Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Our military commitment to Afghanistan bothers me.

It doesn't seem to bother many Australians. You don't hear it discussed at barbeques. It's rarely on the front page, with the consistent exception of blanket reporting of the repatriation and funerals of the diggers killed there.

There have been 21 so far.

And this is at the heart of the issue. If our young men in uniform are dying there, they need to have the will and the commitment of the nation behind them. Put crudely, I don't see that.

Apart from what the polls tell us - I don't see anyone marching on the streets supporting them. I also don't see anyone demonstrating against the notion that we should be there.

This is a major difference from Vietnam. The year I was there (1970) saw the biggest marches in Australian history at the Moratoriums.
Obviously, Vietnam veterans don't look back on this with any fondness, but I sometimes wonder whether indifference is any better than outright opposition. At least those opposing the war had thought about it.

What is happening now looks very much like blind indifference. Put simply, most Australians really don't give a stuff.

I guess back in 1970, there was always the chance that you'd be "called up" or someone you knew, or your brother or son could be involved for no better reason than his birthday fell on a particular date. I remember sitting and freezing behind an M60 at 3am during an exercise back of Cambelltown in winter 1969, looking at the lights of the city and seething about all the 20 year-olds tucked up warmly in their beds.

That situation did not brook indifference in the Nasho concerned, or the family involved.

Perhaps we need something to happen that won't brook indifference about Afghanistan.

How about increasing the pay of every soldier on operational duty in Afghanistan to the level of a federal backbencher? After all, we keep hearing from both sides of politics how vital their involvement is to national security. Let's put a price on our security. The extra costs incurred could be recovered by an Afghanistan levy paid as a surcharge on income tax. That would get some kind of reaction fairly swiftly.

Alternatively, the banks could also be levied by imposing a super profits tax. They've done very well in this country as a result of being protected by the government during the global financial crisis. Sounds like fair dues to me.

Another option would be to offer free housing to families of deployed soldiers and free education vouchers to their children.

None of this will ever happen, of course. As soon as there is any move to share the financial burden across the community, the various lobby groups will be up in arms, and the politicians will turn to water. We are happy to endure causalities providing there are enough photo ops for the PM and the leader of the opposition, but the hip pocket is sacred.

Sorry to sound cynical but am I right or am I right?

Our diggers deserve better than this.

In terms of the reasons behind the current deployment - I agree with Andrew Wilkie in that these reasons have passed their use by date. Al Qaeda is quiescent in Afghanistan. The problem has moved across the border into Pakistan. In fact, there is a very strong argument that our continuing presence increases the risk of home-grown terrorism.

Sure, women are badly treated in Afghanistan. The same is the case in some parts of Somalia, and in all of Saudi Arabia. I don't hear any talk of deployments in these countries.

The other reason given for our continued deployment is to maintain faith in our alliances. This means, of course, that when the Americans move - we follow. That worked a treat in Vietnam - didn't it?

The Kiwis had the courage to stand up to the Americans over the nuclear ships issue, and after all the posturing was over (on both sides) nothing really changed. The Americans will support us if it's in their interest, not because of history. The alliance has more to do with geography than history.

Unless Australia is towed thousands of kilometres away from its current location, geography is a constant.

The wash-up, for me, at least, is we should stay until it's over, but only if the whole nation is behind it. In the past I've personally seen too much anguish and sorrow caused both here and in the country concerned (in the case of Vietnam) for any overseas deployment to be half-hearted.

The ultimate commitment of the diggers has to be matched at home; otherwise they are betrayed by their country each and every day they are deployed. Vietnam taught us that - if it taught us nothing else.  


cav said...

I have an idea.

How about a repatriation system that looks after the diggers and their families after the war?

I can see it now, a politician with hanky in hand waving off the troops to war, "Don't worry boys, we'll look after you."

How refreshing would that be?

1735099 said...

The hanky in hand thing has been going on since the Boer War.
The Repatriation system you describe has so far been a "never happen".

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