Before I move on to the subject of this blog post, I want to (again) apologise for my (latest) absence. I hope you have all been well while I have not been here. I see that there are some comments to which I should respond; I will do so shortly.
On my way home from work today I tuned in to Parliament on the radio and happened to tune in to Senate proceedings while they were engaged in the ongoing debate about the war in Afghanistan. I tuned in a tad after the start of one of the speeches, and I must say that what I heard was simply astounding. It was incredibly heartening and refreshing to hear an impassioned speech outlining clearly the reasons why we are in Afghanistan; why we absolutely must stay the course; and why the people who want us to withdraw from the conflict, no matter how good their intentions may be or seem, are ultimately encouraging an evil far worse than any casualties which we may sustain in the course of defending what is right.
NewsRadio did not mention the Senator’s name during or after the 95% of the speech that I heard, so I am incredibly glad that Parliamentary Hansard has timestamps on it, as this speech needs to be heard by a wider audience than the handful of people who happened to be listening to Parliament at about 12:30pm…and you can bet your bottom dollar that the mainstream media will not report on this important and enlightening speech.
I was not surprised in the slightest to find out, upon reading Hansard, that this speech was delivered by Queensland’s Senator Brett Mason, a man of much clarity, of whom I have had the pleasure of hearing on previous occasions, including one time when he vehemently opposed the Rudd government’s stimulus fiasco which, as we now know, led to many deaths and an inordinate amount of wasted money.
I give you Senator Mason.
Senator MASON (Queensland) (12.29 pm)
I have listened with great interest to this parliamentary debate. I have listened with great interest to this debate for the past nine years, since 7 October 2001, when Operation Enduring Freedom was launched by the United States and its allies, including Australia, so that freedom so bravely won by the people of Afghanistan from communist oppression — the freedom so cruelly lost over the following decade to civil war and then Taliban misrule — may indeed return and perhaps this time endure.
I have listened to this debate and heard arguments that we should abandon our mission in Afghanistan. Some of these arguments are passionate, others are cold and rational; some seem sincere while others, callous. All of them are wrong: wrong in principle and wrong in practice; wrong in general and wrong in particular; wrong politically and wrong morally.
Some say that force never solves anything. Tell that to the liberated slaves throughout the 19th century. Some say that there is nothing worse than war. Tell that to the ghosts of the Holocaust and other victims of Nazi tyranny. Some say that all we need is more dialogue and greater understanding. Tell that to the tens of millions who perished over the seven decades of the loathsome communist experiment, and to the tens of millions of those liberated from under its shadow 20 years ago. Others, more pragmatic, will tell you, ‘We cannot solve all the world’s problems and so why bother with Afghanistan?’ but not Darfur or the Congo or North Korea. To that I say this: just because you cannot do everything it does not mean that you should do nothing.
Think of wars on poverty, disease or, indeed, carbon dioxide emissions. Is it not strange how no-one is arguing that because we cannot completely solve these problems we should do nothing? It is funny how this tendentious reasoning only seems to be applied to wars on tyranny and terror. The same pragmatists will say that we should not meddle in other people’s internal conflicts. They say that, and will then go on to paraphrase Otto von Bismarck, that the whole of Afghanistan is not worth the bones of a single Australian SAS soldier. To that I say this: at the dawn of the new century, and amidst our smaller and interconnected world, there is no conflict so isolated that it will not sooner or later come knocking at your door.
One would have thought that we learned that lesson on 11 September 2001. One would have thought that we had learned the lessons about appeasement, isolationism and sticking our heads in the sand much earlier than that — perhaps even as early as 1 September 1939.
We value the courage of our armed men and women. We are eternally in debt to them for their sacrifice and their service. We grieve with them and their loved ones for every loss that they suffer. We also know and understand that they are fighting the good fight today in the time of our choosing and on our terms so that we do not all have to fight a bigger fight of the enemy’s choosing and on the enemy’s terms tomorrow. We bring war to them today so that they cannot bring it to us tomorrow — and, just as importantly, so that they cannot bring it once again to the long-suffering people of Afghanistan.
There is hardly a cause more just than trying to prevent the return of the Taliban regime. A cause more just I cannot think of. This was the regime that treated half of its population, Afghan women, like useless trash — uneducated, unemployed, isolated, battered, hopeless and helpless; the regime that stoned to death apostates, adulterers and homosexuals, and which denied all basic human and political rights to its people; the regime that imposed theocracy and mediaeval poverty on its 28 million subjects; the regime that lived off the proceeds of the heroin trade and gave sanctuary to al-Qaeda; and the regime so obsessively repressive that it mandated beards for all men, banned music, kite flying and sport, and turned stadiums from centres of entertainment into venues of public execution.
