Special forces soldier Sean McCarthy has died from injuries sustained in Afghanistan and I extend my deepest sympathy to his family and friends. This is the sixth Australian military death reported since Australia threw itself into the 2001 invasion of that unhappy land, in which over 1500 civilians have died and countless more maimed. Defence chief Angus Houston says that Australian forces will now "harden their resolve to go after Taliban bombmakers", but the biggest bombmakers and bomb droppers by far are the U.S. Military.
For seven years Coalition forces have been pouring fire and brimstone onto the mud brick compounds of Afghani families. In July 2002, snug in their AC-130 bombers, American pilots wiped out a wedding party in Uruzgan province, killing 48 civilians - mostly women and children - and injuring 117 locals. Their excuse? Sounds of gunfire below. But Afghan Government officials and witnesses said the only gunfire from the area came from wedding guests who fired their rifles in celebration. The U.S. maintained it acted "properly and in accordance with the rules". Whose rules?
For pilots and CIA torturers, the invasion is a ball. An average of 40 air strikes a day on an enemy without an airforce - how good is that?
Depleted uranium? You got it.
Cluster bombs? Let ‘em rain.
Murder for the hell of it? See the movie.
The Australia presence in Afghanistan makes us complicit in such crimes. But of course, as with Iraq, we have trained ourselves to look the other way. So here we are six years later, almost to the month, and what have we learned? That the U.S. military still can't tell the difference between a Taliban cell and wedding party. On July 16/08, the BBC reported that "at least" 20 people had been killed in a missile strike by U.S. helicopters in Nangarhar province, 19 of them women and children. According to RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, the bride and two of her female relatives were among the victims. Why can't the Pentagon learn from its mistakes? Maybe the 4th of July pumps up testosterone (two days before the wedding attack,15 civilians died in a missile strike).
In response to the tragic death of Sean McCarthy, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the mission in Afghanistan was "difficult, dangerous and bloody", but he didn't remind us what the mission was. Could it be that he too has forgotten? Yes, the Taliban are vicious, life denying thugs, like the juntas in Burma, Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, etc, but we aren't crashing their weddings. What do the Afghan locals think?
RAWA has been struggling for human rights and social justice since the 1970's. They say that outing the Taliban and plonking the warlords in power merely "replaced one fundamentalist regime with another" and for them "freedom and democracy can't be donated; it is the duty of the people of a country to fight and achieve these values". But like all the invaders before us, we claim to know better.