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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

HILL END: "Two sisters, a similar vein, Star of Hope, aureum buyers, stained glass…" PLInkletter rambled, "just picture it if you can, hi ho, silver!"

Be all that as it may, meanwhile:
'In other news…'
19th October 2010

Tuesday: I chatted to cousin Vee in Broome today, to catch up with his health outcomes, and there is some encouraging news with a little weight gain.

Lateline: The (Leigh) Sales Graph: Ms Sales interviewed Prime Minister Julia Gillard, both in Canberra, and it was well worth watching for several reasons, least of all the fact that both women looked fabulous.

Leigh Sales asked, and kept asking, some challenging questions, of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, fragrantly and professionally, on Lateline
As an aside, we might have been witnessing the current Prime Minister being interviewed by a future Prime Minister. I've said it before. Ms Sales would have to summons up some (artificial) Inner Mongrel, because politicians, especially leaders, seem to need a higher IMQ (Inner Mongrel Quotient) than others. So that would be a bit sad, but if anyone could do it and keep her inner beauty, my money's on Ms Sales.

Now my first overall impression is that Ms Sales managed to tread that delicate line of remaining polite and professional, while asking and pursuing some lines that Ms Gillard would doubtless prefer not to have to be examined on in public. Rather than lose all balance and bludgeon the Prime Minister – do a Kerry O'BrienMs Sales achieved the difficult goal of remaining fragrant, helping her honoured interlocutor portray herself well also, while not shying away from Ms Gillard's discomfort zones.

This would not be easy to pull off, and Ms Sales did it very well.

The subject which was threatening the Prime Minister's comfort zones was Australia's military and civil involvement in Afghanistan, the subject being debated in Parliament for the first time today, thanks to the Howard Government's going all the way with GWB almost a decade ago without parliamentary examination first.

I am dismayed that both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott both assiduously avoid, assuming they even understand, some inexorable facts that plague the whole Afghanistan mission. To help illustrate what I mean, let's do a thought experiment:
Australia, all alone, militarily invaded a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan almost a decade ago, to remove that dangerous and barbaric leadership which gave safe haven to Al-Qaeda. The vast bulk of the population welcomed us, and still do. The people crave a liberal democracy, long denied them, wherein equality of the sexes would be the norm, as would freedom of religion.

Although the cost of the military and civil input is large, Australia is so well off that it is just small change, with little of importance back on home soil not being adequately funded for the maintenance and betterment of the nation. No health waiting lists, no-one sleeping on the streets, no environmental issues worsening, everything on the up and up.

And so our military command is running the show, neither answerable to any allies nor dependent upon them. The government of Afghanistan is corruption free, and their military is rapidly training up to world's best discipline and ethical standards, paralleling our own.

Afghanistan's neighbour Pakistan is squeaky clean, and fully cooperating with the effort to eliminate the refuge for violent fundamentalists across the shared mountainous border. No other nation is interested in helping insurgencies or locals to defeat us.

Need I continue the fairy tale?

A quick look now at what the actual case is:
Virtually half the population of Afghanistan consider the other half as inferiors, who have far less right to an education, health care, justice, freedoms of any kind.

Virtually all of the population subscribe to a religion that practices severe intolerance of religious freedom, and insists on the church being the state. Thus our soldiers and civil personnel are considered to be infidel, with the negative connotations that come with that.

The nation of Afghanistan, or should I say that collective of tribes, has no long hard fought and fruitful experience with the institutions of a liberal democracy, has no extensive modern infrastructures to speak of serving the government, health, environmental, energy, agricultural, and justice needs of its people. Might we not have to be there for fifty years, even with their wholehearted cooperation?

The allies running the combination of operations known as Operation Enduring Freedom and International Security Assistance Force are mostly undeclared bankrupts, most especially the USA followed by Britain, no less than the two powers doing the lion's share. The Netherlands has withdrawn, having been largely based in Uruzgan Province; Canada is leaving by July next year, Kandahar Province being their main base.