And yet, despite that, some are saying that we should give up and leave the people of Afghanistan to their own devices and let them sort out their own affairs whichever way the cards may fall. This view astonishes me. Afghanistan should be the cause celebre of the Left: protecting women and minority rights, fighting oppression and ethnic cleansing, battling an oppressive theocracy, promoting democracy and human rights. It should be the cause celebre of the Left, and yet, according to the twisted moral compass of the Left, all these noble causes and moral considerations are trumped by one thing and one thing only: reflexive anti-Americanism and anti-Westernism.
The reasoning seems to work something like this:
(a) pick a conflict—any conflict; (b) see if one of the participants is the United States or Israel; and, (c) if the answer to question (b) is yes then take the other side.
It has been thus in every conflict around the world from the Russian Revolution to the armed struggles of today. There has never been a leader or a movement so odious as to be beyond the pale for the Left as long as it was deemed sufficiently anti-American and anti-Western, because that is what counts to the Left. Whole generations idolised Lenin, Stalin and the Soviet Union, then Mao, Castro, Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh. Noam Chomsky supported the Khmer Rouge and Michel Foucault is intoxicated by the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian revolution. Now western pilgrims travel and pay homage to Hugo Chavez. Some even support our enemies openly. Others are strongly offended at any suggestion that they support the enemy; it is just that they simply cannot bring themselves to support our side. It hurts too much.
While these two positions may differ in the degree of moral culpability that they attract, their practical consequences are all but the same. It is 70 years since George Orwell famously said “Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’.”
It matters not in this context if we speak of the Second World War or the conflict in Afghanistan. No matter what your excuses, no matter what your rationales, no matter how noble and pure your views, no matter whether you call yourself a pacifist or a humanitarian and no matter whether you do not believe in violence or in meddling in other people’s affairs — by calling for the end of military involvement in Afghanistan you are
aiding and abetting one of the more monstrous political and religious movements in entire human history.
Mark Steyn wrote just a few years ago:
“Everyone’s for a free Tibet, but no one’s for freeing Tibet. So Tibet will stay unfree — as unfree now as it was when the very first Free Tibet campaigner slapped the very first ‘FREE TIBET’ sticker onto the back of his car.
If Rumsfeld were to say ‘Free Tibet? … what a swell idea! The Third Infantry Division goes in on Thursday,’ the bumper-sticker crowd would be aghast. They’d have to bend down and peel off the ‘FREE TIBET’ stickers and replace them with ‘WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER’.”
And so it is here.
I say this to all of those pining for the withdrawal from Afghanistan, while cloaking their stance in a lofty humanitarian rhetoric of peace, love and human rights:
you are only for freedom if it does not involve getting off your armchair. You are only against oppression if it does not involve any real sacrifice. You are only for women’s rights — or gay rights, or minority rights, or human rights or democracy — as long as it does not interfere with your political agenda of opposing what you see as America’s political hegemony. Being concerned — or pretending to be concerned — is not a substitute for action. Just as no ‘Free Tibet’ sticker has ever freed one Tibetan, no amount of candle-lit vigils has managed to save one Darfurian life from genocide — not one. And no amount of posturing that you really care about the fate of Afghan women, men and children will do one tiniest bit to ensure that the 28 million people in that country continue to lead better lives and enjoy hope for the future, if at the same time you are trying to force the withdrawal of NATO and allied armed forces.
The day always comes when you have to make a choice: are you for freedom or are you against it? Are you against tyranny and oppression or for it, whether it be out of spite, misguided idealism or merely indifference?
Think carefully about your answer before you say it, and when you do say it, do not say it to me. Have the courage to go and say it to the hidden face of a woman who will be imprisoned at home, to a man who will be slaughtered because he worships the wrong god or belongs to a wrong tribe, or to a child who you are condemning to a life with no future and no hope.
History will judge you, and she is a very harsh judge.
Senator Mason, of course, is right. We are in Afghanistan for the simple reason that it is necessary for us to be in Afghanistan. Leaving there now would be a grave error, and would merely result in us having to go back in after about ten years, and thousands if not millions of innocent deaths.
It’s important to note that, despite popular belief and the bleatings of much of the media, we are winning in Afghanistan . How could we, as a nation, hold our heads high if we were to inconceivably concede defeat by leaving now, and effectively handing Afghanistan back to tyrants and murderers?