WOLLONGONG — The Illawarra's peak union body, the South Coast Labour Council (SCLC), has called on the Australian government to pull troops out of Afghanistan and pursue an independent foreign policy. “In recent decades Australia has been dragged into quagmire after quagmire — blindly following the United States into military disasters that have resulted in hundreds of thousands of military and civilian casualties”, Arthur Rorris, SCLC secretary, said on October 22.
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, 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.
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 3, US authorities warned US citizens travelling in Western Europe that there was an increased threat from Islamist terrorism. The same day, British authorities cautioned their citizens travelling in France or Germany. France, for its part, issued a warning for French nationals visiting Britain. The nature of the supposed terrorist threat was unspecified. The media breathlessly speculated about planned “Mumbai-style” attacks.
The following statement was released by the Socialist Alliance on October 8. * * * On October 17, 2001, the Liberal/National Coalition government of John Howard 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 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, by noting the US' hypocrisy and pledging to campaign against then president George W. Bush's “war without end”.
Pip Hinman has been pre-selected to run for the Socialist Alliance in the NSW seat of Marrickville in the March state elections. She is an activist journalist and stood in the seat in 2007. Hinman was active in the pro-choice movement in Sydney and Brisbane in the 1980s and 1990s. Below, she responds to the October 14 not guilty verdict in the trial of the Cairns couple charged under Queensland’s abortion laws. * * * The not guilty finding of the young Cairns couple should be the impetus for the NSW government to remove abortion from the NSW Crimes Act of 1900.
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.