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Afghanistan: Eight years of war—bring the troops out

Socialist Alliance members will be participating in protest events, including rallies, speak-outs and marches across the country to mark the eighth anniversary of the US-NATO war and occupation of Afghanistan. We will be joining the call on the Rudd government from the anti-war movement to withdraw the 1550 Australian troops.

The protests across Australia form part of an international month of action on Afghanistan, with rallies and protests being organised in the US, Britain and Europe.

There is consensus among the major parties—Labor and the Coalition—that Australia has to support this so-called “good war”. But polls show that a majority of Australians disagree with the two parties of war.

The recent election fiasco, in which the puppet president Hamid Karzai was fraudulently “re-elected” by a minority, the huge number of civilian casualties, and growing knowledge of the position of progressive Afghans like MP Malalai Joya—that foreign troops must leave if the Taliban are to be defeated politically—have all contributed to shift public opinion.

There is a growing concern that the White House will send up to 40,000 more troops to join the 68,000 US-NATO troops already in Afghanistan. This will lead to more devastation and loss of life in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The White House’s quest for greater political and economic influence in this north Asian region has not wiped out al-Qaeda—the reason given for going to war. If anything it has assisted the cause of the fundamentalists while inflicting devastating losses—both for Afghan civilians and the occupation forces.

The foreign troops have not curbed the influence of the Taliban: the opposite is the case as poor farmers and others seek Taliban protection in the struggle to sustain themselves and their families. The same pattern is now spreading into Pakistan as the US carries its counter-insurgency tactics into that country.

The deterioration of social indicators over the last eight years also support the case against the war: all have worsened over the last eight years. Just 31% of households have access to water; adult literacy is just 24% and 50% of children are malnourished. The invasion and occupation have not liberated women.

The Rudd government’s commitment to the Australian-US alliance means that, if asked, it is likely to send more troops. Foreign minister Stephen Smith is studiously taking orders and avoiding a public discussion about Australia’s involvement in this war. Meanwhile, as a result of domestic pressure, several countries are talking of pulling their troops out (including Holland and Italy). The left party, Die Linke, scored a rise in the recent German elections after a strong campaign demanding the troops be withdrawn.

A mood shift against Australia’s involvement in this war is noticeable from the numbers of endorsees for the Melbourne and Sydney protest rallies. Significantly, in Melbourne, a number unions and Victorian Trades Hall council and the Geelong Trades Hall Council have signed on, some after debate. In NSW the Greens have also endorsed the protest.

The Socialist Alliance is calling on all members and supporters to spread the word and attend these important rallies:

Sydney: October 8, 5.30pm, Sydney Town Hall; Melbourne: October 10, 12 noon, City Square; Perth: October 10, 12 noon Wesley Church corner; Hobart: October 13, 5.15-6pm Newtown High School (outside Rudd community cabinet meeting).

In addition, the Socialist Alliance will continue to campaign for the Rudd government to:
* Immediately and unconditionally withdraw all Australian troops, military personnel, bases, contractors and mercenaries from Afghanistan and Iraq;
* End all Australian support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the ongoing siege of Gaza;
* End Australian support for sanctions, threats of war and attacks against Iran, North Korea, Somalia or any other nation whose right to self-determination is under assault from the US. We also oppose interference in the internal affairs of these countries as well as any other nation targeted by the US for political destabilisation, such as Honduras. We condemn the Australian government for being one of only a handful for not speaking out against the coup in Honduras.
* The government must investigate allegations of Australian citizens being tortured in Egypt and Guantanamo. It must repeal, not strengthen, the terror laws which unjustly target people of Middle Eastern background and rely on hearsay as evidence despite no terror acts having been committed.
The Socialist Alliance supports the right of all oppressed nations and peoples to self-determination, whether in the Middle East or in other parts of the world, such as Honduras.

Socialist Alliance stands in solidarity with working people and demands that the billions spent on wars and the military machine be diverted to the shift to renewable energy, including retraining and the creation of tens of thousands of new green jobs, and maintaining and expanding urgently needed social programs.

For further information on rallies: Melbourne Sydney

Contact: Pip Hinman, anti-war spokesperson for the Socialist Alliance, 0412 139 968

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