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Issue #1476      13 October 2010

War in Afghanistan – nine years on

Rally in Perth

In Perth at midday at the Wesley Corner over 70 peace activists gathered to hear a diverse range of people speak out against the war in Afghanistan on the ninth anniversary of the US invasion.

On October 9, 2001, following the attacks on the twin World Trade Towers in New York City on September 9, 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan on the pretext of looking for Osama bin Laden, his al Qaeda organisation and other terrorist organisations including the Taliban.

It led former US president George W Bush to embark on a “war on terror” which ultimately became a war of terror on thousands of innocent men, women and children who would be killed, maimed and injured in the invasion and occupation which followed.

The chairperson for the protest in Perth was Felicity Hill of the Women’s International League for Peace and introduced the event by reminding those assembled of the social and economic cost of this war since 2001 was over $286 billion. How many schools, medical clinics and other infrastructure could have been built in Afghanistan with this money instead lining the pockets of the industrial military complex to facilitate a “war of conquest for the region’s resources”?

The next speaker was Scott Ludlam, one of the two Greens senators for Western Australia, who expressed his dismay that we were still here nine years later protesting this unjust war. Ludlam also spoke about one of the revelations to come out of the Wikileaks controversy from earlier this year which detailed the extra judicial killings carried out by Task Force 373 against suspected or merely accused al Qaeda operatives and how this had tainted Australia’s military operation there, when one considers that Australia takes a lot of its orders from US military command.

Scott Ludlam.

The speaker who followed brought home the stark reality which faces Australian men and women who see combat duties in distant lands face a traumatic life upon their return.

Bill Holmes is a former Australian soldier who had served in Papua New Guinea in 1972 and 1973 and again in 1974 and 1975 as that country prepared for its independence.

With barely contained grief he spoke of the mental and physical scars that soldiers have to carry upon return from these conflicts – the trauma which they will carry for the rest of their lives and also affects their families. This battle scarring is well and truly being played out amongst soldiers returning from the harsh and brutal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bill Holmes urged the current PM Julia Gillard not to think about bringing back conscription which would well and truly increase the 21 body bags which have brought back fallen comrades from Afghanistan so far.

Former Greens Senator and veteran campaigner on peace and anti-nuclear issues Jo Valentine spoke of the impact of the war on families in Afghanistan and especially its impact on women. Their enemies at the moment are principally the Taliban, the government of President Hamid Karzai and the occupation forces – the latter who subject lives to indiscriminate or errant bombing attacks.

To help defend the rights of women in Afghanistan groups have been formed – of which the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan (RAWA) is the oldest and most well known – which seek to protect and encourage Afghan women to stand up for themselves and also to educate themselves and their daughters. In Australia people who wish to contribute to this organisation can contact the Support Association of the Women of Afghanistan (SAWA).

Jo Valentine concluded her speech by raising the spectre of depleted uranium which was being used in Afghanistan and had been used in Iraq.

It is an urgent reminder that, as Alex Bainbridge had concluded in his speech, “You cannot win a war, you can only end it.”

Alex Bainbridge.

It is time to bring the troops home now and that this will stop the war.  

Next article – Taking Issue – Capitalism worn out

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