U.S. President Joe Biden looks down as he delivers remarks about Afghanistan, from the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S. August 26, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT/USA-BIDEN | JONATHAN ERNST


WHEN President Joe Biden first announced the US retreat from Afghanistan last April, 69 % of the American public were in favour. That was presumably because they saw Afghanistan, after Vietnam and Iraq, as a “forever war” in which Americans should not be required to die.

Now, after the international criticism that he has allowed in the Taliban to wreak terror on the rest of the world, a view supported by many of his Democratic colleagues, his position has been greatly weakened.

His response has drawn attention to his personal failings, to his age (he will be 80 next year), to his curt dismissal of the views of allies who have fought alongside the US for 20 years in Afghanistan, and to his apparent unconcern for the friends of America who will be left to the mercy (or, more likely, revenge) of the new Islamist government.

A search of Congressional debates has uncovered the opinion of Biden, then a young Senator, about the panic retreat from Vietnam in 1975. He opposed allowing a single Vietnamese citizen to be given refuge in the United States and said scornfully: “Morality? Morality. I’ve heard enough about morality.”

Even though he was Barack Obama’s Vice-President, Obama has been quoted as saying “people should never underestimate Joe Biden’s ability to screw things up.” Robert Gates, Obama’s Secretary for Defence, said: “Biden has been wrong on nearly every foreign policy issue over the past four decades.”

Biden has said he will pull the last American troops out of Iraq by the end of this year, which may well create another problem for him if the country becomes another source for international terrorism.

He also wants to reopen the treaty with Iran and end sanctions, despite the fact that Iran is irredeemably committed to funding terrorism, especially against Israel, under its new leader, President Raisi, known as “The Butcher” for his prosecution of thousands of political oppponents who went to their deaths.

His own competence, even his mental ability to do the job, are coming into question, and it doesn’t seem possible that he can serve a second term.

How has America got caught with a gerontocray among its leaders? Lincoln was 52 on becoming President, Kennedy 43, Obama 46, Roosevelt 51.

Kamala Harris is 56, a good age to be President, unless Biden’s many errors let in the Republicans again.

Judy’s big swim for charity

Today Judy Boden, a super-active lady in her seventies, will set off to swim a nautical mile in aid of the charity Pollensa Cares. Starting at Punta Avanzada in the Bayof Pollensa, she will finish at the Illa D’Or hotel in the port. She says: “It is time for another Big Swim!

The last one was six years ago when I swam a nautical mile to raise funds for educating girls in the Turkana region of Kenya. Since that time I have put three girls through school in Turkana, one through university in Nairobi and made a donation to Moanaghar Girls’ School in Bangladesh.

“Now it is time to be thinking of supporting children closer to home and with that in mind I am going to swim another nautical mile and donate the proceeds to Pollensa Cares for their Computers for Kids programme.”

Pollensa Cares was started in 2020 by a group of mainly expat Pollensa women to support local families during the severe economic consequences of the pandemic, starting with a food programme helping over 200 families. They are now actively concentrating on educational needs with workshops for teenagers. They are currently raising funds to supply 60 laptops for schools in Puerto Pollensa next month.

“This is, of course,what inspires me most! So here we go again! There will be a support dinghy today provided by Multimar Alcudia. Any donation and support for the swim will be extremely welcome and much appreciated. It’s a great cause and I hope to raise as much as possible to help buy these computers.”

The donation website is https/www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/judy-boden-anotherbigswim

Death of a cricketing warrior

TED DEXTER was one of my greatest sporting heroes. I was sorry to learn of his death at the age of 86, though I suspect that the physical limitations of ageing would have annoyed him more than most.

I happened to see his debut century against Lancashire at Fenners in 1958. Even then he hit the ball with tremendous power. He was an all-round athlete who could have played rugby for Cambridge and, in the opinion of Gary Player and others, could have become a professional golfer.

I came across him again, and got to know him quite well, when he wrote on cricket for The Observer. He teamed up with the paper’s sports editor, Clifford Makins, to write a couple of thrillers, one set during an Australian Test match at Lord’s and the other at a golf tournament.

I talked a great deal to him in Barbados in 1986 when he was selector on an England tour to the West Indies. When the England batsmen were being destroyed by the West Indian fast bowlers, I said: “I doubt if anybody could play these people on this pitch.” He looked up sharply and replied: “Len Hutton could. He batted 10 hours on the 1954 tour and showed us all how to do it. We were two Tests down, but we drew the series after that. It just needs one man.”

I met him at a race track some years later and he told me he was training greyhounds. By then he had been a key figure in getting one-day cricket organised, inventing new ways of presenting cricket statistics and he also introduced four-day matches in county cricket to prepare players better for Test conditions.

England never prospered under Dexter’s leadership, partly because they hadn’t got good enough players, but also because he kept too aloof from them, living up to his schoolboy nickname of “Lord Ted.”

But as a hard-hitting batsman and a handsome figure always bursting with ideas – “he had more ideas than Darwin,” Jon Snow, the fast bowler, said of him - he stays supreme in my memory.

Can the Tiger come to tea?

Guess what book I’ll be reading to my seven-year-old daughter tonight? It will be Judith Kerr’s immortal story, The Tiger who came to tea. This is being done in defiance of a woman called Rachel Anderson, from Zero Tolerance, who says it – and books like it, especially those by Beatrix Potter – promote violence against women. Funny that. I thought it was people who caused violence, not children’s books.