Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Charles Wooley

‘The fact is the war in Afghanistan was lost long ago …’

Australia had 270 soldiers in Afghanistan and now we have increased our commitment to 300.

The Americans are apparently not that impressed. You would need to believe that one digger is worth almost 30 Taliban to muscle up alongside the 8400-strong American force. With the highest regard for our troops I doubt anyone believes they are supermen.

Our army, like our Nato allies, operates on the basis of calculated risk. They try to minimize death and injury in their ranks during any engagement with the enemy.

Sensibly I think, having always been heavily on the risk averse side myself. “No point the reporter getting killed before he has written the script and recorded the voice-over,” I reason in the security of my hotel room.

Though I can tell you from experience there is no secure hotel in Kabul or anywhere else in Afghanistan. Nor is there a secure army base, as we know from the losses the allies have incurred in the so-called ‘green on blue attacks’, when enemies wearing the uniform of friendly Afghan security forces open fire on allied troops.

The Taliban frontline fighters are carelessly fearless. How do you limit your own casualties while fighting a crazy-brave enemy who welcomes death?

It’s a distant echo of the 12th Century and the fanaticism of the Christian Crusaders who had been promised by the Pope that if they fought Saracens they would go straight to Heaven, by-passing the horrors of Purgatory. Perhaps it wasn’t a hard choice: a direct ticket to heaven, or demons poking red-hot pokers up your bum for a thousand years.

In the modern era Afghanistan’s Taliban warriors are promised 72 virgins in Paradise if they die in battle. Age and experience makes me wonder if that’s as good a deal as it might sound. Eternity is such a long time. About as long as foreign invaders have been losing wars in Afghanistan.

In 300 BC Alexander the Great occupied the place and encountered ferocious opposition. Reputedly he said, “Afghanistan is easy to march into, hard to get out of.” Alexander never spoke a truer word as the British, the Russians and now the Americans and their allies know only too well.

Afghanistan has a grim and stark beauty but in the modern world has limited strategic importance. It has no oil and few resources apart from the indefatigable spirit of its people, whom I quite like but I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of them.

I fear the independent federal member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, a former military intelligence analyst, was right last week when he said, “The fact is the war in Afghanistan was lost long ago and Australia really should get out of the place.”

I was booked into the best pub in town, the Kabul Serena Hotel. It had clean rooms, landscaped gardens and reassuring fortifications. The manager explained to me the unhappy news that security was illusory in the Afghan capital. The Taliban had twice blown the gates and the hotel’s security men had fled.

Insurgent gunmen had come out of the kitchen with AK47s and killed guests who were the usual mix of western carpetbaggers, UN staffers, international medical and charity workers and journalists.

Then came the safety brief. I was shown a labyrinthine path down many stairs and corridors to a safe room. I complained I would never be able to locate it on my own in the dark. “In that case,” they told me, “if you stay in your room and they come for you, before they shoot they might ask if you know the name of the Prophet’s mother. It could help buy you some time if you know the correct answer.”

The Serena hotel is owned by the Aga Khan, one of the richest men in the world who is said to be a direct descendent of the prophet Muhammad. He has 25 million adherents but that does not always guarantee the safety of his guests.

A couple of weeks after my happy departure from the Serena, it was attacked again. My security people had always insisted the Serena was not especially dangerous by local standards. “Nowhere is safe. Not even the zone where the embassies are. The whole city is porous.”

As we have seen in the past week, there is nowhere in Kabul the Taliban cannot penetrate. ‘Porous’ is a military euphemism that avoids saying what Wilkie has more bluntly told us, that we have lost this war because just like in Vietnam we never won the hearts and minds of the people.

Wilkie believes that our involvement now only increases the threat of terrorism at home. “Sending more troops there just throws more fuel on the fire,” he said.

He might be right. What really needs to be asked now and answered clearly is this: if Afghanistan is as crucial to world order and to Australian security as both our government and the opposition assert then why are we there only in token numbers?

If Wilkie is right, 300 Australian soldiers might be enough to put us in more danger at home but not enough to make much difference on the battlefield.

*Charles Wooley is a legend of Australian journalism, partly through his history with Sixty Minutes. His columns on Tasmanian Times are HERE

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  1. Kim Peart

    July 9, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Re: 7 ~ The grip of Indonesia on western New Guinea is so tight, it will be more probable to see Jakarta take PNG and the Solomons, than for them to step back from New Guinea.

