The US and allies’ 20-year war on Afghanistan is now widely seen as an unmitigated disaster unleashing terrible suffering, including a massive loss of life and the wholesale destruction of the country’s civil infrastructure.
Australia “justified” its involvement by invoking the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security (ANZUS) Treaty — the same military treaty which drew it into the wars in Vietnam War, Iraq and Syria despite not having been threatened in any way.
The invasion of Afghanistan started with lies and ended in defeat for the US-NATO alliance.
Tens of thousands of Afghans were killed, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced: the human toll of a 20-year war is hard to describe.
Forty one Australian Defence Force (ADF) soldiers were killed and 261 wounded. At least 500 ADF veterans committed suicide.
The Brereton Report, tabled last November, revealed the murderous behaviour of Australian Special Air Service personnel.
Former Prime Minister John Howard, who committed Australia in 2001 told the ABC’s 7.30 on August 18 it had prevented more terror attacks like those on the US on September 11, 2001.
While the US government and corporate media have sought to link the Taliban with the , the Central Intelligence Agency has said that there was no connection.
Also, the Taliban had agreed to hand Osama Bin Laden over if the US could produce proof he was behind the September 11, 2001, attacks. Even though the US didn’t, or couldn’t, provide the evidence, the invasion was launched as vengeance for them.
Howard invoked the ANZUS Treaty to justify Australia joining the invasion of a sovereign country to a skeptical public: the war had not been sanctioned by the United Nations and was therefore illegal.
Western, mainly US, arms manufacturers and military contractors have made huge profits from this long war.
Oil was another possible reason the West decided to invade. Over the past few decades, the US and its allies have launched interventionist wars to secure access to energy resources.
Access to Libyan oil led to the US-NATO dismemberment of Libya and the murder of President Muammar Gadaffi in 2011. Gadaffi had nationalised Libya’s oil resources, shutting out Western energy corporations, and using the proceeds for domestic social and economic benefits. The oil industry had since been opened up to foreign exploitation and Libya plunged into chaos.
A similar disaster unfolded in Iraq where the country's domestic oil industry was nationalised until the 2003 invasion. The US puppet administrations privatised it and now it is dominated by Western corporations including ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell.
Securing oil was not the war’s only goal, but it was central as top US military and political figures have attested.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan wrote in his memoir: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”
There is substantial evidence that the Taliban’s refusal to allow the US energy corporation Unocal to build oil and gas pipelines to transport Caspian Sea oil and gas across Afghanistan to the Indian subcontinent was another reason for the US invading.
Unocal feted Taliban leaders in the late 1990s, but were not successful in gaining their support for pipelines to carry oil and gas from energy-rich Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to seaports in Pakistan and India.
Why did Australia join the US war on Afghanistan if it was not under any military threat from Afghanistan or the Taliban? Why was the commitment maintained by the Coalition and Labor governments for 20 years? Is the ANZUS Treaty to blame?
It is time to re-examine the ANZUS Treaty and evaluate the costs and consequences of this war alliance to make sure that such a war can never happen again.
While Australia cannot undo the last 20 years, it can and should immediately increase and expedite its humanitarian visa intake to the tens of thousands of people fleeing the country.
[Submissions can be made to the IPAN Inquiry into the costs and consequences of the US alliance at www.independentpeacefulaustralia.com.au.]