Rashad Seedeen: The world witnessed scenes of desperate Afghans crowding the tarmac and clinging on to planes as they departed the Kabul airport, horrifying many and triggering past traumas for scores of refugees. The rush to exit Afghanistan was precipitated by the entry of Taliban forces into the city of Kabul, securing the near-complete capture of Afghanistan from occupying U.S. forces within days of their withdrawal.
As more and more people fear for the safety of themselves and their families, a mass refugee exodus is already underway. Our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, who has built a career around his cruelty and demonisation of refugees, has only extended the most limited of platitudes to the plight of Afghans.
Morrison and his Coalition Government have announced 3,000 humanitarian visas for Afghan refugees but that is within the already allocated 13,750 refugee annual intake. He also pointedly mentioned that he would not tolerate refugees arriving “illegally” and would not create a “product” for people smugglers returning to his reductive narrative of framing Afghan refugees as potential threats to Australian security.
His rhetoric also indicates that the Australian Immigration Department will make the humanitarian refugee vetting process as convoluted and as onerous as possible in order to dramatically limit intake.
This pales in comparison to the Fraser Government’s intake of an additional 50,000 Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s and Bob Hawke’s decision of welcoming 42,000 Chinese refugees following the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989.
Meanwhile, UK and Canada have notably promised to take in additional 20,000 refugees each. The Morrison Government has indicated that it would not equal such a commitment. Our conservative, race-baiting Government has simply rearranged their existing refugee intake to marginally favour Afghan refugees over other asylum seekers. This Government has no bottom to sink to.
When we examine the history of Australia’s culpability in the devastation of Afghanistan in the last 20 years, we indeed should not only increase our additional refugee intake but should make every effort to internationally support the people of Afghanistan as they live under a repressive regime.
The war in Afghanistan was triggered by the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks upon the United States. The attacks resulted in the deaths of over 3,000 U.S. civilians and a horrifying global spectacle of how terrorism can occur within the borders of the most powerful nation in the world.
The history of the war in Afghanistan has been simplified by commentators and many Western “security experts” who have argued that the 2001 intervention was justified in attempting to remove the threat of al Qaeda and disposing of a government sympathetic to global Salafi-Jihadist terrorism.
However, commentators seem to gloss over the fact that lives of Afghan and Pakistani civilians were sacrificed to carry out this failed mission. According to the Brown University Costs of War project as of April 2021, 71,000 civilians have been killed (of an overall 241,000 killed) from bombings, airstrikes, cross-fire, night raids and improvised explosive devices.
This number does not include the tens of thousands of men, women and children that have been injured, tortured and wrongfully detained. Currently, there are also 500,000 internally displaced Afghans and another 2.5 million refugees registered by the United Nations Refugee Agency.
The deaths of thousands of American civilians can never justify the wrongful killing of tens of thousands of Afghan civilians or the hundreds of thousands of deaths generally. The invasion did not reduce the expansion of global terrorism — just the opposite as we have witnessed time and time again across the world. And now, two decades later, the Taliban have returned to government.
Australia was one of the first countries to sign up to the United States’ war in Afghanistan. Prime Minister at the time, John Howard, has openly admitted that the driving factors behind such a decision were to join with the U.S. to combat terrorism and to nurture the non-binding ANZUS alliance to demonstrate Australia’s blind loyalty to U.S. war efforts despite no guarantees that the U.S. would come to Australia’s defence if the need ever arose. Such considerations do not warrant the wrongful deaths of so many Afghan civilians.
This piece was originally published in Independent Australia on August 24, 2021: https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/the-debt-australia-owes-the-people-of-afghanistan,15436
Part II will be published next week.