YOUR SAY: Afghanistan — An abhorrent legacy of the Howard/Bush/Blair years

Posted on October 12, 2010 by


I was of “Military Age” during the Vietnam War and luckily for me I had the forethought to register for the Army Reserve before my national service ballot as my lucky birthday number was selected in the draft of 1965. Furthermore, I consider myself very was lucky that I never had to serve in an alien country “on behalf” of Australia to prove some obscure political point.

I now look on the folly of Australia being involved in both Iraq and Afghanistan and think to myself; have our Governments learnt nothing from history? The Vietnam War was a total waste of valuable Australian life and Australian capital that would have been better spent on foreign aid or community infrastructure in Australia.

The fact that 100’s of Australian soldiers were killed and millions of Australian dollars were wasted during a senseless war seems to have been largely forgotten. I am not suggesting that we should dwell on our defeat in the Vietnam War, we need to move on. Wars are purely political; the common people have no interest in war or the outcome, they just want to live in peace with their families! I sincerely support the view that we, the Australian people, should see ourselves as friends of Vietnamese people.

Interestingly, Vietnam, after being ostracized during the 1960’s and 1970’s is now a great friend of Australia and one of Australia’s favourite tourist destinations!

Our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is just as senseless as our involvement in Vietnam was in the 1960’s. We are at war in these countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, not because we have been invited there to support the local population or their ideals, but because John Howard thought that it would be a good idea for Australia to support the USA in these theatres of war.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the USA and spend a lot of time in that magnificent country with great friends. It seems to me that the Government in the USA, as in Australia including the current Gillard Government, have lost their way in the world. As wealthy countries, we should be supportive partners in the greater world community; we have no right to consider ourselves the worlds policemen!

Truly, what right do we have, i.e the western democratic countries, to try and impose on the world and in particular countries in the Middle East, who have their own long histories and traditions, a way of life that suits us. Western democracy may well suit our lifestyle, and I love it, but it does not necessarily suit other countries and other cultures at this time in their history.

Armed westerners are not welcome in these countries and no matter what “our motives” we will always be considered the invaders by the local population. We will never win the hearts and minds of the people of Iraq, Afghanistan or any other Middle Eastern country and we will fail on every count as we did so dramatically in Vietnam.

It is time that our government realised this and withdrew our troops from Afghanistan and our military support role in Iraq. These countries will likely return to civil war once the “western police” leave but this is not our fight; we need to let the local populations sort out their own arrangements.

We, the western democracies, do not have to approve of their methods or their outcomes. However, we need to understand that the people of the Middle East should be allowed to establish their own political and cultural position in the world without the interference of “western world policemen”.

Australia should not consider any increase in troop numbers in Afghanistan, as bizarrely suggested by the Coalition; we should be withdrawing our troops immediately. Our young men and women, (solders), are suffering unnecessary causalities, their families are suffering inconsolable grief and the country is expending billions of dollars, a sacrifice that, in the end game will be seen for what it really is, a total waste of valuable Australian life and resource. As was clearly demonstrated in Vietnam!

The only winners from wars are the multinational arms manufacturers that supply the west and the illegal arms dealers that supply everybody else. The population of the impacted country is always the greatest looser and the invading countries, in this case Australia, USA and Britain (and NATO) are impoverished due to the cost of buying armaments, keeping supply lines open and caring for the damaged lives resulting from the conflict.

Australia needs to review its military ambitions in relation to our place in the world and channel our strength, ability and capital into foreign aid. If Australia had spent the money we have so far spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on educating women, girls and children in the third world and developing countries there would be less poverty, less terrorism and fewer refugees in our region.

The world would then truly be a better place.

I urge to write to your local politicians, expressing your dismay at Australia’s role in these illegal wars, urge them to take action during the upcoming parliamentary debate in Canberra, to facilitate the withdraw our troops immediately from these Middle East war zones where our soldiers are not welcome and more importantly not needed.


Keith Boxer is a climate and sustainability advocate from Bright, Victoria.  Keith is retired after a 22 year career with IBM in which he had numerous international project management roles in the United States, Canada, Japan and Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.  He is currently involved with the Alpine Sustainability Group in Alpine Shire and collaborates regularly in contact with Wodonga and Albury for Climate Health (WATCH) and the North East Regional Sustainability Alliance (NERSA).

The views in this story are those of the author and not necessarily those of Our Voice: Politics Albury-Wodonga.