Go away. Can't you see I've got enough troubles? I didn't know anything about Iraq and I don't know anything about Afghanistan except as Chancellor of the Exchequer; foreign policy was beyond my remit. Sod off. Participant Stephen Harper: The New Government of Canada takes the position that whatever works for the American Joint Chiefs of Staff works for us. We stand behind the courage and dedication of Canadian armed forces in Afghanistan. Anyway, we've got an agreement with the Americans that makes all this discussion unnecessary, and obviously, subversive. Participant David Cameron: You’re not in full Buller rig. If we’re going to trash this place you’ll have to dress appropriately. The results were discussed and collated. The optimal strategy was to do nothing and pretend that nothing of consequence had occurred.