On October 19, at exactly 3.30pm, the Lib-Lab politicians suddenly went from smirk to sombre as the Afghanistan “debate” finally started — nine years too late. It was a farce. Despite most Australians opposing being involved in the US-led occupation, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Australian troops could remain for 10 years — which is longer than even the US government predicts.
Below are excerpts from the October 20 speech in the federal House of Representatives — part of the debate on the war in Afghanistan — by Greens member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt. The full text can be read here. * * *
The second MP to speak in the House of Representatives debate on Australian military intervention in Afghanistan – a debate held nine years after the intervention began – was the newly elected independent Member for Denison (Tasmania) Andrew Wilkie.
On October 19, at exactly 3.30pm, the Lib-Lab politicians suddenly went from smirk to sombre as the Afghanistan “debate” finally started – nine years too late. I was sitting in the public gallery, along with fellow activists from Sydney Stop the War Coalition, watching “question time” – where backbenchers ask “Dorothy Dixers” of their “senior” front benchers. We were becoming increasingly irritated by the major parties’ self-important MPs filling up the time with ridiculous antics while being ineffectively berated by the long-suffering speaker.
On October 19, Sydney Stop The War Coalition activist Marlene Obeid was dragged out of the parliamentary public gallery as Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that Australian troops would be "engaged in Afghanistan at least for the rest of this decade". "They are war criminals", said Obeid as she was dragged off by Parliament House security guards. She was right but, until the new Greens MP Adam Bandt spoke (see full speech below) , her stifled protest was the sole voice for peace and justice in the House of Representatives chamber.
US relations with Pakistan have deteriorated as the US continues to extend its war in neighbouring Afghanistan across the border. The US blames the use of sanctuaries in Pakistan by insurgents for the failure of the US-led occupation of Afghanistan to achieve its aims. Pakistan closed its border with Afghanistan after the September 30 shooting of three Pakistani soldiers by US soldiers in a helicopter. The US soldiers had crossed the border looking for insurgents.
Statement from the Socialist Alliance National Executive October 8, 2010 On October 17, 2001 the Howard Coalition government deployed Australian troops to Afghanistan, just nine days after the US had begun bombing one of the most poverty stricken and war weary nations on earth. The then newly-formed Socialist Alliance responded to this attack and its reputed catalyst, the terrorist bombings on New York and Washington some weeks earlier, by noting the US' hypocrisy and pledging to campaign against Bush's “war without end”.
On September 27, the Australian Director of Military Prosecutions announced that charges were being laid against three soldiers from Australia’s Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan. The charges were over the February 12, 2009, killing of two adults and four children near the village of Sarmorghab in Oruzgan province.
As if straight out of a Cold War era movie, US corporate media outlets such as the Miami Herald ran headlines on September 18 claiming scientists from Albuquerque “tried to sell classified nuclear data to Venezuela”. Readers were no doubt shocked to read in the Miami Herald that “an elderly maverick scientist who battled the scientific community for decades over laser fusion was indicted Friday in New Mexico, charged with trying to sell classified nuclear weapons data to Venezuela”.
On September 18, elections were held in Afghanistan amid killings of civilians. The Taliban had said it would disrupt the vote by killing those taking part, but the elections’ sponsors — the US-led occupation forces — also killed civilians on polling day. Afghan and international media reported election day deaths from Taliban attacks, US air strikes, and fighting between foreign troops and insurgents, as well as between supporters of rival candidates.
US-NATO command and their puppets in Kabul are pushing ahead with lower house elections in Afghanistan on September 18. This is despite civilian casualties rising by 31% this year, a surge of occupying troop numbers and new evidence of widespread corruption emerging. A scandal surrounding the country’s largest commercial bank, Kabul Bank, has implicated one of Afghan President Hamid Kazai’s brothers. Mahmoud Karzai, when head of Kabul Bank, is said to have made millions from risky investments in the collapsing Dubai property market.
“Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret ‘kill team’ that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies”, the September 9 Guardian said. “Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year.” The other seven are charged with helping to cover up these atrocities and assaulting a soldier who exposed the murders, the Guardian said.
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.