    War against Islamic State in Indonesia could see a justified taking of West Papua, should conflict go that far, and come that close.

    If we stumbled upon our moral compass in the mud of West Papua, then we might see the wit in allowing the western Papuans a real vote on self-determination, which in 1969 was run by Indonesia for the UN (why???????), by selecting 1025 men to be lectured under the shadow of guns, before stepping over a line drawn in the dirt, as the method of voting.

    We accepted that, and voted in the UN to allow West Papua to be joined to Indonesia.

    The alternative, the only alternative, was war with Indonesia.

    Deeply compromised as a nation, all we appear to run is an economy without soul in a society that has lost its principles, like a Fair Go.

    The other alternative is for Australia to rise as a space nation, by demand of the citizens, follow the path of the miners preparing to access the resources of the asteroids and the Moon, and help create territory for Indonesia with orbital space settlements, if they will leave New Guinea to the Papuans.

    That is physically possible, and with today’s level of technology, a global citizens space initiative can happen, as well as national.

    With the wealth of space, generated by the same power of the Sun that is the driver of life, we would be able to create a stellar economy that sends poverty into history.

    This is not about to happen on Earth alone, where poverty is used to drive growth, so some people can get a larger share of the pie.

    So will we, like the Eureka miners, look to the stars and see a better way, as those rebels did with the Southern Cross?

    That may be the only peaceful way we can allow western Papuans a vote on self-determination.

    That may also be the way we find the spine to wear a moral compass.

    Another Off-Earth Mining Forum happens in Sydney in September.

    The path of lasting change is not often seen, until it arrives.

    Who expected a few miners in Ballarat to rebel?

  2. William Boeder

    July 8, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    #2. Simon Warriner, I have read the very same literature or source of information that Australia is now a registered corporation in America.
    I have no doubt that this is a fair perspective, as somewhere around 30% of Australia’s Big Banks, unfortunately Macquarie Bank has inserted itself thereinto (by fair or foul means as no one will ever find out) are owned by American and other international banking interests this is an unarguable situation.
    Many commenters may now better understand my abhorrence to that former pusillanimous Prime Minister in the name of John W Howard.
    This same back-sliding primary-promising subject of much derision then finally was ejected from his own State government seat by the voters, John Howard, he that still parades himself about on the international easy-squeezee money trail available to former blowhards and ‘out of use by date’ political word benders and word twisters, add to that the fact that these spruikers often choose to alter the historical facts held on international historic record.
    Let me briefly refer to the Lombok Treaty signed by this same offensive person, this allows that Australia will not interfere in the Indonesian rule of Papua/West Papua, meanwhile the indigenous people of that land are still subject to the planned genocide by the special external territory police contingents, then of the warlords of Indonesia, that are intent on the slaughter of that entire race of people.
    Many tribal elders and people standing against Indonesia for their human rights are simply shot.

    (Usually these influential tribal spokespersons and stalked and end up being shot to death by persons that may have been the recipients of special terrorist training made available to them by the Australian government.)
    This militant group of sinister covert purpose bears the name of Kopassus, or in English,they are referred to as Detachment 88.
    Thank you John Howard for your showing of cowardice toward the magnitude of human rights abuse, severe beatings, torture and outright slaughter of the indigenous people of Papua/West Papua.

  3. Kim Peart

    June 29, 2017 at 5:46 am

    Re: 5 ~ I am sad to read how the gains Australian diggers made in Afghanistan have been lost.

    So what ere we do now may simply be the rat-a-tat-tat of the retreat, as the Eastern nations move in to take charge.

    We see China building a highway through Pakistan to a port on the Indian Ocean, which they built.

    We see Russia taking a renewed interest in Afghanistan.

    We see Iran training Afghans.

    The East, now with China’s and Iran’s rising dominance, will be playing for keeps.

    The US plays and leaves, and we get caught up in that game, at a great cost in treasure and life.

    America’s clumsy power game of wishful thinking has allowed the Islamic State to rise, and now we see IS in our north.

    Considering the number of militant Muslims across SouthEast Asia, we may see a war that grows, and a US general tells us this will be a decades long battle.

