The chances that we may learn the truth on this subject from the "debate" now progressing through Parliament are very slim.
A proper sense of history would have indicated the impossibility of "winning" a war in the tribal world of Afghanistan. Even a little knowledge of history would have meant familiarity with the failures of Cyrus, Darius, Alexander and the British Raj. Knowledge of events only thirty years ago would have explained how a world power was humiliated by bands of raggedy partisans, some of them armed and organised by American "intelligence".
A modest knowledge of the law would have been decisive.
The United States invaded Afghanistan on 7 October 2001, ostensibly to pursue al Qa'ida, held responsible for the outrages in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. The invasion was an act of misdirected revenge, because the majority of the plane hijackers were Saudis, and the nervous centre of the operation was Hamburg, Germany. There is no evidence linking Afghanistan with the attacks. There are some indications that the Taliban offered to deliver up Osama bin Laden, under certain conditions, to the United States months before and even one month after it began the invasion. The offers were rejected. Revenge was obviously preferred.
In any event, revenge is not a legal ground for going to war, which is a crime under the UN Charter unless a) for self-defence or b) under UN Security Council authorisation.
There was no legal basis for the invasion: neither UN Resolution of the Security Council 1368/12.09.2001 nor UNSC Resolution 1373/28.09.01 authorised it.
Australia joined between October and December 01. The current "reasons" being given are based on "the national interest" and "solidarity with an ally."
Intervention was deemed authorised by the ANZUS Treaty, presumably Article IV, by which “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.
Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall be immediately reported to the Security Council of the United Nations. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.”
Australia's presence in Afghanistan is in violation of Article2(4) of the UN Charter, whereby: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations. ”
Nor does Australia's action meet the letter and spirit of Article51: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”
Time has revolved the reasons for Australia's intervention, from "solidarity with our great and powerful friend the US", "obligations under ANZUS", a sharing of "self-defence", to "the capture of Osama bin Laden", 'the pursuit of Taliban', the "war on terror", "avenging the victims of the Bali outrage", "establishing freedom", "honouring human rights", "liberating Afghan women", "supporting free elections", "training the Afghan National Army". They are all ex post facto rationalisations. Nor can they be justified with that mysterious, never defined passe-partout which is "the national interest".
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