Hell no, we shouldn't go


@box text intr = The October 16 announcement that more than 1500 Australian military personnel will be actively involved in the war on Afghanistan should horrify all Australians.

For years, both the major parties have defended increasing Australia's military capability on the grounds that it was necessary to protect Australians from external military threat.

Unfortunately, many were convinced to support such funding after Australian military personnel were sent to East Timor to back up the United Nations effort there, believing that the Australian military would again play a useful role in defending human rights.

But the military intervention in Afghanistan proves how false such a conception of the military is.

Here there is no humanitarian mission, nor is there a threat to the Australian population. This mission will not stop Australia from becoming a target for mass murderers such as those who sent the planes into the World Trade Center.

Quite the contrary, there has arguably never been so many young people willing to emulate such actions as there has been since the first bomb dropped on Afghanistan.

The Australian support for the US-led war on Afghanistan is, as Prime Minister John Howard says, "a flag in support" of the US government's mission to tame the world. Australia, sharing the general interests of most First World countries, is anxious to tag along with the big boys and get some kudos with the world's remaining superpower.

But that "flag" is not just made of fabric. It is made of the flesh and blood of young people who may have joined as a result of the Australian Defence Forces recruitment campaign.

You know, the ads that promise that the army will pay your course fees for you, pay you to build houses for desperate East Timorese, will teach you "mateship" and how to lead.

No-one said anything in those ads about sitting in the freezing snows in Afghanistan waiting to shoot or be shot at, or of fuelling planes so that they can go back and blow up more food stores and UN aid workers.

Many commentators have warned of the possibility of Australian casualties in this war. Any such deaths would be abhorrent.

But for every Australian in danger at the moment, there are hundreds of thousands of Afghan people facing death — from bombs or from starvation — as a direct result of this war.

This is what should most horrify us about the intervention — not the possibility that Australians may be killed, but the certainty that Afghan people will be.

It should be no surprise to anyone by now that Kim Beazley and the ALP have offered no opposition.

In fact, both Beazley and a sickening Paul Keating attempted in the days after the announcement to explain that Australia was much better off in the good old days when the ALP government held hands with the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia and ignored East Timorese screams in the name of "stability".

Natasha Stott Despoja took time out of her campaign of claiming to be really important in order to clarify that the Australian Democrats wanted the government to ask the bombing to stop, and wanted to be able to vote on Australian military participation, because they had "concerns" with it. She did not specify which way the Democrats would vote.

The Australian Greens, taking time out from claiming to be as important as Stott Despoja, condemned any commitment of troops unless for a mission voted on by the United Nations General Assembly. They also emphasised that parliament should reconvene.

With bi-partisan support from the major parties, however, this campaign will not be stopped in parliament. Nor will it be stopped by the admirable (if somewhat media-stunt-ish) declaration by six Greens candidates that they would refuse to fight should conscription be introduced and they be sent to Afghanistan.

We can get the troops out only in the same way we got them out of Vietnam, by threatening the government with mass action — street marches, industrial action, campus and high school rallies.

The sort of election pledges we need now are ones like the Socialist Alliance's pledge that if elected, its members will donate all perks and income above the average skilled worker's wage to opposing the war and assisting other movements to really defend justice and equality for all.

There are two things that Green Left Weekly urges you to do right now.

Firstly, get involved to stop the carnage: join one of the multitude of anti-war events listed in the activist calender.

Secondly, support the Socialist Alliance in the elections — not just by voting, but by helping to make every polling booth an anti-war campaigning centre on November 10.