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Tragic events of 20 years ago cast a long shadow

Column by Councillor Lee Steptoe, Labour member of South Kesteven District Council

We have just marked the 20th anniversary of the awful, world changing events of 9/11; an event that most people can still remember where they were when they heard the grim news.

Those tragic events went on to cast a long shadow and were truly world changing: the US/UK invasion of Afghanistan, closely linked to similar in Iraq, less than two years later. A Republican President and Labour Prime Minister united in common cause in ‘the war on terror’ and their celebrated ‘special relationship.’

Lee Steptoe (46585897)
Lee Steptoe (46585897)

As the memories of the ‘departure’ from Afghanistan a few weeks ago are still fresh in the memory, I will leave it up to readers to form their own opinion on the big question of ‘was it worth it?’ It is simply too raw and emotional for me to want to express my personal opinion in this age of social media vilification and to be honest I have mixed views, an increasingly hard concept in a polarised world.

Be in no doubt that my heart goes out to the loved ones of the 457 British soldiers killed and those maimed in body and mind. They can be very proud of serving our country and far more should be done by the government to help them recover from awful PTSD.

I also feel desperately for the Afghanis, particularly those left to deal with the evil Taliban, but also those that we managed to get out: the key personnel that worked alongside our army against the common enemy and now find themselves in a strange land, some friendless.

Again, I know that there will be mixed views about ‘Operation Warm Welcome’ in our local communities and the accommodation offered at local venues. My opinion is based around common humanitarianism: I welcome them, whilst acknowledging legitimate concerns from constituents that have been suffering due to council underfunding for years.

Finally, a plug for two excellent local organisations. I continue to work with veterans (volunteers and clients) at the Place2bee, which does great work supporting men with mental health issues. I was also delighted to visit and see the fantastic work that Hope Community Café is doing in my ward for our Afghani friends. It is the last day of their appeal for basic necessities today, please check them out on FB and donate what you can. Let’s keep hope alive for all affected by the tragic 20 year conflict.

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