10 Feb. 2008

Just Say "NO" To NATO


So Team Krudd says Australia wants closer integration, including "access" to top-level NATO plans (presumably that means we also get to help formulate them). A few points to be made here:

1. Actually seeing the war plans sounds like a no-brainer when you are sending men in to kill and be killed. But it seems that's just what Howard was doing in Afghanistan - faithfully shovelling troops into the NATO furnace.

2. Our new Defence Minister has a novel way of threatening NATO. He says he needs to see the plans or the Australian public will withdraw their support. That implies he is going to share these top-level plans with us, which of course he will not. So what's the difference, from an Australian public point of view, whether it's NATO or Canberra saying "trust us"? Not much.

3. A lot of people are pushing for changes to NATO, and from several different sides. Aussie warmongers seem to think there is an important part for us to play here, even though the "NA-" bit stands for "North Atlantic". Is NATO going to become the anglo-phonic world's de-facto (taxpayer funded) pro-corporate military? Whatever happened to the UN's blue helmets???

4. Of course, Australia should be slashing the Defence budget and focussing on our own region. Money spent on distant military adventures would be better spent on educational aid programs for our poorer neighbours. But that's assuming that you don't actually WANT wars which send billions of taxpayer dollars into the coffers of the US military industrial establishment.

5. Maybe the reason we cannot see NATO's plans for Afghanistan is that there are none:
Mr Fitzgibbon also told the meeting of his concerns about NATO's failure to agree on an overall strategy for the war against the Taliban and civil reconstruction in Afghanistan. These included a lack of equity in burden-sharing, confused lines of command and differing objectives among key NATO partners.
Bitching about access to plans seems pretty meaningless when the whole sorry venture is going down the tube.

What we should have done in Afghanistan was pour money into roads, education and infrastructure, making the country a shining example of Western goodwill and generosity, and using all the money wasted in Iraq for just that purpose. But of course, that assumes that "Western goodwill and generosity" actually exists... I think it does, among people, but certainly not among their governments.

Meanwhile, in our own backyard, there is another sorry military adventure being forgotten and ignored as it falters along going nowhere in a hurry...
Maria de Fatima has been in her central Dili camp with her family of five for two years, after her home was burnt to the ground by pro-Jakarta militia. She has tears in her eyes as she says she wants to go home, but she is too frightened.

"We're afraid and the little ones are afraid," she said.

Seventy-year-old Francisco Soares has also lost everything. "Where would I go to", he asks, "Am I supposed to sleep on the ground?"

He has a message for Australians: "We have nothing, no chairs, no tables, nothing to put inside our houses, even if we had a home," he said.
UPDATE: AS if to hammer home that last point, this news just in:
East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta has been wounded in a pre-dawn attack on his home this morning that killed a guard, army spokesman Major Domingos da Camara said.

It was unclear what condition Ramos-Horta was in, he said, adding that Alfredo Reinado, a rebel soldier wanted on murder charges for a flare up of violence in 2006, was killed by return gunfire from house guards.