Afghan Home Truths: Malalai not Malcolm

Coincidentally after his worst week in Federal Parliament doggedly pursuing the Utegate farce, Malcolm Turnbull disappeared – to surface in  Afghanistan on a frontline visit to the troops, no doubt ‘fact finding’ but also reassuring them of his support. Only cynics would imagine this opportunity to wrap himself in the flag was a god-send.

Meantime Malalai Joya arrived from Afghanistan to launch her book “Raising My Voice”, about her remarkable experiences as staunch critic of the Afghan nomenklatura. Paul Sheehan’s recent interview (SMH 27-28 June) provides some background.

In 2003 during the Loya Jirga traditional assembly of tribal and religious leaders to decide a new constitution, she openly described them as theocrats, warlords and criminals. Joya was elected to parliament in 2005 on women’s votes (youngest member at 27) and continued her vocal criticisms until suspended for the term of the parliament. Her life is under constant threat of reprisals. Joya’s message for Australia follows.

“The millions of dollars that Australia has donated is simply fattening the wallets of the most criminal and murderous traitors who are brothers-in-creed of the Taliban. Because Australia is part of the NATO coalition, it has followed the wrong policies for seven years. Even the troops that have lost their lives are the victims of the wrong policies”.

“Your government is supporting a corrupt, mafia-ridden, criminal state. The warlords are the sworn enemies of democracy, women’s rights and justice. The Australian troops are really guarding US strategic and military interests, not the Afghan people”.

“Afghan women like me, voting and running for office, have been held up as proof that the United States has brought democracy and women’s rights to Afghanistan. But it is all a lie, dust in the eyes of the world”.

Not exactly mincing her words, and a very clear message indeed.

Australia’s parliamentary system (like Britain) has a glaring fault when it comes to engaging Australia in wars of intervention. The Government, or more accurately the PM and inner circle, make that decision without a vote of parliament. Even the USA does not allow unilateral executive action for such serious matters. 

Australia’s mission in Afghanistan has not been properly debated or scrutinised in parliament. It remains vague and based mainly on alliance considerations, as always. We look forward to Turnbull’s critical appraisal and Opposition challenges to policies underlying Australia’s military engagement there.


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