    America’s nuclear umbrella cannot save us from mass-militants that may look to a highway through New Guinea.

    Our choice now is how well we rise to our own defence.

    We have been made soft, and rather defenceless against mass-militants.

    I suspect that we may now need to revive a national defence plan that is built on the ability of every able citizen to defend this land.

    I predict that we will be fighting in New Guinea, and we need to prepare for that.

    Our prime question may be where we draw the battle-line in New Guinea.

    Will it be through the middle, or around the whole island?

  4. philll Parsons

    June 28, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    War is just that.

    Failure to set limited objectives in relation to Osama bin Laden has left the West with a problem that only the Afghans can fix.

    Peart is right about better living conditions but in the meantime ignorance will delay their arrival as Pakistan manoeuvres through the Taliban and local warlordism keeps the economy divided and suppressed.

    However limited assistance to train national security forces seems only right and proper after our involvement earlier.

    But we also need to press for a national reconciliation by the various peoples that make up Afghanistan.

  5. Kim Peart

    June 28, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Re: 3 ~ Australian national defence is based on living under the American nuclear umbrella, so we go all the way, or as far as we dare, with Uncle Sam to curry nuclear defence.

    This radioactive currying saw us participate in the sacrifice of West Papua to Indonesia in 1962, go along the the invasion of East Timor in 1975, and join in the illegal in vision of Iraq, which later saw the rise of the Islamic State, which has now come to our doorstep in the Philippines, where we have already begun military involvement ~

    Considering the size of militant Islam in SouthEast Asia, we can now wonder how a major war will not break out, which will spread into New Guinea and threaten us.

    If we had stood by West Papua in 1962, and said “No” to Washington, and said “No” to Jakarta, and defended New Guinea, our defence position would be that much stronger now.

    We sold our soul in 1962, along with losing our moral compass in the mud of New Guinea.

    Do we have time to find our soul and spine now as a nation?

    That is the burning question we must all front up to now.

  6. Steve

    June 28, 2017 at 2:32 am

    Historically, I don’t believe anyone has conclusively won a war in Afghanistan.
    I’m with the author and Wilkie. Why are we there?

  7. Simon Warriner

    June 25, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Some 300 tonnes of heroin comes out of Afghanistan every year. The Taliban had it down to near zero. It is allegedly managed by the CIA for their black budget. Given the billions spent by the US military it is hard to see how that trade has not been stopped, but I could be missing something. Of course it is strategically important for those whose interests the CIA actually serves, so it will remain an active occupation. The real question is why the hell is Australia allowing the US to parade it around on the end of its arm as a sock puppet. Turnbull’s prior involvement with the Nuggan Hand Bank is one possible answer, but given the length of time it has been going on there must be other reasons.

    A commentator on this site some time ago pointed to links that reveal one possible answer. They might like to repost the links so our intrepid journo can follow up and report back as to the veracity of that story. That is what journo’s do, isn’t it, Charles?

    Something about Australia being a wholly owned corporation registered in Delaware, if my memory serves me correctly. Who owns it, who registered it and on what grounds?

    I know, its a conspiracy theory, but the evidence, if it exists will be a matter of public record and thus make it easy to confirm or debunk..

  8. Kim Peart

    June 25, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    It may be China that finds its way into Afghanistan next, in collaboration with Pakistan and Iran, to build an authoritarian peace, with trade added, as they build roads to Europe to harvest gold.

    Ultimately, it will be the ability to eliminate poverty that will build a lasting peace.

    It is in this context that China’s space ambitions will inspire different ways, as Eastern collaboration with space development draws in nations, communities and individuals hungry for adventure.

    When the adventure of space is there to inspire, the interest in death by war will fade.

    It is the failure of the West to learn this basic lesson, that is the real driver of war on Earth.

    We cannot tell people to be good and expect them to sit around starving to death, so we feel safe.

    When we offer inspiration and hope with adventure in space, then we will be able to turn the tides of war on Earth.

    China is showing all signs of applying the space alternative.

    The nations have fiddled with space development to date, when they could have been more serious in creating a future among the stars, and diminished the lust for war on Earth.

    Look who profits from Western involvement in wars.

    There lies the real problem, driving a culture of death, instead of investing in life.

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