Extreme capitalism and war

PM Kevin Rudd likes to tell us he is against "extreme capitalism". Like US President Barack Obama, Rudd tries to give capitalism a more human face, pretending it's now something different to the neoliberal nightmare of the past three and a half decades.

But then they increase funding and troops to the wars of occupation in the Middle East.

War is an extension of imperialist capitalist economic policy. It is the sharp end of a policy of economic and political domination.

Polls indicate Australians are overwhelmingly against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, the April 11 Sydney Morning Herald said Rudd had decided to send extra troops to Afghanistan. The announcement came two days after defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon and foreign minister Stephen Smith met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Bush-era defence secretary Robert Gates at the annual Australia-US Ministerial Consultations.

For at least a year, the Rudd government had been pretending it was not going to send more troops. NATO was "under-committed" and should send more, we were told. Australia was "doing its bit", and anyway, "had not been asked".

The SMH said there would be no US request "until it had received an indication as to what Australia would agree to". Smith did this on March 31. Commenting on a recent US review of the war in Afghanistan, he said: "I've also made it clear … that we, having already a substantial contribution, including the training of Afghanistan army and police personnel … are in the market to increase that contribution."

This was hardly news to anyone. The ALP has long agreed with the Coalition that Afghanistan is the "good" war.

The SMH said the new deployment — about 120 soldiers — would be there for the lead-up to, and after, the elections, but would not be permanent. Australia already has 1100 soldiers in Afghanistan — the biggest non-NATO contingent.

The Australian troop increase follows Washington's plan to send 17,000 more soldiers, the first installment of its "surge", and NATO's decision to send an extra 5000 for the election period.

For the imperialists, getting support for this "unwinnable" war has been hard, not only because of the outspoken comments by former NATO commanders, but because there is nothing "good" about the war.

NATO's aerial bombardment has killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, including children. In 2008, 2118 civilians were killed — an increase of 40% on the previous year — making it the highest civilian death toll of any year since 2001, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Now the imperialists are dragging the war into Pakistan. Obama's "Af-Pak" strategy includes millions of dollars for "counter-insurgency" operations. The Pakistani people have shown they are able and willing to fight for democracy, without military arsenals and counter-insurgency traps.

The "long march" to reinstate the chief justice and lawyers was a huge victory — won by ordinary people against the same elites the West is supporting. The drone attacks in Pakistan's North-West Frontier province, in which many innocent civilians have been killed, has led to many more terrorist attacks across Pakistan.

Labour Party Pakistan spokesperson Farooq Tariq put it this way: "We cannot support Americans to occupy or invade an area of the country on the justification of liberating us from a very repressive group. The people will deal with the fanatics themselves, if not now then in the future.

"The Taliban can never be defeated by military means. Look what has happened in Afghanistan: the Taliban were defeated for the time being by American intervention, they surfaced in Pakistan and now back in Afghanistan with more power."

The Rudd government is party to this war of terror by having troops in Afghanistan, and preparing to send more.

Apart from the horrendous civilian casualties, and the number of people fleeing war zones in the hope of finding refuge (sometimes with devastating consequences, as we witnessed last week), we've seen the death of 10 young Australian soldiers and many hundreds of other US-NATO soldiers who are in Afghanistan because they are following orders.

Hasn't the Rudd government learnt anything from the war in Iraq? Surely the $575 million being spent each year on killing and brutalising communities in Afghanistan and Pakistan could be better spent on reconstruction and aid — including helping those who are fleeing to settle in Australia.

A March 24 Newspoll found that 65% of Australians disagree with more troops being sent. Perhaps this explains Rudd's reluctance to comment on the new army contingent?

[Pip Hinman is the Socialist Alliance's anti-war spokesperson.]