Independent Andrew Wilkie won the Tasmanian seat of Denison at the recent federal elections. Previously, the seat had been held by Duncan Kerr for 23 years and was considered a safe Labor seat. Wilkie came to prominence in 2003 when he resigned from his job at the Office of National Assessments in public protest against the then Liberal/National Coalition government's decision to invade Iraq. The invasion was based on the claim Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, a claim that later proved false.
August 19 marked 91 years since Afghanistan gained its freedom from the British Empire, following three bloody wars of independence. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued a video statement to mark the occasion. It’s worth watching, if only to appreciate the new Empire’s irony-laden platitudes. In her greetings of “friendship”, Clinton wished Afghans a “happy and safe Independence Day”. She said: “On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I want to congratulate the people of Afghanistan on 91 years of independence.
The death of Lance-Corporal Jared Mackinney in Oruzgan province in Afghanistan on August 25 brought the death toll of Australian soldiers to 21 — 10 of whom have died since June. Mackinney was the third Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan in four days. Defence minister Senator John Faulkner defensively admitted at a media conference the same day that Australians are increasingly questioning the near nine-year old war.
The cover of the August 9 edition edition of Time magazine featured a shocking picture of Bibi Aisha, a young woman whose nose and ears had been cut off. The photo was accompanied by the headline: “What happens if we leave Afghanistan”. However, what happened to Aisha took place in Afghanistan under Western occupation. In return for allowing Time to publish her photo, Aisha was flown to the US for reconstructive surgery. However, although Time ensured her mutilated face was seen worldwide, they appear less keen for her voice to be heard.
Last month, I stood in the Guildhall Square in Derry and watched as the relatives of the 14 innocent victims of the British Parachute Regiment expressed their delight at the Saville report’s conclusion that the 14 were innocent victims. At the time of the killings the dead were labelled as terrorists by the British government. The British system and, to its shame, much of the British media, accused those who had been shot of being “gunmen” and “bombers”.
“If the people keep identifying democracy as a system that is worst [sic] than the Taliban government, the people will support the anti-coalition forces and the security condition will degenerate”, an unnamed member of the Paktya provincial council is quoted in one of 75,000 classified US reports about the military occupation of Afghanistan published by the Wikileaks website on July 26. Before publication, the files were shared with journalists from the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel for authentication and analysis.
Why are the British and US governments saying the leak of military documents about Afghanistan has "put our soldiers at risk"? It's us who have been kept hidden from this information, not the Taliban. For example, many of the revelations are previously hidden details of civilian casualties, but Afghans in those areas probably already knew about those deaths.
Defence minister Senator John Faulkner has joined the list of cabinet members who, since Julia Gillard became prime minister, have said they will resign from the front bench after the upcoming elections. He dismissed suggestions that this was because he had doubts about the unpopular war in Afghanistan, which he has the task of promoting.
Citizens rallied in two Afghan cities on July 10 and 11, chanting slogans against the occupying powers and the unpopular regime of President Hamid Karzai for failing to protect civilians. On July 10, hundreds took to the streets of Mazar-i-Sharif to demand that all occupation forces leave. The protest was organised after an artillery barrage from occupying NATO forces killed six civilians in Paktia province on July 8 and US troops killed two civilians in a pre-dawn raid in the city on July 7. Protesters chanted slogans against occupation forces and Karzai.
The TV anchorwoman was conducting a split screen interview with a journalist who had volunteered to be a witness at the execution of a man on death row in Utah for 25 years. “He had a choice”, said the journalist, “lethal injection or firing squad”. “Wow!” said the anchorwoman. Cue a blizzard of commercials for fast food, teeth whitener, stomach stapling, the new Cadillac. This was followed by the war in Afghanistan, presented by a correspondent sweating in a flak jacket.