We post article about Afghanistan here. Jim said in his email: “I wrote the attached article to share my perspective on our country’s role in the Middle East Wars, especially Afghanistan. My son Joseph asked me to write something.”
WAR—”Where we send our youth to kill people who are not our enemies for people who are not our friends.”
Two weeks ago I had a sick feeling as I read about a memorial celebration of the Battle of Long Tan in our local paper the “Dayboro Grapevine”.
What was the battle of Long Tan? To put it bluntly, the Battle of Long Tan was a battle in Vietnam where an invading force of Australian soldiers killed about 500 Vietnamese for the US Empire. In this battle 17 Australians died. In military terms it was a great victory. In human terms it was part of the insane madness called war. Only the insanity of mindless patriotism could paint it in any other light.
But the sick feeling comes because I know the 500 poor people we killed on that day in Vietnam, will not be remembered or mourned. To do so would overturn the notion that we are better people, a better nation, a more deserving race – in fact a great nation, in fact the greatest country in the world!
Perhaps if we had mourned and repented our war crime of supporting the US in the murder of over two million Vietnamese, we may not have so readily joined them in their insane wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I recall another time I had a sick feeling, along with millions of others. That was Sept 11 2001, when the twin towers fell in New York.
This time the enemy had struck at the heart of empire, not in some far away jungle. Nearly 3000 people died that day, in another insane act of war. While like everyone, I was horrified by the killing, I must confess, rightly or wrongly, most of the sick feeling came from the knowledge that the US empire would strike back with a massive killing spree. Australia would help them. And there was little or nothing I could do about it.
But after two decades of resistance in the Catholic Worker movement, I knew I would continue to resist the war making; even if I felt like I was just going through the motions. Call meetings-join the marches- occupy the Defence Recruitment centre- blockade Enoggera army barracks- get arrested-go to the watchhouse – go to court- maybe go to jail. Occasionally I even felt like we had achieved something – like when we were sitting on the roof of a building inside Pine Gap.
Many are now asking about the Afghanistan war, “Well what the hell was that for?” The Taliban are now back in power. There are more “terrorists” than when we started. Iraq is also in chaos. In fact, I am writing this now because my son Joseph asked me to write about the situation in Afghanistan.
Joseph, here is a tiny view of what I see as our role in this war.
The undeniable fact is that the US helped establish the Taliban in the 1980’s, funding training camps and Madrasas in Pakistan to terrorise the Russians occupying Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden himself was a recipient of US help when he was a “good” terrorist fighting the “evil” Russians. Similarly the US had no problems with Saddam Hussein when he was gassing their other enemies , the Iranians, in the same decade. Hell, the US even supplied the chemicals!
It was only when Saddam invaded the wrong country, Kuwait instead of Iran, that Iraq became the enemy.
In 1991 the country was “bombed back into the stone age”, as a US general famously threatened. After electricity, sewerage and water plants were all bombed and typhoid and other disease spread, even Pope John Paul 11 accused the US of biological warfare. To compound this war crime the US imposed sanctions which made sure this horror did not end. Five years later the Medical Journal Lancet, did a study that concluded there were 600,000 extra deaths because of these sanctions. When asked years later, if she thought it was worth it given all the dead children, Bill Clinton’s secretary of state Madeleine Albright famously said, “Yes we think it was worth it”. Worth it to achieve what? Another failed state?
Australia played an integral part in enforcing these deadly sanctions. The US was so happy with us they placed out Navy in charge of the Naval blockade in the later part of the nineties.
After Sept 11, the US invaded Afghanistan seeking revenge. Not content with bloodshed there, the US moved onto Iraq, fabricating charges of weapons of mass destruction, and collusion with Al Qaeda. In 2003, once again Australia became a willing participant sending our SAS in to take an airfield before any other fighting even began.
(Later would come the destruction of Libya, and Syria, and the devastation in Yemen. We have helped in all of these ventures.)
But could things change now in 2021? With the obvious loss of one more war; with the exposure of the SAS in committing at least 39 murders of unarmed Afghanis: with the shocking suicide rates of veterans returning from these wars? Could it be that we are going to look honestly at the nature of fighting wars for the US empire?
Sadly, I do not see much sign of it. To tell the truth I am a bit scared to even talk to people about it. I do not know whether to laugh or cry when I hear people use the fall of Kabul as one more excuse to attack the Morrison Government. “We should take in all the Afghans who helped Aussies,” is the cry I hear.
Wait a minute, didn’t our military help train over 200,000 Afghan soldiers to fight the Taliban? Should we bring them all to Australia? Let’s bring the Taliban too for that matter. Perhaps we helped the Americans train them in the 80’s. “That Scott Morrison is a heartless bastard”, “like that other heartless bastard, Donald Trump”. But wait a minute, wasn’t it Bob Hawke who rang George Bush senior in 1991 and offered to send Aussie troops to Iraq? Don’t I have vivid picture in my mind of Julia Gillard at an Afghan airport thanking our soldiers for their role in the murder and mayhem that was the Afghan war. Hey, wasn’t it Joe Biden, while heading the US Foreign Relations Committee, who argued strongly to invade Iraq?
I strongly believe we get the government we deserve. Nothing makes me sicker than hearing people blame the prime minister for all our problems. Let’s face it, Australians are all to blame. We enjoy a power and privilege as an outpost of the US empire. We fight their wars to make sure this continues. We have successfully terrorised refugees coming in boats to make sure the poor don’t think they can share our wealth and power and privilege. As with the foreign wars we have painted ourselves as humanitarians. “We reject refugees to try and stop people drowning on leaky boats”. “We kill some Afghanis because we are trying to help other Afghanis.”
In 2004 I publicly made a “citizen’s arrest” of our local member Peter Dutton. I charged him with war crimes; supporting the invasion of Iraq, supporting the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, supporting the use of WMD’s by the US Military. Coincidentally, my action was filmed buy the ABC 7.30 report. When I recently reviewed the ABC footage of this action, I saw my “arrest” of Dutton was part of a wider report of the upcoming election which Dutton won. The TV report was focused on rising interest rates, and other monetary “problems” of one of the richest nations on earth. Meanwhile we were fighting two wars in two of the poorest nations on earth. It would not have even been on the radar of the 7.30 report if they hadn’t been present at my Citizens arrest of Peter Dutton. In fact, Peter Dutton himself said at a later date that the war was not even an issue with his constituents.
The sad fact is we are told by the media when to laugh and when to cry. For some reason we are now allowed to cry for the poor Afghan people, after we are no longer there “helping” them.
When John Howard started the fight against “Terrorism’’ a terrorism hotline was established so we could all dob in suspicious looking people, I wrote that if he was looking for terrorists, he should look no further than his bedroom mirror.
Perhaps if we are looking of someone to blame for the horrifying images we see on our TV screens right now, we should look no further than our own mirrors.
****** This short article is in no way an attempt to explain much of the details of the US/Australian involvement in Middle East wars. If you really want to learn more facts, I suggest you read anything written by Robert Fisk, a truly independent journalist who spent most of his adult life reporting from and about the Middle East. His 2005 book, The Great War for Civilisation is a good start.*******
Thanks Jim for that advice.
In the book, The Great War for Civilisation, Fisk criticizes the hypocritical and biased British and United States foreign policy in the Middle East in regard to the Arab–Israeli conflict and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The leaders of both countries deliberately misled the world about their motivations for invading Iraq in 2003.
The name of the book comes from a campaign medal Fisk’s father was awarded for his services in the First World War. The aftermath of the ‘war to end all wars’ saw the creation of most of the borders of the modern Middle East including Syria and Lebanon after the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire.