- Last Updated on 31 October 2013
Posted: 1 November 2013
Back in 2001 the U.S declared war on Afghanistan after the terrible events of September 11 in New York and Washington.
Australia was quickly thrown into the conflict by the then PM John Howard. During the lead up to the invasion there was much public opposition to the war plans.
A year and half later, in 2003, the invasion of Iraq occurred. Again anti-war protests occurred. A quarter of a million people demonstrated in Melbourne alone, prior to Iraq being attacked by U.S forces.
It is noteworthy to question the little public scrutiny in Australia about why we went to Afghanistan and Iraq in the first place. With the main parliamentary political parties, the L-NP and ALP, both pro-war and pro –U.S, it has been difficult to generate robust debate. This despite over two-thirds of Australians believing the wars were not worth it!
Two years ago the invading forces left Iraq. That country remains in turmoil and bloody chaos, with an isolated, corrupt government clinging on in Baghdad.
Now that the decision had been made to get out of Afghanistan - Australia’s ‘official’ involvement was declared over by PM Tony Abbott (accompanied by ALP federal opposition leader Bill Shorten) on the 29/10/13 – the spin is pouring out of Canberra.
No serious commentator is being “optimistic” about this wretched country’s future after 12 years of conflict.
Abbott says it’s a “bitter-sweet end”. This claim has been described as trying to put “the best face on” a mission that was “poorly-defined”. With hundreds of thousands of Afghans dead or maimed, with Australian causalities at 40 dead and 261 wounded and the cost so far put at $7.5 billion, more critical analysis is certainly warranted. The various Australian governments of the last 12 years will find it difficult to sell that the whole exercise was a success on any measure.
In hindsight some commentators venture that the invasion of Iraq was “an unhelpful diversion” from tackling al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Unhelpful!
Simply the rush to war, through invasion of other countries per se, is unhelpful. The mass anti-war mobilisations of over a decade ago were right all along.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the Australian troops in Tarin Kowt - “Australia’s longest war is ending, not with victory, not with defeat (sic), but with, we hope, an Afghanistan that is better for our presence here “(emphasis added). No one should rush to ask Mr Abbott his definition of ‘defeat’. Putting aside the menace of the Taliban, who can claim propping up the imposed Karzai government is ‘hope inspiring?’
The anti-war movement is also not against members of the Australian military forces sent to war. They are however ‘anti’ the politicians who send them to wars of aggression.
The anti-war movement is not supportive of repressive regimes. They are opposed to the imperialpowers that selectively attack countries to suit their economic and geo – political agendas.
There are so many repressive regimes around the world that the US, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia would be at war with most of the globe on a never ending basis!
Not forgetting that many of these regimes were set up and promoted by these powers in the first place!
War should be purely defensive and a last resort eg defending the nation state against direct hostile aggression. Historically however imperial wilfulness makes it the first resort, every time.
It is good that Australian troops are coming home from Afghanistan.
Hopefully we don’t have to listen to or read too much ‘twaddle’ from those who sent them far away, to the other side of the globe and put them in harm’s way.
Two newspapers that have been in favour of the war in Afghanistan for 12 years have recently published material that damnstheir desperation to justify the sacrifices and costs incurred:
The Australian (30/10/13) under the headlines:
“THREE-QUARTERS OF AFGANISTAN ‘TOO DANGEROUS’ FOR RECONSTRUCTION - EXIT TO CREATE NO - GO ZONE.”
It published in part:
“More than three-quarters of Afghanistan will be too dangerous for civilian reconstruction project overseers to access by next year - including all of Oruzgan province where most of Australia’s aid money is invested – an independent oversight committee warned.
“The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a US congress-created body designed to oversee and audit $US96 billion ($100bn) in relief and reconstruction projects, sounded the alarm yesterday over the impact of the 2014 NATO and coalition troop withdrawal on aid projects in a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel.
“Significant portions of Afghanistan are already inaccessible to SIGAR, other inspectors general, the Government Accountability Office, and other US civilians conducting oversight, ” SIGAR chief John Sopko said in the letter.
“SIGAR believes this constraint on oversight will only worsen as more US and coalition bases close.”
“The office released a series of maps showing civilian oversight access to billions of dollars worth of reconstruction projects has already shrunk from 68 per cent in 2009 to 45 per cent of the country this year.”
Comment: This information runs contraryto what the Australian government has been saying to the Australian public for the last five years, that the situation in Afghanistan wasimproving all the time!!
The AFR (30/10/13) in an editorial headed:
“THE AFGHAN WAR WAS STILL WORTH IT.”
It published in part:
“If the Australian Forces and the rest of the International Security Assistance Force have done enough to persuade the Taliban militants that they cannot win against the Afghan Government once foreign forces withdraw, and will have to negotiate some kind of lasting political settlement – then our troops will still have changed history for the better”.
“Many commentators now compare Afghanistan ..with the South Vietnam that Australia also helped to defend: [ie] puppet government, shaky local army, implacable enemy attacking from cross-border havens, and inevitable defeat. But the Vietnam era had other outcomes, too. In the mid 1960’s, south-east Asia as a whole was deeply unstable. Ten years later, after the US had held the line in Vietnam for as long as it could, the era of the Asian economic tiger had been born and the region’s future looked very different. The parallel can be overdone, but sometimes the result of history is not what seems obvious at the time.”
- It is a big “if” that a ‘lasting political settlement’ is possible in Afghanistan. But another “if” comes into play. If a “lasting political settlement” doesn’t occur after 2014, will the AFR editorialise the war was wrong and the sacrifice of our troops wasn’t worth it?
- It is also amazing for the AFR to buy into the Vietnam/Afghanistan comparison debate, especially by claiming that the U.S’s 10 year war in Vietnam “held the line” and thereby helped create “the era of the Asian economic tiger!”
The Vietnamese actually won the war and, after the peace, got on with rebuilding their nation – no thanks to the U.S carpet bombing the whole country for years!
It is obvious the AFR editorial writer has no knowledge of the destruction of war per se and has definitely no sense of history in terms of wars won or lost, especially the Vietnam War.