The letter below will be distributed at the upcoming ALP national conference, December 3-4, 2011. To add your name to the open letter please visit the Stop the War Coalition Sydney website.
We, the undersigned, call on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to rethink the government’s support for the US-NATO war in Afghanistan.
Specifically, we call on her to remove the Australian troops, and to send massive amounts of untied aid to the war-ravaged nation.
The most recent Roy Morgan poll showed that 72% of Australians want the troops brought home.
We do not believe the government’s line that this 10-year war is making Afghanistan a safer or more democratic country.
On the contrary, the US-NATO’s indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians is fuelling retaliatory attacks on its troops and Australian soldiers.
An unknown number of innocent Afghans and Pakistanis have been killed in this war. Some proffer that the dead, the wounded and the displaced could well be several million. We will never know the exact amount as records are not being kept.
As of the end of November, 32 Australian soldiers have been killed – at least four by the people they were supposed to be training.
We are not convinced that, as part of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan, Australia should be training up the Afghan National Army and Police.
This is also the view of Afghan army chief Brigadier-General Mohammed Zafar Khan who, it seems, has repeatedly requested that the Australian troops leave Oruzgan province and allow the Afghan National Army to do its work without outside interference. Surely, the Australian government should take his views seriously.
We do not believe that Australia should involve itself in a war for the sake of an alliance with the United States. Any decision to go to war should be made after extensive public consultation. The Australian public was not consulted on either the Afghan, nor the Iraq invasion.
Both are war crimes because they violate the Geneva Convention and the United Nations Charter because neither Australia nor the US has been, or is under, imminent threat of attack from either Afghanistan or Iraq. The people who carried out the terrorist attacks on the US in 2001 were neither Afghans nor Iraqis.
Afghans want their country back. Democrats such as Malalai Joya have repeatedly called for the foreign forces to leave. While they remain, they provide support for a corrupt government.
Transparency International cites Afghanistan as the second most corruptly governed country in the world. Afghanistan is now the second lowest country in the world in terms of the United Nations Human Development Index.
Malalai Joya says that Afghans do not support fundamentalism. As has happened before, they will be defeated politically — but only when the Western troops leave. While they remain, the fundamentalists gain because they pose as liberators to a war-weary nation.
To give Afghanistan a real chance of rebuilding its economy and society and to truly help the women, Australian troops must leave. The billions currently being spent on war should instead be diverted to help Afghans rebuild their country.
John Pilger, author and filmmaker
Kellie Tranter, lawyer & human rights activist
Pip Hinman, Stop the War Coalition
Gerry Binder, Vietnam veteran
Stuart Rees, Sydney Peace Foundation
Graeme Dunstan, Peacebus.com
Jeff Sparrow, writer and editor
Bea Bleile, Socialist Alliance, New England
Reverend Simon Moyle
Christine Keavney, Stop the War Coalition
Wendy Bacon, Professor University of Technology, Sydney
Stuart Munckton and Simon Butler, Green Left Weekly co-editors
Sue Bolton, Socialist Alliance, Melbourne
Bruce Haigh, Retired Australian Diplomat
Jill Hickson, ARTV
Melanie Barnes, Resistance
Tony Harris, Greens member
Jim Dodrill, Catholic Worker
Jacinda Woodhead, Overland Magazine
Dr Ann Deslandes
Scott Burchill , academic
Susy Lee Deck