Six fighters from the private army of Afghan warlord, drug trafficker and highway robber Matiullah Khan were recently in Australia for training with the Australian Defence Forces, the October 29 Sydney Morning Herald said. Khan’s power base is in Oruzgan province, where most Australian forces in Afghanistan are stationed. Such is Khan’s reputation for criminality and violence that Dutch forces, who before their withdrawal in August were the largest foreign contingent in Oruzgan, refused to work with him.
Former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks was under a control order that prevented him from speaking about his ordeal for a year after his release. In an attempt to further silence him, on October 27 shadow attorney-general George Brandis called on the government to charge Hicks with profiting from crime for writing a book. The book about his experiences, Guantanamo: My Journey hit number four in the non-fiction bestseller category.
Hunter Valley activist Pete Gray gained notoriety on October 25 for throwing shoes at former prime minister John Howard on ABC’s political talk show, Q&A. Gray is a long-time activist committed to non-violent direct action. He is a member of climate action group Rising Tide and has also been involved in a variety of social justice campaigns. Gray’s decision to throw his shoes at Howard was a homage to Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at former US president George Bush during a press conference in December 2008.
Greens federal parliamentary leader Senator Bob Brown spoke in the parliamentary debate on the Australian military intervention in Afghanistan on October 25. His speech came amidst reports of growing unease in the Australian Labor Party ranks over the conservative line being implemented by the Gillard Labor minority federal government and an associated rise in support for the Greens to a record 14%.
Malalai Joya, now 32, was the youngest woman elected to the Afghan Parliament in 2005. A feminist activist who has defied the Taliban, Joya is also an outspoken opponent of the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan. Joya says the war is a crime against her people that is propping up corrupt warlords and fundamentalists no better than the Taliban.
On October 20, Wollongong Students Against War occupied the University of Wollongong’s Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC), bringing its operations to a halt for a few hours. SAW is waging a campaign against military research on campus, such as the DMTC’s work on the Joint Strike Fighter project with the US. SAW also organises opposition to the occupation of Afghanistan. For more information visit studentsagainstwar.wordpress.com.
During UN Disarmament Week (October 24-31), a bill to enact the UN Convention banning Cluster Munitions is to be tabled in the House of Representatives. However, it is unlikely to contain a provision prohibiting financial institutions from funding manufacturers of cluster bombs. It has been found that the ANZ bank has provided loans of $136.5 million to producers of cluster bombs.
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.