Saturday, 1 September 2012

There were five

deaths in our armed services this week, all on a single day in Afghanistan. Two men died in a helicopter crash and the other three died in a "green on blue" attack - an attack by a "rogue" Afghan soldier.
Recently New Zealand lost some soldiers too. The British have. The United States has. Other countries have too, including Afghanistan itself. There have been too many deaths.
People say "it's like Vietnam". It is and it is not.  Vietnam is the first war I am old enough to remember clearly. My brother was a conscientious objector. I have no doubt that our entire family will be forever in the files of the shadowy figures in our nation's capital because of it. My brother was accused of being a coward and we were accused of harbouring a criminal. There were rocks thrown through our windows. Life was uncomfortable for some time but we also had supporters who helped us through.
My father says he is not a pacifist. He would, even now, attempt to defend his family if faced with actual and immediate confrontation. But, like me, he would prefer to negotiate with words and reason. We both loathe violence. Violence frightens me. I know I do not handle it well. I am not even good at minor face-to-face confrontation.
My brother is the same. He is not a pacifist. He would defend his family. So would his son and his son-in-law. My brother-in-law and his sons would too.
Someone I was talking to said that it is not possible to be a conscientious objector and still say you would defend your family with potentially the need to use force. I do not agree. I think failing to defend your family is cowardly but refusing to be conscripted in order to fight someone else's war is not the same thing.
We do not have conscripts in Afghanistan. The personnel there are regular members of our armed forces. They signed up knowing that they could go to war. It is a risk they chose to take. It does not make their deaths right or proper or in any way better or more acceptable because no death by violence can ever be right or proper or acceptable. 
I sometimes wonder what will happen when all the overseas troops leave Afghanistan. How rapidly will it descend into chaos? How soon before the Taliban succeed in taking over again? What will happen to the surrounding regions? Or, will there be some sort of miracle which will allow the shaky and corrupt government in Kabul to maintain some sort of law and order. Will women manage to get an education? Will there be at least basic health services? Will the country be able to build on what it has?
I don't have any answers. I just know that fighting someone else's war is impossible.
Defence has to come from within ourselves.


jeanfromcornwall said...

It is perfectly possible to be a conscientious objector and still defend you family. Defending you closest people is an instinctive thing, but conscientious objection is a reasoned stance.
It would be wonderful to see Afghanistan become a modern democratic state, but I really don't believe it will be acheived by "helping the Afghan forces". The people in the UK and USA who took us in there were woefully ignorant of history, which all says don't even think of going there, and criminally naive in thinking that it would be different this time, just because they wanted it to be.

JO said...

Afghan history shows that no major power has ever succeed in organising it - the country goes its own way, whatever the Russians or the Americans or anyone else thinks about it. Will we never learn? The terrain, the persistence of the people and their social structures (which we may not like - but is it for us to judge?) make any imposition of western structures impossible.

So I agree with Jeanfromcornwall - if only our politicians had read some history, they would know that this war is utterly pointless.