On August 19 2021 9News put up on its home page a news article quoting the Governor-General, David Hurley, saying “you did as your nation asked” about veterans of the Afghanistan War.
Today more than four months later it’s still there and on many days it’s the first item on the home page news feed.
In the good old days of journalism news was new and at best lasted a couple of days. Today, in an era of social media, it’s lucky if it lasts an hour.
So why has this story been on the home page for so long? A generous explanation is to provide solace to veterans for being involved in a war which was even more unsuccessful than Vietnam. Given the average Diggers reaction to officers and authority they are more likely to regard it as bullshit than solace.
The G-Gs words sort of confirm the solace possibility. “You must not, cannot, let current events diminish the personal effort and contribution you made to this war,” he said. But the ‘cannot’ does sound a bit desperate as if the G-G knows what the average veteran throughout Australian military history feels about words from on high.
“You did as your nation asked. Your served diligently in very difficult circumstance. Be confident that your efforts are valued and respected here at home,” he said.
He went on to say to family members who had lost loved ones should know that Australia would “forever honour” the memories of the fallen.
“I understand words are a cold comfort at this time (but) they helped protect Australia from terrorism and sought to provide a better future for the people of Afghanistan. We will never forget them,” he said.
“You must not, cannot, let current events diminish the personal effort and contribution you made to this war.”
Now it is a bit much, even for a veteran like the blog, to deconstruct this message. But sadly it’s necessary.
First, the soldiers didn’t do what we asked – they did what the Government decided and without recourse to Parliament. It was a decision – as with many of our military commitments – to blindly follow the US into every recent military disaster. Indeed, it is yet another reason why we need War Powers reform to ensure Parliament has a say in when we go to war.
Second, the main reason we went is because the US wanted us to as a means of protective colouration for an allegedly international effort. Like Pavlov’s dog we salivated and responded even before the meat was put before us.
Third, it is doubtful whether Australians value and respect the efforts. Many Australians may have been aware we were in Afghanistan but very few would have known why and why we were there for so long.
Fourth, we were apparently there to protect us from terrorists and provide a better future for Afghanis. This overlooks the fact that US-led interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere have probably done more to encourage terrorists than anything else.
Fifth, it seems according to various allegations which are currently being tested, some Afghanis may have needed protection from us.
Sixth, as for the better future – true for the Afghan pollies who creamed off billions from the massive spending in the country and retreated to Gulf boltholes with the proceeds – but hardly true for the poor buggers left behind.
Why didn’t the G-G say the reason the Taliban came to power was because the US funded and supported them to help destroy the Russian intervention and Russian-supported Government? In the meantime it probably destroyed the USSR and replaced it, not with a democracy, but a semi-fascist kleptocracy.
Why didn’t the G-G say we ought not again and again be sending off troops to be wounded and killed simply because the US asked us? Of course, if he had even be tempted to say so he would never have been appointed G-G.
And why didn’t someone in Canberra think we haven’t done too well with our recent warlike efforts so perhaps we ought to think twice about talking ourselves into conflict with China?
The reality is that we don’t make our own foreign policy and more often than not, as with Peter Dutton, go even further in our warlike rhetoric than even the US does. In doing so we risk Chinese embargoes on our exports while the US, which we think we are pandering to, picks up the market opportunities we forego.
The whole ugly mess of our military intervention policies – from Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan – is a policy and human tragedy. For diggers, for the citizens of the countries we joyfully invade and for the nation.
9News can keep the G-G’s message up for another six months – it will only embarrass them as a news outlet. It may inspire a few people to heed it. But many more might ask – why on earth is it still there?