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We were not born yesterday

By Kellie Tranter - posted Monday, 23 April 2012

Our leaders have been conning the Australian public for years about the realities of international efforts in Afghanistan. The small army of activists, writers, independent journalists, academics, historians and retired diggers and diplomats who for years have been exposing their untruths usually are ignored, dismissed or ridiculed, including by mainstream media.

So you'll have to forgive me if I'm a little reluctant to accept at face value the recent announcement of Australia's 'Claytons' troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

There's been no expression of war guilt or remorse by our leaders; perhaps – one hopes – that is something they express privately. But what is clear is that our leaders don't learn from their mistakes: they merely bury them for 20 years, and in the meantime keep making more.


In her book 'Letters to my daughter' Maya Angelou relates Fannie Lou Hamer's call to all American citizens to ask themselves some questions about their country. Replacing America with our own country, I think it's appropriate that we ask ourselves those same questions:

What do I think of my country? What is there, which elevates my shoulders and stirs my blood when I hear the words, Australia: Do I praise my country enough? Do I laud my fellow citizens enough? What is there about my country that makes me hang my head and avert my eyes when I hear the words Australia, and what am I doing about it? Am I relating my disappointment to my leaders and to my fellow citizens, or am I like someone not involved, sitting high and looking low?

As Australians, we should not be afraid to respond.

I laud my fellow citizens who have the courage to make known that they want our troops brought home from Afghanistan. Yet equally I feel like hanging my head and averting my eyes when I'm reminded that my country's successive governments have not remained strong, objective and neutral on the international stage, but instead have allowed us to become a prisoner of Australia's alliance with the United States government.

And in America just as in Australia, it's important to emphasise the distinction between the American people, for whom I have tremendous respect (and the majority of whom, incidentally, are also against the ongoing war in Afghanistan), and the United States government.

The ANZUS Treaty unfortunately has wedded us to the US in an abusive relationship. By flattery and deception on one side, and political servility and diplomatic ineptitude on the other, for the last half century our country has been conscripted to support illegal invasions and occupations of sovereign nations for highly questionable purposes.


Well, enough is enough.

Experienced commentators rightly ask:

What have we ever got from taking sides with the US, and earlier with Britain? The US would have come to Australia in 1942 even if we'd been neutral: they needed a safe base, an aircraft carrier with a food basket, from which to launch their front in the Pacific.

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About the Author

Kellie Tranter is a lawyer and human rights activist. You can follow her on Twitter @KellieTranter

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