The amount of things that have to keep working cooperatively to pull the whole show off eventually are myriad.

Imagine that Australia succeeds brilliantly in Uruzgan Province, bringing the region into the 21st century against the odds, taking billions of our dollars to do it, and a lot more lives and health of our soldiers. Then the national government implodes, is taken over by rabid fundamentalists again, the allies dump their commitments throughout the rest of the country… How long will Uruzgan Province last as a bastion of a liberal democracy in the making, doing Australia proud?

All of our efforts, every drop of Australian blood and every cent of Australian money, depend for their lasting success upon the wholehearted commitment from a hotchpotch of lily-livered confused thinking bankrupt nations, rapidly losing the support of their voters. It does not bode well does it?

As awful as it is to consider, it may well be better to cut our losses, and leave a sinking ship before our bodies melt into jelly on the sea floor along with the whole battleship. 21 Australian lives and mission UNaccomplished may be far better than hundreds more Australian lives and mission NEVERaccomplished.

Does it make sense to join with an ally when it does something ill-thought through? John Howard leapt in with Bush and Blair because we are allies. Gillard used the same reasoning tonight under Ms Sales' questioning. Yes we're allies, but no we don't have to be stupid. The peanut gallery in charge of the United States at the time of the 9/11 atrocity demonstrated an appalling grasp of global dynamics, and only made a bad situation far worse. Why keep justifying to ourselves that we haven't been a part of that stupidity?

Faced with two paths, the less stupid and the more stupid, how stupid is it to keep choosing the more stupid?

It was clear to me from Leigh Sales' questions that the journalist is far from convinced of the arguments that the leaderships of the Labor and Coalition parties are mounting for continuing the mission in Afghanistan. Our leaders need to be kept in the frying pan of scrutiny.

Prime Minister Gillard said, in answer to a very clear and simple series of excellent questions from Ms Sales, "Our mission, of course, is to make sure Afghanistan doesn't become a safe haven for terrorists." Well, how impossible, given the mindset of the populace as well as the fundamentalist sewer across the inhospitable and porous border with Pakistan, and even if it was possible, how redundant, given the globalisation of terrorist opportunity, assisted mightily by the internet; how many British have died at the hands of British terrorists this decade?

The PM also highlighted her own lack of understanding or honesty with the Australian citizenry – or was it a flagging of her gullibility? – when in answer to Ms Sales' characteristically precise question: "But to what standard (government provision of services), I guess I'm wanting to know?

"Because in looking to benchmarks you need things that can be measured and there's a big difference between the sort of elections we have here, for example, and the sort of elections you have in Afghanistan.

"So I'm wondering where in that continuum you would think that that's a functional government?"

Julia Gillard: "Leigh, in part this is for the Afghan national people to determine.

"We are not there nation building in that sense. The Afghan people have to do that nation building themselves."
Here is the immense risk: the determination that the 'Afghan national people' reach will be far from satisfactory from our national interest position, nowhere near commensurate with our sacrifices of life, health, and finances, even very harmful to us.

Imagine the advantages we could be leaving in the shape of a trained military and civil infrastructure to the next bunch of fanatics to hold the reins of power in Afghanistan! Even if 'moderates' rule Afghanistan, how much of our hard-earned and hard-sacrificed will assist women, children, civil society, and how much will further hard-line Islam? 

And let me be clear: I would dearly like to be wrong, and see the fruition of the allied efforts with a rapid achievement of a peaceful self-governing society in a stable and developing Afghanistan, with a consequent orderly and soon wind-down of all military engagement by all concerned. The nation would obviously be Islamic flavoured, but how about a moderate flavour? And let it then hold its head high a part of the United Nations of peaceable forward-striving collective of humanity.

A great interview conducted most skillfully by Ms Sales, and most politically astutely by a weasel-worded Ms Gillard. This quality of interview is so valuable, to alert the thinkers among the Australian people of the spin that infects and directs our national policy, and also for posterity when a higher quality of history-motivated citizenry will be able to study just how mealymouthed our politics was.

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