In yet another attack by a ‘rogue’ Afghan soldier, four French troops were shot dead last week.
Proponents of the current post-modern war fighting doctrine continue to believe we can make people love us. Counterinsurgency has been a convenient doctrine swallowed by Western leaders as a politically correct way to fight a war. But it is built on the well-meaning principle of “hearts and minds” when it is nothing more than an unhealthy blend of social engineering and pork-barrel politics.
The fact is in Afghanistan they love you until the money stops and even then, as the latest incidents show, nothing will bridge the cultural divide.
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The recent string of casualties inflicted on Australian trainers by their Afghan students is part of the ongoing tragedy of war. It is also not making the job of selling the Afghan War to the Australian population any easier.
A recent Roy Morgan poll says that 72 per cent of Australians want to withdraw the troops. That’s good because we are, of course, going to withdraw and our casualties must be seen in that context. The withdrawal date is already set as 2014 and barring some strategic change, our combat troops will leave.
The Prime Minister has announced that there will be an ongoing training commitment to Afghanistan, but the detail is unclear. Of course, if there were no consequences for the withdrawal of our troops, they would have been withdrawn long ago.
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The deaths of another two Australian diggers in Afghanistan will not weaken the Government’s resolve to stay the course, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has vowed.
But the particular nature of one of those deaths - a violent betrayal which saw 25-year-old Lance Corporal Andrew Jones shot dead by a supposedly friendly Afghan National Army soldier who had been trained by Australia - has sent shockwaves through the defence forces.
Trust between the two militaries has been severely shaken.
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“We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”
“Ragheads’‘, “dune coons’‘, “sand niggaz’’ and “smelly locals’‘. Last night we were exposed to ADF soldiers with experience in Afghanistan acting in prejudicial, discriminatory, racist ways. That is what we call it in the civilian world.
A group of soldiers, some who have served overseas in contemporary conflicts, and apparently some who are serving, have allegedly posted their discontent on the social networking site Facebook. They have expressed their disdain, their hatred of the Afghanis, their racist and pejorative perspective of those they are charged to ‘liberate’ and their insubordination to their boss, Lieutenant General Gillespie.
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The stomach clenches with a cold nausea. The lip curls in disgust. It’s the same visceral reaction I had to pictures like the one below that emerged from Abu Ghraib; the images that made the idea of winning hearts and minds in Iraq a cruel joke.
Now, Der Spiegel has published three pictures of US soldiers, posing with the bodies of civilians they allegedly killed. One grins. The German news magazine says it has thousands more ‘trophy shots’.
The soldiers are described as ‘rogue’ – as opposed to ‘sanctioned’. But of course this is just another one-off atrocity. Isn’t it? Just Americans, right?
Not right. Not one off.
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The intonation is crucial.
Australians use the phrase in two quite different ways, and the clue to whether what Mr Abbott said in Afghanistan was disrespectful or not lies in the modulation of his voice.
Did he say ‘shit happens’, meaning ‘get over it, suck it up, spilt milk’? Or did he say ‘shit happens’, meaning ‘nothing could have been done, it was fate, or God’s will.’
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News that up to 21 navy sailors were allegedly running a drug ring from the Garden Island Navy base in Sydney, and that about 30 more were possibly involved in distributing the contraband, has shone the spotlight into a dark corner of military life.
With recent raids uncovering illicit drugs including steroids, heroin, cocaine and ecstasy, the extent of drug trafficking and substance abuse by military personnel is now being exposed and it is not a pretty picture.
The vast majority of navy, army and air force personnel are clean living, law abiding citizens, but for those who aren’t there are many opportunities to take advantage of their status as returning warriors and their mode of military transport to import illegal material.
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