Originally posted on http://www.thepunch.com.au
The 18th Australian soldier, Jason Brown, died in Afghanistan last week.
Gillard and Abbott were united in simultaneously expressing condolences to Jason’s family and friends; whilst expressing their determination to remain in Afghanistan (all the while carefully avoiding the war slipping onto the election agenda).
Gillard and Abbott are united in their declaration that Jason’s death should not distract from their commitment to maintain a presence in Afghanistan.
Implicitly, they clearly also believe that the deaths of over 48,000 people that have also died in the duration of the war should pose no distraction.
The war in Afghanistan is the longest war Australia has ever been involved in. It has dragged on since we marched in ten years ago to eradicate Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, despite their subsequence disappearing act.
Gillard has justified her decision to remain in a war that is costing so many human lives by pulling the “national security” card. She has asserted the need to remain in Afghanistan to protect Australia from the potential redevelopment of a terrorist hub in Afghanistan.
That fear seems to be groundless.
Both General Stanely McChrystal (Commander of the US and International Forces in Afghanistan) and the US Deputy Secretary of Defence William Lynn have expressed publicly their belief that there is no longer al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan.
This poses the question as to why our government would wish to remain in a situation that is costing thousands of lives and millions of dollars.
In her article Gillard described Australia’s presence in Afghanistan as being imperative to “defending the nation, its people and their interests.”
If the experts say that al-Qaeda isn’t in Afghanistan, what is she defending us against?
And surely, if we’re going to take the nationalistic ‘let’s protect our own’ angle, surely it’s not in our interest to kill off our young soldiers?
Perhaps it is the allegiance with the US (reiterated in Gillard’s latest conversation with Obama) that has most weight here.
She stated “Progress in Afghanistan will be hard-won, and will take time. We need to maintain our resolve.”
I would argue that peace in Afghanistan will be hard-won, and will take time. We need to butt out.
If peace is truly the objective, and if we aim to uphold the interests of all people; then it will be difficult to achieve with rifle in hand and a civilian population in terror.
The war in Afghanistan has been going on for so long, with no foreseeable exit strategy; that public interest seems to have waned.
We are talking about ten years of war, and thousands of human lives. I’m sure the interest of their parents, their brothers and sisters and friends has not waned.
Many would argue that there is never true victory in war.
But in a war where the only possible outcome seems to be massive human and economic cost, and it is unclear what we are even doing there…. It seems to time for the public to demand that our leaders pull Australian troops out of this futile blood bath.