Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

The War to End Nothing


Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian, that extensive rag that said it all said it again when it came to Australia’s imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan.  “Our Afghan war ends not with victory, nor defeat.”  This was the surprise occasion of Prime Minister Tony Abbot’s visit to Afghanistan, characterised by few words, ghastly photography and chatter by everyone else except the Prime Minister.  Since assuming office, the Prime Minister is the nation’s incubated leader, occasionally allowed out to cool, but always happy to fall back into pouch padded security.

When he did speak ahead of the handing over of Australian control (the term is used advisedly) of Uruzgan back to local forces, he gave the dull stagnant terms that have been paraded since imperialism became the sexually molesting bedfellow of freedom. “Australians do not fight wars of conquest, we fight wars of freedom.” Similar remarks have been made by US President George W. Bush, who was proud to term individuals like Abbott Texans in mentality and spirit. This might have insulted Texans, but gave certain Australians a tumescent thrill.

The problem with such policy makers and those who supposedly scrutinise them is a conspicuous lack of history, an inability to consult an index, read up an entry and chase up the evidence.  War by public relations is the worst sort, a fantasy map of fictitious targets and false victories. It assumes that a summary is the end game. We can only hope that the reason why the NSA will fail in its blanket surveillance is largely because it is incapable of processing what it finds.  This is tantamount to the burglar who may break the safe but can’t read the value of its contents.

As for the Antipodean freedom lovers and their copy book, the list of freedom giving is not impressive.  The Boer Wars (1880-1 and 1899-1902) involved, as the often racist yet striking publication The Bulletin rightly pointed out, Australians fighting their own types by imperial direction: Boer families who bore a striking resemblance to their own sturdy stock of pioneers and plunderers fighting their own indigenous populations.  Fittingly, it was the Boers who termed their fight against Britain and empire as the Vryheidsoorloë – the freedom wars.

The invasion of Ottoman Turkey in 1915 via the Dardanelles, since heralded as a wonderful if foolhardy act of Australian heroism against Turkish forces was supplemental imperialism (Johnny Turk needed a good serve, best of the rest by Winston Churchill’s instruction).  The list continues: where empire, of the British or American sort, breathes, Australia condenses.  Because it lacks a backbone, it needs foreign implants, alien genetic matter.

The Prime Minister did call the wind down of Australian forces in Afghanistan (the ADF does not retreat or withdraw) a “bittersweet moment”.  The casualty list: 40 soldiers dead; 256 wounded.  Its Special Forces are exhausted.  Its material is withered and worn.  Spare parts are hard to come by.  Wear and tear is rampant.  Not that the Australian Defence Force’s Public Relations department is letting on.  For the years of conflict Australians have been in Afghanistan, information on what exactly has taken place from the side of those soldiers has been threadbare.

Australians, after battling in provinces they could scant name, and failing at languages they never learnt, are leaving with confused heads: Did they do good?  As Australian diplomat Fred Smith was quoted on ABC Radio’s PM Program (Sep 23, 2010), “People here hardly understand [Uruzgan], let alone people back home.  It’s a hard place to understand.”  Did they help these dark wonders in a darker world find a smidgen of hope? How good of them to bother, even if it might be true.

Those tally points that make the invader feel that much better are fed to a servile press corps.  According to Abbott, the province had 34 schools when the Australians arrived.  It now has 200.  One for the Australians, nil to the Taliban, though perhaps the language ought to be translated into Rugby or Australian Rules, which would yield a different language.  There are also roads: 200 km sealed, and pre-natal care for 80 percent of expectant mothers.

Much suggests that this mission, as with others run by the coalition forces, is fantasy in the making, an illusion of peace.   A mid-year UN report on the protection of civilians, authored by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), noted 1,319 civilian deaths and 2,533 injuries in the first half of 2013.  Violence is rising, rather than falling, increasing by 14 percent on last years figures.  The Taliban are waiting to swoop in for the kill.

Nothing in the public relations dispatches form the ADF mentions the disgruntled Afghans who gave the Australian servicemen and women a full serving during their training for “civil” society. “Friendly” killings have been rampant.  The forces in Afghanistan have had their fair share.

The lies of guerrilla wars are sweet and heavy with mendacity.  Few ever bother about the factual record.  Operations involve fanfare and feigned love from people who are sleeping with you one day and cutting your throat the next.  This reality has escaped the Tony Abbott wonderland.  Afghan Interior Minister Omar Daudzai was happy to help in giving the ADF the gold medal of the coalition forces.  Chests duly swelled.  “It’s great to know that the work we have done here is respected and admired by our peers around the world. It has been worth it.”  The Labour opposition leader, Bill Shorten, was also there by Abbott’s side to bathe in the false homage.  “You make us proud to be Australian.”

Guerrilla wars, tribal conflicts, are endless fractious engagements, interrupted by unintended intervals of peace.  The idiotic spectacle of seeing Australian soldiers in such provinces as Uruzgan demonstrates a misguided paternalism at best, a hideous ignorant imperialism at worst. The men and women on the ground are fed the gruel and swallow it whole.  “We are helping them,’” after all.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email:

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future