Why has the British Ministry of Defence Tried to Ban Its Own Book on Afghanistan?
By Matt Carr
Global Research, April 17, 2014
Matt Carr’s Infernal Machine 13 April 2014
Attempts by democratic governments to ban books rarely work out well. If the book is banned on grounds of public morality (Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer), then the writer nearly always wins in the end and the government that tried to suppress their work is likely to end up looking puritanical, cloven-footed and often pig-ignorant.
If, like Peter Wright’s Spycatcher, the book is banned on ‘political’ or national security grounds then it is immediately going to attract a great deal more media interest than it might otherwise have done, so that if one publisher drops it another is likely to pick it up. When the Thatcher government tried to ban Spycatcher under the Official Secrets it ended up looking ridiculous and impotent when the book was published abroad – even in Scotland – for three years before the ban was lifted, so that anyone who wanted to know what was in it could find out.
Rather than silencing books, such efforts tend to generate more curiosity about them. And attempts at censorship and prohibition are almost guaranteed to attract attention when a government tries to ban a book that it has commissioned itself, as was the case last week, when the Ministry of Defense attempted to block the publication of An Intimate War – An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict 1978-2013, on the grounds that it breached the Official Secrets Act.
What makes this effort so extraordinary was the fact that the book was written by Dr. Mike Martin, a former captain in the Territorial Army, who was commissioned three years ago by the army to write a study of British military operations in Helmand. That study became a Phd dissertation, which the MoD has had in its possession for 14 months. Yet it is only in February that it raised objections to its content, to the point when Martin resigned his ten-year commission in order to be able to publish the book.
To its credit, Martin’s publisher Hurst & Co has gone ahead with publication, even though it was reduced to handing out flyers instead of hardbacks at the presentation of his book at Kings College London last Thursday. I should confess at this point that I have a dog in this hunt. Hurst is also my publisher, and I am proud to be associated with a company that has refused to buckle in the face of such idiotic and ham-fisted official pressure, which shames the army and the British government.
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