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Afghanistan: graveyard of empires « Previous | |Next »
June 3, 2011

There is a sense of déjà vu about the spin from Canberra around the deaths of the Australian troops in Afghanistan. The official line is that "we are making "progress" (against the Taliban insurgency); that the training of Afghan troops so that they can operate independently is on track.

These glowing reports are then coupled to claims that early withdrawal would not serve Australia's national interest. It would create a vacuum and become a have for international terrorism once again. The Australian presence is set in stone according to both Gillard and Abbott in federal parliament ---until the job is done. They remain silent about Pakistan giving covert support to the Taliban.


This rhetoric is drearily familiar isn't it. We heard this kind of rhetoric for the last decade. It's kinda never ending, eternally repeating itself, in a weird loop. It only gets sidelined when one of the Afghan soldiers we have trained turns his gums on our troops and kills them. Of course, the politicians are not going to interpret these regular events as the Afghans wanting the foreigners to get out of their country quick smart.

The politicians cannot think in terms of Afghanistan as the graveyard of empires, even though that is plausible interpretation of history. As in Washington, there is a refusal to believe that Afghanistan could actually be the "graveyard" for the American role as the dominant hegemon on this planet.

This time it will be different. The US empire, backed by its allies, under the rubric of the war on terrorism, would invade Afghanistan, build bases, occupy the country, install a government of its choice and knock off the rag tag terrorists. This time it would be different. Triumphalism ruled--the Greeks called it hubris. Did not the US win the Cold War? Unlike every other empire, the US empire would not end up on the ash heap of Afghan history.

The decade of the US empire in Afghanistan shows otherwise. It is a record of destruction, civil war, corruption and an inability to build anything of value. The politicians, in struggling to acknowledge this reality, realize that it is only a question of time before the US leaves Afghanistan. In continuing to talk about progress being made in the graveyard, they deny that the progress in graveyard is about death. What we are left with are the memories of death.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:06 AM | | Comments (6)


Reading Robert Fisks' reporting from Afghanistan during the Russian invasion is sobering and only confirms your comments - even a mainstream commentator like Nicholas Stuart in the Canberra Times recently has confirmed that the writing is on the wall. The governor of the Uruzgun province is a war lord linked to the drug trade. Australia is paying protection money for its supply convoys - one third of that money paid goes to the Taliban according to Stuart.

Slightly off topic.

These days I just tune out at the media wailing and teeth gnashing whenever another soldier is killed.

Two reasons for this...

First, it is the chest-thumping MSM which has reduced the idea of war into a grotesque, juvenile, nationalist pissing contest.

Second, this war has been going on for a decade. And it's on of several concurrent wars started by powerful people with their own agenda. Surely any soldier who puts themselves on the front line has done some basic calculations and decided the odds are in THEIR favour. So it's their choice. I don't want them over there.

John Cole puts it as elegantly as usual: 'I honestly have no idea what we are doing in Afghanistan any more other than pissing people off, losing troops to a lost cause, wasting billions, and creating more terrorists'.

As he points out, nobody can explain how to win or even what winning would look like, but anyone who suggests leaving is viciously attacked as a traitor. It's the fallacy of sunk costs writ horrendously large. The idea that we have to stay more or less indefinitely just to provide some sort of comfort to the families who have lost sons and husbands and fathers is downright obscene, as if getting more and more people killed will somehow imbue all the deaths with meaning. And the opinions of the Afghans, needless to say, are neither invited nor considered.

Sorry to say, Ken... but apart any fallout from the financial cost, nobody is going to take notice.

The actual number of dead and maimed soldiers don't matter for shit! That's one of the great things about an all-volunteer military. They all asked to be there.

Bring back conscription!

The crowds at ANZAC marches get bigger and I don't think I have seen an anti-war march for years. So I guess if the troops come home it isnt going to be by people power.

Hey, maybe it's better if the troops don't come home for a long, long time.

Something occurred to me earlier today... I realised that for as long as we've had troops in Afghanistan, my postman has not been attacked by a Komodo dragon. How cool is that?

Now, some might say there's no correlation between the two or that a Komodo dragon attack on a postman is ALWAYS extremely unlikely. But is that really a risk we're willing to take? I mean, who would deliver all the wonderful eBay stuff?