The last refuge of scoundrels

Issue 
Anti-war poster produced by the Industrial Workers of the World during WWI. Green Left supports the tradition of the victorious

A crude and jingoistic appeal to Australian patriotism is the last refuge of the pro-war scoundrels as we approach the Australian parliamentary debate on Afghanistan. Australia sent troops to Afghanistan in October 2001, but it has taken nine years for parliament to discuss this act of war. Is this how Australia’s celebrated democracy works?

Australian troops were sent to wage wars on an impoverished, already war-devastated and traumatised country without even a discussion in parliament, let alone a vote.

The bipartisan cry of the Labor minority government and the Liberal-National opposition is: Support our troops!

A chorus of capitalist media hacks has loyally chimed in: Yes, yes, we must support our troops and give them everything they need — more weapons and more soldiers if that is what they want.

Liberal-National opposition leader Tony Abbott even argued that Australian soldiers should not face trial for killing Afghan women and children and then trying to cover it up. True “patriots”, it seems, believe that atrocities by Western troops in Afghanistan shouldn’t be brought to account.

With jingoism and appeals to national chauvinism and its close relative, racism, they hope to stop the people of Australia from thinking clearly. They hope to obscure the truth that the Australian (and allied NATO) troops are in Afghanistan on a blatant lie.

They are not stopping future terrorist attacks like 9/11 or the Bali bombing (indeed they may be provoking more attacks, as some military experts have conceded).

They are not helping “the Afghan people”, but protecting, arming and training a corrupt puppet warlord that the West installed when it invaded Afghanistan.

On October 2, PM Julia Gillard rushed to Afghanistan to pose with Australian troops, don an army helmet for the cameras and then meet with corrupt Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has been propped up by Australian and NATO military interventions for nearly a decade.

Macho-man Abbott followed on October 9 (albeit by a circuitous, jet-lag avoiding, British Tory jamboree-enriched route). He promptly trumped Gillard by being photographed shooting a Steyr automatic rifle at the Australian troops’ base at Tarin Kowt.

Why are the politicians and capitalist media hacks going on this furious campaign to justify a war that is clearly unjustifiable and unwinnable?

After all, the pro-war parties have the parliament stacked. There are only two declared anti-war MPs in the House of Representatives, the Greens’ Adam Bandt and the independent Andrew Wilkie. The pro-war parties have the numbers to win the vote easily enough.

The real battle is for the hearts and minds of the Australian people. The scoundrels are counting on their traditional “last refuge” to do the job for them.

It looks like some people are being taken in. An Essential Research survey released on October 11 said support for withdrawing troops completely from Afghanistan had dropped from 61% to 49%, where it was in early 2009.

But the poll also showed that full withdrawal of the troops remained the most popular option, even among Liberal voters.

There is a lot at stake in this battle for hearts and minds. Australia’s ruling elites know the West’s war of occupation and terror is lost. But there will be other military interventions to protect their power and profits for which they need the people to serve as cannon fodder. That is what they are campaigning for.

Green Left Weekly supports the proud tradition of the victorious anti-conscription movement in Australia during World War I. One of their pamphlets declared: “LET THOSE WHO OWN AUSTRALIA DO THE FIGHTING. Put the wealthiest in the front ranks; the middle class next; follow these with politicians, lawyers, sky pilots and judges ... Don’t go to Hell in order to give piratical, plutocratic parasites a bigger slice of Heaven.”

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