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Andrew Wilkie on Afghanistan

Andrew Wilkie on Afghanistan

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Published by Jeff Richards
Not a huge fan of Andrew Wilkie, independent member of parliament, but this speech against the Afghanistan intervention is very good.
Not a huge fan of Andrew Wilkie, independent member of parliament, but this speech against the Afghanistan intervention is very good.

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Jeff Richards on Oct 20, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Andrew Wilkie
s Speech to Afghanistan Debate - 20 Oct 2010
Thank you Mr Speaker.Mr Speaker,
I’m a Duntroon graduate and former Army Lieutenant Colonel
. For atime I served as a senior intelligence analyst. I believe in just war and supported the2001 invasion of Afghanistan on the grounds that al Qaida was involved in the 9/11terror attacks, and so significantly intertwined with the Taliban that any effective USresponse warranted regime change in Kabul.Unsurprisingly
I’m a strong supporter
of the Australian Defence Force, and have been as saddened as anyone that
my old battalion
the Sixth, based at Enoggerain Brisbane
which has lately borne the brunt of casualties in Afghanistan.I was a platoon commander, the adjutant and then a company commander in 6 RARand understand well the difficulty of the job our soldiers are doing in our name.On balance
I’m also pro
-US. The United States and Australia are natural allies onaccount of our common histories, cultures, values and strategic security interests.The US-Australia bilater
al relationship is understandably one of Australia’
s mostimportant and I can understand
Prime Minister John Howard’s decision to invoke
the ANZUS alliance after 9/11. When the US is in strife it is right that we shouldcome to its aid, as in fact we should try and help any country so long as doing so iswithin our means and consistent with our national interests.But,
despite all this, I’m a vocal critic of the war in Afghanistan and believe we must
 bring our combat troops home as soon as possible. And when I say as soon aspossible, I envisage a withdrawal timeline carefully planned by militaryprofessionals, not politicians, which speedily hands military responsibility over toAfghan security forces in a matter of months.Yesterday the Prime Minister was talking about us still waging war in Afghanistanin ten years time.
That was an extraordinary admission of the difficulties we’ve gone
and got ourselves in to and entirely inconsistent with our national interest. If it wasup to me,
I’d be
very concerned with any military plan that still had us fighting inAfghanistan in 10 months time, let alone 10 years.Mr Speaker, in 2001 Afghanistan was a launching pad for Islamic extremism. Butnow the country is irrelevant in that regard because Islamic extremism has morphedinto a global network not dependent on any one country.Yes, countries like Pakistan are incubators for terrorists. But so are countries likeAustralia, Indonesia, the United Kingdom and United States which now grow their
own terrorists. And this is a much more worrying situation because it enlarges thethreat and
 buries it deep within us where it’s even harder
for the security services todetect.In 2001 Osama bin Laden was thought to be in Afghanistan. But now no one knowswhere he, is or e
ven if he’s alive or dead. Not that it matters anymore, because his
ideas have taken hold and grown strong globally.In 2001 al Qaida was
the world’s pre
-eminent Islamic terrorist organisation. But nowal Qaida, like bin Laden, is much less important because it has spawned off-shootsdirectly and inspired other terror groups to crystallise.The misguided response to 9/11, not the least of which was the failure to finish the job in Afghanistan when we had the chance in 2002, followed by the outrageousinvasion of Iraq in 2003, has resulted in a significant baseline number of would-beIslamic terrorists and a global network of small terrorist clusters.In other words, Afghanistan is
no longer relevant to Australia’s security in the way it
was in 2001 and the continued Government and Coalition insistence that we muststay in Afghanistan to protect Australia from terrorists is deliberately misleading
agreat lie which, in recent Australian history, is second only to the gross Governmentdishonesty over Austr
alia’s decision to join in the invasion of Iraq.
 Mind you just yesterday there was no shortage of misleading statements in this placeregarding our military commitment in Afghanistan. Both the Prime Minister and theOpposition Leader laid it on thick with 9/11, the Bali bombings and the attacks onour Embassy in Jakarta.Yes, a token effort was made to distance these shocking events from our current rolein Afghanistan, but the way they were recounted achieved the
aim offorming associations in
people’s minds
and steering listeners towards the conclusionthat the terrorist attacks of years ago are as relevant today to our mission inAfghanistan as they were then.If there is in fact any relevance of Afghanistan to terrorism and Australian securitynowadays
 , then it’s
the way in which the ongoing war continues to enragedisaffected Muslims around the world. Just last week, the Victorian Supreme Court heard that that one of the men allegedlyplotting to stage an attack at Holsworthy Army Barracks in Sydney was angry at
Australia’s o
ngoing presence in Afghanistan.
According to media reports, one Wissam Fattal discussed a trip by former PrimeMinister Kevin Rudd to Germany to hold discussions about the war and was
overheard to say ‘it
was shameful that Australian troops killed innocent people.
 Mr Speaker, if the Government and Coalition are going to continue to argue for
years’ more fighting
in Afghanistan, and deaths, then you need to start being honestwith the Australian community. Ditch the dishonest terrorism rhetoric and try andsell the real reasons for our seemingly open-ended involvement in a war that hasgone from bad to worse over nine years, making it one of the longest wars inAustralian history. Only the 13 years of the Malayan Emergency and
the 10 year’s
service of the Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam surpass it.
The reality is that the main reason we’re in Afghanistan is to support the United
States, and by that support to enhance the likelihood of the US coming to our aid in
the event Australia’s security is one day threatened.
Such a reason for staying inAfghanistan has appeal to a not insignificant number of Australians.Problem is,
a misplaced appeal because the reality of foreign policy remains thatalliances last only so long as interests overlap. So US support for Australia at somepoint in the future will depend on our usefulness to Washington at that exact pointin time. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and other supposed down-payments on ourAmerican insurance policy will not, in themselves, necessarily amount to anything.Turning this point around is the reality that Australia is, and will remain, asimportant to United S
strategic interests as the US is to ours. Our location,political and social stability and inherent security, in part because of our air-sea gapand inhospitable frontiers, combine to ensure this is one piece of real estate the USwill continue to be prepared to shed blood over.Some commentators see in New Zealand a demonstration of the pe
rils of saying ‘no’
to America. But the reality is that Prime Minister David Lange
’s decision in 1984 to
deny US nuclear ship visits did not unplug Wellington from US securityarrangements for the simple reason of the continuing need for America to access thematerial collected by at least the Waihopai signals intelligence ground stationlocated on the North Island.In other words, the bilateral New Zealand-United States security arrangement didcontinue, albeit in another form, because the security needs of the two countriescontinued to overlap. And all the theatre about New Zealand being completely cutadrift by the US was just that, political theatre for public consumption mainly inAmerica.

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