Kevin Rudd will visit the White House later this month for critical talks on increasing Australia’s troop commitment to the war in Afghanistan. In Australia, there is a growing crescendo of support for this proposition.
Why so? The Afghan Government hasn’t declared war on Australia, nor is it attacking Australia. Indeed, prior to Australian soldiers joining the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, there was no reported incident of Afghans killing Australians. We were at peace.
However, since Australian soldiers began occupying Afghani soil and killing Afghanis, the Australian army has taken casualties — as you would expect. The Afghani nation has a long and proud history of fighting against foreign occupiers. Doesn’t anyone read history books anymore?
Britain lost two military campaigns in the 19th century — in 1842 and again in 1878 — and the Soviet army was routed 20 years ago.
If an uninvited foreign army invaded Australia, I would take up arms against those trying to forcibly subjugate us and steal our country. I would hope that most of my countrymen and women would do the same thing. We would join the resistance because we believe our families, communities and freedoms are worth fighting for.
When it comes to defending Australia from foreign military intervention, I am not a pacifist. I have no aspirations to be a guerrilla fighter but, like the French, Italian, Yugoslav, Greek and Scandinavian partisans in World War II, I would do my bit for Australia’s liberty.
Many Afghan people think the same way and I, for one, support them.
This does not mean I support the regime of Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, or the Taliban opposition. But if the Afghani people are strong enough to achieve a victory over the occupying International Security Assistance Force I believe they will be strong enough to create a better life for themselves after the occupiers have been expelled.
Certainly, that was the lesson from the victory of the war of liberation in Vietnam. More than 30 years on, Vietnam is an energetic, vibrant country which attracts thousands of tourists, backpackers and students from Australia.
Barack Obama, who has achieved unprecedented global approval since winning the US presidency, has just increased America’s troop commitment to Afghanistan by 17,000. This was 13,000 less than what US commander, General David McKiernan, had requested.
When George W Bush was in the White House, and the top brass demanded more troops, more hardware, more money and more waterboarding, it was rubberstamped by Vice President Dick Cheney and ticked off by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, both representatives of the US military-industrial-intelligence complex.
Obama is less compliant. Kevin Rudd should be too.
The US Government’s military budget for next year is $663.7 billion. Manufacturing weapons, warplanes, warships and missiles is one of the biggest single sectors of the US economy, employing millions of workers directly and indirectly.
Obama cannot switch off the engine of the "merchants of death" or it will grind the economy to a halt and probably bring his presidency to a tragic and bloody end.
As a keen student of political history, Obama will be mindful of President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation on 17 January 1961, in which he said:
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
"We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."
Ike’s warning was delivered 48 years ago; imagine the anti-democratic powers that these blood-drenched corporations wield today. And Eisenhower was a five-star general, the Supreme Commander of Land Forces in Europe at the end of World War II and a two-term Republican US president who knew a thing or two about the Pentagon, the arms manufacturers and their influence in Washington.
The crazed militarists who support the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan maintain that the Afghan people must pay for 9/11 even though no Afghan national was involved in the terrorist attacks on New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
Those responsible were from a terrorist cell from al Qaeda, mainly Saudi Arabians, who were living under the protection of the Taliban regime. According to Washington and NATO the entire Afghan population has to be collectively punished for something they weren’t involved in and knew nothing about. That sounds to me like a war crime.
The plain truth is that America and its war allies cannot win militarily in Afghanistan. It is impossible. As Oleg Kubanov, a former Russian officer in Afghanistan said on the 20th anniversary of the Russian retreat from Kabul: "It’s like fighting sand. No force in the world can get the better of the Afghans. It’s their holy land; it doesn’t matter to them if you’re Russian or American. We’re all soldiers to them."
Historian Victor Kremenyuk told ABC radio: "If they [countries with forces in Afghanistan]don’t learn, if they still think that availability of the air force, missiles, tanks and so on can help them in dealing with that world, it’s a crucial mistake; it’s a failure!"
And Red Army veteran and now Moscow region Governor Boris Gromov said on ABC TV’s 7.30 Report: "It’s better to negotiate with the Afghans to solve everything by peaceful means."
Bush’s military attack on Afghanistan on 7 October 2001, called "Operation Enduring Freedom", has led to enduring agony for the Afghani people, the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and thousands of civilian and military casualties. It’s time for a peace offensive, not a military surge.
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